Tom Paine 


Logo This author published the pamphlet 'Common Sense' which inspired American patriots at the time of the Revolutionary War. He was of the Quaker generation who discovered that many of the Bible insights they had inherited from their charismatic founder, George Fox,— for instance, that the Bible authors were never thinking of water when they spoke of baptism,— could not be defended in debate against detractors. They they had a choice to make, in his case, to throw the baby out with the bath-water. He became a Deist and defended this weak-tea, man-made religion against the Bible:


Age of Reason Deism
Temple of Reason Supreme Being
First Cause Revealed Religion
Civilization Son of God
Methodology Old Testament
Saved by the Blood Small World
Thomas Jefferson Prophets and Poets
Theophanic Angel Love of Learning
Born of a Virgin Until this Day
Three Days

LogoAge of Reason

Thomas Paine's theological treatise is called 'The Age of Reason.' Part I appeared and was eviscerated by clerical critics; nothing abashed, he excused himself by claiming he had not been in possession of a Bible when he wrote Part I, and proceeded to offer the world Part II, which is not really any improvement.

Thomas Paine was immensely influential in the formation of modern secular Bible study, as was his sometime nemesis, the Unitarian Joseph Priestley. Contrary to the impression some people have that modern secular Bible study takes its rise from imposing scholarship, neither one of these men was anything but self-taught. Whether his insights have any value remains to be seen.

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LogoDeism

Deism is a form of monotheism which rejects revelation and commonly casts scorn upon revealed religions such as Christianity. Thomas Paine, the pamphleteer, was a Deist. He affirmed:

"I believe in one God, and no more; and I hope for happiness beyond this life." (Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason, Part I, Chapter 1).

The Deists were hostile to revealed religion:

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Byzantine Medallion


  • “Every national church or religion has established itself by pretending some special mission from God, communicated to certain individuals. The Jews have their Moses, the Christians their Jesus Christ, their apostles and saints; and the Turks their Mahomet; as if the way to God was not open to every man alike. . .Each of those churches accuses the other of unbelief; and, for my own part, I disbelieve them all.”
  • (Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason, Part I, Chapter 2.)



Jacques-Louis David, The Deat of Marat


LogoThe Temple of Reason

The first of the new, synthetic religions imposed upon the people of France by the revolution was atheism:

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  • “Bearing a bust of Marat, the crowd marched to the Temple of Reason, the erstwhile cathedral, over whose portals were placed a large tricolor and a placard reading 'Light after darkness'. . .An orchestra played, and the gathering (alleged to number ten thousand) sang a 'Hymn to Nature':
  • "Mother of the Universe, eternal Nature,
    The People acknowledges your power eternal;
    On the pompous wreckage of ancient imposture
    Its hands raise your altar...”
  • (Twelve Who Ruled, The Year of the Terror in the French Revolution, R.R. Palmer, p. 188).





LogoSupreme Being

The Cult of Reason did not exactly catch on, nor was it consistent with Thomas Paine's religious views. This man had the privilege to participate in two revolutions, the American and the French, though in neither country was he a citizen. The next artificial religion which the Revolution imposed upon the French people, most of whom were Roman Catholics, was Deism, as dear to Maximilien Robespierre's heart as it was to Thomas Paine's:



  • “Some would go further. Under pretense of destroying superstition they would make a kind of religion of atheism itself. . .It will be said perhaps that I am narrow-minded, a man of prejudice, even a fanatic. I have already said that I spoke not as an individual or as a systematic philosopher, but as a representative of the people. Atheism is aristocratic; the idea of a great Being that watches over oppressed innocence and punishes triumphant crime is altogether popular.”
  • (Maximilien Robespierre, quoted in Twelve Who Ruled, The Year of the Terror in the French Revolution, R.R. Palmer, p. 121).




