Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Unitarian Claim on American Religion - Jefferson

Deism, reason, Unitarianism - Dr. David Keyes of the Unitarian Universalists Congregation of Atlanta voices his view on the religion of the Founding Fathers.

Thomas Jefferson, by many accounts the greatest of American presidents, sat at his desk at Monticello, pen in hand-most likely not the same pen with which he had drafted the Declaration of Independence, for that had been accomplished decades earlier-but with the same hand that had written "we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal..." Jefferson now wrote these words:
"I rejoice that in this blessed country of free enquiry and belief, which has surrendered its creed and conscience to neither kings nor priests, the genuine doctrine of one only God is reviving, and I trust there is not a young man now living in the United States who will not die a Unitarian."

What on earth was Jefferson thinking?

Like so many who value reason highly, the sage of Monticello was projecting his own reason onto the world, assuming that rationality would triumph over all-that the very nature of truth was that it will out, and will win the day. That it is...self-evident....

Jefferson, the champion of separation of church and state, in fact saw the two as of a piece. Let us think on that for a moment. For when he and other Founding Fathers spoke of separation of church and state,(this may shock you) what went unspoken was their conviction that some form of Unitarianism should and would be the public religion of the nation-that is, a religion that so revered freedom and reason that it would overwhelm any sect that might seek to undermine such ideals.

With Unitarianism as the national religion, (not legally established your understand, but giving the country its religious character) the United States would avoid a Federal Administration steeped in superstition, where myths of good and evil substituted for a grasp of reality. Whether or not they admitted it to themselves, that is what the Founders had in mind when they drafted the First Amendment.

Scholars have attested that Jefferson was heavily influenced by Unitarian preachers. Their bias is shown on every page of his version of the Bible. You know about that, about the Jefferson Bible?

Our third president took razor in hand, and sliced out sections of the four gospels with which he did not agree. All references to the Deity of Christ are deleted. The virgin birth, miracles, and claims of the divinity of Christ, all gone....

In his reverence for reason in matters of religion, Jefferson was far from alone. In his humanism, sometimes called Deism, and justifiably called Unitarianism, Jefferson was to one extent or another joined by Washington, John Adams, Madison and Monroe, John Quincy Adams, Benjamin Franklin, John Calhoun, Benjamin Rush, John Marshall-those we may speak of as the Founding Fathers of this nation.

Not all worshiped regularly in churches of our order.
Some vigorously and publicly helped create our denomination.
Some in private paid homage to its precepts and continued their Anglican devotions.
All, in one way or another, supported the liberal faith that is our heritage.

A stellar gallery of greatness. Stunning, really when you know the story. Amazing when you consider that the religious right is busy claiming these men as upright, conservative and orthodox Christians, which they assuredly were not.

They were instead OUR founding fathers, defenders of dissent-clear that to be an American was to be free to think for oneself; that to be a patriot was to defend that freedom.


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Robin Edgar said...

I am not convinced that Thomas Jefferson, or any number of his contemporaries, would be very impressed with what is now known as U*Uism. . .