John AdamsJohn Adams, (1735-1826) Founding Father, 2nd US President

John Adams Quote

“The divinity of Jesus is made a convenient cover for absurdity. Nowhere in the Gospels do we find a precept for Creeds, Confessions, Oaths, Doctrines, and whole car-loads of other foolish trumpery that we find in Christianity.”

John AdamsJohn Adams
~ John Adams

Attributed to Adams in Spirit (1988) by William Edelen, p. 4 , however, not an accurate quote.
Paraphrased from diary entries in February 1756:
John Adams 'convenient cover for absurdity' quote

See: John Adams 'trumpery' quote.

Ratings and Comments

Denby, Victoria

Carloads? How could he have said this when there were no cars in his time?

klacee klaver, carl junction MO

I think it is a good quote rock on anonymous you others stink

Jonathan, St. Paul, MN

An admirable proclamation from a devoutly religious son of a deacon, second American president, and founder of our nation! Adams demonstrates that essential truths lie behind social institutions, even if the institutions themselves are rife with arbitrary dogmas, pointless rituals, and rigid, fascist creeds! How many of you dissenters have actually studied John Adams? An eloquent and powerful yet, for the informed, unsurprising quote from radical defender of liberty and exposer of fraudulent hypocrites, second American president John Adams!

E Archer, NYC

So, can we just get off this 'Christian' nation stuff -- even Adams' views demonstrate the ample room for interpretation of the Bible. There is a HUGE difference between the teachings of Jesus and the claims of today's religious right. The Founders views on religion, and particularly Christianity, allowed for much more tolerance than today's Christianity.


As so many Founding Fathers have stated in their speeches, correspondence & remembrances, religion wa not & is not crucial to the creation of America! They were not "Christians" but Deists who believed in a Supreme Being or Providence. And, no where, is there any reference to Christianity, God or religion in our original founding documents!

BondiHarry, Orlando, FL

One has only to read the comments by so many of our founding father's to know this claim that they were deists and not Christians is a fraud. Many distrusted what man had done to the gospel of Jesus Christ but most embraced the Bible as the word of God and the foundation of a moral life. Adams however should have differentiated the doctrine of Christ and the silly doctrines added by man in his quote.

BondiHarry, Orlando, FL

I would add for the benefit of Denby, Victoria that the word car has been in use for over 800 years and has referred to various types of conveyances from chariots to the basket of an air balloon. Adams wasn't referring to automobiles.

Kabra, Oslo

He was not a deist, but an atheist. Most of the founding fathers were so. Atheist and genius. In 2008 christian and stupid.

ruth anne shorter, Littleton, NC

I would add if you take all the quotes from our founding fathers you would find Christians followers of Jesus, not "religious". Big difference. When our days on earth are over, we will give an account and every knee WILL bow, no matter what you believe now.

Common Sense, Washington

John Adams never denied the Divinity of Jesus; he was just frustrated with the mess in many aspects of Christian clergy and certain corruptions -like in government- within the Christian ■religion■ during his time. John Adams was very much a Christian and maintained a Jedao-Christian worldview. Its funny how simple minded many of you take this quote -sound bite- to mean so much more of which it is not. You've made it a Voltair quote or witty saying. -- Common Sense, Washington

Kevin, Wildwood

I am with Denby. I think the quote is contrived and simply not believable. "Carloads", give me a break. Any explanations?

Mark Alexander, Liberty

Before reprinting any of your quotes, I always fact check. The first quote below sounded nothing like Adams, and indeed, it is nothing like Adams. It was grossly misattributed to Adams in 1988 by William Edelen, p. 4 in Spirit of Adams. No evidence he ever said anything like this. I enjoy Liberty quotes but too often these quotes are completely fallacious and one might conclude, represent a blind spot when desiring to project a particular agenda or world view by way of the words of others... Your website notes, "Famous quotes, quotations, sayings, phrases, idioms, proverbs, and axioms about Liberty and the Responsibility that comes with it." Responsibility indeed. Please take responsibility for accuracy when promoting Liberty! Keep up the good work, and dispense with the bad. I think if I ran a website promoting quotes, I would have an obvious link right up top for reporting misattributions. As it is, there is NO contact link on your site.

