Author: Thomas Paine
Title: Thomas Paine: Collected Writings
Hardcover ISBN: 1883011035
Published: 1995 by Library of America
Rating: 5.00 / 5.00
Although I did not read from the selection called "The Crisis" from which Thomas Paine's most memorable line was taken from, it is surely Thomas Paine at his most quotable. I selected Paine for reading primarily for "The Age of Reason," however I also gave "Common Sense" a read. "Common Sense" was a pamphlet in wide distribution around the beginners of the Revolutionary War citing various reasons for Independance from England and the King. An interesting read but certainly not required reading. However, "The Age of Reason" is a phenomenal read that I whole heartedly suggest to everyone regardless of religious belief or lack thereof. I wish to preface my comments with some quotes from Paine's Age of Reason:
"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."
"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."
"As to the graments of morality that are irregularly and thinly scattered in those books, they make no part of this pretended thing, revealed religion. They are the natural dictates of conscience, and the bonds by which society is held together, and without which it cannot exist, and are nearly the same in all religions and in all societies. The testament teaches nothing new upon this subject, and where it attempts to exceed, it becomes mean and rediculous."
Thomas Paine is a staunch believe in god and says so many times throughout The Age of Reason. Paine advocates Deism without an organized religion; however, was labeled an atheist and heretic in his time. The amazingly hostile reaction was no doubt due to his opinions that the bible not only lacks authenticity but has deep conflicts and contradictions within it that suggest it is closer to a work of fiction than anything else. Although Paine never quite puts his thoughts in those words, he might as well have.
The first half of The Age of Reason begins with Paine suggesting that the bible and it's contents are actually an afront to god. Paine sees the natural word and the sciences as the study of the hand of god and suggests the events supposedly occuring in the bible violate god's laws and could not have happened. Further, he cites the mass murders, wars, rapes, destruction, and evilness of several passages of the bible that god supposedly had a hand in. Paine is distraught that people could connect such acts with god. The second half of the book delves into exposing several glaring contradictions, inaccuracies, time/linear impossibilities, and doubt of authorship. Most strikingly Paine agrues that god's will can not be brought about by a single person to give unto all of man kind. Divine instruction given to only one man as a messenger is only as good as the messenger. To trust a falible human being to deliver the word of god is an insult to god because people are putting that human on the same level as god. A reasonable arguement is that in such a situation either the person is making it up or the person is altering the message as they see fit. Perhaps the message was delivered concisely, but even so it would be an insult to god to believe such.
Ah, this is a piss poor review so far. Simply put, check out the book regardless of what your beliefs are. It amazes me that people still read the bible literally regardless of belief. If nothing else, Paine does an admirable job setting for the contradictions and inaccuracies noting that several authors were either lieing or making things up as they contradicted each other in various passages. Most interesting was the note that the New Testament passages were ratified by barely a single vote by the church. Paine puts forth an interesting suggestion that humans have been altering the word of god consistantly throughout the bibles history which further insults god. After reading through Paine, I have become interested in a more detailed and thorough history of the bible and that time period. Though I may be hard pressed to find one filled with Reason and without religious fervor and defensiveness I am sure.