176 of 182 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A defense of deism and a polemic against theism
Thomas Paine, like others among our nation's founders (Ethan Allen, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Joel Barlow), considered himself a deist, a term that encompasses a wide range of beliefs but is principally based on "religious rationalism": that, initially created by a benevolent God, the universe operates on rational rather than supernatural principles. Paine...
Published on May 15, 2004 by D. Cloyce Smith
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good argument against Revelation
Thomas Paine makes as powerful and argument as one might hope to make against the idea that the Bible - both the Old Testament and the New Testament - can possibly be direct revelations from God. His logic is very sound that revelation only occurs first to one person, and after that to believe in revelation is to put a great deal of trust in the person to whom revelation...
Published on October 26, 2008 by Will Jerom
Most Helpful First | Newest First
176 of 182 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A defense of deism and a polemic against theism,
Thomas Paine, like others among our nation's founders (Ethan Allen, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Joel Barlow), considered himself a deist, a term that encompasses a wide range of beliefs but is principally based on "religious rationalism": that, initially created by a benevolent God, the universe operates on rational rather than supernatural principles. Paine (and Allen), however, departed from the cautiously nuanced approach to religious issues adopted by his peers and vociferously rejected Judeo-Christian tenets and scriptures. In "The Age of Reason," Paine outlines his objections to theism and his belief in deism, and he dissects the inconsistencies in both the Old and New Testaments.
Paine published the book in two parts: the first he hurriedly finished in January 1794 when he realized he would be arrested during the French Revolution (passages were in fact written from the Luxembourg Palace in Paris, where he was imprisoned). The second part was written the following year, and he responds to the critics of the first part with a no-holds-barred attack on the veracity of the Bible.
Paine presents his basic belief that "it is only in the creation that all our ideas and conceptions of a word of God can unite," and later in the book he says that "the creation is the bible of the deist." To Paine, the Bible is the word of man, not the Word of God, and he confronts many of the literalist beliefs proffered by the clergy and worshippers in his day. Many of his arguments, once shocking and blasphemous, are now taken for granted. For instance, he analyzes internal evidence in the books allegedly written by Moses, Joshua, and Samuel to show that it's impossible for Moses, Joshua, and Samuel to have written them--a view that most Christians and nearly all biblical scholars acknowledge today. In other ways, he is way ahead of his time, pondering the minuteness of our world in the immensity of the universe, speculating that other planets around other stars may well hold other intelligent species, and mocking the resulting conclusion that "the Son of God . . . would have nothing else to do than to travel from world to world, in an endless succession of death."
Paine believes that God made a complex multi-world universe (rather than a single world) so that it would serve as a textbook for humankind: "As therefore the Creator made nothing in vain, so also must it be believed that he organized the structure of the universe in the most advantageous manner for the benefit of man." It is through this "revelation" of nature that believers can know God: "The principles of science lead to this knowledge; for the creator of man is the creator of science, and it is through that medium that man can see God, as it were, face to face."
Even if one disagrees with Paine (and many obviously do),"The Age of Reason" is an essential book both historically and philosophically. It should be read whether you hope to provide support for your own beliefs or to discover what non-Christians thought two centuries ago. It's inevitable that every reader will approach this book with an agenda, but even Christians should wrestle with Paine's arguments--since many of them are still heard today.
104 of 110 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Age of Reason is still sparking debate,
It is evident to me that the staying power of Paine's Age of Reason is strong-- I need only look through the mixed opinions here at Amazon to see how dramatically it impacts those who read it. For me, it was a great wake-up call. I read Age of Reason at the beginning of this year and didn't know much about what to expect. From the first few pages I knew that I had found a book that reflects how I feel about religion. Paine offers a sensible alternative to atheism and the vast supply of revealed religions that abound in the world. To be logical, Paine points out, you need not give up a belief in a Higher Power. But you also don't have to sell your soul to charlatans and holy books written hundreds of years ago by men, not gods.
