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Old June 15th, 2012, 04:23 AM   #1
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Founding father quotes


Washington, Jefferson, Adams and Franklin were deists of the enlightenment. They believed in a creator, but they rejected revealed religions. Bellow are quotes that are attributed to them. Are these quotes authentic or fabrications? What is the best way to go about confirming their authenticity?

The Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.
-George Washington


The Christian God is a being of terrific character- cruel, vindictive, capricious and unjust.
-Thomas Jefferson


This would be the best of all possible worlds if there were no religion in it.
-John Adams


Lighthouses are more useful than churches
-Benjamin Franklin
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Old June 15th, 2012, 04:34 AM   #2

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Originally Posted by revo74 View Post
What is the best way to go about confirming their authenticity?
One way is to do a Google search, and keep searching, and searching, and searching through the voluminous pages that come up until you find the quote in its original context, preferably on a respected web-site or in a book by a respected author.
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Old June 15th, 2012, 04:46 AM   #3
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One way is to do a Google search, and keep searching, and searching, and searching through the voluminous pages that come up until you find the quote in its original context, preferably on a respected web-site or in a book by a respected author.
Is wikiquotes reliable?
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Old June 15th, 2012, 04:53 AM   #4

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Is wikiquotes reliable?
The home page of Wikiquotes says "Welcome to Wikiquote, the free quote compendium that anyone can edit." (My emphasis). So I would say NO. But it can be a good starting point, if they provide references to where the quote really came from.

You really need to get as close to the primary source as possible, both to authenticate the quote and to see it in its original context. A quote's meaning can change dramatically based on context. Ideally, you'd like to know when it was said, who it was said to, what else was said by all parties, who witnessed it, how long after it was said was it written down...
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Old June 15th, 2012, 05:01 AM   #5

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That first quote from Washington seems too good to be true.
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Old June 15th, 2012, 06:04 AM   #6

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The first one was a letter from Washington to official Tripoli. I'm less inclined to believe that it was an expression of his deism than that it was a clarification that there was no official state religion here in the US.
The U.S. NOT founded upon Christianity

Jefferson was unquestionably NOT a christian-at least in the sense that current protestants define it. He disbelieved in the trinity an other key dogmas. In fact, Jefferson wrote his own bible taking parts of the KJ bible and interspersing his own interpretation.
http://pattonhq.com/links/uccministry/jeffbible.pdf


Adams was arguably the most religious of all the major founding fathers (a vocal Unitarian.) I am not familiar with this quote, but it seems it was from a letter to Jefferson.
http://nationalhumanitiescenter.org/...ffersoncor.pdf

Franklin is also problematic. Again, he was not christian in the sense that the current church defines it. He even went so far as to saying at one point that he doubted the divinity of Jesus. Still, I'd like to see that quote in context.
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Old June 15th, 2012, 06:07 AM   #7

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So, it seems tis true. Can't imagine why the those who like to find their history from random quotes don't publish these gems on a regular basis.

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Old June 15th, 2012, 06:35 AM   #8

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Originally Posted by Baltis View Post
So, it seems tis true. Can't imagine why the those who like to find their history from random quotes don't publish these gems on a regular basis.

My problem is that both sides of this debate use quotes taken out of context to buttress their particular agenda. The founding fathers were neither the non-believers that atheists would have us believe nor the devouts that religious folks advocate. The 50+ people that signed the DoI fell all along the spectrum, not unlike any cross-section of 50+ white males today.
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Old June 15th, 2012, 07:01 AM   #9

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Quote:
Originally Posted by revo74 View Post
Washington, Jefferson, Adams and Franklin were deists of the enlightenment. They believed in a creator, but they rejected revealed religions. Bellow are quotes that are attributed to them. Are these quotes authentic or fabrications? What is the best way to go about confirming their authenticity?
The Christian God is a being of terrific character- cruel, vindictive, capricious and unjust.
-Thomas Jefferson

Quote:
There are, I acknowledge, passages not free from objection, which we may, with probability, ascribe to Jesus himself; but claiming indulgence from the circumstances under which he acted. His object was the reformation of some articles in the religion of the Jews, as taught by Moses. That sect had presented for the object of their worship, a being of terrific character, cruel, vindictive, capricious and unjust. Jesus, taking for his type the best qualities of the human head and heart, wisdom, justice, goodness, and adding to them power, ascribed all of these, but in infinite perfection, to the Supreme Being, and formed him really worthy of their adoration.
-Jefferson to William Short, 4 Aug. 1820

Jefferson wrote that line, or at least most of it, but the quote used isn't all
that he wrote.
Thomas Jefferson, Letter to William Short, 1820

Quote:
This would be the best of all possible worlds if there were no religion in it.
-John Adams
Quote:
Twenty times, in the course of my late reading, have I been upon the point of breaking out, "This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it!!!" But in this exclamatic I should have been as fanatical as (Parson) Bryant or (Pedagogue) Cleverly. Without religion this world would be something not fit to be mentioned in polite company, I mean Hell.
The Adams quote is true, he did write those words to Jefferson on
19 April 1817. But, that one snippet is often taken out of context and it
is not what it appears to be. One can read the letter in full
http://nationalhumanitiescenter.org/...ffersoncor.pdf

Those quotes are often used to attempt to portray the Founding Fathers, or at least some of them, as not being Christian.
To nail down Jefferson and pigeonhole him into some neat and tidy religious square, isn't that easy. He may have not been the cheerleader type Christian
that some expected him to be, but he wasn't the anti-Christian either. The best way to dispel such face slapping quotes, is to open a book or spend
ten minutes searching the net.

Last edited by tjadams; June 15th, 2012 at 07:08 AM.
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Old June 15th, 2012, 07:05 AM   #10

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Quote:
Originally Posted by diddyriddick View Post
The first one was a letter from Washington to official Tripoli. I'm less inclined to believe that it was an expression of his deism than that it was a clarification that there was no official state religion here in the US.
The U.S. NOT founded upon Christianity

Jefferson was unquestionably NOT a christian-at least in the sense that current protestants define it. He disbelieved in the trinity an other key dogmas. In fact, Jefferson wrote his own bible taking parts of the KJ bible and interspersing his own interpretation.
http://pattonhq.com/links/uccministry/jeffbible.pdf


Adams was arguably the most religious of all the major founding fathers (a vocal Unitarian.) I am not familiar with this quote, but it seems it was from a letter to Jefferson.
http://nationalhumanitiescenter.org/...ffersoncor.pdf

Franklin is also problematic. Again, he was not christian in the sense that the current church defines it. He even went so far as to saying at one point that he doubted the divinity of Jesus. Still, I'd like to see that quote in context.
Nice work there, diddy. I knew the Adams quote as given had a meaning completely out of context to it's original form. Franklin's, I believe, was part of a discussion on responsibility and duty to the people the government had, i.e.; provide the implements and means to move the nation forward and contribute to the general welfare, and leave the spiritual welfare to their god.
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