Thomas Jefferson on Religion and Islam

BY T.F. STERN

Reading about Thomas Jefferson and his impact on America’s experiment with self-governance makes for an interesting enlightenment.  Jefferson’s understanding and beliefs may be less understood since his essays and writings generally were presented as intellectual studies rather than expositions on his faith or understanding of God, perhaps more so since he did in fact take his oath of office by placing his hand on the Koran instead of a Bible.

Historians have accounted Jefferson as a Deist; sometimes an Agnostic, when it came to organized religion.  His intellectual foundations and strict code of conduct, by his own admission, were based on pure Judeo/Christian doctrine that he recognized and didn’t remove from his Bible rather than his unbelief in Jesus Christ as being the literal Son of God.  This becomes self-evident when gleaning information contained in the Declaration of Independence and Constitution where these basic laws of interaction are brought to the forefront.  

(My own belief …  Thomas Jefferson was divinely inspired , chosen by God to bring about the foundations of our nation via these precious documents.  Jefferson, by virtue of his own unbelief, never understood or rejected that the Creator he mentioned and assigned credit to, is in fact Jesus Christ, that Being by whom all things were made here on this Earth.)

In a study called, Thomas Jefferson & Religious Freedom , no specific author attributed, there was an attempt to explain his personal beliefs.

 “Deism wasn’t a widely popular religion in 18th century America, but it did have a small, influential pool of followers. Deism began in Europe in the 17th century along with the Enlightenment. Deists of the 17th and 18th centuries often attempted to downplay the differences in their beliefs to traditional Christianity to keep debate from breaking out into a larger controversy.  While deism follows many of the beliefs of Christianity, it rejects the supernatural aspects. Deists believe in the moral teachings of Jesus Christ, but they do not believe that he was the son of God who could perform miracles or that he was raised from the dead. Deism revolves around the idea that religious truths are subject to human reason and, as such, is often referred to as the “Religion of nature” and the “thinking man’s religion”. Jefferson himself produced a Bible in which he simply cut out the supernatural elements of Christ’s life, evidence that Jefferson likely held Deism as his personal religion.”

An article by Ben Marquis, How Thomas Jefferson Responded to Islam in 1801 Puts Barrack H. Obama to Shame , detailed the understanding and threat Islam posed to civilized Western nations.

 “…Jefferson asked Tripoli’s Ambassador to Great Britain what right the Barbary states had that allowed them to kidnap and slaughter the innocent crews of passing merchant ships.

According to Jefferson, Sidi Haji Abdul Rahman Adja replied that Islam “was founded on the Laws of their Prophet, that it was written in their Qur’an, that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as Prisoners, and that every Musselman [Muslim] who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise.”

When Barbary Pirates representing an ill-defined Islamic state continued their acts of war against any and all merchant seamen, Jefferson responded by creating the United States Marines, establishing the proper way to deal with such threats from that point on. 

Jefferson’s legacy should have acted as a warning to present apologists, those who desire unity and acceptance of diversity regardless of the known threat such acceptance entails. Instead we have useful tools pretending no such threat exists, that followers of Islam pose no threat at all.  So, who is fooling who?

From an article by Abbas Milani, Thomas Jefferson was a Muslim , it became apparent that he was targeted politically rather than from fact-based data.    

“In the smear campaign before the election for the presidency of the United States, one candidate was accused by his opponents of being a closet Muslim.”

 “In 1697, an Anglican clergyman named Humphrey Prideaux got into the game of bashing Islam by lumping Muslims together with deists. His book, The True Nature of Imposture Fully Display’d in the Life of the Mahomet: With A Discourse Annex’d for the Vindicating of Christianity from this Charge, Offered to the Consideration of the Deists of the Present Age, attacked Muslims and deists for rejecting the divinity of Jesus and “believ[ing] in a unitary God.” Despite his vitriol, Prideaux was right on one point: Islam certainly does not accept the idea of a Trinity, or of a divine Jesus; the Qur’an clearly declares that the idea that Christ was the son of God is a lie. Protestants, according to Spellberg, commonly believed that “Islam and Catholicism were both violent faiths, spread by the sword.”

The article makes for interesting reading; however, it relies on unquestioning acceptance of one word for validation.  Take the word Democracy…

“The genius of democracy is that, while some forces were busy spewing anti-Islamic rhetoric, enlightened Westerners such as Henry Stubbe wrote pro-Islamic arguments that denied the “charge that Islam was spread by the sword, and portrayed the Prophet in a uniquely positive light.” Though Stubbe’s book did not find a publisher, Spellberg notes, “it had circulated widely in manuscript form.” Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an is filled with fascinating accounts of polemicists who defended Islam and, more, of liberal democrats in the mold of Jefferson who, despite their individual views of Islam and the Prophet, believed that Muslims should enjoy the full rights of citizenship. Indeed, some of the critical elements of Locke’s views of toleration were developed precisely in his attempt to defend the rights of Muslims—not because he believed in the righteousness of their cause or their religion, but because he believed in the right of liberty and the toleration of others.”

The writer presumes readers will accept his inclusion of Democracy, as if it were the same as Constitutional Republic as a definition for the United States of America.  Thank God, they are Not the same.  Adherents to the Democratic philosophy as applied government would include all of the most tyrannical governments to ever exist on this planet, to include Islam.  

Americans live under the protection of the Constitution, a document intended to restrain government rather than restrain individuals.  We are a Constitutional Republic, substantially different than any Democracy on the planet.  We’ve been called the Great Experiment for a valid reason.  We do not accept the eventuality of becoming a totalitarian state, the result of a simple majority (democracy) deciding when God given individual rights are to be available to any individual as singularly outlined in our Bill of Rights. 

We’ve also adopted the cultural acceptance which includes the idea that if you wish to live here you are free to observe any religion you so desire, to include no religion; but with the stipulation that in doing so your beliefs and actions do not infringe on the God given rights of any other citizens.   Islam is not compatible with such as it requires subjugation with no exception for individuals who don’t accept the teachings as found in the Koran.

Thomas Jefferson could have placed his hand on a copy of Moby Dick while raising his arm to the square to take his oath of office for the presidency, and it would have made no difference as long as he swore to uphold our Constitution with full purpose of heart.  

Herein lies the difference between a Constitutional Republic and the rest of the world’s definition of a Democracy.  May we recognize this important foundation as included in our everyday dealings is my prayer, in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen


t-f-stern-1Self-Educated American, Senior Edi­tor, T.F. Stern is both a retired City of Hous­ton police offi­cer and, most recently, a retired self-employed lock­smith (after serving that industry for 40 plus years). He is also a gifted polit­i­cal and social com­men­ta­tor. His pop­u­lar and insight­ful blog, T.F. Sterns Rant­i­ngs, has been up and at it since January of 2005.