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The Age of Reason

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The Age of Reason represents the results of years of study and reflection by Thomas Paine on the place of religion in society.

Paine wrote: "Of all the tyrannies that affect mankind, tyranny in religion is the worst; every other species of tyranny is limited to the world we live in; but this attempts to stride beyond the grave, and seeks to pursue us into eternity."

The cool rationale of Paine's The Age of Reason influenced religious thinking throughout the world; and its pervasieve influence continues to the present day.

180 pages, Paperback

First published January 27, 1794

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About the author

Thomas Paine

1,277 books1,382 followers
Thomas Paine was an English-American political activist, author, political theorist and revolutionary. As the author of two highly influential pamphlets at the start of the American Revolution, he inspired the Patriots in 1776 to declare independence from Britain. His ideas reflected Enlightenment-era rhetoric of transnational human rights. He has been called "a corset maker by trade, a journalist by profession, and a propagandist by inclination".

Born in Thetford, England, in the county of Norfolk, Paine emigrated to the British American colonies in 1774 with the help of Benjamin Franklin, arriving just in time to participate in the American Revolution. His principal contributions were the powerful, widely read pamphlet Common Sense (1776), the all-time best-selling American book that advocated colonial America's independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain, and The American Crisis (1776–83), a pro-revolutionary pamphlet series. Common Sense was so influential that John Adams said, "Without the pen of the author of Common Sense, the sword of Washington would have been raised in vain."

Paine lived in France for most of the 1790s, becoming deeply involved in the French Revolution. He wrote the Rights of Man (1791), in part a defence of the French Revolution against its critics. His attacks on British writer Edmund Burke led to a trial and conviction in absentia in 1792 for the crime of seditious libel. In 1792, despite not being able to speak French, he was elected to the French National Convention. The Girondists regarded him as an ally. Consequently, the Montagnards, especially Robespierre, regarded him as an enemy.

In December 1793, he was arrested and imprisoned in Paris, then released in 1794. He became notorious because of his pamphlet The Age of Reason (1793–94), in which he advocated deism, promoted reason and freethinking, and argued against institutionalized religion in general and Christian doctrine in particular. He also wrote the pamphlet Agrarian Justice (1795), discussing the origins of property, and introduced the concept of a guaranteed minimum income. In 1802, he returned to America where he died on June 8, 1809. Only six people attended his funeral as he had been ostracized for his ridicule of Christianity.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 643 reviews
Profile Image for Trevor.
1,293 reviews21.7k followers
December 8, 2007
Paine is not an atheist, far from it. He believes in the God who created the universe, not in the men who wrote a book. So, first he shows that the Bible was not written by God - showing the near endless contradictions contained in that book, showing where much of the old testament in particular is a hsndbook of genocide. As he says at one point Moses asks his followers to kill the mothers, fathers and brothers and then to debauch the daughters of those they conquer. For people to say they base their morality on such a book either means they have not read it or they have a particularly frightening idea about what is moral.

Read this book and then read the Bible - not the selected bits one might get shown in Sunday school about two of every kind hopping onto a boat, but the impossibly erratic mad father that God is in his tormenting of his own people.

God only becomes slightly nicer after his conversion to Christianity. He must be the only character in fiction that we praise for being both angry and jealous.

But this is not a book by an atheist, Paine still believed in God, a God who created the universe. Paine believed that to understand the mind of God one should study the book of his creation - the universe. It is a beautiful idea, and if it was not for Darwin I probably would have believed in such a God as the only logical explanation of the seemingly infinite complexity of the world. All changes with Darwin.

Many people here have said this book changed their lives - it is hardly surprising.
Profile Image for A.J..
136 reviews51 followers
March 9, 2010
Against four thousand years of combined Jewish and Christian tradition, Thomas Paine answers with the eighteenth century equivalent of: "Bitch, please." This isn't your NOMA (Non-overlapping magisterium) kind of argument; this is Total War. With a disciplined rationalism and an acidic wit, Paine produces an assault so complete on organized religion that it makes the so-called new atheist movement a bit of a misnomer. Paine was not an atheist in any sense of the word, but one does wonder if he might have found himself with better company if he'd had the foresight to be born two hundred years later.

It's hard for me to convey how well written and put together this polemic is. Like with Common Sense, Paine proves himself to be a master of written argument. He starts with Genesis and marches forward until the end where he informs the reader: "I have now gone through the Bible, as a man would go through a wood with an axe on his shoulder, and fell trees. Here they lie; and the priests, if they can, may replant them. They may, perhaps, stick them in the ground, but they will never make them grow." And what is unique to Paine is that not a single one of his arguments is derived from anything but the text itself. Yet at the end it's hard to think that anything more was required.

The main axis of the argument is to show with respect to each book of the bible that it is anonymous and therefore without authority. Internal evidence, contradictions, time references, etc. mostly serve the function to discredit Moses, Joshua and so forth as the authors of the books attributed to them. Modern scholarship (such as the Documentary Hypothesis) confirms this. And once the text is discredited as either inauthentic or the product of non-eyewitness testimony (which even if true is revelation to the witness only and hearsay to everyone else), all the rest comes tumbling down. Paine is then able to conclude that: "The study of theology as it stands in Christian churches, is the study of nothing; it is founded on nothing; it rests on no principles; it proceeds by no authorities; it has no data; it can demonstrate nothing; and admits of no conclusion." Once the pillar of a holy book––and this holds true for any religion––is pried loose, not much remains to talk about.

Not many books are literally laugh-out-loud funny, but this is one of them. Paine has no patience for priestcraft or spin doctors. This trend is common among the aforementioned new atheists, who quickly learned that religious argument has a much lower survivability stripped of its atmosphere of guilt and reverence. Forced to breathe the same rationalism as every other subject, religious fundamentalism must necessarily make a hasty retreat back into the mist of superstition.

I think reason that this book was more effective than your usual fanfare is that it goes straight to the text and never wavers from that aim. Gone are the teleological, transcendental, cosmological, and moral sideshows that at best end up at deism (which would actually work out rather well for Paine). This is the very heart of the matter.

I can't swear by everything here, but this is easily as entertaining and informative as anything else on the subject. Five stars.

Profile Image for Parmida R. A. .
98 reviews77 followers
October 8, 2021
The Age of Reason is a very insightful book by Thomas Paine, one of the most influential figure in American history. It is clear for me that Paine was deist. He was very passionate about God that he could not stand some sinister things related to Him in Holy books. After all, how can Almighty be so cruel?

His thoughts and feelings are 99% corresponded with mine, a thiest.
I remember I was baffled by contradictory refers to God. Once, He is the greatest kind and merciful. The other times, He is the one who tortures human being over superfiscial issues. I remember when I read Quran for first time, I shut the book angrily and sobbed bitterly all night, just saying, "No. No. No. God cannot be like this!" I was ambivalent about religions ad God. It led me to athiesm. I eventually found God awaiting at the and of dark and cold valley of despair. The moment I truly felt God, was the most beautiful moment for me. Then, I felt all the religions I knew being enemies of God. They insulted He, the divine beauty. They preversed some, like me.

Paine logically and respectfully criticize religions, especially Christianity.
I watched Häxan, the silent documentary, some nights ago. It was about witchcraft and satanism in Medieval era. I believe, God was not the one to blame for such ignorance and misery. People were so obssesed with the fear of devil that it yielded in an eternal loop of savagery and despair. I imagine their lives could be different if they replaced love with fear.
Paine is not even anti-Christ. He is anti-church. I believe Paine put down cards that reveal the true face of the Creator. Supersticions and distortions in all religions, I believe, shadowed the truth.

