Thomas Jefferson's philosophy of Religion

dc.contributor.advisorOlm, Lee E.
dc.creatorYoung, Earl G.,1944- August
dc.description.abstractThe purpose of this thesis was to ascertain the religious opinions of Thomas Jefferson and to observe the effect of these opinions on his life and time. The theses is based primarily on Jefferson’s works, The Writing of Thomas Jefferson, Noted on the State of Virginia and the Jefferson Bible. Although much secondary material is available, the works of Jefferson were mainly used in the preparation of this thesis in order to try to give as accurate a picture as possible of Jefferson’s religious concepts. Jefferson was raised in an Anglican background but maintained very little contact with the church throughout his life. Soon after his arrival at William and Mary College his views concerning religion began to change. In his early adult years he rejected almost all of the Anglican teachings of his heritage. At William and Mary he was influenced by three liberal thinkers, William Small, George Wythe, and Francis Fauquier. These men played a large part in the development of Jeffersonian theology. Jefferson for the most part rejected the institutional church of his day, seeing within the church a corruption of the primitive teachings of Jesus. Churchmen suppressed the people and remained in control of religion for economic reasons. Theologians were also denounced by Jefferson as being in league with other churchmen to retain control of the church. Jefferson’s theology incorporated aspects of deism and Unitarianism. He rejected the idea of miracles and divine inspiration. He advocated the idea that God could best be served by being a good moral person. God could be found by viewing nature. As a result, his theology is sometimes referred to as “natural religion�. Jefferson did not accept the idea of the Trinity. He regarded Christ as the greatest of ancient moral teachers but not the Son of God. Jefferson placed the moral teachings of Christ into a volume known today as the Jefferson Bible. He accepted the concept of an afterlife where good was rewarded and evil punished. Jefferson brought his religious ideas into practical application by his work to bring into being the Statute for Religious Freedom in Virginia and his efforts to keep the University of Virginia free from teaching religion. Jefferson rejected his own Anglican background, developed a personal theological system and sought to create a sphere of influence whereby all religious groups could practice as they saw fit. Unorthodox in his theology and a crusader for religious freedom, Jefferson was able to establish a pattern that has continued until today.
dc.subjectThomas Jefferson
dc.subjectReligious opinions
dc.subjectprimary source documents
dc.titleThomas Jefferson's philosophy of Religion
dc.type.materialText Houston State University of Art


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