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In Jefferson's "Letter to Dr. Benjamin Rush," he says that he is "averse to the...

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trialanderror | Student, Undergraduate | Salutatorian

Posted January 4, 2012 at 11:44 AM via web

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In Jefferson's "Letter to Dr. Benjamin Rush," he says that he is "averse to the communication of his religious tenets to the public. Why does he feel this way?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted January 4, 2012 at 11:51 AM (Answer #1)

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The reason for this was that Jefferson did not want to have his beliefs attacked and, perhaps, misrepresented by his political enemies.  We know from looking at the way things are today that political partisans will use religion to smear their opponents.  Imagine how much more Jefferson would have worried about this at a time when Americans were much more openly religious than they are today.

Jefferson was right to worry.  When he ran for the presidency, one of the major attacks on him concerned his alleged atheism.  His opponents claimed that he would do things like promoting the burning of Bibles and trying to destroy religion in general.  Because he feared such things, Jefferson did not want his beliefs aired in public.

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