Thomas Paine

By Jo Kotula By Jo Kotula

On this date in 1737, Thomas Paine was born in England. Paine wrote "Common Sense" in 1776, fanning the flames of the American Revolution. On the cutting edge of revolution, Paine is best known for his political writings. No better index to Paine's character can be found than his reply to Franklin's remark, "Where liberty is, there is my country." "Where liberty is not," said Paine, "there is mine." Without the pen of Paine, said one contemporary, the sword of Washington would have been wielded in vain. A radical freethinker in the 18th century mode of deism, Paine wrote the classic criticism of the bible, The Age of Reason (1792), completing the second volume under arduous conditions of imprisonment in France. "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." Organized religion was "set up to terrify and enslave" and to "monopolize power and profit." Paine repudiated the divine origin of Christianity on grounds that it was too "absurd for belief, too impossible to convince and too inconsistent to practice." He was vilified for his unabashed analysis of the bible when he returned to America in 1802. Even a century after his death, Theodore Roosevelt referred to Paine, the man who named the United States of America, as "a filthy little atheist." D. 1809.

“Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and tortuous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness, with which more than half the Bible is filled it would be more consistent that we call it the word of a demon than the word of God. It is a history of wickedness that has served to corrupt and brutalize.”

—Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason (1792)

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

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