Earlier this year, I took a tour of Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University and wrote about the experience. But on that same trip, I also had a chance to see a more hopeful sight, a monument to human reason rather than to false dogma: Monticello, the former home of Thomas Jefferson, now restored and turned into a museum. Unbelievably, photos weren’t allowed inside the house, but I got some good pictures from the outside:
Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello, Virginia, February 2010. Photo by the author. Camera details: Canon PowerShot SD1200 IS. Click for larger version.
On the hill behind the house, there’s a family cemetery where Jefferson and many of his relatives are buried. I also took this shot of his memorial:
The inscription on the stone, though dimmed by time, reads:
Here Was Buried
Author of the
Statute of Virginia
and Father of the
University of Virginia
The omission of Jefferson’s term as President was intentional. He wrote this epitaph himself, and these were the achievements he most wished to be remembered for.
Compared to the large and noisy celebrations of ignorance on display at Liberty University, I felt ashamed that Thomas Jefferson has such a humble memorial. It’s almost a metaphor for the way that American secularism has almost always been on the ropes against the loud and aggressive forces of religious supremacy. But we’ve won some inspiring victories as well, and while we’ve often been battered, we’ve never surrendered. And humble as it is, Monticello has been standing for over two hundred years. I’m happy to say that, at least in America, the merchants of hate and superstition have no institution they can boast of as lasting that long.