How is Thomas Jefferson's outlook on Deism different or similar than Thomas Paine's?

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Like Paine, who expressed his deistic religious views in The Age of Reason, Jefferson had little use for those aspects of Christianity that he deemed contrary to reason. In particular, he, almost as much as Paine, was skeptical of the divinity of Jesus, and doubted seriously whether the miracles attributed to him in the Gospels really happened. Both men argued for a simpler form of religion that venerated the ideals and moral teachings of Jesus while expunging what they viewed as superstition. As noted above, Paine wrote extensively on the subject in The Age of Reason, while Jefferson compiled what has become known as the "Jefferson Bible," which omitted many of the core beliefs of conventional Christianity, including the Trinity and the resurrection. The book was not published during Jefferson's life.  It is important to note that neither Paine nor Jefferson were atheists. Both believed strongly in the power of religion to preserve public virtue.  Paine, perhaps, took his deism a step further in Age of Reason, denying that the Bible was a source of religious truth, which he claimed could be found and understood through rational inquiry.  "The Word of God," he asserted, "is the Creation which we behold." It may be safe to say that Jefferson was a Christian deist, close to what we might call Unitiarian, while Paine was a more "orthodox" deist.

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