Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The choicest gift of God to man, the gift of reason

At least, Thomas Paine thinks so. Having read Common Sense and Rights of Man, I figured that I might as well finish reading his other major work: The Age of Reason. Unfortunately for me, TAOR contains all of Mr. Paine’s arguments against organized religion, specifically the three monotheistic religions of the world: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Paine had a background with the Quakers, and it is for this reason that I believe he attacks Protestantism and Roman Catholicism with great energy. It would be an understatement to say that Thomas Paine detests Christianity. No, he hates it with all of his being.

Here is the author’s profession of faith: “I believe in one God, and no more; and I hope for happiness beyond this life. I believe in the equality of man, and I believe that religious duties consist in doing justice, loving mercy, and endeavouring 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” (Paine. Pgs. 3-4).

Okay, so there is one god. But what do we know about this God? Weeell, that’s where Paine gets a little fuzzy. You see, God is incapable of communicating an unchangeable message to human beings through language, whether spoken or written, because human language is always evolving.

“But some perhaps will say-Are we to have no word of God-no revelation? I answer yes. There is a Word of God; there is a revelation. The Word of God is the creation we behold: And it is in this word, which no human invention can counterfeit or alter, that God speaketh universally to man. Human language is local and changeable, and is therefore incapable of being used as the means of unchangeable and universal information. The idea that God sent Jesus Christ to publish, as they say, the glad tidings to all nations, from one end of the earth unto the other, is consistent only with the ignorance of those who know nothing of the extent of the world, and who believed, as those world saviours believed, and continued to believe for several centuries, (and that in contradiction to the discoveries of philosophers and the experience of navigators,) that the earth was flat like a trencher; and that a man might walk to the end of it.” (Paine. Pg. 33. Bold Emphasis Mine).

Particularly enjoyable was the latter part of his statement where he compares those who believe in the message of Jesus Christ with those who believe the world is flat. This brings out an interesting point that I see time and time again in the writings of Enlightenment Thinkers: if you don’t agree with them, with modern thinking, and with the science of the day, you are living in the Dark Ages. If you aren’t Enlightened, you are Darkened. How ironic that both Paine and Christians believe each other’s worldview is backwards and “reverse” in their reasoning.

Up to this point in the book, there has been no argument or piece of information I have not heard before by liberal professors or in the media. This means that secularists have not changed their arguments one bit.

In this hefty citation, Paine tells us how Christianity was formed:

“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, and 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” (Paine Pg 8-9. Bold Emphasis Mine).

No one (except for the modern Roman Church) denies that the Roman Catholic Church adopted various forms of paganism to its strange system of beliefs, but is it fair to apply this to non-Romanists? Have you begun to notice what Paine’s arguments are seriously lacking? Evidence. He is devoid of evidence. He has placed many presuppositions out on the table, but he has not substantiated one.

What was most fascinating about TAOR thus far is how much of these arguments I have heard before. I could have sworn the next selections were my ASU history professors back at it:

“When the church mythologists established their system, they collected all the writings they could find, and managed them as they pleased. It is a matter altogether of uncertainty to us whether such of the writings as now appear under the name of the Old and the New Testament, are in the same state in which those collectors say they found them; pr whether they added, altered, abridged, or dressed them up. Be this as it may, they decided by vote which of the books out of the collection they had made, should be the Word of God, and which should not” (Paine 19).

Okay, I just can’t go on. If you’ve stuck with me this long, I congratulate you! Well done, for you have put up with a whole lot of Darkened Thinking … see, two can play at this game =).

It seems to me that the secular and anti-Christian arguments of Thomas Paine have won out in Western society. From Paine’s perspective, human reason is the highest authority. Man is his own supreme authority. This is the logical outworking of his worldview.

I’ll post another update once I’ve finished with this horrendously bad series of indefensible arguments.

Thanks mucho,


At 7:29 AM, Blogger Mike said...

Yes, you see, men and women usually die for their beliefs, are persecuted, beaten, tortured, killed, have their houses burned or taken over, have their assets assumed by the government and have this done to all their family members *all* in the name of power and revenue.

Yeah, the apostles all died wealthy and powerful.


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