[UPDATED with a Jeffersonian Misquote:] Jefferson's Atheist Message is Movin' on Up

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UPDATE, OCT. 26, 2:20 P.M.: The Jefferson Library Collection at Monticello, which is the world's leading authority on things written and said by Thomas Jefferson, is disavowing the quote the Orange County atheist group Backyard Skeptics attributes to the third U.S. president on a billboard unveiled this afternoon in Costa Mesa.

The 48x14-foot billboard off Newport Boulevard just north of Industrial Way has this coming from TJ: "I do not find in Christianity one redeeming feature. It is founded on fables and mythology."

That's apparently an abridged version of this: "I have recently been examining all the known superstitions of the world, and do not find in our particular superstition [Christianity] one redeeming feature. They are all alike, founded upon fables and mythologies." The 1906 book Six Historic Americans by John E. Remsburg reportedly attributes that to Jefferson in a "Letter to Dr. Woods."

But, as the Orange County Register reports this afternoon, officials in Monticello know of no such letter from Jefferson to a Dr. Woods, nor has that quote (abridged or otherwise) turned up in any Jefferson writings they know of.

Confronted with this, Backyard Skeptics founder Bruce Gleason acknowledged to the Register's Jon Cassidy that the Jefferson Library Collection is authoritative on everything Jefferson said and wrote and that he should have better checked his facts before slapping that quote on a billboard.

ORIGINAL POST, OCT. 26, 8:22 A.M.: For its latest provocative billboard facing stressed commuters, the county's self-proclaimed largest atheist group is delivering an American history lesson.

Thomas Jefferson's quote "I do not find in Christianity one redeeming feature. It is founded on fables and mythology" will be splashed across the 48x14-foot billboard unveiled this afternoon off Newport Boulevard just north of Industrial Way in Costa Mesa.

The grass-roots group Backyard Skeptics has peppered the region with similar billboards, calling today's 3 p.m. unveiling, "phase four of an outreach program for letting other non-believers know they have a voice in Orange County."

Here is the billboard:

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Backyardskeptics.com
The reason for the Jeffersonian slant?

"Many Christians believe that our nation was build upon Christian tenants. It is not," reads an email forwarded to the Weekly by Backyard Skeptics founder Bruce Gleason. "This billboard shows that the author of our Constitution did not consider Christianity anything but superstitions based on fables and mythology. Many of our Founding Fathers felt the same as Jefferson did. Our nation is a secular, constitution-based nation. Our Constitution has no reference to any holy book nor mentions any specific deity nor includes any laws from such holy books.

"Skeptics and atheists are not the only ones who point out this true but unpopular view--many people of faith also support the separation of church and state. If it was not for the separation of church and state America might have only one state-sponsored religion much like other countries, and the 36,000 Christian sects now in existence would have never been. Backyard Skeptics believes that religion in infiltrating our political system to the extent where if the Religious Right has their way, laws will be based not on constitutional law, but Biblical law."

The north-facing billboard on the west side of Newport Boulevard between Industrial and Commercial ways is one of two Backyard Skeptics has going up on the busy thoroughfare. The other, facing south on Newport Boulevard just south of 16th Street, reads, "Make This A Better World--Reject All Religious Superstition":

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The world would be a more peaceful place if that message was taken to heart, Gleason believes. Founded in 2008, his group counts more than 500 members, making it the largest known skeptic and atheist collection in Orange County (not counting university faculties, of course). For information on monthly meetings, visit backyardskeptics.com.
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39 comments
Freebirdskip
Freebirdskip

Come on folks, study your history. This country was not built on only Christianology. It was built for ALL to have the FREEDOM to choose their own religion, even if it is none at all. Any questions? Take the bait.

Freebirdskip
Freebirdskip

During one of the many times I was hospitalized (four heart attacks, internal bleeding, triple bypass, etc.) There was a time when we all thought I would not make it. I asked for someone from the clergy to visit me. The visit didn't last very long after I asked one question. Why is it that when we talk to God, it's called praying, but when we say God talked to us, we are called crazy. The clergyman could not answer and left the room immediately. It seems that hippocracy has no limits after all.

Freebirdskip
Freebirdskip

This is not anything to be serious about. Just another chicken shit person trying to give their own words more importance by attaching it to someone better known. I'm sure throughout his life, Jefferson said many things. most of which can easily be misquoted by the chicken shit in our society. We are the real FOOLS if we lend any credibility to this type of conduct.

crazyjack
crazyjack

i am an atheist.  but i am not an evangelist.  I don't go around trying to convince others that they are wrong and i am right.  Atheism, like Religions is a very personal thing.  It should remain personal. To paraphrase Ron Reagan, "Mr. Gleason, take down that billboard"

Joe
Joe

Who would have thought it possible?  An atheist fable!  Egg on the face I think, considering these backyard skeptics had an issue with fables. Religious folk are not the only ones who believe in the imaginary, after all. Where are the Bright atheists when you need them?

