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Thomas Paine - 'Age of Reason' (And His Other Written Works) Discussion

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posted on Jun, 2 2014 @ 01:52 PM
Thomas Paine. Folk hero figure from the birth of the United States of America. A man who most of us have read about in our history classes growing up. (well ... in the 60's and 70s we read about him... I don't know what they do now). I thought we could have a discussion on Thomas Paine and his 'Age of Reason' pamphlet as well as his other written works.

Thomas Paine was born in Thetford, England on February 9, 1737. He came to the colonies (future USA) in 1771. He was a political activist, philosopher, author, political theorist and revolutionary. He helped with the revolutionary war effort with his writings. He wrote 'Common Sense' in 1776 which advocated colonial America's independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain. He also wrote The American Crisis.

Later, Paine moved to France and lived there through most of the 1790s. Being a revolutionary, he became deeply involved in the French Revolution (as he had with the American Revolution) While there, he wrote the Rights of Man to help the French Revolution war effort. In 1792 he was elected to the French National Convention even though he couldn't speak French. In December 1793, he was arrested and imprisoned in Paris. He was then released in 1794. It was during this time frame that he wrote 'The Age of Reason'. The pamphlet advocates for deism. It also promoted reason and freethinking, and argued against institutionalized religion. He then wrote wrote the pamphlet Agrarian Justice in 1795. Thomas Paine returned to America in 1802, he returned to America where he died on June 8, 1809.

Some discussion quotes from 'The Age of Reason'
Feel free to add more or take these and discuss them ...
SOME Age of Reason Quotes

"It is from the Bible that man has learned cruelty, rapine, and murder; for the belief of a cruel God makes a cruel man.

I think humans knew cruelty, rape and murder long before the bible was around.

“One good schoolmaster is of more use than a hundred priests.”

It depends on the schoolmaster and the priest.

“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."

Well ... can't argue with a lot of that. There is some good to be found in the organized religions, but you have to dig deep to find it.

“Persecution is not an original feature in any religion; but it is always the strongly marked feature of all religions established by law.”

'Religions established by law' .... Does that mean he's talking about non-secular governments? I agree with that. Countries with secular rule of law don't have as much problem with persecution because of religious beliefs.

“Each of those churches shows certain books, which they call revelation, or the Word of God. The Jews say that their Word of God was given by God to Moses face to face; the Christians say, that their Word of God came by divine inspiration; and the Turks say, that their Word of God (the Koran) was brought by an angel from heaven. Each of those churches accuses the other of unbelief; and, for my own part, I disbelieve them all.”

Smart man. It's smart to start with disbelief and then make the churches, synagogues and mosques prove that their 'Word of God' is really from God. Everyone claims theirs to be .. but they all contradict each other. So they can't all be.

SOME Common Sense Quotes

“A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom. But the tumult soon subsides. Time makes more converts than reason.”

My comment - Just because something is a custom .. a time honored custom .. doesn't make it right.

“Society is produced by our wants, and government by 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.”

... coming from a man who fought for two revolutionary wars, in countries that he wasn't born in .. that's interesting.

“From the errors of other nations, let us learn wisdom,”

Very good advice. Look at the errors like religious rule of law .. and make sure we don't ever get it here. There are many more. See what happens with a wide open immigration policy - the negative economic fallout. Learn from the mistakes of other countries.

For all men being originally equals, no one by birth could have the right to set up his own family in perpetual preference to all others forever, and tho' himself might deserve some decent degree of honours of his cotemporaries, yet his descendants might be far too unworthy to inherit them.

He was probably talking about kings and royalty there. But it fits with the political and economic stronghold families in the USA.

“Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable 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 calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer...

Apparently he was a 'smaller government = better government' kind of guy. 'We furnish the means by which we suffer' .. we vote them in. We allow it to go on. We support the (D) or the (R) because it's 'our team' .. instead of supporting our country by voting those (D) and (R) politicians out. I think he really nailed it with that quote.

“When I was teaching children I began every day writing this on the blackboard: "Do to others what you would like them to do to you", telling them how much better the world would be if everybody lived by this rule.”

Common sense. It all comes back to that golden rule, doesn't it? If people would follow it ... the world would be a MUCH better place. A lot of our problems are our own making. Kindergarden rules are ignored .. PLAY NICE.

