I came across this entry over at a blog named The Trommetter Times:
Was Thomas Jefferson a skeptic and hostile to Christianity? Dr. D. James Kennedy points out that he was not. Jefferson was the one who penned the famous “separation of church and state” line the ACLU and other godless people are so fond of quoting. That doesn’t mean he was hostile to Christianity.
So what about the Jefferson Bible, that miracles-free version of the Scriptures? It’s a myth.
Counting Jefferson as one of my personal heros, I couldn’t let this slide without commenting on it. Here’s the response I ended up posting to their site:
Yes, the Jefferson Bible is a myth. Which is why you can buy one from Amazon.com. Oh, and Thomas Jefferson never wrote any of the following about his version of the Bible either:
My aim in that was, to justify the character of Jesus against the fictions of his pseudo-followers, which have exposed him to the inference of being an impostor. For if we could believe that he really countenanced the follies, the falsehoods and the charlatanisms which his biographers father on him, and admit the misconstructions, interpolations and theorizations of the fathers of the early, and fanatics of the latter ages, the conclusion would be irresistible by every sound mind, that he was an impostor. I give no credit to their falsifications of his actions and doctrines, and to rescue his character, the postulate in my letter asked only what is granted in reading every other historian…. That Jesus did not mean to impose himself on mankind as the son of God, physically speaking, I have been convinced by the writings of men more learned than myself in that lore.
—Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Short, August 4, 1820, explaining his reason for compiling the Syllabus of an Estimate of the Merit of the Doctrines of Jesus and referring to Jesus biographers, the Gospel writers.
We must reduce our volume to the simple evangelists, select even from the very words of Jesus, paring off the amphiboligisms into which they have been led by forgetting often or not understanding what had fallen from him, by giving their own misconceptions as his dicta, and expressing unintelligibly for others what they had not understood themselves. There will be found remaining the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man. I have performed this operation for my own use, by cutting verse by verse out of the printed book, and arranging the matter which is evidently his, and which is as easily distinguishable as diamonds in a dunghill.
—Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, October 13, 1813, clarifying his desire to strip away the myth introduced by the Gospel writers, as his motivation for constructing his Syllabus of an Estimate of the Merit of the Doctrines of Jesus
While it is true that Jefferson did consider himself a Christian, he was far from being a traditional one and said as much himself.
“I am of a sect by myself, as far as I know.”
—Thomas Jefferson, letter to the Rev. Ezra Stiles, president of Yale University, June 25, 1819, quoted from Roche, O.I.A., ed. The Jeffersonian Bible (1964) p. 348
Jefferson often criticized Christianity as it was taught by the churches of his time and wrote scathing commentaries on the topic. His dissatisfaction with Christianity is a large part of why he created his own version of the Bible.
Regardless of what his religious views may or may not have been, Jefferson still believed that Religion and Government had no business interfering with each other and as such he strove tirelessly to ensure the new government took up his idea of the wall of separation and then continued to defend and explain the concept at great length for the rest of his life.