Separating Dung from Diamonds

Separating Dung from Diamonds

The article “Thomas Jefferson vs. the Bible: What America’s founding father really thought about religion” is an excellent commentary on the history of rationalist criticism of the bible, as well as the way in which people interpret myth differently. Jefferson apparently at one point trimmed down the bible to be a thinner version that he deemed to be the authentic teachings of Jesus – or rather he separated the ‘dung from the diamonds’.

As the author remarks, Christians have never agreed on who Jesus was or what he really means, and this has resulted in over 30,000 different denominations of the religion. Each group seems to have the alleged correct interpretation of Jesus, and all of the others either cannot seem to be able to read properly or suffer inter-generational amnesia.

What makes the issue of what Thomas Jefferson thought of the bible relevant today, however, is the fact that the founding fathers are so often referenced in American political discourse. As we discussed in class, Thomas Paine was a contemporary of Jefferson who offered somewhat scathing criticism of the bible, and yet many people today remember the founding fathers through the rose-tinted glasses only two and a half centuries time can provide.

The author rightly states that if President Obama were to say anything even remotely close in nature to the comments made by Jefferson or Paine in the present day he would likely have a congressional riot on his hands. This historical revisionism stems from two place, ignorance and power. For the majority, ignorance (and lack of interest) in genuine historical study in an unbiased way leads to a skewed, and largely incorrect assumption of the founding of the United States. Second, those people in power perpetuate their interests by manipulating popular views on foundational “truths” such as the bible and nation-building myths.

Ultimately, whether there really are diamonds to be found amidst the dung is irrelevant. Time has a funny way of playing with our collective memories and the interests of the few who ‘present’ the evidence have far more of an impact on our worldviews than we care to admit.

SKC  #200  #uwreligious


One thought on “Separating Dung from Diamonds

  1. Thank you for bringing this particular article forward. I have always been fascinated by the topic of the American founding fathers, so I was quite interested in what you had to say in your blog regarding Thomas Jefferson. I was not aware that he had such a radical view of the Bible or that he actually trimmed it down at one point in his life. However, I did know from visiting Jefferson’s Monticello home in Virginia that he was not the perfect man and leader that so many Americans seem to think he was. In fact, there are many references at Monticello to the fact that Jefferson actually owned many slaves that ran his home, and he did not always treat them with the utmost respect. Many Americans are quite shocked by this fact, because in history books Jefferson is always portrayed to be one of the most influential and treasured founding fathers in the United States’ history. Therefore, when you mentioned that Jefferson also had a rather critical view of the Bible, I was not surprised.

    I was also quite interested in what you said regarding Obama. I completely agree with you when you mentioned that if Obama said the things that Jefferson did about religion in today’s society, there would be a complete up-roar. I think that both your blog post and the article you discussed demonstrate that historical figures are not always the perfect individuals they appear to be. By doing some research, it is easy to discover that they did and said things that were not always respectful to other people’s beliefs or ways of life. However, we need to take the time to understand that everyone is entitled to their own opinions, and that they are not necessarily always going to be completely considerate when it comes to other people’s religions. Despite all of this, however, I still think that Jefferson was a great man in America’s history, even if he was not as perfect as we all thought. Thank you again for a great post!

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