This weekend I finished penning my next piece for Patriots of the American Revolution. The article presents the story behind Thomas Paine’s controversial publication “The Age of Reason.” As the subject of religion and the Founding Fathers is debated ad nauseam, and due to the fact these guys have given us a plethora of contradictory quotes that can be used to support both pro- and anti-religious agendas, it’s actually nice to see someone who was absolutely clear in their convictions. I don’t believe anyone will ever argue that Thomas Paine was fond of organized religion, the bible, or the church. He pretty much detested all of them. My article goes into detail of his spiritual beliefs (or lack thereof), as well as the background to as why he wrote “The Age of Reason” in the tone that he did. What I find most curious (especially after writing this article) is how folks like Glenn Beck can hijack the persona of Thomas Paine in order to support their own political agendas. The irony is that Paine was radically progressive, and in some ways, socialist.
After all, this is the guy who wrote: Taking it then for granted that no person ought to be in a worse condition when born under what is called a state of civilization, than he would have been had he been born in a state of nature, and that civilization ought to have made, and ought still to make, provision for that purpose, it can only be done by subtracting from property a portion equal in value to the natural inheritance it has absorbed. He later states: Create a national fund, out of which there shall be paid to every person, when arrived at the age of twenty-one years, the sum of fifteen pounds sterling, as a compensation in part, for the loss of his or her natural inheritance, by the introduction of the system of landed property. And also, the sum of ten pounds per annum, during life, to every person now living, of the age of fifty years, and to all others as they shall arrive at that age. – Thomas Paine, “Agrarian Justice,” 1797