The author of the American Revolution and a strong Abolitionist, Thomas Paine was a political writer who dared to ask the questions that were punishable by death. He was as much defiant of the Monarch powers that hunted him down as he was defiant of the religious powers that ostracized him from civilization. When Paine was only eight years of age, he immediately began to doubt the Bible. He had heard a sermon on atonement; the sermon described how god had murdered his only son to revenge himself when there was no other way. Upon hearing this appalling doctrine, this child of innocence and beauty -- the young Thomas Paine -- became an infidel and disagreed with the Bible. From these bright, inquisitive beginnings in childhood, Thomas Paine made great strides for the advancement of Rationalism. Robert Green Ingersoll once said of Thomas Paine, "With his name left out, the history of liberty cannot be written." [On Thomas Paine, by Robert G. Ingersoll, 1870.]
Thomas Paine is heroically known for writing the influential pamphlet Common Sense. Over 500,000 copies were distributed. Through the wonderful use of language, Paine was capable of grasping the passions of every colonist and revitalizing their natural desire for freedom and liberation. The colonies were the yoke of an Imperialist reign that had wealth as the only end in mind. As the kings, queens, and princes trampled over the rights of their own citizens, thinkers arose who would come to oppose the rule of these tyrants. The most impressive of these thinkers was Thomas Paine. In Common Sense, he stated....
"SOME writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins. Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness Positively by uniting our affections, the latter negatively by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first is a patron, the last a punisher.
"Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil in its worst state an in tolerable one; for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries by a government, which we might expect in a country without government, our calamities is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer! Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence; the palaces of kings are built on the ruins of the bowers of paradise. For were the impulses of conscience clear, uniform, and irresistibly obeyed, man would need no other lawgiver; but that not being the case, he finds it necessary to surrender up a part of his property to furnish means for the protection of the rest; and this he is induced to do by the same prudence which in every other case advises him out of two evils to choose the least. Wherefore, security being the true design and end of government, it unanswerably follows that whatever form thereof appears most likely to ensure it to us, with the least expense and greatest benefit, is preferable to all others." [Common Sense, by Thomas Paine, 1776]
Thomas Paine can reasonably be called the people's philosopher. His essays did not surround the unseen, nor the complex, nor the obscure. His works consisted of the life and vitality that concerned the colonists and every person of interest in sympathy. There are those who call Paine the world's citizen, and this is also made to considerably reasonable degrees; he worked for reform in practically every area: educational, social, political, philosophical. In his writings, he demanded the liberation of the body of every person. In his writings, he liberated the minds of every willing person. He worked for tolerance and acceptance, liberty of conscience and of body. The wonderful pamphlet collection of The American Crisis can still stir up sentiments of passion in even today's people. George Washington had the first issue of this pamphlet read to his soldiers at Valley Forge. The opening lines are deeply moving....
"THESE are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated. Britain, with an army to enforce her tyranny, has declared that she has a right (not only to TAX) but "to BIND us in ALL CASES WHATSOEVER," and if being bound in that manner, is not slavery, then is there not such a thing as slavery upon earth." [The American Crisis, by Thomas Paine, December 23, 1776.]
While writing all of these pamphlets during the American Revolution, Thomas Paine did not accept any money for them. The knowledge they contained -- like a path to freedom open to those of will -- he believed was too invaluable to be constrained by money. For no amount of coin would Paine deny to the colonists what was rightfully theirs: liberty. In keeping with the creed of freedom, Thomas Paine composed The Age Of Reason. In this wonderful text, Paine attacks revealed religion and shows its fallacies. In particular, Paine makes numerous assaults on Christianity, showing the numerous contradictions, the plentiful amount of atrocities, and the innumerable absurdities of the Bible. Reason and compassion were his guide. On immediate publication, The Age Of Reason was banned in England and sent to be consumed by fire. The clergy and the church felt that man who could convince people to liberate themselves is a dangerous man, a man who may convince people to think for themselves. His words were not heard, his arguments were not addressed, and his name was not acknowledged. From pulpit to pulpit, preachers called Paine a heartless man, an individual without virtue, an infidel. To which Paine had stated, "Infidelity does not consist in believing, or in disbelieving; it consists in professing to believe what he does not believe." [The Age Of Reason, by Thomas Paine, chapter 1, 1795.] In this book, Thomas Paine said...
"The most detestable wickedness, the most horrid cruelties, and the greatest miseries, that have afflicted the human race have had their origin in this thing called revelation, or revealed religion. It has been the most dishonourable belief against the character of the divinity, the most destructive to morality, and the peace and happiness of man, that ever was propagated since man began to exist. It is better, far better, that we admitted, if it were possible, a thousand devils to roam at large, and to preach publicly the doctrine of devils, if there were any such, than that we permitted one such impostor and monster as Moses, Joshua, Samuel, and the Bible prophets, to come with the pretended word of God in his mouth, and have credit among us.