“Give me liberty, or give me death.”

Always classic. Moving. Brings tears to the eyes of patriots. But how many today believe it? The world is Zombieland. No country is immune. There is no liberty in religious rule of law. There is no liberty when under the thumb of a corrupt government. And yet .. no cries of 'give me liberty or give me death'.


“Common sense will tell us, that the power which hath endeavoured to subdue us, is of all others, the most improper to defend us.”

posted on Jun, 2 2014 @ 02:23 PM
Thanks for the quote page. I kinda liked this quote, although zero government is the optimum, minarchism is a closer goal.

“I draw my idea of the form of government from a principle in nature, which no art can overturn, viz. that the more simple any thing is, the less liable it is to be disordered, and the easier repaired when disordered;”
― Thomas Paine, Common Sense

Thomas Paynes writing style is very serious. Common Sense was a super blockbuster best seller. I think #1 after the Bible during the Revolutionary War.

I wonder what people felt like when they read it. Resolve or permission. Or maybe the excitement of a new way of life.

posted on Jun, 2 2014 @ 03:26 PM
a reply to: Semicollegiate

I think his writings should be translated into every language on the planet so everyone can read them. His writings can be applied to todays situation. Spooky how well they can be applied.

posted on Jun, 2 2014 @ 03:39 PM
a reply to: FlyersFan

This is a fun and interesting subject. First off, I am a VERY zealous, Conservative, Evangelical, Fundamentalist Christian, and like the vast majority of Christians, as well as most Americans, have always said that our nation was founded on Christian values... for example the ever popular "We need to get back to the Christian values that America was founded on." How many times do we hear that in an election year? There is only one problem... America was not founded on Christian values. Thomas Paine, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, et al... were all students of the European Enlightenment, and they were not Christians. In fact, Adams and Jefferson wrote numerous letters to each other discussing their distaste for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They called it superstition, and thought that anyone who believed such things were idiots. This is why Jefferson published his own Bible, the Jefferson Bible, where he took out all of the supernatural events from the Gospels of Jesus Christ. It is said that our founders came to America in order to flee religious persecution and establish a climate conducive to freedom of religion... and they did, but included in that was the fact that they were fleeing the Gospel of Jesus Christ being forced upon them. Jefferson actually hoped that the teaching of the Gospel would eventually disappear under the new system of government that they were building here. Most of the founders were very active Free Masons, and in Freemasonry there is no Jesus, just the Grand Architect of the Universe. That is the God they pray to. Here is a link to a fantastic documentary on this subject, including Thomas Paine and his book "Age of Reason"

edit on 2-6-2014 by OptimusSubprime because: (no reason given)

posted on Jun, 2 2014 @ 03:42 PM
a reply to: FlyersFan

I really liked his ideas in Agrarian Justice.

In response to the private sale of royal (or common) lands, Paine proposed a detailed plan to tax property owners to pay for the needs of the poor, which could be considered as the precursor of the modern idea of citizen's income or basic income. The money would be raised by taxing all direct inheritances at 10%, and "indirect" inheritances – those not going to close relations – at a somewhat higher rate; this would, he estimated, raise around £5,700,000 per year in England.[2]

Around two-thirds of the fund would be spent on pension payments of £10 per year to every person over the age of fifty, which Paine had taken as his average adult life expectancy, with most of the remainder allocated to making fixed payments of £15 to every man and woman on reaching the age of twenty-one, legal majority. The small remainder would then be able to be used for paying pensions to "the lame and blind".[3] For context, the average weekly wage of an agricultural labourer was around 9 shillings, which would mean an annual income of about £23 for an able-bodied man working throughout the year.[4]

Additionally, "a one-time stipend of 15 pounds sterling would be paid to each citizen upon attaining age 21, to give them a start in life."[5]

The work is based on the contention that in the state of nature, "the earth, in its natural uncultivated state... was the common property of the human race"; the concept of private ownership arose as a necessary result of the development of agriculture, since it was impossible to distinguish the possession of improvements to the land from the possession of the land itself. Thus Paine views private property as necessary, but that the basic needs of all humanity must be provided for by those with property, who have originally taken it from the general public. This in some sense is their "payment" to non-property holders for the right to hold private property.

