It might seem like a small point, but for David Barton, Jefferson’s religious beliefs are worth an entire chapter in his book The Jefferson Lies. In that book, Barton claims Jefferson did not question the Trinity until 1813. However, we find abundant evidence to the contrary. Here is an excerpt from our book, Getting Jefferson Right.
In The Jefferson Lies, David Barton claims that Jefferson came under the influence of groups in Virginia Barton labels as Primitivists and Restorationists. Specifically, Barton claims:
In fact, it was during his affiliation with Christian Primitivism that he first expressed anti-Trinitarian views in a letter to John Adams in 1813.
As we have seen, this claim is clearly false. Jefferson, in 1788, refused to sponsor a friend’s child as a godfather because he would have to affirm his belief in the Trinity. He told his friend, Derieux, that he held that belief [rejecting the Trinity] from early in his life. Jefferson also confided to a Unitarian friend that he attended Priestley’s Unitarian church before 1800, while he was Vice President. In Jefferson’s 1803 Syllabus, he laid out his belief that Jesus was not part of the Godhead. Barton’s attempt to make Jefferson seem orthodox during the active part of his political engagement is contradicted by Jefferson’ own words.
In Getting Jefferson Right, we go into great detail about Barton’s claims on Jefferson’s religious views. Barton tries to explain Jefferson’s religious statements later in life by an appeal to religious movements in central Virginia (Primitivism and the Restoration movement). However, we debunk that effort and let Jefferson speak for himself about his religious influences and beliefs.
Take the Jefferson Quiz.