Misslaceya
Misslaceya

Christians can't talk about God in public places (school, work, etc), but Atheists can rent a billboard?

Thurstonga61
Thurstonga61

Belive as you choose. For myself and family we are practicing CHRISTIANS and prefer distance between the the dis believers. It must be terrible to not believe in anything and pray to nothing, we Christians practice LOVE, FAITH & HOPE, what do atheist preach?

Jeffb1
Jeffb1

Do atheists have a problem with any other religion? Looking up a particular quote and slapping it on a sign does not constitue truth or wisdom. When people start using the word "should" in their comments to the media, I'm inclined change the channel.

Seems that someone thinks they know what "research" is. I wonder if they really use critical thinking, source evaluation, organization, and composition to produce something illuminating, and worth taking our time to listen.

Anyone can stand on a soap box in the center of town, and voice their opinions. I don't understand how this sort of garbage makes its way into the media to begin with. Someone hasn't been doing their homework.

Nice try, but no cigar!

Greatrelish
Greatrelish

An atheist has a god. It is himself.

Verimius
Verimius

"tenets", not "tenants".

909Jeff
909Jeff

Atheism - The belief that there was nothing...

And nothing happened from nothing...

And then nothing magically exploded from nothing creating everything... 

And then everything magically rearranged itself into self replicating material... 

And then the self replicating material became Dinosaurs. 

That all makes perfect sense!

20ftJesus
20ftJesus

The vast majority of "religious" folks understand that the bible is metaphorical, but belong to a church for the social aspects. 

Jackqlln
Jackqlln

I have always felt this to be a controlling tool.

BillJ_MN
BillJ_MN

I've never heard one single atheist even hint that christians can't talk about their deities in public places.  Not even close.  Your feelings of persecution aren't warranted.  The closest we come is that no public institution or official should provide promotion of a specific theistic belief in any official capacity.  And, of course, there's nothing to prevent christians from renting billboards any more than there is atheists.  I've seen many in my life that had clear christian messages on them.  That's part of the good old American secularly-based freedom of speech.

909Jeff
909Jeff

Of course you can... What they are saying is that your (Their words not mine) fairy tales are offensive to them as non believers and they are fresh out of current lawsuits against municipalities for the "alleged" seperation of church and state. So their next appropriate response is to openly bash Christians, by wasting money on a misquote on a billboard.   

mitch young
mitch young

" Looking up a particular quote and slapping it on a sign does not constitue truth or wisdom. "

Yeah, you should read some Jefferson quotes about blacks.

BillJ_MN
BillJ_MN

Do you really think that stupid website would have any effect?  A bunch of quotes from your book of "fables and mythology" isn't going to convince anyone who isn't already in agreement with them.

BillJ_MN
BillJ_MN

Also, Jefferson was not "the author of our Constitution."  He wasn't even at the Constitutional Convention.  He was the author of our Declaration of Independence.

KitCox
KitCox

Yep. AMAZING! A believer finally gets it!!! Except for the part about the magic. There's nothing magical about chlorine and sodium making salt when they contact each other. Of course, when you show that experiment to a hillbilly it's magic.

Robert Pope
Robert Pope

theism - The belief that God came from nothing...and then did it all in 6 days...

That all makes perfect sense!

909Jeff
909Jeff

Im not professing to be anything... The Atheist are becoming the bully's they claim the Christians are. I think they need to have their noses rubbed in it like they do to the Christians.      

BillJ_MN
BillJ_MN

Seriously?  Pascal's Wager?  You're resorting to that old chestnut?  Tha'ts flawed on so many levels it's hard to know where to start.  First, if there are any magical superbeings, who's to say that they care if we believe in them or not.  Secondly, which of the many magical superbeings created by people should you choose to believe in?  There are a lot of them and many of them demand exclusive devotion.  Pascal's Wager could be applied to each of them separately.  It isn't' simply a matter of believing in a magical superbeing.  You have to choose the right one.  Thirdly, a faith based on a what-if-he/she/it-does-exist attitude is not really a faith at all.  It's a cowardly form of covering your butt.  A supposedly all-powerful magical superbeing would be able to look into your mind and would know that you don't really believe in it, that you're just afraid of allowing your sense of reason to control your opinion.  Would your magical superbeing really have higher regard for someone who pretended to faith because of a fear of it really existing than it would for someone who lived with an honestly held disbelief?  Would your magical superbeing reward the dishonesty of the person who pretends to believe?  Do you honestly believe you made some kind of effective point?