All in all, this book was very informative for me and I also felt empathy with the writer, for all his questions I had asked and all his feelings I had felt. I like this book for 3 reasons: respectful attitude, logical analysis, and insightful facts. I think it is one of the best books I had read so far, and I do have these feelings because I love God. :))
Profile Image for Darwin8u.
1,559 reviews8,688 followers
October 6, 2012
Wow. It is amazing to me to think this book was written in 1794/95. One of the most influential thinkers/writers/pamphleteers of the American AND French revolutions. You can't read Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins or Bart D. Ehrman and not feel that these authors ALL owe huge debts of gratitude to Thomas Paine and his last book. 'The Age of Reason', which essentially advocated deism, promoted humanism, reason and freethinking, and violently quarelled with ALL institutionalized religion (especially Christianity, viz the Bible), turned one of the heroes of the American Revolution into a social pariah. Only 6 people showed up for his funeral in 1809 (15 years after 'The Age of Reason' was first published) because many were still horrified by 'The Age of Reason'. Thomas Paine was an amazing thinker and like Hitch, I might not always agree with the end result of their thinking, but I am always amazed at the energy, force, originality and bravery of their thought.
Profile Image for Wayne Barrett.
Author 3 books107 followers
December 18, 2017

Whenever I have thought of 'the founding fathers' I have to admit, Thomas Paine would have been at the bottom of the list. Now that I have read 'The Age of Reason', I esteem this great man more than ever. I admire him, not only for all he did for our country and his writings, but for having the courage to publish something of this nature during his time.

One of the saddest fallacies of our countries history that has been passed onto generations even to this day is that the U.S. was founded on God and that all of our forefathers were devout Christians. Simply put, that is not true. Our forefathers always intended for there to be a separation between church and state, and many of those forefathers were not Christian and did not even believe in the Christian God in the biblical sense. George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson... just to name a few. The difference between them and Thomas Paine is that they mostly kept their opinions on the subject among themselves, because for politicians, espousing a disbelief in God is occupational suicide. Even now in the 21st century, whenever a candidate is running for office they make sure the news cameras catch them attending church. And who really believes any of our recent presidents were Christians?

Thomas Paine wrote 'The Age of Reason' during an era when leaders within this country had very recently been burning people at stakes for making comments such as he did in this book. I have read the Bible a few times, books on science and books on philosophy. I have read books on agnosticism and atheism and have been educated and inspired by many. What astounds me about this book is that it was written by a founding father in the years 1794, 1795. To me, he not only uses well documented facts and contradictions from the bible, and examples from that bible that only a fool or a horribly evil person would think would be okay to follow, (I mean, do you really want to love a God who has given orders to slaughter women and children?) but he has masterfully used the very thing he chose as his title for this work: reason!

Thomas Paine was shunned by the masses because of this book. Only 6 people showed up for his funeral. But I thank this man more than ever, because it's men like him who made a sacrifice and was not afraid to speak out that has helped keep this country out of the dark ages.

I think this is a brilliant book, one that I would recommend and one I am proud to have in my library.
Profile Image for Evan.
1,071 reviews740 followers
February 14, 2018
"It has happened, that all the answers that I have seen to the former part of 'The Age of Reason' have been written by priests: and these pious men, like their predecessors, contend and wrangle, and understand the Bible; each understands it differently, but each understands it best; and they have agreed in nothing but in telling their readers that Thomas Paine understands it not."

That, an opening salvo in part II of Paine's "The Age of Reason," makes me laugh out loud. Surprisingly and to my delight, so does much of the rest of it. This is Paine's great rant against religion, his belief in one detached deistic being who created a perfect world and let it go, hoping that we would do what is right by it. All that is good and moral exists in that creation and in the good works and deeds of ourselves. The rest are lies and hypocrisies and an affront to the reasoning minds God gave us. Such is the basic line of argument. Paine contends the Bible and the Church are two of the wrong things that the stewards of God's Earth have done. This is an entertaining, thought-provoking tract, screed, dissembling rant -- call it what you will. That it's not always easy to find a copy, and that even used copies go for at the cheapest $10 on Amazon -- even for a public domain work -- bespeaks its relative suppression by those who continue to sweep the Founding Fathers' secularism and deism under the rug of history. This is a book that Christians do not like because it puts to the lie their contention that America was founded as a "Christian nation." Even so, I'll admit that sometimes, Paine's own arguments rest on suppositions rather than absolute fact, but more often than not he's on target. He trashes the absurdities of the Bible with aplomb, charting the origins of many of the myths and the perpetuation of those and subsequent strictures of the church to the good of its own authority, power and material enrichment. His most heretical assertion is that God did not write the Bible; that it is solely a cobbled creation of men; and even if done so by "divine inspiration" -- the latter is meaningless to Paine since it is completely unprovable, and most unlikely. Paine looks for horses, not zebras, and is more likely to believe that men lie than witness miracles. In the course of all this we get doses of science and natural law and philosophy and ruminations on ancient languages and so on.

I'm reading the beginning of part two, which puts me halfway through it, and which relates Paine's frightening brush with the terrors of the aftermath of the French Revolution. He barely finished part one of this work in France before the guards came for him. Luckily he came out of it, unlike so many of his friends.

Some readers of an atheistic or agnostic bent may not be pleased that Paine does not outright reject God, or even place his existence on the table for possible rejection. But the God he does believe in is so remote as to be effectively nonexistent, for any practical purpose. In any case, it is man with whom Paine has issues, particularly those of the cloth and those who follow them. His refutations of Biblical and Church doctrines, his lambasting of ideas like miracles, and his criticisms of violence in the name of a greater good are just some of the highlights.

It's good to be reading this after having just finished a book about Robert Ingersoll, the late 19th century atheist, who paid homage to Paine in his own writings and speeches.

"Whoever will take the trouble of reading the book ascribed to Isaiah,
will find it one of the most wild and disorderly compositions ever
put together; it has neither beginning, middle, nor end; and, except
a short historical part, and a few sketches of history in the first
two or three chapters, is one continued incoherent, bombastical rant,
full of extravagant metaphor, without application, and destitute of
meaning; a school-boy would scarcely have been excusable for writing
such stuff; it is (at least in translation) that kind of composition
and false taste that is properly called prose run mad."
"There now remain only a few books, which they call books of the
lesser prophets; and as I have already shown that the greater are
impostors, it would be cowardice to disturb the repose of the little
ones. Let them sleep, then, in the arms of their nurses, the priests,
and both be forgotten together."

OK, this next passage is so sharp and funny and deliciously tart and blasphemous that I had to up the book to four stars. In addition to showing -- as he does throughout the book -- the story inconsistencies and thus the unreliability of the tellers of the Bible, Paine basically suggests the apostles had all sampled Mary Magdelene's wares at some point and that she showed up before the Resurrection just to do some hooking up for hire (that one really enraged the clergy, as is stated in a footnote):

"The book of Matthew continues its account, and says, (xxviii. 1,)
that at the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn, towards the
first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, to see
the sepulchre. Mark says it was sun-rising, and John says it was
dark. Luke says it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna, and Mary the mother
of James, and other women, that came to the sepulchre; and John
states that Mary Magdalene came alone. So well do they agree about
their first evidence! They all, however, appear to have known most
about Mary Magdalene; she was a woman of large acquaintance, and it
was not an ill conjecture that she might be upon the stroll."
The final paragraphs are a gorgeous rumination on the nature of consciousness and immortality, in which Paine provides one of the most persuasive arguments for the possibility of continued consciousness in an afterlife.
Paine says that nature itself is a better chronicler and evidence of this than the crude, trite, banal, violent and contradictory stories of the Bible.
Too few books that I read go into these kinds of deeply philosophical issues, which I frankly crave, so now I'm going to have to give him five stars.

