Thursday, June 22, 2006

Tom Paine

Tom Paine

The Age of Reason

Thomas Paine
I believe in one God, and no more; and I hope for happiness beyond this life.
I believe in the equality of man; and I believe that religious duties consist in doing justice, loving mercy, and endeavoring to make our fellow creatures happy.
I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish Church, by the Roman Church, by the Greek Church, by the Turkish Church, by the Protestant Church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church. All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian, or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.
Infidelity does not consist in believing, or in disbelieving; it consists in professing to believe what he does not believe.

By Richard E. Noble
With the current controversies with regards to religion, the Bible and Christianity, I am at a loss to understand why “The Age Of Reason” by Tom Paine is not a million seller. I have found that although many people, famous and otherwise, often quote or paraphrase Tom Paine, few have actually taken the time to read what he had to say.
Whether you are a defender of established religion or a detractor, you should read “The Age of Reason” by Thomas Paine. If you are a defender of the Bible or any religion other than Deism then you are going to have a challenge defending your views against the logic contained in this book. If you think that you know the “truth” then you should not fear such a challenge.
What this book has to say is as valid and logical as the day it was written.
I do not understand why the religious apologists of today have not taken this book and debated it line for line. Instead, no one even mentions it. It is as though this book were never written. Instead they continue to promote the same old defeated arguments with a modern day spin. It does make any honest man question their sincerity.
The first section of the book challenges the Old Testament and the second part the New Testament. Since first reading this book, I have read more detailed, more philosophical and more historical criticisms of the Bible and Christianity. But in this volume Tom Paine does a very good job of stepping on the basic bases for argument with regards to the Bible and its authenticity. The book is very easy to read even though it was written in the 1790s. Tom Paine writes in much the style of today - which seems rather amazing when you look up many other of the writers of the period. In those days the established writers criticized Tom Paine’s writing as being common and untrained. Well, for better or worse, it seems that the common and the untrained has become the language of today.
This book deserves to be read, of course, as a history book but it also merits a place as a philosophy book - certainly an exercise in logic and critical thinking.
Tom Paine is so sensible he is shocking. He is still shocking today. I remember as a teenager when I first read the introductory pages in chapter II discussing the Virgin Birth. To say that I was shocked would be an understatement.
But this is just vintage Tom Paine. If you sit down and start reading the Crisis Papers you will be equally shocked. You will wonder where this man got the audacity, the confidence; the courage; the balls! This man’s whole career is one of a fearless disregard for consequences and an all out embrace of what he understood to be the truth. Tom just said it like he saw it. Most of us, even today, learn not to do that - it can be very troublesome; and so it was for Tom.
The Crisis Papers made Tom famous and a hero. The Rights of Man only served to enhance this heroic reputation. The Age of Reason, though no different in style, character, straightforwardness, and courage, destroyed him.
He wrote this book while sitting in a prison cell in France during the French Revolution – waiting to have his head chopped off. He had no reference material and wrote the book entirely from memory. This seems impossible to me.
In the introduction he tells the reader that his intention was to publish this book posthumously, but since he was about to die – this appeared a good a time as any.
Fortunately or unfortunately, as the case may be, Tom lived – to be chided, derided and harassed for the remainder of his life. After all his great and patriotic achievements the people could not forgive him his trespasses when it came to honestly expressing his thoughts on religion. It does seem strange that everyone could respect his honesty in all else he did and said; but when it came to religion – he was suddenly a liar, a hypocrite and an infidel. You can tell the people anything that you want – but don’t tell them that you don’t believe in their God; whatever God that may be.
The people of the time could respect courage and truth in War, and respect truth and courage in politics but when it came to religion and the Bible - their ears were closed and their fists were clenched.
Unfortunately we seem to be returning to those days of yesteryear and today we have no Lone Ranger to protect us - we don’t even have a Tonto.
I put this book on my blog several months ago as one of my favorite books and since then I have checked it for links to other blogs and individuals in the infinite blogosphere. So far there is not one other blogger who has listed “The Age of Reason” as one of their favorite books. (I just checked to be sure - there are now three others.)

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