Tags: Jefferson | Eternal | Life

Jefferson on Eternal Life

Wednesday, 04 February 2004 12:00 AM

Did Thomas Jefferson believe in eternal life?

In the

I backed the claim by quoting Jefferson's letter to Benjamin Waterhouse dated June 26, 1822, wherein Jefferson writes: "The Doctrines of Jesus are simple, and tend all to the happiness of men. 1. That there is one only God, and he all perfect. 2. That there is a future state of rewards and punishments. 3. That to love God with all thy heart and thy neighbor as thyself is the sum of religion. These are the great points on which he endeavored to reform the religion of the Jews." The man who followed this religion is "the true and charitable Christian."

This should have been proof enough; nevertheless, a reader who identifies himself as "Mighty Atheist" responded: "[Y]ou show your ignorance. Jefferson was very skeptical about the afterlife, and everything else in Christianity. ..."

He quoted a letter to John Adams, dated Aug. 15, 1820, as evidence: "To talk of immaterial existences is to talk of

The reader might have had a point if he had been honest in his approach, but he was not. What preceded, what followed and what was withheld within the "…" of the cited quote is not the denunciation of the study and belief in God, angels and spirits, but something else.

For starters, Jefferson did not think the study a 'waste of time.' Remarking on Adams' last note on this subject, Jefferson confessed: "it kept me from sleep. I read it, and laid it down; and read it, and laid down, again and again."

As for "dreams and phantasms," Jefferson's target was not God, angels and spirits, but "the heresy of

God and spirits were not immaterial, but matter, he asserted.

"At what age of the Christian church this heresy ... crept in, I do not exactly know. But a heresy it is. Jesus taught nothing of it.

"He told us, indeed, that 'God is a spirit.' But he has not defined what a spirit is, nor said that it is not

This is Jefferson the theologian, and Jefferson the reformer, a man who has done his homework and is stretching himself.

" 'I feel, therefore, I exist.' I feel bodies which are not myself: there [are] other existences then. I call them

Consistent with the creation account wherein all living things were commanded to reproduce after their own kind, Jefferson reasons that only matter can beget matter. It just didn't make sense that "nothing made something,"

Thomas Jefferson firmly believed in the reality of God, eternal life and a coming day of judgment. As he grew older, his belief deepened. In addressing "the God of Jesus and our God," he wrote John Adams shortly before their death: "I join you cordially, and await His time and will with more readiness than reluctance. May we meet there again, in Congress, with our ancient colleagues, and receive with them the seal of approbation, 'well done, good and faithful servants.' "

On July 4, 1826, both Jefferson and Adams stepped out of their mortal bodies to begin their journey home to just such a judgment day.

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Did Thomas Jefferson believe in eternal life? In the I backed the claim by quoting Jefferson's letter to Benjamin Waterhouse dated June 26, 1822, wherein Jefferson writes: "The Doctrines of Jesus are simple, and tend all to the happiness of men. 1. That there is one only...
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Wednesday, 04 February 2004 12:00 AM
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