The Correspondence of Thomas Jefferson
MORAL PRINCIPLES / AND RELIGIOUS HIERARCHIES
I should as soon think of writing for the reformation of Bedlam, as
of the world of religious sects. Of these there must be, at least, ten
thousand, every individual of every one of which believes all wrong
but his own. To under take to bring them all right, would be like
undertaking, single-handed, to fell the forests of America.
abuse the priests, indeed, who have so much abused the pure and holy
doctrines of their Master, and who have laid me under no obligations
of reticence as to the tricks of their trade. The genuine system of
Jesus, and the artificial structures they have erected, to make them
the instruments of wealth, power, and preeminence to themselves, are
as distinct things in my view as light and darkness; and while I have
classed them with soothsayers and necromancers, I place Him among the
greatest reformers of morals, and scourges of priest-craft that have
ever existed. They felt Him as such, and never rested until they had
silenced Him by death.
Government, as well as religion, has furnished its schisms, its
persecutions, and its devices for fattening idleness on the earnings
of the people. It has its hierarchy of emperors, kings, princes, and
nobles, as that has of popes, cardinals, archbishops, bishops, and
priests. In short, cannibals are not to be found in the wilds of
America only, but are reveling on the blood of every living people.
to Charles Clay, Esq., 29 January 1815