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The Age of Reason

av Thomas Paine

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
1,5242911,818 (4.24)22
Paine's years of study and reflection on the role of religion in society culminated with this, his final work. An attack on revealed religion from the deist point of view -- embodied by Paine's credo, "I believe in one God, and no more" -- its critical and objective examination of Old and New Testaments cites numerous contradictions.… (mer)
  1. 10
    Brev från jorden av Mark Twain (Waldheri)
    Waldheri: Similar because: both are easy to read and have similar anti-religious goals.
  2. 00
    Incredible Shrinking Son of Man: How Reliable Is the Gospel Tradition? av Robert M. Price (paradoxosalpha)
    paradoxosalpha: Paine soundly trashes the idea that Jesus was a god; Price puts paid to the notion that he was a man.
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» Se även 22 omnämnanden

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I read this in college. The second time reading it, I was even more awed by the insightfulness of Paine. His view of politics is just as relevant today as it was when he wrote it. Sad that history keeps repeating the same political experiments, with new generations expecting different results. ( )
  JoniMFisher | Oct 26, 2023 |
Thomas Paine was a leading public intellectual of the 18th-century American Revolution, with his pamphlets Common Sense and The American Crisis as chief texts of the "spirit of 1776." He followed these publications with his Rights of Man to defend the French and American revolutionary efforts against reactionary political sentiment in England. His final major work The Age of Reason was written as an expatriate in France. The first and shorter part he composed under the shadow of imminent arrest and possible execution, without recourse to a copy of the Bible that it criticizes. The second part includes a more detailed evaluation of Christian scripture, on grounds of both its provenance and internal features.

"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" (189-90). Raised by Quakers, Paine was an exemplary Deist of his period and staunchly anti-Christian. His distaste for Christianity is entirely consistent with and often justified by his Deist piety, refusing to attribute to the godhead sentiments and behaviors offensive to human conscience.

Paine's dismantling of claims that the Bible should be regarded as the "Word of God" remain effective today, performed entirely around the evident sense of the texts themselves, without recourse to the "higher criticism" already being developed in Paine's time, which was to prove so damning to the historical pretenses of Bible reception. He does verge on source criticism at a couple of points in discussing the evident "Gentile" origins of certain component texts of the Bible, but simply refers to the judgments of Jewish authorities (Abenezra and Spinoza) and the texts' inconsistency with ancient Hebrew culture and religious sentiment (124-5), rather than any putative source texts. Paine's attacks on the moral features of the supposed heroes of the Bible have not lost any of their force or relevance.

While Aleister Crowley was later to take up as a rallying cry Paine's maxim that "Mystery is the antagonist of truth" (76), I would not say the Beast intended it in just the same unsubtle sense as the venerable Revolutionary, although mystery's envelopment of truth in Paine's argument foreshadows Crowley's incantation. Paine classes mystery with miracle and prophecy as the three invidious organs of revealed or "fabulous" religion (75, 80-2), which he opposes to the "true" religion grounded in scientific admiration for nature and individual conformity to reasoned ethics.

Miracle is faulty for "degrading the Almighty into the character of a show-man, playing tricks to amuse and make the people stare and wonder" (79). The enlightened man of reason (dare I say "magician") will stare and wonder at unadorned reality, of course. As regards prophecy, Paine makes an important distinction between the archaic sense that he finds for the word in the Hebrew Bible, where it evidently means musical performance and/or poetry (35-7), and the "modern" sense in which "prophet" takes the place of "seer" indicating a claimant to divinely-guided psychic foreknowledge (81-2, 111 citing 1 Samuel 9:9). "Prophet" thus ultimately descends to a mere synonym for "liar," particularly in such cases as Isaiah, whose prognostication was contradicted by the subsequent course of events (133-4).

A full chapter of the first part of The Age of Reason is dedicated to "The Effects of Christianism on Education," sadly relevant to the US of the 21st century. The Christian institutions of education substitute indoctrination for learning, in order to profit by the resulting ignorance and cognitive dissonance. Today, we can see the further turn of the wheel in which Christians accuse sincere secular efforts to foster learning with the psychologically projected charge of "indoctrination," since that is the only function they can see in schooling. Current attacks on public libraries and new laws to put schoolteachers in ideological straight-jackets manifest such perspectives in policy, although the recurring phenomenon is as old as the US nation-state, a polity distinctive for its historical adoption of anti-literacy laws.

My Dover paperback copy of The Age of Reason reproduces the 1896 Putnam's edition by Moncure Daniel Conway, which reconciled the first-published French text with the later unauthorized English edition, noting the variances in footnotes. Conway also appended some correspondence by Paine regarding the work: one letter to "a friend" clarifying the book's thesis, and another in response to his Revolutionary comrade Sam Adams. The latter clearly shows the Deist anti-Christian Paine to have a greater magnanimity of spirit than his Puritan interlocutor Adams.
2 rösta paradoxosalpha | Aug 26, 2022 |
Final sentence:
"I have shown in all the foregoing parts of this work, that the Bible and Testament are impositions and forgeries; and I leave the evidence I have produced in proof of it, to be refuted, if any one can do it: and I leave the ideas that are suggested in the conclusion of the work, to rest on the mind of the reader; certain as I am, that when opinions are free, either in matters of government or religion, truth will finally and powerfully prevail."
Wow. ( )
  dhaxton | May 10, 2022 |
The Age of Reason (by Thomas Paine)

Reviewed 5/4/23. Why I picked this book up: I read Common Sense, The Rights of Man and Other Essential Writings of Thomas… and enjoyed these sorts of books and thinking I'd get more good hx from reading this hoping to find other golden nuggets I jumped in.

Thoughts: Thinking this man was adding to my knowledge looked forward to this book . This book was more from a deist perspective and about knocking his upbringing as a Christian Bible believer that I disagreed with.

Why I finished this read: The Age of Reason, was difficult for me to finish, but I did. I finished it but it was not my thing.

I rated this 2 out of 5 stars ( )
  DrT | Mar 6, 2022 |
Paine does a quite convincing job in debunking the Bible (as he calls only the Old Testament) and New Testament as any revelation or word of god, let alone a contemporaneous historical account of the times, by underscoring inconsistencies within the texts themselves to contest their authenticity of authorship, and thereby their reliability. He attributes many of the biblical stories to being merely old fables recast to suit the purposes of the authors. However, his treatment of this matter is overly simplistic and fails to appreciate (albeit understandably) the important role of these underlying mythologies in the evolution of our culture and, especially, psychology; although, to be fair, that's admittedly beyond the scope of what he set out to achieve, which has more to do with authenticity than utility. Finally, it is ironic that Paine strongly affirms his Deist faith in a Creator and a life hereafter, yet on the slimmest of premises: he cannot otherwise rationally explain how the universe may have come to be. One wonders whether he would still profess this faith were he alive today, given advances in scientific understanding in the more than two centuries since he wrote his treatise. ( )
  m.j.brown | Dec 13, 2020 |
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Mystery is the antagonist of truth.
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Paine's years of study and reflection on the role of religion in society culminated with this, his final work. An attack on revealed religion from the deist point of view -- embodied by Paine's credo, "I believe in one God, and no more" -- its critical and objective examination of Old and New Testaments cites numerous contradictions.

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