The full text of "The Age of Reason", parts 1 and 2, can be found here at Project Gutenberg:
103 reviews1 follower
March 8, 2010
This book is a must-read for every American. Thomas Paine was one of the most influential thinkers in the founding of the United States and in the form that it's government took. His thinking had a profound influence on many of the founding fathers, including the author of the constitution - Thomas Jefferson.

This book was Paine's commentary on religion and his defense of deism, as opposed the Christianity. It will help every American who reads it to understand the nature of thinking that motivated the founding fathers to institute the separation of church and state. It will also be a major eye-opener for those Americans who believe the popular myth that our government was founded upon Christian principles.

Modern readers won't find Paines deistic reasoning to be entirely sound. However, his passionate and detailed criticism of Christianity is almost irrefutable when taken as a whole. In the long run, disagreements with Paine's reasoning are almost beside the point. The political ramifications of this book are the most important reason for every American to read it.
Profile Image for Marijan Šiško.
Author 1 book63 followers
April 20, 2017
To say, that The Age of Reason is not originalis like saying Hamlet is not original. All the things Paine wrote about were repeated somany times afterwards that the realmeaning of the book is difficult to understand today. But I have no doubt that for it's age it was-well, revolutionary. And I'm sure that Paine would have a lot to add if he lived in our age. For starters today deism seems almost as dated as the dogma he was writing against. And yet,it was an interesting insight in one of the greatest minds of its time, and probably all times.
Profile Image for Skyler Myers.
45 reviews22 followers
October 29, 2014
"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."


* One of the greatest deconstructions of theistic religion that I've seen

* When discussing religion, uses very sound reasoning, as the book title suggests

* Very detailed critique of the Bible without ever using extra Biblical evidence

* Shows countless inconsistencies and contradictions that renders the belief that the Bible is perfect untenable

* It is actually quite humorous at times

* Very good insight into the beliefs of one of the most important people in American history

* Lots of historical information and value


* When discussing his own supernatural beliefs, his skeptical eye that he uses towards other people's religion ceases to exist

* There is a slight bit of hypocrisy here

* Unfortunately not even the great Thomas Paine is able to completely renounce all superstition

"People in general know not what wickedness there is in this pretended word of God. Brought up in habits of superstition, they take it for granted that the Bible is true, and that it is good; they permit themselves not to doubt of it."

This classic work by one of America's 'Founding Fathers' and the man whose pamphlet 'Common Sense' inspired the Declaration of Independence gave me very mixed feelings. On one hand, his views on the fatuousness of theistic religion are eloquent and concise, and extremely surprising for a man who lived in the 1700s. I will provide a small sample of his criticism of religion, first, his thoughts on religion being a product of how you are raised rather than truth, "That many good men have believed this strange fable, and lived very good lives under that belief (for credulity is not a crime) is what I have no doubt of. In the first place, they were educated to believe it, and they would have believed anything else in the same manner. There are also many who have been so enthusiastically enraptured by what they conceived to be the infinite love of God to man, in making a sacrifice of himself, that the vehemence of the idea has forbidden and deterred them from examining into the absurdity and profaneness of the story." On the trustworthiness of the miraculous claims of the Gospels, "As to the ancient historians, from Herodotus to Tacitus, we credit them as far as they relate things probable and credible, and no further: for if we do, we must believe the two miracles which Tacitus relates were performed by Vespasian, that of curing a lame man, and a blind man, in just the same manner as the same things are told of Jesus Christ by his historians. We must also believe the miracles cited by Josephus, that of the sea of Pamphilia opening to let Alexander and his army pass, as is related of the Red Sea in Exodus. These miracles are quite as well authenticated as the Bible miracles, and yet we do not believe them." On Christian belief being a matter of chance rather than truth, "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. They rejected several; they voted others to be doubtful, such as the books called the Apocrypha; and those books which had a majority of votes, were voted to be the word of God. Had they voted otherwise, all the people since calling themselves Christians had believed otherwise; for the belief of the one comes from the vote of the other." On the other hand, the superstitions of his time had taken too much of a hold on his mind for him to overcome them completely, which I will come to later in the review.

'The Age of Reason' is a two part book, the first being written when Paine was in France and when he thought that he only had a short time before he would be executed. For this part, Paine did not have a Bible so everything he said was by his excellent memory alone. Perhaps surprisingly, the majority of the first part seems to be a justification of Paine's deism rather than a polemic on religion. This work could easily be titled 'The Bible of Deism' rather than 'The Age of Reason'. Paine's main gripe with religion is not that it stifles intellectual development or that it inspires cruelty and hate, but that it shields us from the "true" religion of deism. This is where some of Paine's unconscious hypocrisy shows through. He criticizes others for their ridiculous claims of having the one true religion, while he himself makes this exact claim that he criticizes in others. Paine, raised a Quaker, even goes so far as to say that the Quakers are not only the ones closest to the truth of deism, but he actually says that the Quakers practically *are* deists. He says, "The religion that approaches the nearest of all others to true Deism, in the moral and benign part thereof, is that professed by the quakers:" Also this, "The only sect that has not persecuted are the Quakers; and... they are rather Deists than Christians." Are we meant to believe that Paine just happened to be born into the only true religion? This is the exact line of thought that he criticizes!

Paine goes on to describe what he thinks are proof of the deistic position, which amount to nothing more than a priori inductive arguments and god of the gaps arguments that we've heard a thousand times. He says that nothing can cause itself to exist; that humans can't cause themselves to exist, that trees can't cause themselves to exist, that the Earth couldn't have caused itself to exist, etc. He says that we have no explanation for the existence of these things, therefore it must be magic, which he calls "God". Would Paine have still been a deist if he lived two centuries later after the nebular hypothesis and evolution? It is impossible to know, and most people forgive Paine's deism simply due to the ignorance of when he lived. What is unforgivable is that Paine shouldn't have been so ready to blame the supernatural just because we didn't know the cause of something in his time; we have had people like this before, such as Democritus, Lucretius, Epicurus, Baron d'Holbach, Jean Meslier, Denis Diderot, etc. Unfortunately, Paine makes this mistake of thinking humanity won't gain more knowledge multiple times, mostly due to his erroneous deistic beliefs. He actually makes the argument that, because during his time, we didn't understand how acorns and seeds grow, that our "Creator" didn't want us to have this knowledge, and that our "Creator" only gave us the knowledge that we needed to function. He says, "Our own existence is a mystery: the whole vegetable world is a mystery. We cannot account how it is that an acorn, when put into the ground, is made to develop itself and become an oak. We know not how it is that the seed we sow unfolds... We know, therefore, as much as is necessary for us to know; and that part of the operation that we do not know... the Creator takes upon himself and performs it for us." In other words, if we can't explain it, it is magic and we aren't meant to know it. I hope it is obvious to see why this line of thought is not conducive to scientific discovery. He also makes numerous claims about the nature of this "Creator", such as what it can and can't do and what is easy and hard for it to do, while also making the claims that this "Creator" is incomprehensible to our minds. Here is one of countless examples, "To an almighty power it is no more difficult to make the one than the other, and no more difficult to make a million of worlds than to make one." Apparently only Thomas Paine is immune to this supposed incomprehensibility. Not only was the universe "Created", but it was created *for* mankind! He says, "As therefore the Creator made nothing in vain, so also must it be believed that he organized the structure of the universe in the most advantageous manner for the benefit of man." Another example of his god of the gaps argumentation is this, "We cannot conceive how we came here ourselves, and yet we know for a fact that we are here."

