To the corruptions of Christianity I am, indeed, opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian, in the only sense in which he wished any one to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines, in preference to all others; ascribing to him every human excellence, and believing he never claimed any other.
Source: To Doctor Benjamin Rush, April 21, 1803
Koch & Peden’s Life and Selected Writings of Thomas Jefferson
P. 519 – 522
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Leaders need friends who can be trusted completely.
Although Jefferson would not talk about religion publicly, and urged the same upon Dr. Rush, he had no difficulty sharing his very personal religious views in this letter. Why? Because Rush was a trusted friend, a man he’d known for a quarter century, since the time both had signed the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson knew Rush would keep his confidence.
These two sentences contain the essence of Jefferson’s views on Christianity. He believed:
1. Himself a Christian by virtue of his devotion to Jesus’ teaching “in preference to all others”;
2. Jesus was a man of “every human excellence.” (“Human” is italicized in K&P’s transcription, probably meaning it was underlined for emphasis in the author’s original version.)
3. Jesus was not divine and did not claim that status;
4. Anything beyond Jesus’ words and teaching constituted “corruptions of Christianity,” which he opposed.
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The Moral Liberal Thomas Jefferson Editor, Patrick Lee, is a professional speaker, actor and writer. Since 1990, he has inspired, entertained and educated audiences from Maine to Hawaii with his authentic, first person leadership presentations as President Thomas Jefferson, Frontiersman Daniel Boone, and Lewis & Clark Co-Leader William Clark. He also appears as himself, The Hopeful Humorist™, with a program of motivational humor, patriotism and inspiration.