The first half of Age of Reason outlines Paine's own beliefs as well as those he rejects. He gives reasons for every point he agrees or disagrees with and it is clear to the reader how Paine feels. Paine wants to spell out what his thoughts are so that he won't be misjudged by his peers. (Jefferson went through a similar ordeal-- because of his connections with France, he was labeled "a French infidel and atheist" neither of which was a true statement. See _The Religious Life of Thomas Jefferson_ for more info.)
In the second half, Paine sets out to show the Biblical discrepancies to those who wanted to prove his ideas false by using the Bible as their "evidence". In a relatively small number of pages, Paine debunks and demystifies (in my opinion) a fair amount of 'Christian' theology and scripture. If one man can do it so well in only a few pages, what does that say for revealed religion? That question is for each of us to answer individually and Age of Reason is required reading for anyone who is serious in doing just that.
71 of 76 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Most Remarkable Book Ever Written,
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
If the title above seems like hyperbole, I am prepared to defend it: Thomas Paine was one of the most important figures of the American revolution, his pamphlet "Common Sense" did more to bring the colonies to revolt than any other document. After the revolution he went to France believing the French revolution to be the next step in the development of the freedom of mankind. While there he was condemned to death by Robespierre and detained pending execution. Believing that his death was imminent, Paine wrote Part One of Age of Reason, which is a compelling critique of the Bible and the faults of Christianity. His analysis is thorough, detailed and compelling, which is particularly impressive since he did it entirely without access to a Bible! This topic will offend many (which explains Paine's current demise from the pantheon of revolutionary heroes) but it should be read both for its analysis of the Bible and for appreciation of one of America's founding fathers.
42 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Are you afraid to think?,
This review is from: Age of Reason (Library Binding)
Thomas Paine believed in a creator. He saw all around him the evidence of a creator. Within himself, he felt the inspiration of a creator. But he was repulsed by what he read in the Bible. I am in full agreement with Mr. Paine that the god depicted in the Bible and the man-made systems of religion which claim divine inspiration for authority are an insult to the creator. This book, whether one would agree with its conclusions or not, at least will inspire the reader to think about the books and teachings to which men tell us to bow. Paine analyzes the logic of revealed religions with the critical thinking he was given and encourages us to do the same. And why shouldn't we? The fact is, most people I have met have thought more about what kind of car to buy than about their religion. They have taken the religion of their parents as mindlessly as they put on socks. And most organized religions don't push the issue as long as the tax-free money keeps coming in. Thomas Paine states clearly and unflinchingly the arguments against revealed religions. And Paine's writing stands the test of time without the need of apologetics.
39 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars God through Reason,
Tom Paine's excellent thought provoking book, The Age of Reason, did much to help me clear my mind of superstition and develope a much more realistic idea of the Creator.
Paine shows there is a profound difference between "revealed" religion and God. He points out that all the different "revealed" religions have their own various "holy" books and all claim the other "revealed" religions and "holy" books are false.
Deism is offered as an alternative to both "revealed" religion and atheism. Deism is a reason-friendly spiritual philosophy/religion that teaches belief in God based on reason and nature, not on any of the books written by men. It's a revolution in religion! It's spiritual, not dogmatic!
Paine makes clear that if we want a better world WE NEED TO DO IT! We can't pray and dictate to God what needs to be done. We need to use our God-given reason and correct the problems we all face.
The Age of Reason also makes clear that the best way to serve God is to serve our fellow human beings. Being kind to others is key to Deism.
I'm very grateful to Tom Paine for having the courage to write this wonderful book. It has really helped change my life for the better. I'm now very active in the World Union of Deists and feel very postive about it!
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The freethinkers will always outweigh the Religious ...,
By A Customer
This review is from: Age of Reason (Library Binding)
This is the best book on freethinking that has walked the face of the earth. Many religious people say his arguments can be figured out by a three year old. Well, I have a rebuttal: Do we need to read the bible to know we shouldn't kill others? The more ironic thing, is that the religious conservatives know they have they basis for their claims, and when someone uses facts to prove them wrong, they can't handle it.