LogoYou would think a simplified religion like this does not need a priesthood, but you would be wrong. Maximilien Robespierre modestly delighted to officiate as high priest of this new religion:

"The celebration of the new religion had been fixed for the 20th Prairial throughout France. On the 16th, Robespierre was unanimously appointed president of the convention, in order that he might officiate as the pontiff at the festival. At that ceremony he appeared at the head of the assembly, his face beaming with joy and confidence, an unusual expression with him. He advanced alone, fifteen feet in advance of his colleagues, attired in a magnificent dress, holding flowers and ears of corn in his hand, the object of general attention. . .He harangued the people in his capacity of high priest. . .'People, let us to-day give ourselves up to the transports of pure delight!'" (F.A.M. Mignet, History of the French Revolution from 1789 to 1814, Chapter IX).

Roman Catholicism still exists in the world today, atheism still exists, but Deism? It's a non-starter. It's a man-made religion, and what men! Their hands dripping with blood!

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Anti-Clericalism Madness
Temple of Reason Robespierre
Deism The Old Regime
Voltaire The Devil's Due
Divine Right of Kings Knock on the Door
Butcher's Bill Lavoisier
Legacy


LogoFirst Cause

While many of Thomas Paine's contemporary readers are atheists, he was not of their number. He was greatly impressed with the argument in favor of God's existence from 'First Cause:'

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  • “The only idea man can affix to the name of God, is that of a first cause, the cause of all things. And, incomprehensibly difficult as it is for a man to conceive what a first cause is, he arrives at the belief of it, from the tenfold greater difficulty of disbelieving it. . .
  • “In like manner of reasoning, everything we behold carries in itself the internal evidence that it did not make itself. Every man is an evidence to himself, that he did not make himself; neither could his father make himself, nor his grandfather, nor any of his race; neither could any tree, plant, or animal make itself; and it is the conviction arising from this evidence, that carries us on, as it were, by necessity, to the belief of a first cause eternally existing, of a nature totally different to any material existence we know of, and by the power of which all things exist; and this first cause, man calls God.
  • “It is only by the exercise of reason, that man can discover God. Take away that reason, and he would be incapable of understanding anything; and in this case it would be just as consistent to read even the book called the Bible to a horse as to a man.”
  • (Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason, Part I, Chapter X).




LogoRevealed Religion

Thomas Paine realized it was quite impossible to deny to God, whose existence he freely conceded, the capability of communicating with man if He so desired. How, really, are you going to tell an omnipotent being what He can and cannot do?:

"Whatever the LORD pleases He does,
In heaven and in earth,
In the seas and in all deep places." (Psalm 135:6).

"But our God is in heaven;
He does whatever He pleases." (Psalm 115:3).

While unable to deny that God could reveal Himself to man, he seeks rather to surround the process with so many codicils and legal restrictions as to make it impossible to verify that He ever has done so: if God is to communicate with man, He must first file a public notice in the newspapers; if God is to communicate with man, He must deposit a notarized statement with the town clerk attesting to the good character of the man chosen as mouth-piece, etc. He establishes to his own satisfaction that this lengthy and involved process has never been satisfactorily completed:



  • “Since then all corruptions down from Moloch to modern predestinarianism, and the human sacrifices of the heathens to the christian sacrifice of the Creator, have been produced by admitting of what is called revealed religion, the most effectual means to prevent all such evils and impositions is, not to admit of any other revelation than that which is manifested in the book of Creation, and to contemplate the Creation as the only true and real word of God that ever did or ever will exist; and every thing else called the word of God is fable and imposition.”
  • (Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason, Part I, Chapter XII).




LogoOne must concede to Thomas Paine that almost all revealed religions, which include in their number a vast, swarming congeries of pagan cults, are false altogether. It does not however follow that, if most purported revelations are illusory and false, all are. God has pre-programmed us to hear a certain message. We listen with such aching intensity that we 'hear' it when it hasn't been pronounced, and grasp at 'saviors' who cannot save. People jump the gun. The fact that we ever stand ready to hear the message doesn't mean the message is invariably false; why, then, would we have been constructed to respond to an ever vain hope? Nothing is made for futility, ever grasping like Tantalus of legend, yet never reaching. We were made to seek, and find, the harbor.