I fully agree with the premise that wealth distribution is necessary in order to provide the basic needs to everyone, for the general good of the society. One of the first to come up with such ideas, which is very positive in my eyes

edit on 2-6-2014 by Cabin because: (no reason given)

posted on Jun, 2 2014 @ 03:53 PM
a reply to: OptimusSubprime
Do you think his writings were really Freemason beliefs being rewritten in pamphlet form for revolutionaries? Do you think there was something else behind the writings ... like eventual recruitment or conversion of the population to his freemason thoughts? Or were they just really well written pamphlets ..... in your opinion??

posted on Jun, 2 2014 @ 03:55 PM
a reply to: Cabin

I'm trying to balance that with his "government even in its best state is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one" statement from his 'Age of Reason' pamphlet. Wealth redistribution and 'government is evil' seem to be at odds ....

posted on Jun, 2 2014 @ 03:57 PM
a reply to: FlyersFan

I wouldn't want to live in the 17th or 18th Centuries, but they're my favourite historical periods for kicking the ass out of the Establishment. Radicalism was in full flow and the traffic in pamphlets hit society like the internet has hit ours; the PTB had the same reaction and fought back with control and censorship. Examples were made of popular detractors and they taxed the crap out of printing materials to choke the spread of ideas.

Thomas Paine's ideas were sourced in those previous decades. Anti-Royalist, pro-Republican and seeking a fairer world without inherited wealth or influence.

Those guys fought and died against the status quo and would likely be appalled with how it's turned out. I think the status quo is overdue an emergent ideology, but longevity ensures experience. The Establishment used to execute detractors and doesn't need to anymore. Instead of banning the flow of ideas, or taxing the medium of the message into defeat, it owns the media and controls the flow at the source.

posted on Jun, 2 2014 @ 04:03 PM

originally posted by: Kandinsky
Those guys fought and died against the status quo and would likely be appalled with how it's turned out.

Totally agree. Can't argue with that. In fact, I think they'd go beyond appalled ... they'd be picking up their torches and pitchforks and actually be doing something about it all.

posted on Jun, 2 2014 @ 04:09 PM
a reply to: FlyersFan

Yeah and, like the G8 summits, those pitchforks wouldn't be allowed past the 'free speech' areas.

posted on Jun, 2 2014 @ 04:11 PM
a reply to: FlyersFan

They are very well written, and that isn't to say that I agree with everything that he said. The Enlightenment and Freemasonry share a lot of common beliefs, and there were numerous high ranking, established Freemasons from Europe who shared these views. Today Freemasonry takes on a mysterious and esoteric identity, but back then it was a very common thing, where intellectuals met with other like minded men from industry, religion, politics, etc and they all shared a common core belief system. As a Christian, I look at the period of enlightenment and Freemasonry as heretical perversions of the one true living God, but to deny their influence in the founding of America, is absurd and ignorant.

posted on Jun, 2 2014 @ 04:19 PM
I think it is awesome seeing these subjects being discussed, it is my opinion that much of these publications should be taugt in grade school.

Especially Common Sense;

Sons of Liberty

posted on Jun, 2 2014 @ 04:29 PM
a reply to: ADVISOR

HOLY SMOKES! From 2003! You've got a good memory. An 11 year old thread. I'm impressed.

And yes, I agree. I don't know what they are teaching in school today, but I know when I was in middle school (grades 6-8) MANY decades ago, we learned about 'Age of Reason' and 'Common Sense'. I hope it is still in school today. But I bet it's been pushed out in favor of 'keyboarding' or 'sex education'. Ya' know?

posted on Jun, 2 2014 @ 04:53 PM
a reply to: FlyersFan

Agrarian Justice was his last writing. It is written towards England, where the class system had led to severe poverty levels of most others. Land owners/feudals were taking advantage of everybody else, which lead to extremely poor underclass. And property tax, redistribution, as something he believed as a solution to the problem of too many living in misery.

In taking the matter upon this ground, the first principle of civilization ought to have been, and ought still to be, that the condition of every person born into the world, after a state of civilization commences, ought not to be worse than if he had been born before that period.

But the fact is that the condition of millions, in every country in Europe, is far worse than if they had been born before civilization begin, had been born among the Indians of North America at the present. I will show how this fact has happened.

