Thursday, July 17, 2014

Volokh: "'In a country professing Christianity, … I find my religion and myself attacked'"

Eugene Volokh reproduces a firsthand account from early American artist John Trumbull in 1793 where one of Jefferson's invited guests -- a senator from Virginia, and therefore one of the hundreds of unknown "Founders" -- articulated something very close to strict deism (indeed, something way stricter than what Jefferson himself apparently believed) or perhaps atheism.

From 1793:
Thinking this a fair opportunity for evading further conversation on this subject, I turned to Mr. Jefferson and said, “Sir, this is a strange situation in which I find myself; in a country professing Christianity, and at a table with Christians, as I supposed, I find my religion and myself attacked with severe and almost irresistible wit and raillery, and not a person to aid me in my defense, but my friend Mr. Franks, who is himself a Jew.” For a moment, this attempt to parry the discussion appeared to have some effect; but Giles soon returned to the attack, with renewed virulence, and burst out with — “It is all a miserable delusion and priestcraft; I do not believe one word of all they say about a future state of existence, and retribution for actions done here. I do not believe one word of a Supreme Being who takes cognizance of the paltry affairs of this world, and to whom we are responsible for what we do.”

1 comment:

Tom Van Dyke said...

Jefferson's dinner table was a lot like a Harvard faculty lounge. Quite a shock to the senses of normal people.