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Thomas Jefferson

Religious Liberty

Thomas Jefferson (1723–1826) listed three accomplishments on his tombstone: his drafting of the Declaration of Independence, his founding of the University of Virginia, and his authorship of the Virginia Bill for Religious Liberty. The Declaration of Independence and the Virginia Act are of particular importance for understanding the philosophy of American Deism. In these, Jefferson exemplifies what is best.

Declaration of Independence

Though it received revisions at the hands of this fellow committee members and the Congress, Jefferson's draft of our nation's founding document remained in the philosophical language of natural religion.

Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom

Jefferson offers his defense for the three great rights of religion that belong to us in nature: freedom of conscience, freedom of worship, and by far the most important, religious liberty.

Syllabus of the Merits of the Doctrines of Jesus (with Letter to Joseph Priestly)

Though he detested supernatural doctrine, Jefferson considered Jesus of Nazareth to be the greatest moral philosopher ever to have walked the earth. Here are the four central marks of Jesus' moral outlook.

Letter to John Adams in Proof of God's Existence

Filled with contemptuous remarks about Christianity, this letter shows how Jefferson combined his rejection of supernatural revelation with a strong commitment to the truths of rational religion.