Paine makes the case that the claim of theistic religions that they have the "word of God" is blasphemy to the *real* "Almighty", which of course is the one he happens to believe in. Not once does he condemn blasphemy as an imaginary crime and a pathetic attempt to thwart freedom of speech. He says that the *true* "word of God" is not written in any book, but is written for all eyes in the "Creation" of the "Creator". Again, would Paine hold this position if he knew that these items in nature formed natural and weren't created supernaturally? I doubt it, but we cannot know for sure. He says that we can learn about our "Creator" by studying the "Creation". In this case, what a monstrous "Creator" indeed! What would we think of a man who created parasites that feed on the living brains of innocent children? Of wasps that lay their eggs inside the innards of other living beings, only for them to hatch and have them eat their way out? Of horrible diseases such as the plague and smallpox? Of the illimitable genetic defects that plague animalkind? I could go on, but I think my point is made. Only a fiend would introduce such horrors into the world, yet Paine thinks this "Creator" is a moral one! How could the same man that so effortlessly refuted the claims of religion by memory alone come to such a baseless conclusion?! He knows the "Creator" is moral, he says, by the abundance that the "Creator" has given us. Even in the 21st century, with all our technology and wealth, almost a billion people are either starving or malnourished. Where is their "abundance"? The last error Paine makes is this statement, "It is certain that, in one point, all nations of the earth and all religions agree. All believe in a God." This is completely untrue; in fact, most societies believed in *gods*, not "a God", but there are also societies that believed in no gods whatsoever. Thomas Henry Huxley writes about his anthropological studies in the field, "There are savages without God in any proper sense of the word, but none without ghosts." He does have a statement about prayer which I like, "For what is the amount of all his prayers, but an attempt to make the Almighty change his mind, and act otherwise than he does? It is as if he were to say — thou knowest not so well as I."

This leads us to part 2 of 'The Age of Reason', which is more about debunking religion than praising deism. Paine, now equipped with a Bible, completely dissects the illimitable errors, saying, "I have furnished myself with a Bible and Testament; and I can say also that I have found them to be much worse books than I had conceived. If I have erred in any thing, in the former part of the Age of Reason, it has been by speaking better of some parts than they deserved." One of my favorite lines, "It has been the practice of all Christian commentators on the Bible, and of all Christian priests and preachers, to impose the Bible on the world as a mass of truth, and as the word of God; they have disputed and wrangled, and have anathematized each other about the supposeable meaning of particular parts and passages therein; one has said and insisted that such a passage meant such a thing, another that it meant directly the contrary, and a third, that it meant neither one nor the other, but something different from both; and this they have called understanding the Bible. It has happened, that all the answers that I have seen to the former part of 'The Age of Reason' have been written by priests: and these pious men, like their predecessors, contend and wrangle, and understand the Bible; each understands it differently, but each understands it best; and they have agreed in nothing but in telling their readers that Thomas Paine understands it not." Paine then systematically goes through every book of the Old Testament until he amasses a pile of errors that could reach the Sun. When he is done with the Old, he moves to the New, and after examining the evidence as to its truthfulness he has this to say, "If the writers of these four books had gone into a court of justice to prove an alibi... and had they given their evidence in the same contradictory manner as it is here given, they would have been in danger of... perjury, and would have justly deserved it. Yet this is the evidence, and these are the books, that have been imposed upon the world as being given by divine inspiration, and as the unchangeable word of God." And finally, he concludes the New Testament with, "I have now gone through the examination of the four books ascribed to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John;... it is, I believe, impossible to find in any story upon record so many and such glaring absurdities, contradictions, and falsehoods, as are in those books. They are more numerous and striking than I had any expectation of finding, when I began this examination, and far more so than I had any idea of when I wrote the former part of 'The Age of Reason.'" His summary, "What is it the Bible teaches us? — repine, cruelty, and murder. What is it the Testament teaches us? — to believe that the Almighty committed debauchery with a woman engaged to be married; and the belief of this debauchery is called faith. As to the fragments of morality that are irregularly and thinly scattered in those books, they make no part of this pretended thing, revealed religion. They are the natural dictates of conscience, and the bonds by which society is held together, and without which it cannot exist; and are nearly the same in all religions, and in all societies." For a summary of his views on Christianity, "Of all the systems of religion that ever were invented, there is none more derogatory to the Almighty, more unedifying to man, more repugnant to reason, and more contradictory in itself, than this thing called Christianity. Too absurd for belief, too impossible to convince, and too inconsistent for practice, it renders the heart torpid, or produces only atheists and fanatics. As an engine of power, it serves the purpose of despotism; and as a means of wealth, the avarice of priests; but so far as respects the good of man in general, it leads to nothing here or hereafter." And finally, his thoughts on theology, "The study of theology as it stands in Christian churches, is the study of nothing; it is founded on nothing; it rests on no principles; it proceeds by no authorities; it has no data; it can demonstrate nothing; and admits of no conclusion. Not any thing can be studied as a science without our being in possession of the principles upon which it is founded; and as this is not the case with Christian theology, it is therefore the study of nothing."

"There now remain only a few books, which they call books of the lesser prophets; and as I have already shown that the greater are impostors, it would be cowardice to disturb the repose of the little ones. Let them sleep, then, in the arms of their nurses, the priests, and both be forgotten together. I have now gone through the Bible, as a man would go through a wood with an axe on his shoulder, and fell trees. Here they lie; and the priests, if they can, may replant them. They may, perhaps, stick them in the ground, but they will never make them grow."
Profile Image for hasanbiseyler.
31 reviews9 followers
June 23, 2019
Thomas Paine aydınlanma çağının en ünlü kalemlerinden biridir ve Tanrı'yı çok sever. Din adıyla insanlara yutturulmaya çalışılan sistemlerin çok sevdiği ve yüce gördüğü Tanrı'yı olduğundan kötü ve iktidarsız gösterdiğini düşünür çünkü kitaplarda insanları hiç yoktan cezalandıran, onlara zulmeden, şeytanla başa çıkamayan bir Tanrı'dan bahsediliyordur. Buna daha fazla dayanamayan Paine basit mantıksal düzenekler, kronoloji ve hatta dil bilgisiyle kitapları çürütür.

Ona göre Tanrı'nın kelamı onun insanlara olan sevgisi, ahlak ve onlara bahşettiği akıldır.

Deizmi böyle açıkça teorize eden ilk kitap sanırım.
Profile Image for Pat Zandi.
1 review
December 17, 2012
Sad how he could not understand a 5th grade written book that proves itself as completely infallible. I have read the bible 12 times and I still cannot agree with any of his arguments. I suppose prior to God's salvation In my life i might have agreed with him on some of his arguments. However he wanted irrefutable proof in front of his eye's like Thomas but his eyes were dimmed with pride and a self gratifying way to explain away God that he would not become accountable to Hod himself or others. The law shows his guilt before a Holy and just God, and that he has a need of a Saviour but he could not make the connection of something any child knows. He became too smart for God, trying to be crafty in his own conceit. Making himself to be a fool before God and supposing himself to be wise before men!
I pray that others who read this will see that they need to lower their own thoughts for they are lofty and lifted up too high, Jesus say "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. -Matthew 11:29"
Meek ; when was the last time you studied that!
Profile Image for Kusaimamekirai.
652 reviews217 followers
April 22, 2021
"The Word of God is the Creation we behold; and this word of God revealeth to man all that is necessary for man to know of his Creator.
Do we want to contemplate his power? We see it in the immensity of his creation.
Do we want to contemplate his wisdom? We see it in the unchangeable order by which the incomprehensible whole is governed.
Do we want to contemplate his munificence? We see it in the abundance with which he fills the earth.
Do we want to contemplate his mercy? We see it in his not withholding that abundance, even from the unthankful.
Do we want to contemplate his will, so far as it respects man? The goodness he shows to all, is a lesson for our conduct to each other.
In fine, do we want to know what God is? Search, not the book called the Scripture, which any human hand might make, or any impostor invent; but the scripture called the Creation."

