Priests and Politicians, never before, so suddenly and so unanimously concurred in reestablishing Darkness and Ignorance Superstition and Despotism.
John Adams, letter to Thomas Jefferson, February 2, 1816
Adams wasn’t talking about the present day of course, but it still works for me.
The truth is that the greatest enemies to the doctrines of Jesus are those calling themselves the expositors of them, who have perverted them for the structure of a system of fancy absolutely incomprehensible, and without any foundation in his genuine words. And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter. But we may hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with all this artificial scaffolding, and restore to us the primitive and genuine doctrines of this the most venerated reformer of human errors.
Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, April 11, 1823
I agree with you likewise in your wishes to keep religion and government independant of each Other. Were it possible for St. Paul to rise from his grave at the present juncture, he would say to the Clergy who are now so active in settling the political Affairs of the World: “Cease from your political labors - your kingdom is not of this World. Read my Epistles. In no part of them will you perceive me aiming to depose a pagan Emperor, or to place a Christian upon a throne. Christianity disdains to receive Support from human Governments.”
Benjamin Rush, letter to Thomas Jefferson, October 6, 1800
Rush was a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
I believe there is one Supreme most perfect Being, Author and Father of the Gods themselves.
For I believe that Man is not the most perfect Being but One, rather that as there are many Degrees of Beings his Inferiors, so there are many Degrees of Beings superior to him.
Benjamin Franklin, Articles of Belief and Acts of Religion, Part 1, November 20, 1728
As to religion, I hold it to be the indispensible duty of all government, to protect all conscientious professors thereof, and I know of no other business which government hath to do therewith.
Thomas Paine, Common Sense, February 14, 1776
This is indeed common sense.
Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprize every expanded prospect.
James Madison, letter to William Bradford, April 1, 1774
Is uniformity attainable? Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth.
Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, Query 17, 1787
My Mother grieves that one of her Sons is an Arian, another an Arminian. What an Arminian or an Arian is, I cannot say that I very well know; the Truth is, I make such Distinctions very little my study; I think vital Religion has always suffer’d, when Orthodoxy is more regarded than Virtue. And the Scripture assures me, that at the last Day, we shall not be examin’d what we thought, but what we did; and our Recommendation will not be that we said Lord, Lord, but that we did GOOD to our Fellow Creatures.
Benjamin Franklin, letter to his parents, April 13, 1738
That Jesus did not mean to impose himself on mankind as the son of God, physically speaking, I have been convinced by the writings of men more learned than myself in that lore. But that he might conscientiously believe himself inspired from above, is very possible.
Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Short, August 4, 1820
I confess to you, sir, were uniformity of religion to be introduced by this system, it would, in my opinion, be ineligible; but I have no reason to conclude, that uniformity of government will produce that of religion. The subject is, for the honor of America, perfectly free and unshackled. The government has no jurisdiction over it - the least reflection will convince us, there is no danger to be feared on this ground.
James Madison, Speech in the Virginia Ratifying Convention in Defense of the Constitution, June 6, 1788