"Whence arose all the horrid assassinations of whole nations of men, women, and infants, with which the Bible is filled; and the bloody persecutions, and tortures unto death and religious wars, that since that time have laid Europe in blood and ashes; whence arose they, but from this impious thing called revealed religion, and this monstrous belief that God has spoken to man? The lies of the Bible have been the cause of the one, and the lies of the Testament [of] the other.
"It is incumbent on every man who reverences the character of the Creator, and who wishes to lessen the catalogue of artificial miseries, and remove the cause that has sown persecutions thick among mankind, to expel all ideas of a revealed religion as a dangerous heresy, and an impious fraud. What is it that we have learned from this pretended thing called revealed religion? Nothing that is useful to man, and every thing that is disbonourable to his Maker. What is it the Bible teaches us? -- repine, cruelty, and murder. What is it the Testament teaches us? -- to believe that the Almighty committed debauchery with a woman engaged to be married; and the belief of this debauchery is called faith.
"Those who preach this doctrine of loving their enemies, are in general the greatest persecutors, and they act consistently by so doing; for the doctrine is hypocritical, and it is natural that hypocrisy should act the reverse of what it preaches." [The Age of Reason, by Thomas Paine, Part II, Chapter III.]
It was The Age Of Reason which led Theodore Roosevelt to label Thomas Paine as an Atheist. But this is not so. Thomas Paine was a Deist; he believed that the Universe was guided by natural law, that our hearts are guided by divine law -- he believed in a god who held reverence for all. In one essay, he said, "Deism teaches us that God is a God of truth and justice. Does the Bible teach the same doctrine? It does not." [Biblical Blasphemy, by Thomas Paine.] In his attack on Christianity, The Age Of Reason, Thomas Paine wrote, "I believe in one God, and no more; and I hope for happiness beyond this life. I believe the equality of man, and I believe that religious duties consist in doing justice, loving mercy, and endeavoring to make our fellow-creatures happy." [The Age Of Reason, by Thomas Paine, 1795.] To the society of Theophilanthropists, he proudly declared...
"The Universe is the bible of a true Theophilanthropist. It is there that he reads of God. It is there that the proofs of his existence are to be sought and to be found. As to written or printed books, by whatever name they are called, they are the works of man's hands, and carry no evidence in themselves that God is the author of any of them. It must be in something that man could not make that we must seek evidence for our belief, and that something is the universe, the true Bible, -- the inimitable work of God." [A Discourse At The Society Of Theophilanthropists, Paris, by Thomas Paine.]
One of Thomas Paine's greatest works was The Rights Of Man. The first part is a criticism of Mr. Burke, who wrote a pamphlet attacking the French Revolution. In this book by Paine, he writes to prove that men and women deserve equal rights, that citizens should be granted the ability to choose their governors, that there is more to liberty than a nice sounding word. He writes, in a fervent passion, to uphold the universal belief that men were not made to be slaves, that children are undeserving of cruelty, that a government should exist for the people and not against the people. The book opened with an address to George Washington, "I present you a small treatise in defence of those principles of freedom which your exemplary virtue hath so eminently contributed to establish. That the Rights of Man may become as universal as your benevolence can wish, and that you may enjoy the happiness of seeing the New World regenerate the Old, is the prayer of." In this unbelievably vindicating text, Paine writes his critique of Mr. Burke....
"Dr. Price had preached a sermon on the 4th of November, 1789, being the anniversary of what is called in England the Revolution, which took place 1688. Mr. Burke, speaking of this sermon, says: 'The political Divine proceeds dogmatically to assert, that by the principles of the Revolution, the people of England have acquired three fundamental rights:
1. To choose our own governors.
2. To cashier them for misconduct.
3. To frame a government for ourselves.'
"Dr. Price does not say that the right to do these things exists in this or in that person, or in this or in that description of persons, but that it exists in the whole; that it is a right resident in the nation. Mr. Burke, on the contrary, denies that such a right exists in the nation, either in whole or in part, or that it exists anywhere; and, what is still more strange and marvellous, he says: "that the people of England utterly disclaim such a right, and that they will resist the practical assertion of it with their lives and fortunes." That men should take up arms and spend their lives and fortunes, not to maintain their rights, but to maintain they have not rights, is an entirely new species of discovery, and suited to the paradoxical genius of Mr. Burke." [The Rights Of Man, by Thomas Paine, Part 1.]