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LogoCivilization

Thomas Paine held up the Israelite conquest of Canaan as proof the Bible was not inspired by God:

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  • When we read in the books ascribed to Moses, Joshua, etc., that they (the Israelites) came by stealth upon whole nations of people, who, as the history itself shows, had given them no offense; that they put all those nations to the sword; that they spared neither age nor infancy; that they utterly destroyed men, women and children; that they left not a soul to breathe; expressions that are repeated over and over again in those books, and that too with exulting ferocity; are we sure these things are facts? are we sure that the Creator of man commissioned those things to be done?”
  • (Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason, Part II, Chapter I - The Old Testament).




LogoSon of God

Thomas Paine was aware that Christians believe Jesus Christ to be the Son of God, and found the concept pagan:

"It is, however, not difficult to account for the credit that was given to the story of Jesus Christ being the Son of God. . .It was not a new thing at that time to believe a man to have been celestially begotten; the intercourse of gods with women was then a matter of familiar opinion. Their Jupiter, according to their accounts, had cohabited with hundreds; the story therefore had nothing in it either new, wonderful, or obscene; it was conformable to the opinions that then prevailed among the people called Gentiles, or mythologists, and it was those people only that believed it." (Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason, Part I, Chapter 2).

He concedes that Jesus offered some worthwhile teachings, but condemns such supernatural accounts as the resurrection and ascension, which "has every mark of fraud and imposition stamped upon the face of it." (Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason, Chapter 3).

Thomas Paine argues with equally vehemence traditional ascriptions of authorship which people have actually made, such as Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, and against traditional ascriptions no one has ever made; one wonders why he does not feel it necessary to prove that Ruth did not write 'Ruth.' It's difficult to avoid the impression that his edition of the Bible, when he finally laid hold of it, unfortunately only after completing Part I of his magnum opus, contained prefaces or some other sort of commentary which he could not fullly distinguish from the inspired text. The modern editors who provide helpful commentary and chapter headings would be the first to assure the reader their contribution is not to be treated as inspired. In some cases it is difficult to see where else he is getting the proposition against which he wishes to argue, and in some cases his polemic rails against the very chapter headings:

"When we see the studied craft of the scripture-makers, in making every part of this romantic book of school-boy's eloquence bend to the monstrous idea of a Son of God, begotten by a ghost on the body of a virgin, there is no imposition we are not justified in suspecting them of. Every phrase and circumstance are marked with the barbarous hand of superstitious torture, and forced into meanings it was impossible they could have. The head of every chapter, and the top of every page, are blazoned with the names of Christ and the Church, that the unwary reader might suck in the error before he began to read." (Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason, Part II, Chapter I.)

In spite of its poor quality, this material gets recycled over and over; the irreligious are not done with these 'arguments' yet. The atheists obtain their ammunition for debunking the Bible, not from reading the Bible, but from compilations prepared by other atheists. Christian rebuttals, which are very easily whipped up for material of this quality, never quite catch up; the atheists think they are really onto something, because other atheists assure them the material is legit. Naturally, Jesus is no more than man:

"Had it been the object or the intention of Jesus Christ to establish a new religion, he would undoubtedly have written the system himself, or procured it to be written in his life time. . .He was a Jew by birth and by profession; and he was the son of God in like manner that every other person is; for the Creator is the Father of All." (Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason, Part I, Chapter VIII - Of the New Testament).