So...I was raised in a fundamentalist church with some crazy ass rules like women can't wear pants, music (all electric music) is from the devil, and a guy who claimed God told him to stop eating. I'm not only acquainted with the religious lunatics but how they seem to be able to find justification for their nonsense with the bible (as an aside and humble brag, I won a bible verse memorization contest and a cool 10 dollars as a little kid so I know what of I speak).
Thomas Paine in the Age of Reason has some umm...strong opinions on the bible as well. Unlike myself Paine is no atheist. In fact Paine is quite eloquent here in describing how for him it is impossible to look around at the wonders of the universe, science, or mathematics and not feel the presence of God. Yet Paine's God has no relation to the bible. For Paine, the bible is not only absolutely not the word of God, it is an abomination of greed, violence, hucksters selling false prophecies, genocide, and petty grievances.
He is in fact quite offended that anyone would have the gall to claim that the benevolent God he believes in would do some of the things contained there.
I have to say that this book with its chronological inconsistencies, outright lies, and senseless bloodshed reminded me of why I left that craziness so many years ago.
I mean, what do you do with this story about:

"...a parcel of children calling Elisha bald head, bald head; and that this man of God, verse 24,
'Turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the Lord; and there came forth two she-bears out of the wood, and tore forty-and-two children of them.' "

Thin skinned Elisha can't handle being called bald by a group of snotty kids so God helps him maul the kids via a couple of bears? Seems unlikely but supposing it happened, why is it in the bible, what lesson is it imparting, what kind of God is this?
Paine saves his biggest scorn for the story of Adam and Eve though. Putting aside the macho head game of telling someone that the world is theirs but hey, see that beautiful apple tree over there, yeah don't eat those. Have fun!
Add a talking snake and the absurdity really cranks into high gear:

"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."

As for the violence, there are countless incidents where innocent men, women and children are slaughtered, raped and enslaved. What kind of God would do this?:

"When the Jewish army returned from one of their plundering and murdering excursions, the account goes on as follows: Numbers, chap. xxxi., ver. 13:
'And Moses, and Eleazar the priest, and all the princes of the congregation, went forth to meet them without the camp; and Moses was wroth with the officers of the host, with the captains over thousands, and captains over hundreds, which came from the battle; and Moses said unto them, Have ye saved all the women alive? Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the council of Balaam, to commit trespass against the Lord in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the Lord. Now, therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known a man by lying with him; but all the women-children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.'
Among the detestable villains that in any period of the world have disgraced the name of man, it is impossible to find a greater than Moses, if this account be true. Here is an order to butcher the boys, to massacre the mothers, and debauch the daughters!!....The Bible tells us, that those assassinations were done by the express command of God. To believe, therefore, the Bible to be true, we must unbelieve all our belief in the moral justice of God; for wherein could crying or smiling infants offend? And to read the Bible without horror, we must undo everything that is tender, sympathizing, and benevolent in the heart of man. Speaking for myself, if I had no other evidence that the Bible is fabulous than the sacrifice I must make to believe it to be true, that alone would be sufficient to determine my choice."

Quite honestly, Paine's constant pointing out of the meanness and inconsistencies of the bible got almost tiresome. Not because of Paine's writing which strikes a nice balance between insight, humor and snark, but because...how much slaughter and lies can you read about before you just want to walk away from these crazy people?
Thinking about all the vile and atrocious things that have been done in its name eventually takes a toll on you, as one suspects it did on Paine as he unloads in this book on a society that shall we say, didn't appreciate his opinions on the subject.
Even though this was written 200 years ago, one would imagine it would still offend people whose belief system is tied to the idea of a spiritual being that mauls kids with bears and kills innocent people to take their land. If you can pull that off from the grave after all these years, you know you're doing something right.

Profile Image for Simge.
99 reviews
September 8, 2017
Yazar, kitabında baştan itibaren inanç sistemleri söz konusu olduğunda durduğu noktayı belli ediyor ve böylece kendisini tanımanız/anlamanız henüz ilk sayfalardayken mümkün oluyor. Kitabın yorumlanmasının hassasiyet gerektirdiğine inandığım için tam olarak nasıl ifade edebilirim diye düşünüyorum fakat böyle bir kitabın bu kadar eski bir çağda böyle müthiş bir ustalık ve gözlem gücü ile yazıldığını görünce hayret etmemem ve hayranlık duymamam mümkün olmadı açıkçası. Yazar, Eski ve Yeni Ahit'i oldukça kapsamlı bir şekilde ayrı ayrı ele alarak bu kitaplarda yer alan çelişkileri göstermiş. Bunu yaparken inananların inanç hakkına sahip çıkmayı elden bırakmadığı gibi, yer yer inandığı konuyu en sert şekilde savunmaktan da geri durmamış. Takdir, bu konuya ilgi duyup okuyanların olacaktır neticede elbette fakat kendi açımdan söylemem gerekirse, henüz okuma fırsatımın olmadığı Eski ve Yeni Ahit konusunda yapmış olduğu alıntı ve bunlara yönelik yorumlarla beni oldukça bilgilendirdiğini söyleyebilirim.
Profile Image for Cody.
Author 10 books14 followers
July 26, 2015
Thomas Paine was a political theorist who was perhaps best known for his support for the American Revolution in his pamphlet Common Sense. In what might be his second best known work, The Age of Reason, Paine argued in favor of deism and against the Christian religion and its conception of God. By deism it is meant the belief in a creator God who does not violate the laws of nature by communicating through revelation or miracles The book was very successful and widely read partly due to the fact that it was written in a style which appealed to a popular audience and often implemented a sarcastic, derisive tone to make its points.

The book seems to have had three major objectives: the support of deism, the ridicule of what Paine found loathsome in Christian theology, and the demonstration of how poor an example the Bible is as a reflection of God.

In a sense, Paine's arguments against Christian theology and scripture were meant to prop up his deistic philosophy. Paine hoped that in demonizing Christianity while giving evidences for God, he would somehow have made the case for deism. But this is not so. If Christianity is false, but God exists nonetheless, we are not left only with deism. There are an infinite number of possibilities for us to examine regarding the nature of God, and far too many left over once we have eliminated the obviously false ones. In favor of deism Paine has only one argument—his dislike of supernatural revelation, which is to say that deism appeals to his culturally derived preferences. In any case, Paine's thinking on the matter seemed to be thus: if supernatural revelation could be shown to be inadequate and the development of complex theology shown to be an error, one could still salvage a belief in God as Creator, but not as an interloper in human affairs who required mediators.

That being said, in his support of deism, Paine makes some arguments to demonstrate the reasonableness in belief in, if not the logical necessity of the existence of, God which could be equally used by Christians.

