God & Country Home Search Page

THOMAS PAINE


Picture of Thomas Paine
[Library of Congress]

1737-1809

Pamphleteer & Propagandist for the Revolution

Biographical Data
Religious Views
Quotations
Misquotations
References, Links, & Further Reading



Education: grammar school

Occupation: various jobs, including stay maker & tax collector

Political Affiliation:


Religious Affiliation: none

Summary of Religious Views:

Paine's mother was Anglican, & his father was a Quaker. Exposure to these two very different religious traditions probably had a significant influence on Paine's ultimate religious development.
Although he is often thought of as and atheist, Paine was actually a deist. Paine wrote extensively on the subject of religion, both promoting deism and criticizing Christianity and other religions, especially deriding belief in miracles other non-naturalistic occurrences.

Views on Religion & Politics:

Paine strongly favored the separation of church and state, believing that government should be based on reason, not faith. He believed that the only valid role of government in religious affairs was to protect freedom of religion.

Quotations:

"As to religion, I hold it to be the indispensible duty of every government, to protect all conscientious professors thereof, and I know of no other business which government hath to do therewith. Let a man throw aside that narrowness of soul, that selfishness of principle, which the niggards of all professions are so unwilling to part with; and he will be at once delivered of his fears on that head. Suspicion is the companion of mean souls, and the bane of all good society. For myself, I fully and conscientiously believe, that it is the will of the Almighty, that there should be a diversity of religious opinions among us: it affords a larger field for our Christian kindness. Were we all of one way of thinking, our religious dispositions would want matter for probation; and on this liberal principle, I look on the various denominations among us, to be like children of the same family, differing only, in what is called, their Christian names." -- Common Sense, Ch. 1, 10 January 1776

"Persecution is not an original feature of any religion; but it is always the strongly marked feature of all law-religions, or religions established by law." -- The Rights of Man, 1791

"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." -- The Age of Reason, Pt. 1, 1794

"Upon the whole, Mystery, Miracle, and Prophecy, are appendages that belong to fabulous and not to true religion." -- The Age of Reason, Pt. 1, 1794

"Adam, if ever there was such a man, was created a Deist; but in the mean time, let every man follow, as he has a right to do, the religion and worship he prefers." -- The Age of Reason, Pt. 1, 1794

"The case, however, is, that the Bible will not bear examination in any part of it, which it would do if it was the Word of God. Those who most believe it are those who know least about it, and priests always take care to keep the inconsistent and contradictory parts out of sight." -- "The Tower of Babel," The Prospect, 24 March 1804

"It is from the Bible that man has learned cruelty, rapine, and murder; for the belief of a cruel God makes a cruel man." -- "An Answer To A Friend Regarding The Age Of Reason," The Prospect, 12 April 1804

"All our ideas of the justice and goodness of God revolt at the impious cruelty of the Bible. It is not a God, just and good, but a devil, under the name of God, that the Bible describes." -- An Answer To A Friend Regarding The Age Of Reason, The Prospect, 12 April 1804

Misquotations:

"When I get through, there will not be five Bibles left in America." -- There is no evidence that Paine ever made such a remark. (See the discussion in Paul F. Boller & John George, They Never Said It: A Book of Fake Quotes, Misquotes, and Misleading Attributions, Oxford Univ. Press, 1989, p. 103)

References, Links, & Further Reading: Books, Articles, Links


Books

Works by Thomas Paine

ed. by Eric Foner, Thomas Paine : Collected Writings (Library of America), Library of America, 1995
The Theological Works of Thomas Paine, J. P. Mendum, 1859; reprint, The Theological Works of Thomas Paine

Biographies

A. Owen Aldridge, Man of Reason: The Life of Thomas Paine, Lippincott, 1959
A. Owen Aldridge, Thomas Paine's American Ideology, Univ. of Delaware Press, 1984
A. J. Ayer, Thomas Paine, Simon & Schuster, 1988
Gregory Claeys, Thomas Paine: Social and Political Thought, Unwin Hyman, 1989
Moncure Daniel Conway, The Life of Thomas Paine: With a History of His Literary, Political, and Religious Career in America, France, and England, 2 vols., Knickerbocker Press, 1892
ed. by I. Dyck, Citizen of the World: Essays on Thomas Paine, St. Martin's, 1987
Eric Foner, Tom Paine and Revolutionary America, Oxford Univ. Press, 1977
Jack Fruchtman, Jr., Thomas Paine and the Religion of Nature, Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1993
Jack Fruchtman, Jr., Thomas Paine: Apostle of Freedom, Four Walls Eight Windows, 1994
Jack Fruchtman, Jr., The Political Philosophy of Thomas Paine, Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 2011
David F. Hawke, Paine, W. W. Norton, 1974
Harvey J. Kaye, Thomas Paine and the Promise of America, Hill and Wang, 2005
John Keane, Tom Paine: A Political Life (Grove Great Lives), Little, Brown, 1995
Edward Larkin, Thomas Paine and the Literature of Revolution, Cambridge Univ. Press, 2005
Craig Nelson, Thomas Paine: Enlightenment, Revolution, and the Birth of Modern Nations, Viking, 2006
David Powell, Tom Paine: The Greatest Exile, St. Martin's, 1985
Bernard Vincent, The Transatlantic Republican: Thomas Paine and the Age of Revolutions, Rodopi, 2005
Audrey Williamson, Thomas Paine: His Life, Work and Times, St. Martin's, 1973
Jerome D. Wilson and William F. Ricketson, Thomas Paine (Twayne's United States Authors Series), Gale, 1978; reprint, Macmillan, 1989

Articles

John Alberger, "The Life and Character of Thomas Paine," The North American review, Vol. 57, Iss. 120, July 1843, pp. 1-58
Jon Katz, "The Age of Paine," Wired, Iss. 3.05, May 1995

Links

Works By Thomas Paine

Writings (Thomas Paine National Historical Association)
Thomas Paine (Internet Infidels )
Thomas Paine (World Union of Deists)
The Thomas Paine Library (Liberty Online)
The Writings of Thomas Paine (The Online Library of Liberty)
Document Library (TeachingAmericanHistory.org)
Common Sense (World Wide School Library)

Biographical Sites

Thomas Paine -- includes several works by Paine (ushistory.org)
A Biography of Thomas Paine (1737-1809) -- includes several works by Paine (Hypertext on American History)
Paine Biographies (Thomas Paine National Historical Association)
Thomas Paine and the Promise of America, The Massachusetts School of Law's "Books of Our Time" presents Harvey Kaye discussing his book Thomas Paine and the Promise of America, with Dean Lawrence R. Velvel
A Thetford son's stand against slavery (BBC)
Thomas Paine National Historical Association
Friends of Thomas Paine
Thomas Paine (1737-1809) (PAL: Perspectives in American Literature)

Religious Views

Religious and Political Thought of Thomas Paine
Six Historic Americans: Thomas Paine (Internet Infidels)



God & Country Home Search Page