Really?:




Logo The common objections to the deity of Jesus Christ were repeated by the Deists, though they were already familiar to the Muslims. How compelling are they?:

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LogoMethodology

Thomas Paine was a pioneer of the modern way of studying the Bible. Previously it had been assumed that we learn, from history, what is possible; he adopted the simpler method of deciding first what is possible, and then going back to reconfigure the evidence, conforming it to what is deemed possible. Thus Thomas Paine's sense of what it was possible for first century Jews to believe becomes the Procrustean bed in which, Jesus' claimed deity not fitting, it is lopped of. A good check of this methodology would be to try it out in more recent periods for which ample redundant documentation still remains, say, the century prior to Thomas Paine, during which Sabbatai Sevi, a Jewish Messianic claimant, also claimed to be God. It is less than obvious why seventeenth century Jews, in large number, found it possible to believe that Sabbatai Sevi was God, but no first century Jew found it possible to believe that Jesus was God:



LogoThis might seem like an immensely powerful methodology,— if the facts don't work for you, just change the facts,— however, it is so very powerful, it must be hidden and carefully sequestered away from any danger of disconfirmation, and applied only where you can get away with it, as in secular Bible study. It is to be sure a 'Copernican Revolution' in methodology, however it must pick its targets, and its marks, carefully.

Suppose two volumes, for instance 1 Kings-2 Kings and 1 Chronicles-2 Chronicles, report on roughly the same set of circumstances. Well, then, if an incident is recorded in one of these resources, yet not in the other, is it not manifest that the incident never happened? If such a procedure, of eliminating history, makes sense to the reader, then perhaps the rest of it will make sense too. Although there were earlier travellers down this highway, for instance the philosopher Benedict Spinoza, the alchemical transformation of what would normally be perceived as evidence for something,— say, four gospels each of which testifies to the resurrection,— into evidence against that same fact,— because the four gospels do not repeat each other verbatim,— is very much this author's contribution to our world.

Thomas Paine offered himself to the French people as their savior to preserve them from atheism; they responded by imprisoning him. The Revolution had at first been inclined toward atheism, but the unpopularity of this view forced a retreat. Atheists today often express sympathy for Deists like Thomas Paine, except when they want to disassociate themselves from the bloody French Revolution with its insatiable guillotine. They are attracted to his irreligion vis-a-vis Christianity, but are not drawn toward the religion he himself was pushing, as indeed very few are nowadays. It was an invented religion, like the modern observance of 'Kwanzaa.' The artificial character of this religion, a vague ethical monotheism without any particular distinguishing characteristics, failed to fix the attention of adherents for any length of time. The most you could ever say for it is that, it's not atheism, quite.

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LogoOld Testament

At times the Deists seem to be throwing stuff at the wall at random in the hope something will stick. Christian theology is quite impossible, why? Because it is not the same as Jewish theology; and who are the Jews? "Ruffians" who worship a monster-God:

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Richard Dawkins Thomas Paine
The Unchanging God Marcion
Issues Apion
A Different Perspective


LogoSaved by the Blood

Thomas Paine proves to his own satisfaction that "in truth, there is no such thing as redemption" (Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason, Part I, Chapter VIII). His sparkling logic runs thus: the rationale behind the Christian doctrine of atonement by the blood of the lamb is the same, really when you stop to think of it, as the Catholic Church's rationale for selling indulgences, a cash transaction which results in a soul springing from purgatory. Therefore "This single reflection will show that the doctrine of redemption is founded on a mere pecuniary idea corresponding to that of a debt which another person might pay; and as this pecuniary idea corresponds again with the system of second redemptions, obtained through the means of money given to the church for pardons, the probability is that the same persons fabricated both the one and the other of those theories. . ." (Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason, Part I, Chapter VIII). Therefore the Catholic Church forged the gospels which set forth God's plan of redemption. This is typical of this author's ahistorical, and indeed Looney Tunes, reasoning: in reality, the indulgence-purchasing system did not arise until more than a thousand years after the gospel, so how could the gospels possibly have been forged by "the same persons" who invented that system? This author, like many unbelievers, is particularly offended by the implication found in the doctrine of redemption that he, and others, are sinners, as he is quite sure he is not:



