Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Jefferson on the Presbyterian Clergy and Paul:

The Presbyterian clergy are loudest; the most intolerant of all sects, the most tyrannical and ambitious ; ready at the word of the lawgiver, if such a word could be now obtained, to put the torch to the pile, and to rekindle in this virgin hemisphere, the flames in which their oracle Calvin consumed the poor Servetus, because he could not find in his Euclid the proposition which has demonstrated that three are one and one is three, nor subscribe to that of Calvin, that magistrates have a right to exterminate all heretics to Calvinistic Creed. They pant to re-establish, by law, that holy inquisition, which they can now only infuse into public opinion.

Ouch! That was from his letter to William Short, April 13, 1820. The entire letter is worth a read. Jefferson discusses how Jesus' "biographers" had corrupted his original message, Paul being the first "corruptor" of Jesus' messages. In one letter Jefferson talked about separating the "diamonds" from the "dunghill" in order to extract the truth from the corruption in the Bible. Here, he uses the phrase separating "the gold from the dross."

Among the sayings and discourses imputed to Him by His biographers, I find many passages of fine imagination, correct morality, and of the most lovely benevolence; and others, again, of so much ignorance, so much absurdity, so much untruth, charlatanism and imposture, as to pronounce it impossible that such contradictions should have proceeded from the same Being. I separate, therefore, the gold from the dross; restore to Him the former, and leave the latter to the stupidity of some, and roguery of others of His disciples. Of this band of dupes and impostors, Paul was the great Coryphaeus, and first corruptor of the doctrines of Jesus. These palpable interpolations and falsifications of His doctrines, led me to try to sift them apart. I found the work obvious and easy, and that His past composed the most beautiful morsel of morality which has been given to us by man.

Double ouch.

1 comment:

Freespirit said...

TJ wasn't perfect, but he surely does speak to me! (I guess that makes me unAmerican). TJ got a lot of his inspiration from scientist/Unitarian minister Joseph Priestley, of course. And, Mr. Short, to which he wrote those remarks, was also one of his Unitarian friends. I'm partial to the "diamonds in the dunghill" analogy, by the way. Shortly thereafter, a minister named Theodore Parker (whose sermons Lincoln greatly admired) put it a bit more nicely--distinguishing the "transient from the permanent" in religion, basically the ethical sources of potential unity from the more trivial, divisive stuff.

Maybe it's not too late to get some of TJ's quotes included in my state's (SC) proposed new public display of religious and secular inspiration. Here's what they have so far;

-- The Ten Commandments
-- The Magna Carta
-- The Mayflower Compact
-- The Declaration of Independence
-- The Preamble to the U. S. Constution
-- The Bill of Rights
-- The "Star Spangled Banner"
-- The Pledge of Allegiance
-- The Pledge to the South Carolina Flag
-- The Preamble to the South Carolina Constitution
-- In God We Trust
-- Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" Speech
-- The Mickey Mouse Club pledge.
-- The Desiderata, and the Deteriorata

(OK, I made the last two up. Honestly, though, shouldn't there be
something light in there somewhere, or maybe a few award-winning food
recipes? What about basic hygiene?)

This is from the same state that is also proposing that mandatory ultrasondes to shame and intimidate women before allowing them to have abortions.