Brett Williams's Reviews > The Age of Reason

The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine
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Paine would never find a publisher today

We could use this American forefather in our Age Of Emotion, but he would never find a publisher, and if he did, people wouldn’t read what they don’t want to hear. Paine is direct, factual and relentless. Even in this short book, his condemnation of scriptural religion becomes tedious in his effort to be complete. To Paine, scriptural religions are the study of “opinions and fancies of men” confusing the message of God, which he says, is to be found in nature, available to all, unhindered by translations, rewritings and Church censorship.

His knowledge of ancient mythologies and understanding of how the early Church evolved as a direct overlay of the Roman Empire with assumption of the Roman pantheon as Saints of the Church is impressive. He precedes our modern day Dominique Crossan by 200 years when he reports there was nothing new in virgin births or miracles in the ancient world – a common occurrence. To believe such events as resurrection from the dead Paine finds no different from any other superstition. To Paine Jesus was a heroic figure, peerless among men, but a man all the same, made into a God by those who loved him.

Part 1 is concerned with the unreasonable like prophesy, which he shows to be hindsight not prediction. Likewise, Biblical moral conflicts of human sacrifice: “If I owe a person money and cannot pay him”, writes Paine, someone else could assume the debt for payment, averting debtor’s prison. But “if I commit a crime… moral justice cannot take the innocent for the guilty, even if the innocent would offer itself.” Part 2 is concerned with inconsistencies or impossibilities in the Bible itself. Like Moses writing of his own death, or the city of Dan which did not exist until 331 years after the Bible says Moses died; God’s promise to save king Ahaz from Assyrians in Isaiah, while God slaughters him with Assyrians in Chronicles. The list is long, suitable for critiques, but tiring. Paine can also be amusing. Reviewing the Garden he notes the snake “enters into familiar conversation with Eve, who is in no way surprised to hear a snake talk.” With these complications, and a list of reason violations, Paine writes that scriptures are “atheistic blasphemy.” If you want to know God, he says, learn science as it is the true theology, revealing God all around us.

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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
April 15, 2014 – Shelved

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