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Thomas Jefferson
If god is just, I tremble for my country. —Thomas Jefferson

Why is the Center named for him?

The name was chosen to honor a remarkable freethinker and author of the Declaration of Independence and the Virginia Statutes for Religious Freedom. President of the United States and founder of the University of Virginia, Jefferson was a gifted and thoughtful religious skeptic of early America, known for his own edition of the Bible known as the Jefferson Bible, consisting of four books of the New Testament, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, in which he eliminated all supernatural and irrational elements. In addition the name "Jefferson" ties the Center to Ashland, Oregon, which is located in the mythical "State of Jefferson," a name given to the geographical area of northwest California and southwest Oregon, which has had many cultural and social ties over the years.

What is Jefferson's legacy?

Thomas Jefferson probably was the most significant political and intellectual figure in the history of early America. He was an intellectual giant and a standard bearer of humanistic thought based on the principles of the eighteenth century Enlightenment. He was very human, and as such had the same kind of successes and failings that all human beings possess. He wrote of and concretized the idea of "inalienable rights," yet he lived in a time when that term was principally linked to free, white males over the age of twenty-one who owned land. Time has brought his flaws into the light while illuminating more clearly his great accomplishments. Jeffersonian ideals include governments of checks and balances, and a wall of separation between government and religion [church and state]--freedom of religion and freedom from religion. They also include the rights and property of citizens: that all people had the right to be informed and therefore to have a role and say in government. His philosophy also included the right for all to be educated no matter what one's circumstance or status in life. All in all, Jefferson saw the United States as "the world's best hope," that this country would protect and expand human liberty in every way it could. The Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights reflect much of Jefferson's influence.

Critical Thinking
Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted;
nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider.
—Sir Francis Bacon

What is meant by "critical thinking"?

Essentially, critical thinking means being able to evaluate evidence before making an informed judgement. It is a matter of learning to tell fact from opinion-- even if the opinion has held credence for centuries, to see holes in arguments, to decide whether cause and effect has been made known, and being able to recognize what is illogical. Critical thinking skills must be taught, but not everyone taught these skills will be disposed to use them. Critical thinking skills really have to do with human reasoning, and they must be used to be effective. In other words, to engage in critical thinking, one must use critical thinking skills, but they are not always enough to make informed judgements. One also needs to want to think in a critical way. Needless to say, critical thinking is more "critical" in our increasingly technological and scientific world. [For further information, please read "Defining Critical Thinking" - a statement by Michael Scriven & Richard Paul for the National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking Instruction, which is found at

What is Freethought? What is a Freethinker?

"Freethought is an intellectual doctrine built on the proposition that humankind can understand the world and govern itself through reason, critical thinking, logical analysis, and scientific inquiry, without ancient and irrelevant traditions, divine intervention, or consideration of the supernatural. On this basis it is inherently a humanistic and naturalistic worldview." (from "Freethought Forum" - )

A Freethinker forms opinions about religion on the basis of reason, independently of tradition, authority, or established belief. Freethinkers include atheists, agnostics and rationalists.

"No one can be a freethinker who demands conformity to a bible, creed, or messiah. To the freethinker, revelation and faith are invalid, and orthodoxy is no guarantee of truth." (from "What is a Freethinker" - Nontract #11 -Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.)

Secular Humanism
Science has done more for the development of Western civilization in one hundred years than Christianity did in eighteen hundred years. —Jeff Burroughs

What do you mean by "secular?"
"Secular" means "Pertaining to the world or things not spiritual or sacred."

What is a "humanistic world" as mentioned in your mission statement?

A humanistic world is the product of a vision of life and the world based on humanist principles. These principles, perspectives, and ideas are basically "optimistic ideals" of democratic liberty and freedom: freedom of the individual person, freedom of society, and freedom of conscience. These principles have developed over centuries of human history. Unlike dogmatic religious fundamentalists, humanists believe that no human being is born into some kind of depraved state, wicked, truly sinful and in need of salvation or redemption. Unlike totalitarian governments, humanists believe that people are able to control their own lives, needs, and work and should not be ruled by the state through oppressive and undemocratic laws curtailing freedom. Yes, human beings are certainly capable of evil actions, but humans are also capable of living altruistic lives full of love, significance, and worth if they choose, and certainly independent of any kind of theological assumptions. To have this work, however, there needs to be a particular context and supportive community in which humans can develop the best qualities of lives that are rich, full, excellent, and thoughtful. The ability to live a life open to change and rational critique is essential to lives of meaning. People that are open to critique from new experiences enable them to develop a principled approach to the challenges that face them. This inclination is a very scientific one and it can begin in childhood through proper training.

What is Secular Humanism?

"Secular humanism is a comprehensive, nonreligious lifestance incorporating: a naturalistic philosophy, a cosmic outlook rooted in science, and a consequentialist ethical system." (for further information visit

Am I a Humanist?

You may be a Humanist and don't realize it. Ask yourself these questions and then decide:

  • Do I try to live an ethical and fulfilling life without religious belief?
  • Do I think science and reason lead to more reliable knowledge than faith?
  • Do I support secular government and an open society that guarantees human rights for all?

If you answered "yes" to these questions, you might be one of the millions of Humanists on Earth---people who live meaningful, fulfilling lives based on reason and compassion, not religion.

Our Logo
Logos and branding are so important. In a big part of the world, people cannot read French or English—but are great in remembering signs. —Karl Lagerfeld

What does your logo signify?

Our logo contains a sunburst and a spiral within it. The sunburst symbolizes light and enlightenment. The spiral, an ancient pagan symbol, represents the process of growth, change and evolution, as in the seasons and cycles of life. Light, enlightenment, evolution, growth and change are all parts of building and sustaining critical thinking about life and our world.


Many thanks to Ric Thowless, webmaster for the original Jefferson center site, for the quotes and for his idea to format the FAQs in sections. Ric has been instrumental in guiding improvements to this new site.