AEJ
AEJ

Whos worse off if what they believe is wrong? The Atheists or the Christain?If you  don't believe in God and there is a God, your in big trouble.If you believe there is a God and there isn't one, no problem you have no one to answer to anyway. 

BillJ_MN
BillJ_MN

There was nothing arrogant or holier than thou in my statement.  I think you're simply putting your insecurities on display.  It's not enough to provide a quote and pretend it says what you claim it says.  That falls into the "I'm right because I say so" category.  You should be able to describe at least a little how it matches your description.  You can't do that.  Your entire reply was just more "because I say so."

BillJ_MN
BillJ_MN

You think that's bullying?  Are you that much of a wimp?  There was nothing abusive, hectoring or belittling.  Face facts - you're simply insecure with having your faith challenged.  You want atheists to either adopt your mythology or shut up with our opinions.  Ain't gonna happen.

Trust me, very few atheists will ever achieve the level of "in your face" that I've encountered from too many who share your faith.The popular vote means nothing to the Easter Bunny, either.  And it's for the same reason.

Jesophnerrben
Jesophnerrben

Yes, BULLIES! We already know you exist, even without your "in your face" attitude. The popular vote means nothing to God.

909Jeff
909Jeff

Their last billboard did but by and large they are mostly christian bashers hiding behind the veil of Atheism 

Apologia
Apologia

And you were right about their attacks being aimed primarilly at Christians, who they probably think are all of one stripe.  I don't recall them attacking Jews or Islamics or Native American religions or Wiccans. 

909Jeff
909Jeff

I admitted fault and that I was basically switzerland.  For the most part... I like to play the defender.  Christians are generally underrepresented here and frankly from posts past tend to show up quoting scripture which does nothing when your "arguing" with an athiest.  Did I troll for an argument here? Absolutely... Arrogant?  My name says it all, I'm an OC transplant living in the IE what do I have to be arrogant about?  What is the purpose of a misquoted billboard admonishing Christians? to announce your heralded arrival?  Who's the arrogant one now? 

Fish on a hook
Fish on a hook

909 you arrogant bastard, (No offense to Stone Brewing Company).  The athiest group should have mined Twain for quotes.  They could have used these gems;Man is a Religious Animal.  He is the only Religious Animal.  He is the only animal that has the True Religion - several of them.The Bible has noble poetry in it; and some clever fables; and some blood drenched history; and a wealth of obscenity; and upwards of a thousand lies.and for you 909.....We have two opinions: one private, which we are afraid to express; and another one - the one we use - which we force ourselves to wear...until habit makes us comfortable in it, and the custom of defending it presently makes us love it, adore it, and forget how pitifully we came by it. Training is everything.  The peach was once a bitter almond; cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education.

909Jeff
909Jeff

I prefer his original statement... Atheist have become believers of disbelief.  

909Jeff
909Jeff

" I realize you'd rather shove us all back in the closet and continue to demonize us unchallenged, but that door's been blown off its hinges.  We're a growing portion of the population and that's not going to stop anytime soon."That statement in and of itself is arrogant and smacks of "Holier than thou" sentiment. 

"So far it looks like "I'm right because I say so" from you"

 Not at all if you want to be a believer of disbelief than by all means.  Just like the believers of myth.  But when you act like the very same people you purport to be "Smarter" than because you don't believe in fairy tales it sends the message that really your just the same.  Putting up these billboards which by and large attack Christians are as invasive to them as the Saturday morning visits by the Jehovah witnesses are to you. 

"If you can't defend your case there's no reason to take you seriously."

What case is to be made... You obviously have you're mind made up as to what you believe and so have the Christians.   I'm not going to change your mind to make you believe that there is a mystical person in the sky.  My purpose here is two fold.  Provide a bit of levity and make sure you play fair in the sandbox.  Am I the great moderator? Nah just a dude with a keyboard and two monitors so I can play on one work on the other.  Basically I went fishing.  I threw a line out to see what I could catch and here you are.  

Thanks for biting. 

John Dale
John Dale

Let me just correct you there Bill - its as weak as the copy-pasted mindless parody that started it ;)

BillJ_MN
BillJ_MN

How so?  What part of my post was bullying?  If you can't defend your case there's no reason to take you seriously.  So far it looks like "I'm right because I say so" from you.  It's as weak as the mindless parody of atheistic belief that started this thread.

909Jeff
909Jeff

There you go... point proven... Thank you 

The Atheists have become what they despise the most.

BillJ_MN
BillJ_MN

Really?  Bullies?  Simply because they want to let people know they exist and are just like everyone else?  I realize you'd rather shove us all back in the closet and continue to demonize us unchallenged, but that door's been blown off its hinges.  We're a growing portion of the population and that's not going to stop anytime soon.

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