Letter to Andrew Dean
[15 August 1806 / On Jesus Christ as the Son of God
and on Death]
I received your friendly letter, for which I am obliged to you. It is
three weeks ago today (Sunday, August fifteenth), that I was struck
with a fit of apoplexy, that deprived me of all sense and motion. I
had neither pulse nor breathing, and the people about me supposed me
dead. I had felt exceedingly well that day, and had just taken a slice
of bread and butter for supper, and was going to bed.
The fit took me on the stairs, as suddenly as if I had been shot
through the head; and I got so very much hurt by the fall, that I have
not been able to get in and out of bed since that day, otherwise than
being lifted out in a blanket, by two persons; yet all this while my
mental faculties have remained as perfect a I ever enjoyed them.
I consider the scene I have passed through as an experiment on dying,
and I find that death has no terrors for me. As to the people called
Christians, they have no evidence that their religion is true. There
is no more proof that the Bible is the Word of God, than that the
Koran of Mahomet is the Word of God. It is education makes all the
difference. Man, before he begins to think for himself, is as much the
child of habits in Creeds as he is in plowing and sowing. Yet creeds,
like opinions, prove nothing.
Where is the evidence that the person called Jesus Christ is the
begotten Son of God? The case admits not of evidence either to our
senses or our mental faculties: neither has God given to man any
talent by which such a thing is comprehensible.
It cannot therefore be an object for faith to act upon, for faith is
nothing more than an assent the mind gives to something it sees cause
to believe is fact. But priests, preachers, and fanatics, put
imagination in the place of faith, and it is the nature of the
imagination to believe without evidence.
If Joseph the carpenter dreamed (as the book of Matthew (i) says he
did), that his betrothed wife, Mary, was with child by the Holy Ghost,
and that an angel told him so, I am not obliged to put faith in his
dreams; nor do I put any, for I put no faith in my own dreams, and I
should be weak and foolish indeed to put faith in the dreams of
The Christian religion is derogatory to the Creator in all its
articles. It puts the Creator in an inferior point of view, and places
the Christian devil above Him. It is he, according to the absurd story
in Genesis, that outwits the Creator in the Garden of Eden, and steals
from Him His favorite creature, man, and at last obliges Him to beget
a son, and put that son to death, to get man back again; and this the
priests of the Christian religion call redemption.
Christian authors exclaim against the practice of offering up human
sacrifices, which, they say, is done in some countries; and those
authors make those exclamations without ever reflecting that their own
doctrine of salvation is founded on a human sacrifice. They are saved,
they say, by the blood of Christ. The Christian religion begins with a
dream and ends with a murder.
As I am now well enough to sit up some hours in the day, though not
well enough to get up without help, I employ myself as I have always
done, in endeavoring to bring man to the right use of the reason that
God has given him, and to direct his mind immediately to his Creator,
and not to fanciful secondary beings called mediators, as if God was
superannuated or ferocious.
As to the book called the Bible, it is blasphemy to call it the Word
of God. It is a book of lies and contradictions, and a history of bad
times and bad men. There are but a few good characters in the whole
book. The fable of Christ and his twelve apostles, which is a parody
on the sun and the twelve signs of the zodiac, copied from the ancient
religions of the eastern world, is the least hurtful part.
Everything told of Christ has reference to the sun. His reported
resurrection is at sunrise, and that on the first day of the week;
that is, on the day anciently dedicated to the sun, and from thence
called Sunday - in Latin Dies Solis, the day of the sun; and the next
day, Monday, is Moon-day. But there is no room in a letter to explain
While man keeps to the belief of one God, his reason unites with his
creed. He is not shocked with contradictions and horrid stories. His
bible is the heavens and the earth. He beholds his Creator in all His
works, and everything he beholds inspires him with reverence and
gratitude. From the goodness of God to all, he learns his duty to his
fellow-man, and stands self-reproved when he transgresses it. Such a
man is no persecutor.
But when he multiplies his creed with imaginary things, of which he
can have neither evidence nor conception, such as the tale of the
Garden of Eden, the Talking Serpent, the Fall of Man, the Dreams of
Joseph the Carpenter, the pretended Resurrection and Ascension, of
which there is even no historical relation - for no historian of those
times mentions such a thing - he gets into the pathless region of
confusion, and turns either fanatic or hypocrite. He forces his mind,
and pretends to believe what he does not believe. This is in general
the case with the Methodists. Their religion is all creed and no
I have now, my friend, given you a facsimile of my mind on the
subject of religion and creeds, and my wish is, that you make this
letter as publicly known as you find opportunities of doing.