He said 'dunghill', but not quite in the manner in which you portray. Jefferson believed the Bible had been 'contaminated' by the early Christians in an effort to make Christianity more appealing to pagans. His desire was to glean the *pure* teachings of Jesus from the chaff of early Christian meddling.
In his letter to John Adams dated 1813, he wrote:
I have performed this operation for my own use, by cutting verse by verse out of the printed book, and arranging the matter which is evidently his, and which is as easily distinguishable as diamonds in a dunghill."
Here is the actual letter if your interested in the truth instead of parroting what you've heard:
(The 'dunghill' reference can be found toward the bottom of the 2nd paragraph)
To John Adams Monticello, Oct. 12, 1813
while the phrases "laws of Nature" and "Nature's God" have a lot more to do with Deism than Christianity.
Our legal system says otherwise- From the LEGAL definition of 'natural law'
n. 1) standards of conduct derived from traditional moral principles (first mentioned by Roman jurists in the first century A.D.) and/or God's law and will. The biblical ten commandments, such as "thou shall not kill," are often included in those principles.
For giggles & grins, another Jeffersonian quote:
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, in a letter to John Adams, April 11, 1823
Nice try though.
Back at 'cha!
I know the entire quote from Jefferson thank you.
He also said...
"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."
Jefferson believed most aspects of the creator could not be known. He rejected revealed religion because revealed religion suggests a violation of the laws of nature. For revelation or any miracle to occur, the laws of nature would necessarily be broken. Jefferson did not accept this violation of natural laws. He attributed to God only such qualities as reason suggested. "He described God as perfect and good, but otherwise did not attempt an analysis of the nature of God." Also in a letter to Adams, Jefferson said, "Of the nature of this being [God] we know nothing."
Although Jefferson never gave a label to his set of beliefs, they are consistent with the ideas of deism, a general religious orientation developed during the Enlightenment. Jefferson, being a non-sectarian, did not subordinate his beliefs to any label. He once said, "I never submitted the whole system of my opinions to the creed of any party of men whatever, in religion...or in anything else."
Deism was not actually a formal religion, but rather was a label used loosely to describe certain religious views. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word deist was used negatively during Jefferson's lifetime. The label was often applied to freethinkers like Jefferson as a slander rather than as a precise description. Thus the deist label is not highly specific. Deists were characterized by a belief in God as a creator and "believed only those Christian doctrines that could meet the test of reason." Deists did not believe in miracles, revealed religion, the authority of the clergy, or the divinity of Jesus. Like Jefferson they "regarded ethics, not faith, as the essence of religion."
"Nature's God" was CLEARLY THE GOD OF DEISM in all important ways. That Jefferson included God in the "Declaration of Independence" is very significant because it helped lay the foundation for a civil religion in America. Paul Johnson addressed the civil religion begun by the founders in his article, "The Almost-Chosen People," saying that the United States was unique because all religious beliefs were respected. People were more concerned with "moral conduct rather than dogma." So Jefferson helped create a society in which different religions could coexist peacefully because of the emphasis on morality over specific belief.