For instance, just as the apostle Paul argued in his epistle to the Romans that, "what can be known about God is plain to [even pagans], because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made" (Romans 1:19-20, ESV), so also Paine can say that, "the Creation speaketh an universal language [which points to the existence of God], independently of human speech or human language, multiplied and various as they be."

The key point on which Paine differs from Paul on this issue is in his optimism about man's ability to reason to God without His assisting from the outside. Whereas Paul sees the plainness of God from natural revelation as an argument against the inherent goodness of a species which can read the record of nature and nevertheless rejects its Source's obvious existence, Paine thinks that nature and reason can and do lead us directly to the knowledge of God's existence apart from any gracious overtures or direct revelation.

On the witness of nature, Paine claims, and is quite correct, that, "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." What is not plainly clear, however, is that man is free enough from the noetic effects of sin to reach such an obvious conclusion on his own. Indeed, the attempts of mankind to create a religion which represents the truth have invariably landed them at paganism. By paganism I mean a system of belief based, as Yehezkel Kaufmann and John N. Oswalt have shown, on continuity.iv In polytheism, even the supernatural is not really supernatural, but is perhaps in some way above humans while not being altogether distinct from us. What happens to the gods is merely what happens to human beings and the natural world writ large, which is why the gods are, like us, victims of fate, and why pagan fertility rituals have attempted to influence nature by influencing the gods which represent it in accordance with the deeper magic of the eternal universe we all inhabit.

When mankind has looked at nature without the benefit of supernatural revelation, he has not been consciously aware of a Being outside of nature which is necessarily responsible for it. His reasoning to metaphysics is based entirely on his own naturalistic categories derived from his own experience. According to Moses, it took God revealing Himself to the Hebrews for anyone to understand what Paine thinks anyone can plainly see.

The goal of deism is to hold onto what the western mind, which values extreme independence of thought, views as attractive in theism while casting aside what it finds distasteful. But as C.S. Lewis remarked, Aslan is not a tame lion. If a sovereign God exists, He cannot be limited by your desires of what you'd like Him to be. For this reason, the deism of men like Paine served as a cultural stepping stone toward the atheism of later intellectuals.

For Paine, as for other deists and atheists like him, it is not that Christianity has been subjected to reason and found wanting, but that it has been subjected to his own private and culturally-determined tastes and preferences and has failed to satisfy. This is the flipside of the anti-religious claim that those who believe in a given religion only do so because of their cultural conditioning: the anti-religionist is also conditioned in a similar way. Of course, how one comes to believe a certain thing has no bearing on whether that thing is true in itself, and this is true whether Christianity, atheism, or any other view is correct. But it must be stated that the deist or atheist is not immune from the epistemic difficulties which he so condescendingly heaps on theists.

One of the befuddling ironies of Paine's work is that around the time he was writing about the revealed religions as, “no other than human inventions set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit," the French were turning churches into “temples of reason” and murdering thousands at the guillotine (an instrument of execution now most strongly identified with France's godless reign of terror). Paine, who nearly lost his own life during the French Revolution, saw the danger of this atheism and hoped to stay its progress, despite the risk to his own life in attempting to do so.

What is odd is that Paine managed to blame this violent atheism upon the Christian faith! Obfuscated Paine:
"The Idea, always dangerous to Society as it is derogatory to the Almighty, — that priests could forgive sins, — though it seemed to exist no longer, had blunted the feelings of humanity, and callously prepared men for the commission of all crimes. The intolerant spirit of church persecution had transferred itself into politics; the tribunals, stiled Revolutionary, supplied the place of an Inquisition; and the Guillotine of the Stake. I saw many of my most intimate friends destroyed; others daily carried to prison; and I had reason to believe, and had also intimations given me, that the same danger was approaching myself."

That Robespierre's deism finally managed to supplant the revolutionary state's atheism and that peace, love, and understanding did not then spread throughout the land undermines Paine's claims. Paine felt that the revolution in politics, especially as represented in America, would necessarily lead to a revolution in religion, and that this religious revolution would result in wide acceptance of deism. The common link between these two revolutions was the idea that the individual man was sovereign and could determine for himself what was right and wrong based on his autonomous reason. What Paine was too myopic to see was that in France's violence and atheism was found the logical consequence of his individualistic philosophy. In summary, it is not Christianity which is dangerous, but the spirit of autonomy which leads inevitably into authoritarianism by way of human desire.

As should be clear by now, Paine failed to understand that human beings have a strong tendency to set impartial reason aside and to simply evaluate reality based on their desires and psychological states. This is no more obvious than in his own ideas as expressed in The Age of Reason. Like Paine's tendency to designate every book in the Old Testament which he likes as having been written originally by a gentile and translated into Hebrew, so many of his criticisms of Christian theology are far more a reflection upon himself than of revealed Christianity. One has only to look at Paine's description of Jesus Christ as a “virtuous reformer and revolutionist” to marvel that Paine was so poor at introspection so as to not understand that he was describing himself.

There is much more that could be said about this work, but in the interest of being somewhat concise, I'll end my comments here. If you found this analysis to be useful, be sure to check out my profile and look for my work discussing Paine and other anti-Christian writers coming soon.
Profile Image for Adam.
330 reviews16 followers
December 20, 2010
This is a tough book (pamphlet?) to review, for a number of reasons. There is a difference between whether the point Paine is trying to make is well argued and well written (which it is), whether I enjoyed reading it (mostly), and whether I would encourage others to read it (strongly encouraged).

The arguments that Paine mounts against Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) are that:
- Revelation can only be experienced individually, and therefor indicating that the Bible is the word of God via revelation is not true.
- God does not act with mystery and miracle, but instead in universal truths.
- The books of the Bible (both old and new testament) are self-conflicting, of dubious authorship, and thus not the word of God.

The pamphlet is written in two parts and at two different times. In the first part Paine indicates his own philosophy, and is written without reference to specific passages of the Bible. The second part is a rebuttal of each book of both the new and old testament. I would highly encourage anyone to read the first part, but skip the second unless you have a really high interest in reading more on his argument. I found the second part to be, while informative, very dull.

I identify myself as a Christian, and it was difficult at times to read this book objectively. There were a couple of things that helped me with this. First, Paine is not an Atheist but instead a Deist. He believes in a singular God, just not a God as described in the Bible, which means he isn't completely rejecting my own religious beliefs. Second, while Paine does not believe Jesus Christ to be the son of God, he does have a tremendous amount of respect for the words attributed to Jesus Christ. He saw in Jesus a kindred revolutionary. Third, I tried to read Paine in the voice of Michael Palin. For some reason, considering him as a member of the Monty Python troop made it easier to get through and see the sarcasm in some of his remarks.

Overall I felt The Age of Reason does a sound job of pointing out inconsistencies in the Bible, as well as identifying acts of God that seem, well, un-Godly. I think his argument is weakened some in the second part, especially when identifying areas of inconsistency within the books of the Bible. He points out such errors as disagreement among the sums of total people within a family. He indicates this as reason enough to say that, as the two chapters disagree, both must be false. I'm willing to forgive such errors and inconsistencies due to both the time when they were written and discrepancies in witness stories we hear even today. I mean, ask two people what my eye color is and one might say green and another brown. The disagreement doesn't indicate that I don't exist, just a subjective difference in observation.

