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Sworn on the Altar of God: A Religious Biography of Thomas Jefferson
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Sworn on the Altar of God: A Religious Biography of Thomas Jefferson


Eerdmans 1996

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This acclaimed biography explores the religious life of Thomas Jefferson, and the contribution his strident commitment to religious liberty made to the formation of the nation. Renowned historian, Edwin Gaustad, chronicles Jefferson’s intellectual growth. He pays particular attention both to Jefferson’s private struggle to come to grips with his own faith, and to his public role as champion of religious liberty. This volume is a must read for anyone interested in the religious life of one of America’s most significant figures.

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Key Features

  • Delves into the life of Thomas Jefferson through the lens of his faith
  • Discusses his commitment to faith and how it affected his role in the public
  • Provides insight into the personal life of Jefferson, and shows the struggle that allowed him to make the changes he did


  • The Anglican
  • Student of the Enlightenment
  • The Revolutionary
  • The Statesman
  • The Religious Reformer
  • The Educator
  • The Eternal Vigil
  • A Religion for the People

Praise for the Print Edition

A thorough treatment of Jefferson’s thinking on religious freedom as well as his private testaments of faith.

American Historical Review

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. . . . A rich introduction to Jefferson’s life and work. . . . A valuable contribution to reflection on both possibilities.


An unusually interesting, useful book to have at hand during an election year when the debate on church/state issues is likely to generate much heat and little light.

Cathedral Age

A well informed and astute analysis of what led the famed statesman to be a strong, unyielding proponent of religious liberty.

Catholic News Service

A highly readable survey of the life of Thomas Jefferson, focusing upon the religious views of the sage of Monticello. . . . Gaustad offers a fair and complete picture of Jefferson’s thoughts on religion by drawing upon his extensive correspondence with friends and acquaintances.

Church History

Product Details

  • Title: Sworn on the Altar of God:A Religious Biography of Thomas Jefferson
  • Author: Edwin S. Gaustad
  • Series: Library of Religious Biography (LRB)
  • Publisher: Eerdmans
  • Publication Date: 1996
  • Pages: 260

About Edwin S. Gaustad

Edwin S. Gaustad was professor emeritus of history and religious studies at the University of California, Riverside. He also taught at Shorter College, the University of Redlands, Baylor University, and Auburn University. He received a BA from Baylor University and an MA and a PhD from Brown University. He is the author of, among other works, Liberty of Conscience: Roger Williams in America, Historical Atlas of Religion in America, The Religious History of America: The Heart of the American Story from Colonial Times to Today (with Leigh Schmidt), and Proclaim Liberty Throughout the Land: A History of Church and State in America.

Sample Pages from the Print Edition