Thomas Paine, You’re My Hero

He is, indeed, a true American hero, and his work, from Common Sense to the Age of Reason, is recommended to anyone with a brain. A few money quotes:

From The Age of Reason (which I’m currently reading):

Each of those churches show 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 accuse the other of unbelief; and for my own part, I disbelieve them all.

The Christian Mythologists, after having confined Satan in a pit, were obliged to let him out again to bring on the sequel of the fable. He is then introduced into the Garden of Eden, in the shape of a snake or a serpent, and in that shape he enters into familiar conversation with Eve, who is no way surprised to hear a snake talk; and the issue of this tete-a-tete is that he persuades her to eat an apple, and the eating of that apple damns all mankind.

After giving Satan this triumph over the whole creation, one would have supposed that the Church Mythologists would have been kind enough to send him back again to the pit; or, if they had not done this, that they would have put a mountain upon him (for they say that their faith can remove a mountain), or have put him under a mountain, as the former mythologists had done, to prevent his getting again among the women and doing more mischief. But instead of this they leave him at large, without even obliging him to give his parole—the secret of which is, that they could not do without him; and after being at the trouble of making him, they bribed him to stay. They promised him ALL the Jews, ALL the Turks by anticipation, nine-tenths of the world beside, and Mahomet into the bargain. After this, who can doubt the bountifulness of the Christian Mythology?

Having thus made an insurrection and a battle in Heaven, in which none of the combatants could be either killed or wounded—put Satan into the pit—let him out again—giving him a triumph over the whole creation—damned all mankind by the eating of an apple, these Christian Mythologists bring the two ends of their fable together. They represent this virtuous and amiable man, Jesus Christ, to be at once both God and Man, and also the Son of God, celestially begotten, on purpose to be sacrificed, because they say that Eve in her longing had eaten an apple.

From Common Sense:

Mingling religion with politics may be disavowed and reprobated by every inhabitant of America.

Youth is the seed time of good habits, as well in nations as in individuals.

From The Rights of Man:

I am contending for the rights of the living, and against their being willed away and controlled and contracted for by the manuscript assumed authority of the dead, and Mr. Burke is contending for the authority of the dead over the rights and freedom of the living. There was a time when kings disposed of their crowns by will upon their death-beds, and consigned the people, like beasts of the field, to whatever successor they appointed. This is now so exploded as scarcely to be remembered, and so monstrous as hardly to be believed. But the Parliamentary clauses upon which Mr. Burke builds his political church are of the same nature.

Every government that does not act on the principle of a Republic, or in other words, that does not make the res-publica its whole and sole object, is not a good government. Republican government is no other than government established and conducted for the interest of the public, as well individually as collectively. It is not necessarily connected with any particular form, but it most naturally associates with the representative form, as being best calculated to secure the end for which a nation is at the expense of supporting it.

The best part is this: you can have all his books for free here. Read them, and read them swiftly.

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  1. Fabulous. Thanks for the link. I’ll add those to my already bulging reading list.

    Have you read Walden and On Civil Disobedience? Those are my ‘eureka!’ books thanks to wisdom like:
    “The only obligation I have the right to assume, is to do at any time what I think right.”

  2. You’re welcome, and I haven’t read Thoreau. I will, though, after I’m done reading Sun Tzu, Machiavelli, Voltaire, and Hamilton, amongst others. Probably throw in Spinoza as well.

    This site has tons and tons of free books. Enjoy.

  3. In enjoyed coming across your blog on Paine. As a fifth-grade teacher in Colorado, probably the most important thing I can instill in students is the belief that all their voices are important. Their future does not have to be inevitable. “Little voices” can make dramatic impacts on events. That is Thomas Paine’s greatest contribution to our country. His pamphlet, Common Sense, spoke to all the voices in the 13 colonies during a time of great fear and indecision. He gave a vast number of citizens a vision of what each could do, 176 days before the Declaration of Independence. A belief that power should radiate from the citizens. That message is still paramount to all our students today. For that pamphlet alone, Paine needs to be recognized as a intrical part of the American miracle.

    Mark Wilensky,
    author of “The Elementary Common Sense of Thomas Paine: An Interactive Adaptation for All Ages”
    http://www.NewCommonSenseBook.com




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