The Blasphemy of Reason
Age of Reason Complete Text by American Founder Thomas Paine $5.99
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“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” ― Edmund Burke.
As you leaf through the pages of this book, you might think it was written by someone in our day, viewing our political climate. However, it was actually written 200 years ago by one of the founding fathers of our country, Thomas Paine.
Paine was author to two works that would inspire the revolutionaries to break from England and inspire them to fight a war of independence: Common Sense (which sold up to 150,000 copies in 1776) and The American Crisis series, being brought over by Benjamin Franklin for inspiration for that quest for liberty.
However, the themes of that day are, to me, particularly relevant to our current society, where we have a rise in far right religious nationalism, similar to the day in which Paine lived when he wrote the book Age of Reason in three parts in the late 1700s and early 1800s. As with then, large religious groups that are aligning themselves with patriotism have their own agenda and, after promoting "freedom" to gain that power seek to take that freedom away.
And, so I am putting out this printing of this book for your review, without annotation. I do not claim to agree with all of his statements, but I find his reasoning compelling. The fact that I present something that I don't fully accept for review is exactly my point in presenting it and the reason I most think it must be read. REASON, by it's very nature, does not preceed a question with an answer, but it listens to answers to inspire questions. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote in the tales of Sherlock Holmes...
"It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts."
Indeed, our children know this lesson much better than we do, as they BEGIN their journey of learning by asking why, and they end it when they are told to stop questioning and "just because," which is how I find myself daily having to question things I have always believed that have proven false. Yet, I accepted them on the words of those that accepted them from others, who accepted them from others and so on.
So, I ask you to approach this work with the open mind of Sherlock to listen... just listen .. to an independent mind of Paine free of institutional or peer pressure, as he questions and reflects on the facts of faith, freedom, and government, as well as the intersection of all three, being a published and recognized participant in all 3 (as reflections of a founding father that was a believer in God and recognized authority and influence of the freedom we, now, enjoy. He can't be all wrong, and wouldn't you rather understand what you believe, rather than being told you have no right to ask contemporary questions to answers given by those who were not alive to see life as it has become?
We can either promote darkness or light, and years ago I learned to illuminate my path, again, by asking why.
In this work, Paine (and all of his generation and prior generations) had been subjected to the establishment of religion by those in government power, and, as they were creating the new government they were concerned about reviving this error. It was why they put the establishment clause in the First Amendment and why Thomas Jefferson warned so forcefully about the needed Separation of Church and State. However, Paine felt that established religion needed challenged with the same independence that the government had just faced.
From Paine's profession of faith...
"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.
But, lest it should be supposed that I believe many other things in addition to these, I shall, in the progress of this work, declare the things I do not believe, and my reasons for not believing them.
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.
I do not mean by this declaration to condemn those who believe otherwise; they have the same right to their belief as I have to mine. But it is necessary to the happiness of man, that he be mentally faithful to himself. Infidelity does not consist in believing, or in disbelieving; it consists in professing to believe what he does not believe.
...The adulterous connection of church and state, wherever it had taken place, whether Jewish, Christian, or Turkish, had so effectually prohibited, by pains and penalties, every discussion upon established creeds, and upon first principles of religion, that until the system of government should be changed, those subjects could not be brought fairly and openly before the world; but that whenever this should be done, a revolution in the system of religion would follow. Human inventions and priest-craft would be detected; and man would return to the pure, unmixed, and unadulterated belief of one God, and no more."
So, as you leaf through this book's pages, take the time to reflect not only on what has happened in the past but what may happen in the future, if we leave this alliance unchecked. Paine wrote this book so that future generations, such as our own, would not repeat the horrors to which they so violently broke free.