Imagine There's No Heaven

The writers of the Constitution knew the recent history of wars of religion and religious persecution in Europe. Many of the thinkers who influenced them associated political freedom very closely with freedom of religion, with the dismantling of state religion, and -- in some cases -- with the abandonment of religion entirely. "Man shall not be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest," said Jean Meslier, or Denis Diderot, or perhaps Voltaire, depending whom you ask. Voltaire's bust was, and still is, prominently displayed in Thomas Jefferson's Monticello. Jefferson and George Mason led the establishment of religious freedom, first in Virginia, and then in the new United States.

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