It is a position not to be controverted that the earth, in its natural, cultivated state was, and ever would have continued to be, the common property of the human race. In that state every man would have been born to property. He would have been a joint life proprietor with rest in the property of the soil, and in all its natural productions, vegetable and animal.

But the earth in its natural state, as before said, is capable of supporting but a small number of inhabitants compared with what it is capable of doing in a cultivated state. And as it is impossible to separate the improvement made by cultivation from the earth itself, upon which that improvement is made, the idea of landed property arose from that parable connection; but it is nevertheless true, that it is the value of the improvement, only, and not the earth itself, that is individual property.

Every proprietor, therefore, of cultivated lands, owes to the community ground-rent (for I know of no better term to express the idea) for the land which he holds; and it is from this ground-rent that the fund prod in this plan is to issue.

There are, in every country, some magnificent charities established by individuals. It is, however, but little that any individual can do, when the whole extent of the misery to be relieved is considered. He may satisfy his conscience, but not his heart. He may give all that he has, and that all will relieve but little. It is only by organizing civilization upon such principles as to act like a system of pulleys, that the whole weight of misery can be removed.

The plan here proposed will reach the whole. It will immediately relieve and take out of view three classes of wretchedness-the blind, the lame, and the aged poor; and it will furnish the rising generation with means to prevent their becoming poor; and it will do this without deranging or interfering with any national measures.

It is the practice of what has unjustly obtained the name of civilization (and the practice merits not to be called either charity or policy) to make some provision for persons becoming poor and wretched only at the time they become so. Would it not, even as a matter of economy, be far better to adopt means to prevent their becoming poor? This can best be done by making every person when arrived at the age of twenty-one years an inheritor of something to begin with.

The rugged face of society, checkered with the extremes of affluence and want, proves that some extraordinary violence has been committed upon it, and calls on justice for redress. The great mass of the poor in countries are become an hereditary race, and it is next to impossible them to get out of that state of themselves. It ought also to be observed that this mass increases in all countries that are called civilized. re persons fall annually into it than get out of it.

edit on 2-6-2014 by Cabin because: (no reason given)

posted on Jun, 2 2014 @ 07:49 PM
a reply to: Cabin

I fully agree with the premise that wealth distribution is necessary in order to provide the basic needs to everyone, for the general good of the society. One of the first to come up with such ideas, which is very positive in my eyes

I prefer the idea of a family owning land. Actually an individual, or married couple, the head of a household own the land. Their off spring would remain on the land and learn how to live. The grown children could leave whenever they had enough knowledge and saved money to buy land or work profitably.

Children used to be free labor and entertainment.

The problem with any kind of tax, no matter how small, is that it will grow, because the entity that collects the tax has the highest authority in the world.

posted on Jun, 2 2014 @ 08:28 PM
Thomas Paine was born in England to a corset producer and merchant. Thomas Paine hated corset making. He made his way to America in his youth and became a pirate.

Thomas Paine -- From Pirate to Revolutionary A 30 minute audio mp3 by historian Jeff Riggenbach

edit on 2-6-2014 by Semicollegiate because: (no reason given)

posted on Jun, 3 2014 @ 04:27 AM
a reply to: Semicollegiate

Pirate or not. The man made sense. The USA today would do well to listen to him.

posted on Jun, 3 2014 @ 07:34 AM
Thomas Paine!! YAY!!

Yes, I read his Age of Reason (actually I bought his entire collection) a couple of years ago.
His theories are absolutely in tune with mine -
after reading him I decided "Deism" was a good label for my own beliefs.

I think that yes, his work should be taught in schools - and in the 80s, when university was truly a Liberal Arts & Humanities based curriculum (you had to take certain courses as a freshman and sophomore, and couldn't even declare a major until your junior year), we did get exposure to it. Anyone else recall "Western Civ"?

Nevertheless, reading something required when you're 20 is different from reading it 30 years later, by your own decision. Reading things in later life brings out the stuff that we missed as adolescents in college -
and life experience certainly brings out nuance and meaning that is lost on many youths (who are under pressure with several classes to which they must attend).

I highly recommend reading Paine!

posted on Jun, 3 2014 @ 07:41 AM

One of my very favorite of his quotes.

posted on Jul, 7 2014 @ 08:25 AM
I'm bumping this because the discussion about 'the Age of Reason' has come up in another thread and I thought I'd bump this forward for those who haven't seen it.

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