I think the Age of Reason is an incredibly important pamphlet for all Americans to read, regardless of religious views. Paine was one of the founding father's of the United States, and his pamphlet "Common Sense" helped spur the start of the revolution. As we make arguments on how the US should be governed, it is important to have a good understanding of the views of those who created this nation, and the types of governance they wish to both promote and prevent.
Profile Image for Ryan Jackson.
11 reviews
October 17, 2012
Good anti-religious fun.
Although Mr. Paine would refer to me a fool (as an atheist), I really enjoyed this book. The fact that someone was bold enough to write this book in 1794 says rather a lot about his character, but the fact that some one as well known as Mr. Paine would write it is nothing short of amazing. I can only imagine the recourse that he recieved as a result of pointing out the absurdities of the bible, and of organized religion itself.
This book is certainly not for everyone, especially if you don't like reading olde english writing. It might be worthwhile to read this on a Kindle (as I did), or other e-reader with a built in dictionary. Some of the words are archaic and obsolete, and some of the words are now used with a different meaning (such as "fabulous", which, in the time of the writing, was refering to something that was created via a fable).
All-in-all I really enjoyed this book, and my respect for Mr. Paine (which was already quite high) has increased.
Profile Image for Rosalía .
218 reviews34 followers
January 26, 2009
Written at the time of the Enlightenment, Thomas Paine virtually instigated the American Revolution and the break from the shackles of religious slavery. Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, and many others were Deists who believed the human mind needn't suffer from the dogma of the day nor unscientific, supernatural beliefs. Paine breaks down the Bible bit by bit to allow you to see the absurdity of it all: the archaic violence, sexism, racism, and scientific stupidity. He lets you see the book was written by ignorant men and it needs to fade like the beliefs in Zeus, and Odin. The nonsensical religious zealots of today's America would do well to read their book with the same scrutiny.
Profile Image for Sam.
3,180 reviews235 followers
May 26, 2017
Now this was a very interesting read. Having picked it up for free on the kindle and not really knowing much about it I didn't have many expectations and honestly thought it would be a laborious and difficult read. I could not have been so wrong. Despite being written in the late 18th and early 19th Centuries, it is still very readable and oddly very relevant. Granted Paine is a religious man to a certain extent, he does give an objective review of the bible and its passages and highlights not only the numerous inconsistencies and contradictions in the book itself but also highlights how these have passed across into the various Christian religions too. Not only was this very informative but it was also rather amusing, particularly with Paine's commentary and nods to some of the responses he received for previous published section of Reason. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Ignacio.
444 reviews86 followers
August 16, 2019

El más famoso texto del deísmo, escrito por un héroe del libre pensamiento cuyas loas han cantado Bertrand Russell y Christopher Hitchens. Thomas Paine no desarrolló nuevos argumentos contra la existencia de un Dios personal, pero sí tuvo la valentía de recopilar los que ya circulaban y publicarlos en este breve panfleto, lo que le valió un vituperio generalizado.

Desde niño, a raíz de su interés por la ciencia, y pese a haber crecido en un hogar cuáquero, Paine comenzó a desconfiar de la doctrina cristiana, y finalmente a sentirse asqueado por ella. Aunque Jesús fue “un hombre afable y virtuoso”, nos dice, sus seguidores no hicieron más que construir una mitología que en poco se diferenciaba de las paganas. “Hay muchos”, escribe, “que han sido tan emotivamente embelesados por la idea que Dios expresó su infinito amor al hombre sacrificándose a sí mismo, que la vehemencia de la idea ha prohibido y los ha disuadido de examinar lo absurdo y profano de la historia.”

Paine señala que toda religión se basa en una revelación, bien a través de un individuo, bien a través de un texto. En el primer caso, objeta, la revelación no puede serlo más que para el receptor, mientras que, en el segundo, el vehículo no puede ser aceptado racionalmente:

“El continuo y progresivo cambio al que son sujetos los significados de las palabras, el deseo de un lenguaje universal que presenta la necesidad de traducción, los errores a los que estas traducciones son sujetas, los errores de los copistas y editores, junto con la posibilidad de la alteración intencional, son por sí mismas evidencias de que el lenguaje humano, ya sea escrito o hablado, no puede ser el vehículo de la Palabra de Dios. -La Palabra de Dios existe en otras cosas.”

Esta Palabra de Dios no es otra que la “Creación”, i.e. la naturaleza y las leyes que la gobiernan. Mientras que la teología clásica consiste, para Paine, en “el estudio de las opiniones humanas y de las fantasías humanas concerniendo a Dios”; la verdadera teología es la ciencia, el estudio de las obras de Dios, ya que éstas, a diferencias de sus presuntas palabras, no pueden ser alteradas ni falseadas.

Para probar la existencia del ser divino, Paine recurre, sin mayor profundidad, al argumento cosmológico. La única identidad cierta que se puede atribuir a Dios es la de primera causa, y el hombre llega a ella ante todo “por la dificultad de no creerla”. Pero es sólo la existencia de Dios lo que puede deducirse mediante la razón: no sus atributos, o al menos no todos.

Para el autor, el cristianismo es “una especie de ateísmo, algo como una oscura negación de Dios”, por su énfasis en la adoración de un hombre (a quien reconoce, no obstante, como un extraordinario maestro moral). Sobre el Nuevo Testamento, considera que “la obscuridad del tema sobre el que tratan, el de un hombre muriendo en agonía sobre una cruz, concuerda mejor con el obscuro genio de un monje en una celda, por quien no es imposible que fueran escritos, que a cualquier hombre respirando el aire abierto de la Creación”.

Sobre los milagros nos dice Paine, emulando la argumentación de Hume: “¿Es más probable que la naturaleza salga de su curso, o que un hombre diga una mentira?” Por otra parte, advierte que nuestro conocimiento de la naturaleza es tan limitado que “no somos capaces de juzgar si algo que nos parezca increíble o milagroso, esté dentro, más allá, o sea contrario a su poder natural de actuar”.

Sobre las profecías, se limita a observar que, invariablemente, están enunciadas de forma oscura, y tan amplia como para ajustarse a multitud de eventos posibles; para Paine, es una irreverencia pensar que Dios pudiera tratar de “manera tan jocosa a la humanidad”. De la misma manera, las plegarias manifiestan una profana inconformidad con la manera en que Dios creó el mundo, un deseo de alterar el orden natural: “[el cristiano] reza dictatorialmente” .

En la conclusión de su tratado, Paine sostiene que el deber del hombre es actuar con la misma bondad que Dios expresó en la creación: por ello “toda persecución y venganza entre los hombres, y toda crueldad hacia los animales, es una violación del deber moral”. Esta presunta bondad divina le permite inferir, también, que la existencia de un más allá es sumamente probable. Por último, enfatiza que todas las religiones tienen más puntos en común que divergencias y que a partir de ellas se podría volver al deísmo, la religión originaria de la humanidad.

Algunas objeciones al razonamiento:

¿Qué diferencia habría entre Dios y la primera causa? ¿Es “Dios” simplemente, el nombre que le damos a la primera causa, si sus atributos nos son mayormente inconcebibles? ¿Cómo podríamos siquiera suponer que se trata de un ser inteligente? Paine menciona al menos dos de los atributos de Dios: todopoderoso y omnibenevolente, pero en ningún caso nos explica cómo estos pueden deducirse de su condición de primera causa. No se proponer dar cuenta del problema del mal, y parecería que, desde su punto de vista, este no existe, porque, siendo Dios infalible, la creación es inobjetable, y cualquier crítica que se le dirija está marcada por el orgullo. Tampoco nos explica Paine por qué el Dios al que describe estaría particularmente interesado en la humanidad o en su destino. Finalmente, en el universo descrito por Paine, la existencia de Dios no tiene grandes consecuencias: su único mandato sería un comportamiento moralmente adecuado, en concordancia con cierta ley natural que, de estar escrita, como Paine sugiere, en los corazones de sus criaturas, no requiere del conocimiento de Dios. El universo deísta no exige ningún cambio en la conducta de ateos o indiferentes.
Profile Image for Jeff Koeppen.
542 reviews35 followers
February 15, 2020
This is absolutely fantastic, and another book I wish I would've read in high school or early college years when my belief in religion was teetering and could've used a push to get me to where I am today. The great 18th-century American patriot and deist Thomas Paine was ahead of his time, he was an enlightened soul along the lines of the the great Scotsman David Hume when it came to absolutely dismantling the tenets of religions. What a ground-breaking text this must've been to all who read in the late 18th century.

