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Sworn on the Altar of God: A Religious Biography of Thomas Jefferson (Library of Religious Biography) Paperback – January 3, 1996

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This timely reminder of Jefferson's lifelong commitment to religious liberty is also a clearly written account of the origins and context of the commitment. At the same time, it is a rich introduction to Jefferson's life and work, with some attention to the contradictions that abounded in the life of a champion of liberty who was also a southern slaveholder. Gaustad's concluding quotation from an early biographer of Jefferson is a good summary of the importance of his subject: "If Jefferson was wrong, America is wrong." This book is a valuable contribution to reflection on both possibilities. Steve Schroeder
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Product Details

  • Series: Library of Religious Biography
  • Paperback: 260 pages
  • Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.; First Edition edition (January 3, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802801560
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802801562
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #574,071 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 31 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 26, 1997
Format: Paperback
Recent debate between religious and political groups have constantly referred to the phrase "separation of church and state." This clause deserves special distinction because it is the most famous constitutional language to never appear in the constitution. Jefferson wrote it to a group of Danbury Baptists in the 1790s well after the Constitution was written. In this new book Gaustad clears up this and other misconceptions about Jefferson's religious life and presents him as the greatest fighter for religious liberty the country has ever known.
What was the Virginia Statute For Religious Freedom, and how did it set the mode for Western Civilization Church and State Relations? What were Jefferson's beliefs on the deity of Jesus Christ? Was Jefferson against Christian expansion? Did Jefferson really rewrite the New Testament in "The Jefferson Bible?" These are questions that every historian, and many non-academic lovers of history
have been asking about the third president of the United States. More than any other founding father, Jefferson is noted for his role in the relationship between religion and government.
Gaustad chronicles Jefferson's religious life from age 14 to his death in a language that will satisfy scholars and non scholars alike. A must read for all those interested in Thomas Jefferson.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Jill Mayfield on April 4, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is an excellent compliement to Charles Sanford's "The Religious Life of Thomas Jefferson." Whereas Sanford does a scholarly review of the content of Jefferson's religious ideas, Gaustad in this book gives the narrative and context for how Jefferson applied his ideas concerning religion and religious freedom. Most interesting to me in the Gaustad book were the accounts of the political fights Jefferson and Madison waged for religious freedom during the early years of the Republic. Gaustad filled in the historical gaps and gave me context for understanding how momentous the struggle truly was. Also brought to life by Gaustad are the correspondences between the aged ex-presidents Jefferson and Adams about God and religion. I highly recommend this book to those interested in the history of ideas and freedom of thought.
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7 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Therese Yeaton on March 26, 2002
Format: Paperback
Thomas Jefferson's thinking hovers over many of today's debates regarding separation of church and state, school prayer, the place of public education, and the place of faith in our own lives.
This is an excellent exploration of the complexities of Jefferson's beliefs and the even more complex world of how his writings and thoughts continue to impact America today.
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8 of 14 people found the following review helpful By J Martin Jellinek on December 15, 2005
Format: Paperback
Sworn on the Altar of God is an extremely informative look at Thomas Jefferson's faith. As one of the Founding Fathers, politicians and people of faith have so often tried to understand Jefferson's faith. In truth, he was a deist and a rationalist. Understanding the implications of this faith have great ramifications in our current times, especially in relation to a government which seems so intent on glorifying evangelical fundamentalism at the expense of reason. I feel that Jefferson would have been appalled!
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