  • “It is by his being taught to contemplate himself as an out-law, as an out-cast, as a beggar, as a mumper, as one thrown as it were on a dunghill, at an immense distance from his Creator, and who must make his approaches by creeping, and cringing to intermediate beings, that he conceives either a contemptuous disregard for everything under the name of religion, or becomes indifferent, or turns what he calls devout. In the latter case, he consumes his life in grief, or the affectation of it. his humility is ingratitude. . .He despises the choicest gift of God to man, the GIFT OF REASON. . .”
  • (Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason, Part I, Chapter VIII).




LogoWe may if you like, Dear Reader, make the French Revolution into the test case whether man is a sinner, as the Bible teaches, or wholly innocent and harmless, if not perverted by bad institutions like the church, as the French Enlightenment asserted. Sufficient crimes were committed by these enlightened ones, from the whizzing guillotine's endless searching out of thought-crimes, to the slaughter and post-mortem mutilation of Swiss Guards who surrendered their arms under promise of quarter, to leave no doubt which arm of the balance hangs heavy. They are without sin, so they tell us; if they would only stop killing us for a moment, we might whimper agreement.

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LogoSmall World

This author's knowledge of the world is unfortunately rather spotty. It is difficult to read the following without getting the distinct impression that he did not know Eratosthenes had determined the circumference of the earth with a fair degree of accuracy in the third century B.C. The argument, though quite familiar and evidently compelling to 'free-thinkers,' that God cannot possibly care much about this world or its inhabitants because it is small, does not strike Bible-readers as worth a yawn:



  • “Though the belief of a plurality of worlds was familiar to the ancients, it is only within the last three centuries that the extent and dimensions of this globe that we inhabit have been ascertained. Several vessels, following the tract of the ocean, have sailed entirely round the world, as a man may march in a circle, and come round by the contrary side of the circle to the spot he set out from. The circular dimensions of our world, in the widest part, as a man would measure the widest round of an apple, or a ball, is only twenty-five thousand and twenty English miles, reckoning sixty-nine miles and an half to an equatorial degree, and may be sailed around it the space of about three years.
  • “A world of this extent may, at first thought, appear to us to be great; but if we compare it with the immensity of space in which it is suspended, like a bubble or a balloon in the air, it is infinitely less in proportion than the smallest grain of sand is to the size of the world, or the finest particle of dew to the whole ocean, and is therefore but small; and, as will be hereoafter shown, is only one of a system of worlds, of which the universal creation is composed.”
  • (Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason, Part I, Chapter XIII).




Logo And so: Gee Whiz, we know so many things we never knew before, can't you see that Christianity has been made obsolete? It's like today's children on the internet. And what we never knew before: say, the circumference of the earth, which was known to Eratosthenes,— well, you see, you just make that stuff up. They still do it. There were things not known to the ancients, but these people have no idea what, and evidently no means of finding out. How familiar is this pattern?

This simplicity, or lack of information, turns up again and again. He finds in the book of Jonah evidence that "the Gentiles" were monotheists, calumnies of the Jews to the contrary: "The address of this prayer shows that the Gentiles worshipped one Supreme Being, and that they were not idolaters as the Jews represented them to be." (Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason, Part II - The Old Testament). This view would not have survived a scanning of the Iliad. It is more than a little odd that such an ill-informed person comes down through the years as the champion of "Reason."

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LogoThomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson is often identified as a Deist, especially by atheists who hope to make themselves his fellow-travellers; however this identification is careless. Thomas Jefferson held Jesus of Nazareth's moral teaching in such high regard that he patterned his own life upon this standard. While true Deists like Thomas Paine will sometimes offer faint-hearted praise for Christian morality, they never go so far as to commend actually living that way:

". . .but when it is said, as in the Testament, 'If a man smite thee on the right cheek, turn to him the other also,' it is assassinating the dignity of forbearance, and sinking man into a spaniel." (Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason, Part II, Chapter III).

