"My trade is to say what I think."
"It is to him who masters our minds by the force of truth, and not to those who enslave them by violence, that we owe our reverence. "
"In fact it is comfortable to see the standard of reason at length erected, after so many ages during which the human mind has been held in vassalage by kings, priests, and nobles."
Let the human mind loose. It must be loose. It will be loose. Superstition and Dogmatism cannot confine it. (John Adams, letter to John Quincy Adams, November 13, 1816)
Jefferson ranked the importance of his "Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom" equal to the Declaration of Independence. The right of the American people to choose their religion now was on parity with their right to choose their own government.
"The life and essence of religion consists in the internal persuasions or the belief of the mind...external forms of worship, when against our belief, are hypocrisy and impiety. "
The Church should be a "voluntary society," Jefferson asserted. It is "voluntary because no man is by nature bound to any church."
"Is a priest to be our inquisitor, or shall a layman, simple as ourselves, set up his reason as the rule for what we are to read, and what we must believe? It is an insult to our citizens to question whether they are rational beings or not, and blasphemy against religion to suppose it cannot stand the test of truth and reason. "
"Truth will do well enough if left to shift for herself. She seldom has received much aid from the power of great men to whom she is rarely known & seldom welcome. She has no need of force to procure entrance into the minds of men, error indeed has often prevailed by the assistance of power or force."
"What influence, in fact, have ecclesiastical establishments had on society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the civil authority; on many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; in no instance have they been the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wish to subvert the public liberty may have found an established clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just government, instituted to secure and perpetuate it, needs them not." James Madison
The theologian may indulge the pleasing task of describing Religion as she descended from Heaven, arrayed in her native purity. A more melancholy duty is imposed on the historian. He must discover the inevitable mixture of error and corruption which she contracted in a long residence upon earth, among a weak and degenerate race of beings. ~Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
"Religion can be directed by Reason and Conviction, not by Force or Violence; and therefore, all Men are equally entitled to the free Exercise of Religion, according to the Dictates of Conscience" George Mason