04 March 2011

Freethought Friday #11: Church and State

(Thomas Jefferson, 1743 - 1826.)
From "Report on the Commissioners for the University of Virginia", quoted in The Portable Thomas Jefferson.

This doctrine ['that the condition of man cannot be ameliorated, that what has been must ever be, and that to secure ourselves where we are we must tread with awful reverence in the footsteps of our fathers'] is the genuine fruit of the alliance between Church and State, the tenants of which finding themselves but too well in their present condition, oppose all advances which might unmask their usurpations and monopolies of honors, wealth and power, and fear every change as endangering the comforts they now hold." 

I paused before including Jefferson here: though certainly one of history's more commendable figures and notable for rejecting orthodoxy, I don't know much of a 'freethinker' he was.  It seems he's worthy of honorary membership at the very least. He's one of my two favorite founding fathers, the other being Benjamin Franklin.


Scott said...

"Fix Reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve the homage of reason than of blindfolded fear. .. Do not be frightened from this inquiry by any fear of its consequences. If it end in a belief that there is no God, you will find incitements to virtue in the comfort and pleasantness you feel in its exercise and in the love of others which it will procure for you" (Jefferson's Works, Vol. ii., p. 217).

Somewhat reminiscent of Aurelius, don't you think?

Oh, I'd say Jefferson was undoubtedly a freethinker, a great one at that --among many other things. He's been called a polymath by a number of individuals and I doubt it not. I read a book a few years ago (The Pirate Coast: Thomas Jefferson, the First Marines, and the Secret Mission of 1805 by Richard Zacks) that shows a guarded, calculated and complex side to Jefferson. I came away from that book not liking Jefferson for His lack of support of William Eaton. Then, I read more about him and his support of science, inquiry and exploration --think the louis and clark expedition which he originated and that culminated in the louisianna purchase. You have to judge a person, If you judge them at all, as a whole and not just a part. Jefferson was a great thinker and without question a free one.

smellincoffee said...

Sorry for the delay in responding!

Would you believe I'd forgotten tht "question with boldness even the existence of a god" line? And to think I've quoted him in the past using that very line!

Jefferson also established a national scientific foundation, though I can't find its name at the moment. I think I read that in Christopher Hitchens' biography of him. Very impressive fellow overall, with the exception of his racial views.