According to Thomas Paine, God had revealed Himself in trigonometry, not in the Bible. His dismissive attitude toward Jesus of Nazareth was not shared by Thomas Jefferson, much less by Joseph Priestley, Jefferson's sometime pastor. While these latter two were not orthodox Christians, neither were they Deists. The unitarians of that day as a rule did not join Thomas Paine in tossing out the Bible, rather they still imagined it could be made to work for them. Of course, once the unitarians were obliged to admit the Bible does not really work for their cause, their ardor for it cooled. Thomas Jefferson was perhaps a fore-runner in advance of his own troop in realizing the Bible would not serve as any support for unitarianism; he produced his own edition, bereft of miracles, the virgin birth, etc.

Undoubtedly it goes a long way to understanding why the French Revolution unfolded the way it did, and especially why, once the killing started, it could not stop, to realize the highest and best morality of the revolutionists disallowed loving one's enemies: "Loving of enemies is another dogma of feigned morality, and has besides no meaning." (Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason, Part II, Chapter III). By contrast, Thomas Jefferson not only praised, but by the testimony of by-standers also practiced to a considerable extent, the ethics of the Sermon on the Mount:

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LogoProphets and Poets

As typical of the quality of Thomas Paine's discoveries, inspect his great insight that 'prophet' meant no more than 'poet.' They say, after all, there's a sucker born every minute:

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  • “The case is, that the word prophet, to which later times have affixed a new idea, was the Bible word for poet, and the word 'prophesying' meant the art of making poetry. It also meant the art of playing poetry to a tune upon any instrument of music. . .
  • “We are told of Saul being among the prophets, and also that he prophesied; but we are not told what they prophesied, nor what he prophesied. The case is, there was nothing to tell; for these prophets were a company of musicians and poets, and Saul joined in the concert, and this was called prophesying. ”
  • (Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason, Part I, Chapter VII).




LogoTheophanic Angel

There is to be met with, in the Old Testament, a party known as the Angel of the Lord, who is no creature, but rather is worshipped as God:

"And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, a Man stood opposite him with His sword drawn in His hand. And Joshua went to Him and said to Him, “Are You for us or for our adversaries?”

"So He said, “No, but as Commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.”

"And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped, and said to Him, “What does my Lord say to His servant?”

"Then the Commander of the LORD’S army said to Joshua, “Take your sandal off your foot, for the place where you stand is holy.” And Joshua did so."
(Joshua 5:13-15).

This incident greatly troubled Thomas Paine, who had no categories in which to accommodate it:



  • “Either this story is broken off in the middle, or it is a story told by some Jewish humorist in ridicule of Joshua's pretended mission from God, and the compilers of the Bible, not perceiving the design of the story, have told it as a serious matter. As a story of humor and ridicule it has a great deal of point; for it pompously introduces an angel in the figure of a man, with a drawn sword in his hand, before whom Joshua falls on his face to the earth, and worships (which is contrary to their second commandment;) and then, this most important embassy from heaven ends in telling Joshua to pull of his show. It might as well have told him to pull up his breeches.”
  • (Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason, Part II, Chapter I - the Old Testament.)




Logo This is a good sampler in miniature of Tom Paine's method of Bible analysis: blank incomprehension combined with an effort at humor. Who is the theophanic angel? Why does He accept worship, which would be idolatrous were He a created being?:

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LogoLove of Learning

Thomas Paine gives an odd diagnosis of the troubles between Galileo and the Roman Catholic Church: it seems the church just wasn't much interested in astronomy and disliked seeing astronomy pursued. What a thought! As if a man who murdered his wife in a jealous rage upon seeing her betray him should be accused of indifference to his wife. In fact, the Catholic Church loved astronomy so much they had their own. Back during the Middle Ages, Thomas Aquinas, carrying on the work of his teacher Albertus Magnus, had welded together Aristotlean science and the body of Christian faith, producing an all-encompassing theory of everything. In the process they acquired an astronomy. The Bible incorporates no system of astronomy, neither Ptolemaic nor Copernican; it was through the mediation of the pagan philosopher Aristotle that such a thing entered the sacred precincts. After a while, however, it began to seem outmoded, but they just couldn't bear to let it go:



  • “The setters up, therefore, and the advocates of the Christian system of faith, could not but foresee that the continually progressive knowledge that man would gain by the aid of science, of the power and wisdom of God, manifested in the structure of the universe, and in all the works of creation, would militate against, and call into question, the truth of their system of faith; and therefore it became necessary to their purpose to cut learning down to a size less dangerous to their project, and this they effected by restricting the idea of learning to the dead study of dead languages.
  • “They not only rejected the study of science out of the christian schools, but they persecuted it; and it is only within about the last two centuries that the study has been revived. So late as 1610, Galileo, a Florentine, discovered and introduced the use of telescopes, and by applying them to observe the motions and appearances of the heavenly bodies, afforded additional means for ascertaining the true structure of the universe. Instead of being esteemed for these discoveries, he was sentenced to renounce them, or the opinions resulting from them, as a damnable heresy.”
  • (Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason, Part I, Chapter XII).




Logo Perhaps a little bit of that dead study of dead languages would have helped him with Bible words like 'prophecy.' In any event, the Catholic Church can be blamed for many things, but not for lack of interest in astronomy:

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LogoBorn of a Virgin

The virgin Mary takes it on the chin from Deist commentators, who seem unable to steer clear of a paganish understanding of the Christmas story:



  • “Here then is the whole story [Isaiah 7:14], foolish as it is, of this child and this virgin; and it is upon the barefaced perversion of this story that the book of Matthew, and the impudence and sordid interest of priests in later times, have founded a theory, which they call the gospel; and have applied this story to signify the person they call Jesus Christ; begotten, they say, by a ghost, whom they call holy, on the body of a woman engaged in marriage, and afterwards married, whom they call a virgin, seven hundred years after this foolish story was told; a theory which, speaking for myself, I hesitate not to believe, and to say, is as fabulous and as false as God is true.”
  • (Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason, Part II, Chapter I).



Ethan Allen
Reason the only Oracle
of Man


Logo To gospel readers who accept the inspiration of the New Testament, his claim that Matthew has 'perverted' Isaiah's prophecy requires no refutation. When the New Testament offers an inspired interpretation of Old Testament prophecy, the same Holy Ghost who inspired the prophecy inspires the interpretation; it is pointless to object, 'He got it wrong:"

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LogoUntil this Day

In the manner by now familiar, Thomas Paine insists that the expression "until this day" found in Matthew 28:15 means that the [actual] writer must have lived "generations" after Matthew the apostle, the writer to whom tradition ascribes authorship:

“When they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, saying, 'Tell them, “His disciples came at night and stole Him away while we slept.” And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will appease him and make you secure.' So they took the money and did as they were instructed; and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.” (Matthew 28:12-15)

The reader may plausibly reflect, this shows the gospel must have been written as long as ten or fifteen years after the event, otherwise the writer would not have said "until this day." No, it must have been "GENERATIONS:"



  • “The expression, until this day, is an evidence that the book ascribed the Matthew was not written by Matthew, and that it has been manufactured long after the times and things of which it pretends to treat; for the expression implies a great length of intervening time. It would be inconsistent in us to speak in this manner of any thing happening in our own time. To give, therefore, intelligible meaning to the expression, we must suppose a lapse of some generation at least, for this manner of speaking carries the mind back to ancient time.”
  • (Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason, Part II, Chapter II).



