At one point in Religulous, he quotes three of the Founders as having scorn for Christianity. One such quote came from Thomas Jefferson:
Christianity is the most perverted system that ever shone on man.I suspected this wasn't the first time I had seen this quote, but, nonetheless, I knew it must be falsely attributed to Jefferson. This quote which appeared in Religulous is a bogus quote. It has not, to date, been found in any of his writings.
Jefferson had quite the affinity for the teachings of Christ (minus all the bogus supernatural and miraculous claims). As such, he edited the New Testament to glean such ludicrousies out; which Religulous correctly explained. So, when Jefferson speaks on being a Christian or Christianity, he often doesn't refer to the church or its teachings as "Christianity," unless he explicitly states it. Otherwise, it would be confused with the teachings of Christ, which he did not despise.
Jefferson confirms this in a letter:
No doctrines of [Jesus] lead to schism. It is the speculations of crazy theologists which have made a Babel of a religion the most moral and sublime ever preached to man, and calculated to heal, and not to create differences. These religious animosities I impute to those who call themselves his ministers, and who engraft their casuistries on the stock of his simple precepts. I am sometimes more angry with them than is authorised by the blessed charities which he preached.It's clear his gripe is with Christians and not with Christ. The Jefferson Encyclopedia cites the following as the possible basis of this misattributed quote:
[A] short time elapsed after the death of the great reformer of the Jewish religion before his principles were departed from by those who professed to be his special servants, & perverted into an engine for enslaving mankind, and aggrandizing their oppressors in church & state: that the purest system of morals ever before preached to man has been adulterated & sophisticated, by artificial constructions, into a mere contrivance to filch wealth & power to themselves, that rational men not being able to swallow their impious heresies, in order to force them down their throats, they raise the hue & cry of infidelity, while themselves are the greatest obstacles to the advancement of the real doctrines of Jesus, and do in fact constitute the real Anti-Christ.Don't let his affinity for Christ mislead you into thinking he's a believer of the New Testament and simply rejects the Church's teachings (such as the Jehovah's Witnesses). He liked the teachings attributed to Christ, but did not like all the fantastic supernatural, divine content (which is why The Jefferson Bible came about). Many Christians like to quote mine Jefferson where he speaks highly of Christ and his teachings as evidence he was a Christian. In fact, in one passage Jefferson actually calls himself a Christian:
I, too, have made a wee-little book from the same materials, which I call the Philosophy of Jesus; it is a paradigma of his doctrines, made by cutting the texts out of the book, and arranging them on the pages of d blank book, in a certain order of time or subject. A more beautiful or precious morsel of ethics I have never seen; it is a document in proof that I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus, very different from the Platonists, who call me infidel and themselves Christians and preachers of the gospel, while they draw all their characteristic dogmas from what its author never said nor saw. They have compounded from the heathen mysteries a system beyond the comprehension of man, of which the great reformer of the vicious ethics and deism of the Jews, were he to return on earth, would not recognize one feature.You can actually search for "'i am a real christian' jefferson" and you'll find many Christian sites quote mine this. He is speaking on his revision of the New Testament, though, and is clearly indicating that. If one is to claim Jefferson is a real Christian and we are to define "Christian" as what Jefferson believed, then everyone alive today who calls themselves a Christian are false Christians. They are as close to Jefferson's version of a Christian as I am to Ray's version of a Christian.
This post went off on a bit of a tangent, but I think his use of the Founders' quotes is going to be heavily attacked by critics of the film. There were much better quotes to use and from many different Founders. I found the quotes that he did use from all three were poor selections and misleading.
To conclude on a poignant quote:
Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined and imprisoned. What has been the effect of this coercion? To make one half the world fools and the other half hypocrites. -- JeffersonOh, wait a minute. That doesn't sound quite as I remember it...
EDIT -- 4/06/2009
Before commenting about what a dumb Christian I am, you should do yourself the favor of reading my subsequent posts on Religulous/Bill Maher and realize that you can constructively criticize that which you side with. Hold nothing sacred.
The Case Against the Case Against Religulous
Is Bill Maher an Atheist? No.
The Case Against Beliefnet: Bill Maher's Fundamentalism