L. Hanson, Edmonton, Canada

This is a great one for the WWJD crowd. As a Canadian I can say with absolute conviction that we find it offensive in the extreme when the religious right tries to invade our lives. You-all might believe it; or think you believe it; or pretend to believe in the imperical truth of the seperation of church and state, but here, we live it.

Cal, lewisville, TX

Religion should be a very personal thing.

Russ, Boston

Cars or no cars in John Adams time, I doubt that he would address such a serious topice wth carloads even if it did exist then it would have been a slang comment admist a serious accusation. Russ

Mike, Norwalk

I'm not sure how to comment on or, rate this quote with stars. The quote as a whole does have some validity but, ? ? ?Concerning Adam's standard of accurate articulation, this qoute doesn't seem equal to the stature of the man. Everybody has a different take on the Bible while, Adams here, would seem to be using definitions to words that would be somewhere else in context explained. By way of very brief example: Is the term "Gospels" specifically referencing the first 4 books of the New Testiment or in general, the entire book as a whole? In the reference to "Doctrines", Jesus established the new doctrine of; "But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you" (Matt 5:44). In the reference to "Oaths"; "Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath" (Heb 6:17). In the reference to "Confessions"; "For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." (Rom 10:10) In reference to "Creeds" the quote is kinda accurate in that it is biblically referenced; "And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; (Ephesians 4:11-14) As to many of the comments, there is way to much prideful ignorance and bigotry to address here at this time in this forum. The de jure US was to be a Christian nation, and is now a Christian nation, even if there were / are no true followers of Jesus the Christ's teachings, doctrines, or oaths.

Tim Schwartz, Yakima, WA

Founding father, yes, but politician still. It sounds like a hyperbole to make people think and then settle on something less extreme. To say that there is "no precept for doctrines, creeds" and so on is plain untrue. (Thanks, Mike in Norwalk for the great references.) His point that the divinity of Jesus has been used as a cover for hypocrisy, sure... but not every instance of a creed or confession or oath is hypocrisy. Just the opposite. Faithful Christians have spoken and still speak confessions and creeds and oaths and doctrine as legitimate, sincere expressions of their saving faith.

Editor, Liberty Quotes

Thanks to those for pointing out the lack of source for this quote. Your efforts to keep these quotes accurate are appreciated. It appears that this quote is a paraphrase from Adams' diary. There are several entries in February 1756. Here's the one with 'convenient cover for absurdity':

"Major Greene this evening fell into some conversation with me about the Divinity and satisfaction of Jesus Christ. All the argument he advanced was, 'that a mere creature or finite being could not make satisfaction to infinite justice for any crimes,' and that 'these things are very mysterious.' Thus mystery is made a convenient cover for absurdity." -- John Adams
Source: Diary entry of 13 February 1756, referenced in Charles Francis Adams, The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States: With a Life of the Author, Notes, and Illustrations vol. 2 (Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1850) 4, Google Books, 13 Dec. 2010.

As for the word 'car', don't be so quick to judge - the word has been in use since the 1300s. (Where do you think it came from?) Here's the diary entry on 'cart-loads of other trumpery' written five days later:

"Spent an hour in the beginning of the evening at Major Gardiner's, where it was thought that the design of Christianity was not to make men good riddle-solvers, or good mystery-mongers, but good men, good magistrates, and good subjects, good husbands and good wives, good parents and good children, good masters and good servants. The following questions may be answered some time or other, namely, — Where do we find a precept in the Gospel requiring Ecclesiastical Synods? Convocations? Councils? Decrees? Creeds? Confessions? Oaths? Subscriptions? and whole cart-loads of other trumpery that we find religion incumbered with in these days?" -- John Adams
Source: Diary entry, 18 February 1756.