I Thirst Timothy the Gentile
Faith vs. Works Love Your Enemies
Paul the Maverick Seeing God
Realized Eschatology He Hanged Himself
Uncorroborated False Witness
Atonement Head Covering
Men and Angels From Everlasting
Preach the Faith Bishops and Deacons
Cock Crow Wrong Day
Two Genealogies


Logo Like many another unbeliever, Paine is faced with the impossible task of simultaneously trying to have it believed that he understands and lives in accordance with Christian morality, and, not only that, but Christian morality is absurd, fit only for a dog:

". . .but when it is said, as in the Testament, 'If a man smite thee on the right cheek, turn to him the other also,' it is assassinating the dignity of forbearance, and sinking man into a spaniel." (Tom Paine, The Age of Reason, Part II, Chapter III).

As per usual, one of the big stumbling blocks is the Lord's command to love one's enemies, which he claims offers a "premium for crime:"

"Morality is injured by prescribing to it duties that, in the first place, are impossible to be performed, and if they could be would be productive of evil; or, as before said, be premiums for crime." (Tom Paine, The Age of Reason, Part II, Chapter III).
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LogoThree Days

Thomas Paine objects that Jesus was not in the grave three days, as the Bible says:

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  • “Jonah and the whale are also made into a sign and type. Jonah is Jesus, and the whale is the grave; for it is said, (and they have made Christ to say it of himself, Matt. xii. 40), 'For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale's belly, so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.' But it happens, awkwardly enough, that Christ, according to their own account, was but one day and two nights in the grave; about 36 hours instead of 72; that is, the Friday night, the Saturday, and the Saturday night; for they say he was up on the Sunday morning by sunrise, or before.”
  • (Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason, Part II, Chapter II).















Logo Sensitive souls are often offended by the unruly and excessive proliferation of sects. If truth is one, and so surely it must be, why are there so many clashing opinions? It might seem self-evident, that if the existence of n sects is a problem, then the existence of (n + 1) sects is a worse problem; if there are too many now, then starting another one only aggravates the problem! Nevertheless, as with other start-up religions, like Mohammed ibn Abdallah's Islam and Joseph Smith's Mormonism, Deism was advertised as the cure, not a flare-up, of the problem of excess. Benjamin Franklin, while not ultimately endorsing Deism, was a sympathizer up to a point:

"Most of these are lost; but I find one purporting to be the substance of an intended creed, containing, as I thought, the essentials of every known religion, and being free of everything that might shock the professors of any religion. It is expressed in these words:

'That there is one God, who made all things.
'That he governs the world by his providence.
'That he ought to be worshipped by adoration, prayer, and thanksgiving.
'But that the most acceptable service of God is doing good to man.
'That the soul is immortal.
'And that God will certainly reward virtue and punish vice, either here or hereafter." (Benjamin Franklin, Autobiography, Kindle location 1861).

This was to be a secret society, no less! Fortunately his scheme remained a pipe dream, so Franklin's new sect never became a persecuting religion as did Deism, and for that matter Islam, and even Mormonism. Franklin disclaimed the 'Deist' label, though admitting he went through a Deist period:

"Some books against Deism fell into my hands; they were said to be the substance of sermons preached at Boyle's Lectures. It happened that they wrought an effect on me quite contrary to what was intended by them; for the arguments of the Deists, which were quoted to be refuted, appeared to me much stronger than the refutations; in short, I soon became a thorough Deist." (Benjamin Franklin, Autobiography, Kindle location 1082).

The major objections which turned him away from this new fascination were pragmatic social and moral concerns. It turned out the free-thinkers of his acquaintance were not overly concerned about repaying the money he had invested with them. Not that he ever returned to Christian orthodoxy. Given that pamphleteer Tom Paine and guerilla fighter Ethan Allen were card-carrying Deists, and two pivotal figures, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, were to some extent sympathizers, it must be allowed that Deism, a sorry sort of minimalist religion, did play a role in the American Revolution, though fortunately not the lethal one it would later play amongst the French:

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