On the 4th of July, 1826, America celebrated the 50th anniversary of her Independence. John Adams, the second President of the United States, died on that day at the age of 90. His last words were: “Thomas Jefferson still survives.” But on that same day, Jefferson too died. There was something mystical about the relationship between Adams and Jefferson. It was these two giants who, with James Madison, set the direction and the philosophy of this great nation.
What are we celebrating on this 4th of July? It is the Declaration of Independence. With only a very few word changes, that magnificent document was written by one man, Thomas Jefferson. When John Kennedy was President he hosted a banquet without precedent. He invited every living American Nobel Prize winner. When the guests were seated Kennedy stood and said he wanted to offer a toast. He said this: “Never has so much talent, so much genius, been assembled in one room — since Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”
I have one bust in my study. It is of Jefferson. On the base are these words: “I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every tyranny over the mind of man.” (He uses the word “God” as a Deist, not as a Christian. A vast difference) He made this scathing statement aimed at the tyranny of the Christian church. What did he think about Christianity that is not being taught in our public schools? Why not?
ON JESUS: “The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus with the Supreme Being as his father, in the womb of the virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter.”
THE BIBLE: He regarded it as “rubbish” and a “dunghill.” And: “the authors of the gospels and Paul were unlettered and ignorant men, writing long after the events had transpired. Any fragments of the teaching of Jesus have come to us mutilated, mis-stated and un-intelligible. Paul was the first great corrupter who led a large band of dupes.”
CHRISTIANITY: “Christianity is the result of a scheming priesthood and has been turned into the most perverted system that ever shone on man.” And, “I have examined all the known superstitions of the world, and I do not find in our superstitions of Christianity one redeeming feature. They are all alike founded on fables and mythology. Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity have been burnt, tortured, fined and imprisoned. What has been the effect of this coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites, to support roguery and error all over the earth.”
THE CLERGY: “The most ignorant and devious group of men who keep mankind enslaved with superstitious doctrines.”
I am always overwhelmed with thanksgiving and gratitude that men of the stature and integrity of Jefferson, Adams and Madison never stooped to the low level of inviting a token religious figure, a bible-thumping clown, for a “prayer breakfast,” to placate bible-belt America. Only one recent American president had the guts to say what he thought about the brown-noser of the White House, Billy Graham. Harry Truman said, “But now we've got just this one evangelist, this Billy Graham, and he's gone off the beam. He's… well, I hadn’t ought to say this, but he’s one of those counterfeits I was telling you about. He claims he's a friend of all the Presidents, but he was never a friend of mine when I was President. I just don’t go for people like that. All he's interested in is getting his name in the paper.”
On this 4th of July weekend, may I suggest that we celebrate the brilliance of Jefferson, Adams and Madison? Will we ever again see men, or women, of their caliber in American politics?
(For more about/by Mr. Edelen go to: williamedelen.org)