Huff Post: Thomas Jefferson was a staunch supporter of religious liberty, but his quest to make sure church and state stayed separate in American politics earned him plenty of enemies.
The mudslinging came to a head during the bitter presidential campaign of 1800. Jefferson’s Federalist opponents accused him of being an atheist and a libertine — a philanderer without morals or sense of responsibility. Jefferson won the election.
Although Jefferson was reluctant to talk about his personal beliefs in public, his private letters reveal that he was a deeply spiritual man who spent a considerable amount of time thinking about God.
In honor of Jefferson’s 272nd birthday, here are five facts about this Founding Father’s faith.
1. ‘Of A Sect By Myself.’
In a letter dated June 25, 1819, Jefferson summarized his religious beliefs this way: “I am of a sect by myself, as far as I know.”
It was an honest reflection on his unique sense of spirituality. Jefferson was raised as an Anglican, but like other Founding Fathers, was influenced by deism. This school of thought believed in the presence of a supreme being, but prioritized reason and rationality over religious dogma and tradition. Jefferson may have supported orthodox Christianity in his public life, but he privately rejected traditional Christian teachings — including the virgin birth, the concept of original sin, and the resurrection.
But unlike others deists of his time, Jefferson was enamored by the example set by Jesus Christ. While he may not have accepted Jesus’ divinity, he admired his teachings on morality. In a letter written in 1819, Jefferson told a friend that the teachings of Jesus were the “outlines of a system of the most sublime morality which has ever fallen from the lips of man.”
In another letter, he wrote, “I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus.”