"Ignorance is preferable to error, and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing than he who believes what is wrong."
-Thomas Jefferson (Notes on Virginia, 1782)
"All religions are the same, founded merely upon fables and superstitions".

“I have never told my own religion nor scrutinized that of another. I never attempted to make a convert, nor wished to change another's creed. For it is in our lives, and not from our words, that our religion must be judged.”

As a small boy I found it very difficult to find any male role models that I felt were worthy of being emulated. All around me I saw aspects of society and civilisation which were corrupt, it made me very sad. I looked to history to find great men as role models, gentle reformers who have responded to challenges and changed the course of history. Thomas Jefferson was one such man, truly an enigma and arguably the greatest American who has ever lived. I have striven to emulate the qualities of this great man in my own spiritual journey.

I am amazed so often to see how historians seek to twist around the writings of Jefferson in an attempt to lend support to the Christianisation of all things Western, the truth is that if anything jefferson was actually a Universalist in his spiritual orientation. Although Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence wrote of the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God, there exists nothing in the Declaration about Christianity nor anything akin to the Christian concept of God.

Although Jefferson believed in a Creator, his concept of it resembled that of the God of deism (the term "Nature's God" used by deists of the time). With his scientific orientation, Jefferson sought to organise his thoughts on religion. He rejected the superstitions and mysticism of Christianity and even went so far as to rewrite the gospels, removing what he viewed as the ignorant superstitious afterthoughts of those who followed in Jesus' footsteps (see The Jefferson Bible)  and leaving only what he deemed to accuarately represent the correct moral philosophy and teachings of the great man who was Jesus.

Most religious people erroneously and arrogantly superimposed thier superstitious understanding of God whenever they encounter the word 'God' regardless of the context within it is used. For example, those who visit the Jefferson Memorial in Washington will read Jefferson's words engraved: "I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every from of tyranny over the mind of man." When they see the word "God" most Christians see this as "proof" of his Christianity without thinking that "God" can have many definitions ranging from nature itself to the supernatural intelligence which is the very wellspring of creation. Few actually realise that this passage was fairly and squarely aimed at attacking the tyranny of the Christian clergy of Philadelphia, and that Jefferson's God was not the personal god of Christianity. The truth is that Jefferson was seen as an infidel by the religious right during his election for President because of his insistance in the necessity of the separation between church and state.

The complete statement reads as follows:

"The returning good sense of our country threatens abortion to their hopes, & they [the clergy] believe that any portion of power confided to me, will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly; for I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man. But this is all they have to fear from me: & enough too in their opinion, & this is the cause of their printing lying pamphlets against me. . ."

It is sad indeed to see Jeffersons beloved republican party being hijacked by the religious right that he fought so hard to remove from all influence in political affairs (of course the Jeffersonain Republican Party and the modern Republicans are not the same group however the roots are there).

Jefferson felt that any form of government control, not only of religion, but also of a corporate nature (special interest lobbying) consisted of tyranny. He thought that one's basic civil rights should have no dependence on religious opinions, any more than our opinions govern the immutable laws of physics or geometry.

If anything can clear of the misconceptions of Jeffersonian history, it can come best from the author himself. Although Jefferson had a complex view of religion and spirituality the following quotes provide a glimpse of how Thomas Jefferson viewed the corruptions of democracy and religion.

Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined and imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity.

-Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, 1782

But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.

-Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, 1782

What is it men cannot be made to believe!

-Thomas Jefferson to Richard Henry Lee, April 22, 1786. (on the British regarding America, but quoted here for its universal appeal.)

Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because if there be one he must approve of the homage of reason more than that of blindfolded fear.

-Thomas Jefferson, letter to Peter Carr, August 10, 1787

Where the preamble declares, that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed by inserting "Jesus Christ," so that it would read "A departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion;" the insertion was rejected by the great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mohammedan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination.