In The Age of Reason Paine shows through irreverent and methodical examination of the Old Testament and the four New Testament gospels that the Bible is not the word of any gods but merely a concoction of the humans of the day, in fact he called it a "book of lies, wickedness, and blasphemy." I think my favorite parts of this book were where he carefully examines the four gospels and shows how they couldn't have been written by the names assigned to them, and how many inconsistencies they contained about the very event that the whole lot of Christianity is based! He concludes the Bible was just and ordinary text and should be treated as such. He pulls no punches.

Since Paine was a deist he did believe in a god - a prime mover which does not intervene with humanity or any aspect of the universe - and believed that all religions of the day were created by man. In The Age of Reason he spends most of his time disproving Christianity but also addresses Judism (the Jewish church) and Islam (the Turkish church). He begins the book with the following statements which he expands in the main text:

"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 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."

How great is that?! What an important work this is by one of the original American patriots, the very man who inspired our American Revolution with his pamphlet Common Sense. I wish the religion-indoctrinated youth of today were assigned to read this important historical work in schools. Critical thinking, people!

Profile Image for Gary  Beauregard Bottomley.
978 reviews580 followers
February 14, 2016
Before I read this book, I used to think there were just six general arguments that Christians (or other theistic religions) needed to debate: design (teleological), first cause, morality, ontological, purpose of life, and proof of the resurrection. Paine did something else entirely. He argued by showing the absurdity of Christianity as a whole, and the internal contradiction within and between chapters of the bible. Those are the debates apologist never participate in because they are the low hanging fruits and aren't defendable.

Adam (man) caused original sin by eating an apple in spite of a talking snake's admonition. God comes to earth in the form of his son to die a horrible death to atone for all men (and women). One can pay a debt of a pauper and keep him out of debtors prison, but the punishment for other crimes can't be atoned by somebody else vicariously (at least not for the world I live in). Paine makes a good point on how all revealed truth becomes hearsay for everyone else but the one who God talked to directly.

Paine shows at the most the books of the bible are history books and are not written by who the books claim they are written by and were written well after they claim they were. He gets quite detailed in demonstrating inauthentic claims of authorship, and shows anachronisms internal to the document. Also, he shows directly the cruelty of the people of the Old Testament.

Paine is a Diest, but he attaches no predicates to his God. I like to think of God as Arthur C Clark did in one of his books as Bob a supercomputer of some kind. It perfectly reasonable in the time before Darwin to have been a Deist after all as Kant wrongly said "there will never be a Newton for a blade of grass".
Profile Image for Eric Shaffer.
Author 11 books35 followers
October 8, 2021
Well, after finishing this book, I will never forgive myself for knowing that for more than fifty years, I needed to read this book and still never getting around to that.

Thomas Paine is a too-little recognized treasure of civilization, skilled in examination and explanation of the reasons to dismiss xristianity for good and for all for the terrible farrago of bad ideas that it is. He also provides plenty of reasons, techniques, and tools useful for dismantling any related, organized, and consecrated batch of equally bad ideas.

He is a polymath and speaks smartly of the world. One of my favorite quotes: "Mystery is the antagonist of truth. It is a fog of human invention that obscures truth, and represents it in distortion. Truth never envelops itself in mystery; and the mystery in which it is at any time enveloped, is the work of its antagonist, and never of itself."

Better yet, Paine pulls no punches concerning the excessive downside of religion: "The most detestable wickedness, the most horrid cruelties, and the greatest miseries, that have afflicted the human race have had their origin in this thing called revelation, or revealed religion."

Paine inspired Hitchens and provided Christopher with not a few of his points and stories and rhetorical flourishes. If you've read God Is Not Great, this book provides a greater historical context; if you haven't read Hitchens' books or Paine's The Age of Reason, do NOT wait fifty years to do so.
Profile Image for Prooost Davis.
285 reviews5 followers
July 5, 2010
Thomas Paine, one of our Founding Fathers by virtue of having written "Common Sense," lost many friends and made many enemies with "The Age of Reason."

Paine called himself a Deist, by which he meant that he believed in one God, the Creator of the universe, and in no other, including Son and Holy Ghost.

Paine believed that, in order to know God, a person needed to study creation. Creation was the only true word of God, the Bible and all other sacred texts being the work of men, and not at all the word of God. In fact, Paine thought that the Bible, being false, was an impediment to knowing God.

The second part of "The Age of Reason" is a book-by-book dismantling of the Bible by its own internal logic. While his own logic is not always perfectly rigorous, he definitely makes an excellent case against the Bible being the word of God.

Paine's point of view is that of many in the scientific eighteenth century. By our standards, he was still a little too anthropocentric, in that he thought that creation was meant as a teaching tool for Man's rational mind.

Even today, "The Age of Reason" is an eye-popper and would shock most religious people, even though Paine considered himself a religious man.
Profile Image for Seth Hanson.
57 reviews8 followers
February 3, 2012
This is another book that I found so riveting that I simply could not put it down and read the entire Part I in a single sitting. (Part II isn't really necessary in my opinion. Kind of like running up the score after the outcome of the game is no longer in doubt. Sure the fans might love it but sometimes you've got to know when to call off the dogs.) Considering that this book was mostly written in the 1790's, it is mind-boggling how fresh and relevant most of it still is. Maybe it was a classic case of encountering just the right information at just the right moment but I really, really loved this book. Such a breath of fresh air!
Profile Image for Wendy.
Author 2 books7 followers
May 14, 2008
This book reiterated and confirmed for me a lot of what I had wanted to believe, and was thought provoking at a point in my life where the thoughts were just waiting to be told "it's okay, you can come out now."

Paine explains in the simplest manner the ideas of a deist.

There really is no way to describe this book without mixing my own ideas in, because they are so similar, and yet I feel like I want to tell every person worth the brain that they are painted on to read this book.

This book is could be the most important book of our lifetime.
Profile Image for Jeff.
9 reviews
December 13, 2009
What a forward thinker Thomas Paine was for the late 1700s! HE challenged the U.S. colonies and the state in general with his "Common Sense" tract and followed it up with "The Age of Reason", touting the intellectual standards upon which to base a society and the separation of church and state, a concept integral to the formation of our country. Easy to read and well thought out, I learned to respect Mr. Paine even more after reading about the reaction to these tracts. Ex: effigy burning, formal protests, threats to his life, imprisonment, etc.
Profile Image for Yvonne.
950 reviews71 followers
September 17, 2015
Fearless committent to his beliefs.

"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."
Profile Image for Steve Dustcircle.
Author 27 books131 followers
June 5, 2015
Destroys the Bible book by book, chapter by chapter . . . even whilst a Deist. Stumbled upon this books years ago as an Evangelical Christian, and it rocked my world. Upon investigation into Paine's claims, I gave up Christianity, mostly due to this book.
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