Has anyone out here read Thomas Paine's "Age of Reason"?

by Captain Schmideo2 14 Replies latest jw friends

  • Captain Schmideo2
    Captain Schmideo2

    I wish I had read this back when I was 18. It's an amazing take down of religious beliefs, the Bible, and religion in general. But it does this in (can I say this?) a "Reason"-able manner.

    Take this quote, from near the beginning:

    When also I am told that a woman, called the Virgin Mary, said, or gave out, that she was with child without any cohabitation with a man, and that her betrothed husband, Joseph, said that an angel told him so, I have a right to believe them or not: such a circumstance required a much stronger evidence than their bare word for it: but we have not even this; for neither Joseph nor Mary wrote any such matter themselves. It is only reported by others that they said so. It is hearsay upon hearsay, and I do not chose to rest my belief upon such evidence. It is, however, not difficult to account for the credit that was given to the story of Jesus Christ being the Son of God. He was born when the heathen mythology had still some fashion and repute in the world, and that mythology had prepared the people for the belief of such a story. Almost all the extraordinary men that lived under the heathen mythology were reputed to be the sons of some of their gods. 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. The Jews, who had kept strictly to the belief of one God, and no more, and who had always rejected the heathen mythology, never credited the story. It is curious to observe how the theory of what is called the Christian Church, sprung out of the tail of the heathen mythology. A direct incorporation took place in the first instance, by making the reputed founder to be celestially begotten. The trinity of gods that then followed was no other than a reduction of the former plurality, which was about twenty or thirty thousand. The statue of Mary succeeded the statue of Diana of Ephesus. The deification of heroes changed into the canonization of saints. The Mythologists had gods for everything; the Christian Mythologists had saints for everything. The church became as crowded with the one, as the pantheon had been with the other; and Rome was the place of both. The Christian theory is little else than the idolatry of the ancient mythologists, accommodated to the purposes of power and revenue; and it yet remains to reason and philosophy to abolish the amphibious fraud.

    Pretty ballsy stuff to be written 213 years ago.


  • prologos

    Is not true that he wrote that while in a french prison, awaiting an uncertain fate among the chaos of the revolution, thinking this might be his last word?, Writing in prison isolation he had amazing grasp of the details of the scriptural oddities he refuted. a must read.

  • lrkr

    I loved it. A key reading to my escape

  • Village Idiot
    Village Idiot

    Here are some more gems from The Age Of Reason:

    This knowledge is of divine origin; and it is from the Bible of the creation that man has learned it, and not from the stupid Bible of the church, that teaches man nothing.

    *The Bible-makers have undertaken to give us, in the first chapter of Genesis, an account of the creation; and in doing this they have demonstrated nothing but their ignorance…


    Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and torturous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness, with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we called it the word of a demon, than the Word of God. It is a history of wickedness, that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind; and, for my own part, I sincerely detest it, as I detest everything that is cruel.
  • steve2

    Paine's work was on the reading list of one of the undergraduate papers I took in Sociology.

    BTW, he died in the USA at age 72 after obtaining release from prison in France. He continued to work on his essays and books and was known to have scathing views on religion and in particular Christianity.

    I read somewhere that very few people attended his nonchurch funeral because the church had ostracized him.

  • compound complex
    compound complex

    Greetings, Captain:

    It lies astride my DELL as I happily type out the full and most apropos title:

    THE AGE OF REASON Being An Investigation Of True And Fabulous Theology

    Interesting, when applying the definition of "fabulous" in, perhaps, its less understood meaning, i.e., "almost impossible to believe; incredible."

  • fedup

    I love this book, When I read it I couldn't believe it never caught on. Everyone should read it. Once you do you will give up on all the bullshit religions that are out there causing so much pain

  • Rainbow_Troll

    Yes, and it's one of my favorite books. Tom Paine is one of my heros and that book took a lot of courage to write back in those days. He didn't mince words and it cost him. From what I have read he became a sort of pariah after The Age of Reason was published, even Thomas Jefferson, who essentially held the same beliefs but was too prudent to publicize them, kept his distance from Paine after that.

  • Diogenesister

    I've read sections of his work and been blown away by it. Interesting that it's believed many of America's most famous forefathers held these beliefs given the prevalence of religious fundamentalism there now.

  • Heaven

    steve2 said: Paine's work was on the reading list of one of the undergraduate papers I took in Sociology.

    You can see why the Borg doesn't want people attending higher education. I should add Paine's work to my reading list.

    I do agree that it is a very good idea to research pre-Jewish/pre-Christian beliefs. The Egyptian Book of the Dead, written before the Bible, contains many of the same themes/beliefs Christians hold with their own adaptation of these. An example: instead of celebrating "Yule and the Winter Solstice" - where pagans celebrate the birth of the sun, Christians celebrate "Christmas", the birth of the son. What better way to attract new members to your cult? Offer up comfort and some familiarity saying "Look, we celebrate very similar things that you do! Come on over and join up."

    As Christopher Hitchens once said "Ask yourself what is more likely. That the laws of nature are suspended... OR that an unmarried Jewish girl told a fib."

    Edited to add: Interestingly, this being Thu Dec 8, 2016, my calendar states this is "Immaculate Conception" day.

Share this