-Thomas Jefferson, Autobiography, in reference to the Virginia Act for Religious Freedom

I concur with you strictly in your opinion of the comparative merits of atheism and demonism, and really see nothing but the latter in the being worshipped by many who think themselves Christians.

-Thomas Jefferson, letter to Richard Price, Jan. 8, 1789 (Richard Price had written to TJ on Oct. 26. about the harm done by religion and wrote "Would not Society be better without Such religions? Is Atheism less pernicious than Demonism?")

I never submitted the whole system of my opinions to the creed of any party of men whatever in religion, in philosophy, in politics, or in anything else where I was capable of thinking for myself. Such an addiction is the last degradation of a free and moral agent.

-Thomas Jefferson, letter to Francis Hopkinson, March 13, 1789

They [the clergy] believe that any portion of power confided to me, will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly; for I have sworn upon the altar of god, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man. But this is all they have to fear from me: and enough, too, in their opinion.

-Thomas Jefferson to Dr. Benjamin Rush, Sept. 23, 1800

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between church and State.

-Thomas Jefferson, letter to Danbury Baptist Association, CT., Jan. 1, 1802

History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes.

-Thomas Jefferson to Alexander von Humboldt, Dec. 6, 1813.

The whole history of these books [the Gospels] is so defective and doubtful that it seems vain to attempt minute enquiry into it: and such tricks have been played with their text, and with the texts of other books relating to them, that we have a right, from that cause, to entertain much doubt what parts of them are genuine. In the New Testament there is internal evidence that parts of it have proceeded from an extraordinary man; and that other parts are of the fabric of very inferior minds. It is as easy to separate those parts, as to pick out diamonds from dunghills.

-Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, January 24, 1814

Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law.

-Thomas Jefferson, letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper, February 10, 1814

In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own.

-Thomas Jefferson, letter to Horatio G. Spafford, March 17, 1814

If we did a good act merely from love of God and a belief that it is pleasing to Him, whence arises the morality of the Atheist? ...Their virtue, then, must have had some other foundation than the love of God.

-Thomas Jefferson, letter to Thomas Law, June 13, 1814

Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them; and no man ever had a distinct idea of the trinity. It is the mere Abracadabra of the mountebanks calling themselves the priests of Jesus."

-Thomas Jefferson, letter to Francis Adrian Van der Kemp, 30 July, 1816

My opinion is that there would never have been an infidel, if there had never been a priest. The artificial structures they have built on the purest of all moral systems, for the purpose of deriving from it pence and power, revolts those who think for themselves, and who read in that system only what is really there.

-Thomas Jefferson, letter to Mrs. Samuel H. Smith, August, 6, 1816

You say you are a Calvinist. I am not. I am of a sect by myself, as far as I know.

-Thomas Jefferson, letter to Ezra Stiles Ely, June 25, 1819

As you say of yourself, I too am an Epicurian. I consider the genuine (not the imputed) doctrines of Epicurus as containing everything rational in moral philosophy which Greece and Rome have left us.

-Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Short, Oct. 31, 1819

Priests...dread the advance of science as witches do the approach of daylight and scowl on the fatal harbinger announcing the subversions of the duperies on which they live.

-Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Correa de Serra, April 11, 1820

Among the sayings and discourses imputed to him [Jesus] 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.

-Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Short, April 13, 1820

To talk of immaterial existences is to talk of nothings. To say that the human soul, angels, god, are immaterial, is to say they are nothings, or that there is no god, no angels, no soul. I cannot reason otherwise: but I believe I am supported in my creed of materialism by Locke, Tracy, and Stewart. At what age of the Christian church this heresy of immaterialism, this masked atheism, crept in, I do not know. But heresy it certainly is.

-Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, Aug. 15, 1820

Man once surrendering his reason, has no remaining guard against absurdities the most monstrous, and like a ship without rudder, is the sport of every wind.

-Thomas Jefferson to James Smith, 1822.

I can never join Calvin in addressing his god. He was indeed an Atheist, which I can never be; or rather his religion was Daemonism. If ever man worshipped a false god, he did.

-Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, April 11, 1823

And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerve in the brain of Jupiter. But may we hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with this artificial scaffolding, and restore to us the primitive and genuine doctrines of this most venerated reformer of human errors.

-Thomas Jefferson, Letter to John Adams, April 11, 1823

It is between fifty and sixty years since I read it [the Apocalypse], and I then considered it merely the ravings of a maniac, no more worthy nor capable of explanation than the incoherences of our own nightly dreams.

-Thomas Jefferson, letter to General Alexander Smyth, Jan. 17, 1825

May it be to the world, what I believe it will be, (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all,) the signal of arousing men to burst the chains under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings and security of self-government. All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God.

-Thomas Jefferson, letter to Roger C. Weightman, June 24, 1826 (in the last letter he penned)

Here are some famous quotes from Thomas Jefferson on the importance of religious/spiritual freedom:

1. “Among the most inestimable of our blessings is that … of liberty to worship our Creator in the way we think most agreeable to His will; a liberty deemed in other countries incompatible with good government and yet proved by our experience to be its best support.”– Thomas Jefferson, Reply to Baptist Address, 1807

2. “The rights [to religious freedom] are of the natural rights of mankind, and … if any act shall be … passed to repeal [an act granting those rights] or to narrow its operation, such act will be an infringement of natural right.” – Thomas Jefferson, Statute for Religious Freedom, 1779. Papers, 2:546

3. “The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” – Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, 1781-82

4. ”Subject opinion to coercion: whom will you make your inquisitors? Fallible men; men governed by bad passions, by private as well as public reasons. And why subject it to coercion? To produce uniformity. But is uniformity of opinion desirable? No more than of face and stature.”Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, 1782

5. “ Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, and imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch toward uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one-half the world fools and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth. – Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, 1781-82

6. ”I know it will give great offense to the clergy, but the advocate of religious freedom is to expect neither peace nor forgiveness from them.– Thomas Jefferson, to Levi Lincoln, 1802. ME 10:305

7. I am really mortified to be told that, in the United States of America, a fact like this [that a bookseller is prosecuted for selling books advocating what was then presumed by the statusuo to be pseudoscience] can become a subject of inquiry, and of criminal inquiry too, as an offence against religion; that a question about the sale of a book can be carried before the civil magistrate. Is this then our freedom of religion? and are we to have a censor whose imprimatur shall say what books may be sold, and what we may buy? And who is thus to dogmatize religious opinions for our citizens? Whose foot is to be the measure to which ours are all to be cut or stretched? Is a priest to be our inquisitor, or shall a layman, simple as ourselves, set up his reason as the rule for what we are to read, and what we must believe? It is an insult to our citizens to question whether they are rational beings or not, and blasphemy against religion to suppose it cannot stand the test of truth and reason. If M de Becourt’s book be false in its facts, disprove them; if false in its reasoning, refute it. But, for God’s sake, let us freely hear both sides, if we choose….” Thomas Jefferson, letter to N G Dufief, Philadelphia bookseller (1814)

8. “I am for freedom of religion, & against all maneuvers to bring about a legal ascendancy of one sect over another.” – Thomas Jefferson, letter to Elbridge Gerry, 1799

9. “I never will, by any word or act, bow to the shrine of intolerance, or admit a right of inquiry into the religious opinions of others.”– Thomas Jefferson, letter to Edward Dowse, April 19, 1803

10. Because religious belief, or non-belief, is such an important part of every person’s life, freedom of religion affects every individual. Religious institutions that use government power in support of themselves and force their views on persons of other faiths, or of no faith, undermine all our civil rights. Moreover, state support of an established religion tends to make the clergy unresponsive to their own people, and leads to corruption within religion itself. Erecting the “wall of separation between church and state,” therefore, is absolutely essential in a free society.” -- Thomas Jefferson, to the Virginia Baptists (1808) ME 16:320.