Welcome to the chapel at the University of Virginia. Here we are in a neo-gothic excressence. I'm channeling Jefferson now. I think it's okay. A neo-Gothic excressence. Now, the architecture, the sensibilitiy, the taste itself would be revolting to Jefferson. What does Gothic architecture suggest? Now, that's a hard question to answer for Jefferson, because there wasn't a lot of Neogothic architecture in his lifetime, just the beginnings of it, but gothic architecture signifies the Middle Ages. It signifies the ignorance, the mystifications, the domination of the clergy, of priest craft. Juxtaposed to the rotunda. We see it from here. They are in a lively architectural conversation. And Jefferson would say as he turns over in his grave oh my God. We'll talk about who he or she is later. Oh my God, the rotunda was supposed to make this powerful statement on behalf of reason, on behalf of the revival of learning. Getting back before the corruptions of modern Christianity, to the wisdom of the ancients. It was a, an ostentatiously secular building. Imagine this, my fellow Americans. Every college in this young country had been founded by religious people for religious purposes, primarily to prepare clergymen. The central building is always a church. And now you can see. The contradiction. The problem that Jefferson would have here with this church. With all it signifies about the progress of the human mind, about the future of America. Is this a repudiation of Jefferson? He fought during the building of the university, he fought against the forces of reactionist he saw them against particularly, the Presbyterians. Who thought the idea of a fully secular university was an abomination. After all, many revolutionaries would have said, Where does good citizenship come from? Benjamin Russ -- Benjamin Rush, a Presbyterian but a friend of Jefferson and one of the great revolutionaries, believed that republicanism and Christianity were as one, they depended on each other, because you needed to have the moral character To uphold the virtue, a key word for the revolutionary generation that would sustain the republic. And where would that come from? It would become from the preachers. John Adams, like Jefferson, a self- professed Unitarian, in a place that made sense to be Unitarian, again we'll talk about that later in Massachusetts. John Adams is the famous author of the Massachusetts constitution. The longest living constitution in the world. The Massachusetts constitution says we need to support the church. We need the church to perform an educational function. It's a church with teachers, not preachers. Adams like Jefferson, is not an enthusiast for the mysteries of the Trinity. He's, as I say, a Unitarian. That conviction even with a latitudinarian, a Unitarian and Massachusetts. That religion and republicanism are intimately connected. This is what Jefferson revolts against and this is the story I'm going to try to tell today. And as I tell the story, I'm hoping I get to the, to this conclusion, that perhaps this building does belong here. A good thing to keep in mind throughout today's talk is that for Jefferson and his contemporaries, everything was on the line. The future was at risk. This was a period of revolutionary change and in this period of revolutionary change, the nature of governmental institutions, of religious institutions was in question in a very radical way. How could the revolution be sustained, what was the genius of the revolution? What were the great threats to that revolution? Now, we think of Jefferson in terms of the Declaration of Independence. And by the end of his life, Jefferson celebrated his own role as the author of the Declaration. It's on his tombstone. There are two other things there. One is founder of the University of Virginia. The third thing is author of the Bill for Religious Freedom. When Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence in 1776, he was simply doing committee work. He wished he had been in Virginia writing a constitution for the new commonwealth or republic of Virginia. That's where the action was, Jefferson thought, but he wasn't much of a public speaker. He was a clever writer more than a clever writer a brilliant writer and so the task fell to him. Adams was busy on all the commitee's he served on he was the atlas of independance. Jefferson by default was the pen man. He wished he had been back in Virginia and his role as author of the Declaration was not widely known until the 1790s. But when Jefferson wrote the bill for religious freedom in Virginia in 1779. And eventually it was enacted in 1786, thanks to the heroic efforts of his henchmen and colleague, the short man, James Madison. Jefferson was in transports, he was exalting in the success of this great triumph over ignorance and tyranny. And sent copies of it to all his friends in Europe where he was serving as the American Minister in Paris. This was the epitomy of the American Enlightenment. This was the American's great contribution to the progress of the human mind. It had been a near thing. It was a great struggle to get this bill enacted. But it would change everything. Jefferson proudly owned, claimed authorship of the Bill for Religious Freedom. He did not claim authorship at first of the Declaration of Independence. Why is it so important? Why was it so important to him? There are two ways to answer this question. First, I'm going to explore the immediate circumstances in Virginia, and why a bill for religious freedom would get that bare majority in the Virginia assembly that would make it law. Then I'm going to take a broader view of what's really at stake in religion for Jefferson during the revolutionary period. And we'll have some broad commentary on how Jefferson defines the old regime that has to be overthrown. Not only overthrown, but the danger of the old regime, in Europe, and in America, is its revival. Jefferson feared that there was an aristocratic impulse in all of us. We all have an urge to dominate, as I am dominating you right now. This impulse toward domination is where hierarchy comes from. Where aristocracy come from. Where monarchy comes from. That's why we need to create institutions, that on the one hand will check power, the temptations to power, and on the other hand will teach us those essential ethical And political values that will sustain the regime. Jefferson as much as Adams, and other revolutionaries, and Benjamin Rush believes that we need an educated and informed citizenry. But, how you are educated. Is the key challenge. After I've surveyed these broad concerns, I want to put us in Jefferson's position, looking to the future, as he predicts all us Unitarians. And I'm going to suggest, somewhat perversely, that Jefferson maybe wasn't as wrong As we think he was. This will require me to look more closely at Jefferson's spiritual life. Now Jefferson is, as the great Jefferson scholar, Meryl Peterson said, seems to be impenetrable. It's hard to get into that sanctum sanctorum where he was cutting up the Bible. But we'll take that trip today, and we'll see if we can make sense out of Jefferson's religious life, his spiritual quest, and how it ultimately connects with the American Revolution. And how ultimately that success of the Bill for Religious Freedom and the world it creates here in America. Retrospectively makes the Declaration of Independence, the pivotal moment in modern history.