I think a thorough study of John Adams would reveal his Unitarian beliefs and his utter contempt for, well, he said it clearly above. I think it is interesting how quickly a great many 'Christians' cast aspersions and judge others, completely contrary to the precepts of Christianity - hmm, who's pushing an agenda? Cheers.

Editor, Liberty Quotes

We have created links to the 2 quotes above for future reference:
John Adams 'convenient cover for absurdity' quote
John Adams 'cart-loads of other trumpery' quote.
Thanks for helping us. Cheers.

Dave Wilber, Sunset Hills Missouri

I think far too many believe preachers and not enough believe the Bible. It seems that most church-goers beieve Jesus is coming but not one verse indicates He will come IN OUR FUTURE while 20 verses show He was to return before the disciples all died. Too many believe Jesus' and Pauls' words were directed at us BUT WE WERE NOT THERE! Paul never said we shall meet the Lord in the air, He said they (him and his contemporary believers( would neet the Lord in the air and they surely did so. Was Jesus speaking to you when He said: "Ye are sons of your father the devil?" or anywhere in Mat. 23? Too many think Revelation is being fulfilled soon but to have that belief, one must cut out, black out or just ignore Rev. 1:3: "These things are at hand." "at hand" does not mean 2000 years away! There is a reason why so many err: Freemasonry IS the second most powerful force on earth, second only to God. Their god is Lucifer quoting Albert Pike, the highest Mason in American history. Lucifer's goal is to impose their religion on the world. To impose their religion on the world, they must control all divinity schools and that required unlimited money. To get unlimited money, they created the Federal Reserve in 1913. Their success is shown in the number of people who deny Jesus fulfilled all prophecy and I believe most church goers reading this have bought the Leaven of the Pharisees that Jesus warned of. I almost wrote "warned us." We were not there! Those who agree with this are known as preterists. There are many waking up. To learn more, please write:

E Archer, NYC

Interesting discussion. Thanks, Editor, for the clarification. It amazes me how easily religionists will twist every word to prove their beliefs. Beliefs, I might add, that were made up and implanted at a young age. Why won't Christians, Jews, and Muslims do some research about the source of their religions? Why are they so quick to judge everyone else fools while they bow and scrape to an ideology gleaned from ancient Egyptian mythology, particularly solar, lunar, and stellar cults? Astrology is older than all of the mainstream religions, and comparative religious study is able to trace the source of the big three religions to astrotheological origins. Religion and the secret societies of priestcraft are power structures, pure and simple. Of course, most will be quick to deny this without even one hour of study into the subject. It's not called the opiate of the masses for nothing. The truth will indeed set you free.

Mike, Norwalk

Editor, great job, thanks ! Dave, your here comment seems to be the clearest of your recent posts. It sounds more like an educated opinion than most religionists. said well.

Victor Greenwood, Johannesburg

If there is a war there is a religion in the middle it is digusting

Mike, Norwalk

Victor, the war on drugs, the war on terrorism, the war on inalienable rights, and the war on natural law proves out your statement

warren, olathe

I would agree with him. And by the way there definitely were carloads back then and cars. There just were not automobiles. The term car is old. We just borrowed it for a more modern purpose because it was brief.

Anonymous, Jacksonville

more fraud by those who hate Christianity

J Carlton, Calgary

For those who are asking...the word "car" comes from the word carriage. I have no way of knowing if the shortened version was in use in John Adams time. And while I believe in a power greater than myself, I do not subscribe to organized religion, I see it as a bunch of foolishness and in many cases entirely corrupted.

Tom, Boston

The use of the word "car-load" is incorrect. It's actually "cart-load."

Editor, Liberty Quotes

Tom, read the Source information with the quote. It is not an accurate quotation and is a paraphrase of two actual quotes, which are referenced there. Cheers.


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