If one person can be truly said to have single-handedly pushed this country into a War of Independence from England it was patriot and pamphleteer Thomas Paine (1737 – 1809).
His book “Common Sense” provided a clarion call to open rebellion. When it appeared in January 1776 it sold 500,000 copies. One copy for every eight persons. Its stirring prose and cogent reasoning motivated Americans to defy King George lll. We chose to fight for freedom.
Paine’s second book (1784), “The Age of Reason” – a well-crafted Bible sandblasting – rebuffs today’s Rebiblican fundamentalists who in their misguided zeal would have us believe America’s founding fathers were gung-ho for making this a Christian Nation, and to hell with separation of church and state.
The main reason Paine’s name is drool on the parched and cracked lips of the biblical boob-ocrats is because Paine was a sharp-honed skeptic. “Every national Church or religion has established itself by pretending some special mission from God,” he wrote.
“Each accuses the other of unbelief; and for my own part, I disbelieve them all. If someone claims to hear the voice of God, it is a revelation to that person only. When he tells it to a second person it becomes hearsay; and consequently no one is obligated to believe it.”
Paine also questioned important Christian religious doctrines: “It appears that [Doubting] Thomas did not believe in the resurrection [of Jesus] and would not believe without ocular and manual proof himself. So neither will I: and the reason is equally good for me and every other person as for Thomas.”
Paine identified himself as a Deist. He found God was revealed in Nature, Jesus was human not God, both the Old and New Testaments were replete with myths, contradictions, and errors. In the “Age of Reason” he gave many examples to prove it.
Other important American patriots also challenged established, Christian sovereignty. John Adams was a Unitarian (and you know what they’re like) as was son, John Quincy. Thomas Jefferson put together his own version of the New Testament, editing out mythology and doctrine in favor of ethical content.
Jefferson urged his nephew to, “Question with boldness even the existence of God.” (Would that he had said the same of slavery, as he owned slaves and fathered children by one.)
James Madison was jailed for criticizing the Episcopal Church when it was Virginia’s established religion. Benjamin Franklin, another freethinker, was a Mason and a Rosicrucian occultist. He told many a true believer of his day to go fly a kite.
George Washington, nominally an Episcopalian, rarely attended church, although he spoke of the importance of religion in the life of the newly independent nation. Our first president was also a Mason, as were some 26 signers of the U.S. Constitution.
Come to think of it, instead of being a Christian Nation as political right-wingers like to claim these days, we are actually by heritage a Masonic Nation – with not six, but 32 degrees of separation.
I personally belong to the Fraternal Order of Rainbow Retirees myself. Or, is it the Lambda Outback of Older Odd Fellows Outspoken?