Reason and Religion

Thomas Jefferson
Letter to nephew Peter Carr, 1787

Religion. Your reason is now mature enough to examine this
object. In the first place, divest yourself of all bias in favor of novelty
and singularity of opinion. Indulge them in any other subject rather
than that of religion. It is too important and the consequences of error
may be too serious. On the other hand, shake off all the fears and
servile prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched.
Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every
opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of God; because,
if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than
that of blindfolded fear.

You will naturally examine first, the religion of your own country.
Read the Bible, then, as you would read Livy or Tacitus. The facts
which are within the ordinary course of nature, you will believe on
the authority of the writer, as you do those of the same kind in Livy
and Tacitus. The testimony of the writer weighs in their favor in one
scale; and their not being against the laws of nature, does not weigh
against them. But those facts in the Bible which contradict the laws
of nature, must be examined with more care, and under a variety of
faces. Here you must recur to the pretensions of the writer to inspiration from God.
Examine upon what evidence his pretensions are founded, and
whether that evidence is so strong, as that its falsehood would be
more improbable than a change in the laws of nature, in the case he
relates. For example, in the book of Joshua, we are told, the sun stood
still several hours. Were we to read that fact in Livy or Tacitus, we
should class it with their showers of blood, speaking of statues,
beasts, etc. But it is said, that the writer of that book was inspired.
Examine, therefore, candidly, what evidence there is of his having
been inspired. The pretension is entitled to your enquiry, because
millions believe it. On the other hand, you are astronomer enough to know how contrary it is to the law of nature that a body revolving
on its axis, as the earth does, should have stopped, should not, by
that sudden stoppage, have prostrated animals, trees, buildings, and
should after a certain time have resumed its revolution, and that
without a second general prostration. Is this arrest of the earth’s
motion, or the evidence which affirms it, most within the law of
You will read next the New Testament. It is the history of a
personage called Jesus. Keep in your eye the opposite pretensions:
1, of those who say he was begotten by God, born of a virgin,
suspended and reversed the laws of nature at will, and ascended
bodily into heaven; and 2, of those who say he was a man of
illegitimate birth, of a benevolent heart, enthusiastic mind, who set
out without pretensions to divinity, ended in believing them, and
was punished capitally for sedition, by being gibbeted, according to
Roman law ….
These questions are examined in the books I have mentioned,
under the head of Religion. They will assist you in your enquiries;
but keep your reason firmly on the watch in reading them all. Do not
be frightened from this inquiry by any fear of its consequences. If it
ends 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
the love of others which it will procure you. If you find reason to
believe there is a God, a consciousness that you are acting under his
eyes, and that he approves you, will be a vast additional incitement;
if that there be a future state, the hope of a happy existence in that
increases the appetite to deserve it; if that Jesus was also a God, you
will be comforted by a belief of his aid and love.
In fine, I repeat, you must lay aside all prejudice on both sides,
and neither believe nor reject anything, because any other persons,
or descriptions of persons, have rejected or believed it. Your own
reason is the only oracle given you by heaven, and you are
answerable, not for the rightness, but the uprightness of the decision.
I forgot to observe, when speaking of the New Testament, that you
should read all the histories of Christ [including] those which a
council of ecclesiastics have decided for us, to be pseudo-evangelists
. . .. because those pseudo-evangelists pretended to inspiration, as
much as the others, you are to judge their pretensions by your own
reason, and not by the reason of those ecclesiastics.


  • James

    The Worldwide church of God attempted to annihilate peoples personality, individuality, will, and character. The stranded souls that hitched their wagon to this organization unknowingly supported a power-hungry pharisaic and fastuous authoritative cult leader and his son, Garner Ted Armstrong. For all the alarums and excursions, the fact remains that without knowing it, we nurtured these two ungrateful incubi's. For that I can only ask for forgiveness.After my WCG experience, I went to college to educate myself so I would have a greater understanding of the world about me and to understand why I ever fell for HWA's scam religion. This lead me to the conclusion that the appropriate action to take, in my judgment, is to provide people with opportunities to learn, develop, and exercise their potential as human beings, by freeing them from men who exploit and abuse them. This website and others are my vehicle to do just that.

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