“I do not find in Christianity one redeeming feature. It is founded on fables and mythology.” — Thomas Jefferson
That’s a pretty powerful statement. A Founding Father arguing that Christianity is based on lies? Damn. That’s gonna make people think! That’s gonna stir up a lot of controversy! That’s gonna get a ton of media attention!
Just one problem with the quotation… Jefferson never said it.
According to the Monticello website:
We are asked about this one on a fairly regular basis. As with many spurious Jefferson quotes, it is frequently seen on various Internet sites. Many sites do not cite a source, but a good number of those that do attribute this quote to a letter from TJ to a “Dr. Wood.” As far as we know, TJ never wrote to an individual calling him/herself Dr. Wood. Another suspicious element is the statement that he does not find in Christianity “one redeeming feature.” One presumes that Jefferson did, in fact, find some redeeming features in Christianity, otherwise he would not have taken the time to paste together his own versions of the Bible.
At least Bruce Gleason, the leader of the (ironically-named) skeptics group, admitted he screwed this one up:
He agreed that Monticello was an authoritative source.
“You’re absolutely right,” he said. “I should have done the research before I put my billboard up.”
He still argues, though, that the sentiment is accurate.
Hmm… misquoting someone, not having a credible citation, and arguing that the subject would’ve agreed with your revised quotation?
If Gleason’s not careful, people are going to start accusing him of being a Christian.