Atheism and skepticism are not coterminous

October 31, 2011

What is the message of this billboard?

As Hemant Mehta as well as various news outlets are pointing out, the message is that atheists, however much they may think of themselves as ultra-skeptical and critical thinkers, aren’t always. Having “skeptics” or “freethinkers” in the name of your organization or in your self-description doesn’t mean it fits all of the time, if at all.

You see, the quote is not an authentic quote from Thomas Jefferson.

Anyone who is familiar with the Jefferson Bible would probably have realized the need to investigate the quote’s authenticity. Jefferson didn’t discard the entire Bible. He took scissors to the Gospels, cutting out miracles and the like but leaving those things that he thought had “redeeming features.”

And so it is perhaps not surprising that a widely found version of the quotation online reads “I do not find in orthodox Christianity one redeeming feature.” That would be a more plausible quotation to come from Jefferson. But even so, there is no evidence that he ever said it in that form either.

In addition to this recent episode involving a billboard with a spurious quotation making the point, Jefferson himself provides evidence that skepticism is not coterminous with atheism. Jefferson apparently did not altogether refrain from using the epithet “Christian” in reference to himself, and while Deist also seems apt to many, Jefferson would perhaps have preferred the term “Unitarian.”

Whether you are religious or atheist, Deist, Unitarian, or traditional theist, it is a mistake to assume that you are above the need for caution, skepticism and critical thinking.

Originally posted at Exploring Our Matrix.


What History were the Founding Fathers reading?

 There is much attention given the "founding fathers", what I find strange is how little attention is paid to writings they gleaned their principles from, such as those of "William Penn", whose Bible reading in public(England) brought about the right to be tried by jury, here in the States, instead of a "secret military tribunal" style trial.

 Perhaps the best book on the subject of "What kind of Christianity did the founding fathers refer to?"...when they said...".insert something about religion here.."... Would be Foxes book of Martyrs:

 This book is well worth the read, and will clear up any misunderstanding about terms like "Christianity', "Christian", or "Religionist", seemingly used in a derogatory manner, by those in American history.

Double Standard

It seems like there is a double standard here. Christians use quotes from Jesus all the time, and yet I've not seen any physical document which shows that Jesus ever held x-belief or made x-statement. Someone attributed a quote to Jefferson, just like someone attributes a quote to Jesus. If you dislike the use of the Jefferson quote for being unsubstantiated by physical document, than go ahead and stop using Jesus quotes too.