Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743)

Thomas Jefferson, as one of the founding fathers of the United States, represents the development of a welcoming society where civil rights were extended to a much greater number of people than in earlier times. No doubt from a 21st century perspective it’s too bad he didn’t include women and didn’t adequately condemn slavery, but he made a very important contribution to the way Americans are now able to live.

Jefferson’s views as a Deist also make him appealing to me as a secular Jew: he most emphatically did not intend to insist on Christian belief or practice in the new society. Deists belived that a god was not necessary for understanding the physical universe, but that the laws of science served adequately. The universe for them was a smoothly functioning machine that worked without interference from god. I think this is a highly compatible view for a secular Jew.

Needless to say there are trends in modern America that make me worry about the gifts that Jefferson gave us.

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