Photo Sunday: Monticello

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
Thomas Jefferson
Author of the
Declaration
of
American Independence
of the
Statute of Virginia
for
Religious Freedom
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.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • http://anonatheist.wordpress.com/ Hieronymus Fortesque Lickspittle

    Nice pictures, thanks for posting!

  • Jeff

    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.

    Wait.

  • Bob Carlson

    On my trip to Monticello and to Montpelier, the home of Jefferson’s close friend, James Madison, I was struck by the irony that both places are within the congressional district of Eric Cantor, whose far right political views are attuned to the majority of his constituents–the religious right. Were they alive today, Jefferson and Madison would not be viable political candidates in this district.

  • Alex Weaver

    Were they alive today, Jefferson and Madison would not be viable political candidates in this district.

    Or, probably, anywhere.

  • http://anexerciseinfutility.blogspot.com Tommykey

    Ebon, did you get any 2 dollar bills while you were there? When my wife (then fiancee) went there in the summer of 98, we got a couple of Jefferson two dollar bills as change at the ticket booth.

  • Katie M

    In 1962, President Kennedy held a dinner at the White House in honor of 49 Nobel Laureates. He remarked, “I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent and of human knowledge that has ever been gathered together at the White House-with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”

  • http://anexerciseinfutility.blogspot.com Tommykey

    a monument to human reason rather than to false dogma

    However, to strike a contrarian note, I doubt the African-Americans enslaved at Monticello would have considered Master Jefferson’s home to be a monument to reason.

  • http://she-who-chatters.blogspot.com D

    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.
    - Ebonmuse, OP

    Funny, I find Jefferson’s humble memorial to be fitting, and I find Liberty U to be an embarrassment to the nation. I mean, I see where you’re coming from, I really do; I just think that a shift in perspective would do you well. Also, something tells me that you wouldn’t enjoy seeing Jefferson’s home and grave get all Disneyed out.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    Fair point, D. (Nice to see you around again!) I wouldn’t want Jefferson’s home to be turned into a theme park. The current restoration, which keeps the interior as similar as possible to the days when Jefferson actually lived there, was tasteful and well done.

    Still, I wish this was a bigger place of pilgrimage than it is. The contrast with Liberty University, which was huge and sprawling, was hard to overlook. In Virginia, of all places, the universities should be devoted to Jefferson’s views, not the vicious dogmas he himself spent so much effort fighting against.

    By the way, Tommykey: Yes, the visitors’ kiosk did give change in $2 bills. :)

  • Neil M MacLeod

    Thanks for the winter photo. Glad the restoration is tasteful. Despair not – around the world, and as far away as here in New Zealand, secular skeptics cherish the writings of Tom Jeff as his most important monument. Question Authority – it’s always Right!