Vindicating the rights of men from the tyranny of monarchy, it was only reasonable that Thomas Paine was also a social reformer. After the American Revolution, Paine returned to England. It was there that he proposed public education, opportunity for the poor, pensions for the aged, public works for the jobless, and other social reforms. However, he was drawn into politics where he wrote a blistering attack on Prime Minister William Pitt. The rulers of England charged him with treason. Paine fled to France, where the revolutionaries had already elected him to the National Convention. Yet Paine was thrown into prison for his views that the revolutionaries opposed with unkempt distaste. The revolutionaries ordered the executions of the aristocracy. At seeing the cruelty of this capital punishment, of seeing the unnecessary suffering brought upon kings and queens who could no longer enslave the world, Paine said, "Kill the king but spare the man." Being locked up in prison, he was ordered to be executed. His cell was marked to be executed, but it was marked on the wrong side of the door. When the Reign of Terror had ended -- a state-instituted witchhunt -- Paine was released. By the time he found a way to take him back to America, his home, he found himself widely hated. His works which sought to free the minds of men from superstition, which sought to free the bodies of men from slavery and monarchy, offended numerous people. Before being launched into the American Revolution to fight the cruelty of kings, he fought the cruelty of slavery. In one of his essays, he wrote....
"That some desperate wretches should be willing to steal and enslave men by violence and murder for gain, is rather lamentable than strange. But that many civilized, nay, christianized people should approve, and be concerned in the savage practice, is surprising; and still persist, though it has been so often proved contrary to the light of nature, of every principle of Justice and Humanity, and even good policy, by a succession of eminent men, and several late publications. Our Traders in MEN (an unnatural commodity!) must know the wickedness of the SLAVE-TRADE, if they attend to reasoning, or the dictates of their own hearts: and such as shun and stiffle all these, wilfully sacrifice Conscience, and the character of integrity to that golden Idol.
"The Managers the Trade themselves, and others testify, that many of these African nations inhabit fertile countries, are industrious farmers, enjoy plenty, and lived quietly, averse to war, before the Europeans debauched them with liquors, and bribing them against one another; and that these inoffensive people are brought into slavery, by stealing them, tempting Kings to sell subjects, which they can have to right to do, and hiring one tribe to war against another, in order to catch prisoners. By such wicked and inhuman ways the English are said to enslave towards one hundred thousand yearly; of which thirty thousand are supposed to die by barbarous treatment in the first year; besides all that are slain in the unnatural ways excited to take them. So much innocent blood have the Managers and Supports of this inhuman Trade to answer for to the common Lord of all!" [African Slavery In America, by Thomas Paine, written in 1774 and published in March 8, 1775.]
In the year 1806, three years prior to the death of the World's Citizen, Thomas Paine wrote a letter to Andrew Dean. In it, he describes what modern medicine would possibly deem to be a hemorrhage into the brain or rupture of an artery....
"It is three weeks ago today (Sunday, August fifteenth), that I was struck with a fit of apoplexy, that deprived me of all sense and motion. I had neither pulse nor breathing, and the people about me supposed me dead. I had felt exceedingly well that day, and had just taken a slice of bread and butter for supper, and was going to bed.
"The fit took me on the stairs, as suddenly as if I had been shot through the head; and I got so very much hurt by the fall, that I have not been able to get in and out of bed since that day, otherwise than being lifted out in a blanket, by two persons; yet all this while my mental faculties have remained as perfect as I ever enjoyed them." [A Letter To Andrew Dean, From Thomas Paine, New York, August 15, 1806.]
However, even though Thomas Paine lamented only slightly on his medical condition, he was still as vibrant as ever when it came to defending mercy and upholding truth. The medical condition of Paine, however, was an omen that he would soon come to pass. That, like his ancestors, he would soon become dust. In concern to revelation, he wrote....
"As to the book called the Bible, it is blasphemy to call it the Word of God. It is a book of lies and contradictions, and a history of bad times and bad men. There are but a few good characters in the whole book. The fable of Christ and his twelve apostles, which is a parody on the sun and the twelve signs of the zodiac, copied from the ancient religions of the eastern world, is the least hurtful part.
"Everything told of Christ has reference to the sun. His reported resurrection is at sunrise, and that on the first day of the week; that is, on the day anciently dedicated to the sun, and from thence called Sunday - in Latin Dies Solis, the day of the sun; and the next day, Monday, is Moon-day." [A Letter To Andrew Dean, From Thomas Paine, New York, August 15, 1806.]
"With his name left out, the history of liberty cannot be written." Ingersoll said this sixty years after the death of Thomas Paine, and was absolutely right in his claim. Paine showed throughout his life an exemplary dedication to the liberation of all who are oppressed. When the monarchy of England tried to impose its rule upon the colonies and deprive them of right, Paine was compelled to write the pamphlets that ushered in the American Revolution, just as he would be compelled to write for any cause that had its roots in reason and humanity. There was no person he felt exempt from duty. After fleeing the clutches of a heartless monarchy, he found himself against in the hands of vicious men. Upon coming to France, he saw the brutality of executing human beings when it was unnecessary. He opposed it ardently, stating, "Kill the king but spare the man." For his intolerance of brutality, Paine was launched again into the whims of death. He was ordered to be executed, but survived by chance. Upon returning to the United States, he found himself hated by his countrymen. And so, in the year 1809, Thomas Paine -- the World's Citizen -- the People's Philosopher -- died quietly.