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29 January 2011

Thomas Paine: Age of Reason

So a discussion happened about Thomas Paine.  For those who went to school in Texas (or any other fundy dominated part of the US), Thomas Paine is considered a "Founding Father" and a pretty smart guy.  He wrote many works that were considered the bedrock upon which this country was founded on.  One book he wrote was called Common Sense, which could serve as a warning to our modern political system. Common Sense is worth a glance, if anyone is interested. Although it isn't as heavily focused on religion as Age of Reason, it has a few gems.
It is of the utmost danger to society to make it (religion) a party in political disputes.
Mingling religion with politics may be disavowed and reprobated by every inhabitant of America.
Anyway, Age of Reason should be part of everyone's library, especially as a counter to the "US is a Christian Nation" drivel that people seem to want to go on about here in the Theitard States of Amrika.  Thankfully, it should be easy for anyone to get their hands on this book now.  It is part of the most excellent Gutenberg Project.

From the Age of Reason Wikipedia page:
The Age of Reason; Being an Investigation of True and Fabulous Theology is a deistic pamphlet, written by eighteenth-century British radical and American revolutionary Thomas Paine, that criticizes institutionalized religion and challenges the legitimacy of the Bible, the central sacred text of Christianity. Published in three parts in 1794, 1795, and 1807, it was a bestseller in the United States, where it caused a short-lived deistic revival. British audiences, however, fearing increased political radicalism as a result of the French Revolution, received it with more hostility. The Age of Reason presents common deistic arguments; for example, it highlights what Paine saw as corruption of the Christian Church and criticizes its efforts to acquire political power. Paine advocates reason in the place of revelation, leading him to reject miracles and to view the Bible as an ordinary piece of literature rather than as a divinely inspired text. It promotes natural religion and argues for the existence of a creator-God.

Most of Paine's arguments had long been available to the educated elite, but by presenting them in an engaging and irreverent style, he made deism appealing and accessible to a mass audience. The book was also inexpensive, putting it within the reach of a large number of buyers. Fearing the spread of what they viewed as potentially revolutionary ideas, the British government prosecuted printers and booksellers who tried to publish and distribute it. Paine nevertheless inspired and guided many British freethinkers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and his influence and spirit endures in the works of contemporary writers like Christopher Hitchens.

So, while Paine's above-described work was deistic, and presented various arguments purportedly in favour of a supernatural entity, it apparently contains a wholesale rejection of all the ideas expounded by religious fundamentalists today, such as the assertion that the United States was founded as a "Christian nation", the assertion that the Bible is "inerrant", and numerous others.

For those who want to access this work, not least in order to slap down fundies who assert that the United States was purportedly founded as a "Christian nation", the relevant Gutenberg Project link is this one.

And it would seem Bill Maher agrees:

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