The Religion of Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson’s religious beliefs remain a point of contention in contemporary political discourse, with actors on many different sides of religious debate seeking to claim him as an advocate for their position. In this paper, I attempt to understand Jefferson’s beliefs in his own words, examining his writings on spirituality, religious institutions, Christianity, miracles, and morality in both his letters to friends and colleagues, as well as his own abridged version of the bible. Though Jefferson was far from orthodox, I argue that he never saw himself as anything but a Christian; he simply had strong and independent convictions about what being a Christian meant. I also argue that his secular humanism was largely responsible for guiding his thoughts on religion, and at times became the position to which he ascribed most dogmatically.
This paper was written in Dr. John Boles history seminar, Thomas Jefferson and his Age (HIST 432).