The Surprisingly Simple Religious Views of Thomas Jefferson
by M. Andrew Holowchak
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Uncover the truth of Jefferson’s widely mistaken religious views.
Many have written about Thomas Jefferson’s religious views, especially given his views on freedom of religion. Yet with so much written, scholars have not come close to a historical consensus on his religious motivations, leaving literature on Jefferson in disarray. Conversely, American Messiah traces Jefferson’s views of God from his beliefs in early life to his later commitments to Unitarianism, explicating Jefferson’s observations on religion and the impact they had on his overall understanding of faith.
In American Messiah, Holowchak delivers a cohesive account of Jefferson’s perception of religion, including these aspects of Jefferson’s surprisingly simple religious beliefs:
• True religion, for Jefferson, was equivalent to the axial principles of morality, concerning our duties to God and to man.
• Jefferson did not believe in an afterlife late in life, and likely never believed in it.
• Jefferson’s commitment to Unitarianism was not a commitment to a particular religious sect, but merely a commitment to a meta- or naturalized religion—the principles of the moral sense.
• Freedom of religion, for Jefferson, was not driven by respect for the various religious sects, but by disdain for the baneful consequences of the sham and artificial metaphysical squabbles of religious sectarianism.