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Late Night: David Barton and Jon Stewart debate Thomas Jefferson

May 2, 2012 |  7:20 am


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David Barton
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Author and activist David Barton is a hero to fundamentalist Christians such as Kirk Cameron, Mike Huckabee and Michele Bachmann because of his opposition to the idea that America was founded as a secular country. He's also become a favorite sparring partner for Jon Stewart, who welcomed him once again to "The Daily Show" on Tuesday night to discuss his new book, "The Jefferson Lies."

Barton argues Thomas Jefferson was not an atheist but rather "nondenominational," and that his religious views have been distorted over the years. Stewart wasn't convinced by Barton's initial precept -- that Jefferson is widely assumed to be an atheist -- or by his broader claim that Christianity is, somehow, under attack in the United States.

"Coming from a non-Christian perspective, Christianity seems pretty safe, and pretty ubiquitous, and kind of overwhelming at times," he said, echoing the sentiments he has expressed many times before. "It feels like it’s the most accepted thing we have other than snack foods."

Tellingly, Barton didn't actually disagree with Stewart on this point. ("Yeah," he said, shrugging.) But he did contend hostility to Christianity is a pervasive problem, and that it's fueled by the types of people who believe that Jefferson was an atheist.

If you've got the time and/or the patience, the entire conversation Barton and Stewart is available here.


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— Meredith Blake