Paine points out that the Catholic religion was more cruel than the Greek religions. The reason is because in Greek times, religious people welcomed philsophers and scientists. In the days of Christianity, the free thinkers and scientists were burned at the stake. The Age of Reason means you think outside of oppressive thinking, which generally happens to be religion. Sorry, that's a fact and you can read history to see that more people have had their lives and freedom taken away in the name of God than anything else. It still goes on today.
27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Enlightenment Cometh!,
"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." [Age of Reason, conclusion chr.]
This statement sums up beautifully what Paine set out to do with his iconoclastic Age of Reason. While we have good reason to believe that a good number of American revolutionaries were non-traditionalists about religion, Age of Reason leaves no doubt Paine's feelings towards Christianity. His goal with this book is to show why the religion of "revealed Christianity" should be abandoned.
The first of two sections of AoR is devoted to showing how foolish the very belief in such ideas as revelations and miracles are - two things Christianity is premised on. Paine has a particular bone to pick with the idea of revelation. Something can only count as revelation, Paine says, to the person who directly recieves it. From there, it is only hearsay gotten second-hand. Thus, the Bible is not revelation, but hearsay. And miracles? Can they not be (a) things we don't understand yet; (b) mistakes in observation; or (c) lies, if we are told about them second-hand? There is no reason they cannot be any of these three.
The second part of the book goes into exacting detail to show that the Bible was likely not written by those originally claimed as authors. Was there any of the Bible written by Moses? Exegesis gives reasons to reject this as absurd. Samuel? The same applies. And as we should well know, the New Testament was written much later than would have been necessary to have any first-hand knowledge of this man called Jesus.
The secnod half, to be honest, may have been controversial at the time, but is hardly so now. Religious scholars seem on-board with the idea that the Bible and particularly the New Testament contain little if any first-hand accounts of anything.
And that is what makes Paine so angry: that we are taking books with no confirmed authorship, and whose honesty may easily be doubted, as the revealed word of God. Paine is a deist who obstinately holds that the best way to know God is through nature - His Creation, if you will. If God created the universe, then why do we need a book to tell us about God when we can just look at that universe?
To some - this author included - many of Paine's arguments will not be new. I've seen many of them elsewhere, from Bertrand Russell's "Why I'm Not a Christian," to Sam Harris's "The End of Faith" to George Smith's "Atheism: Case AGainst God." What makes Paine so special, though, is his rhetorical flair. Writing in an age where language was to be flowery and sentences were to be long, Paine writes in a remarkably terse and modern tone. He is obviously passionate about the subject and that makes for an exciting and invigorating read.
For anyone who wants a better idea at one of the 'religous' currents in America circa 1800, this is an exciting book, right up there alongside fellow deist Thomas Jefferson's own "Jefferson's Bible." And if you are a Christian who wants some food for thought, read this with... both eyes open.
24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why you should buy this book!,
I have been a freethinker for a year now, and I find the topic of religion as fascinating, especially now because I am not a part of it.
I have read many books from various skeptical authors like Ingersoll, Doherty, Acharya S, Twain, and Barker. I always avoided Paine because I thought 1700's literature might be a little dry and difficult to read. I was also getting to the point where I wasn't really expecting to get any new insight or critique of christianity. I WAS WRONG. Even if you have lots of good skeptic books, buy this one for the following 3 reasons.
1) Thomas Paine is a great writer! He is witty, humorous, and insightful. I only raised my eyebrow one or two times because of the language. (Shew = Shown btw)
2)Thomas Paine did not have the benefit of carbon dating, and a lot of the biblical documentation that skeptics take for granted today. He critiques the bible using the bible itself. His critiquing of biblical history and authorship book by book is eye candy to any skeptic. For example:
[If Moses wrote the pentatauch in third person then isn't] "Moses ridiculous and absurd: for example, Num 12:3 'now the man moses was very meek. Above all the men which were on the face of the earth' If Moses said this of himself then instead of being the meekest of men, he was one of the most vain and arragant coxcombs...If he was the author, the author is without credit, because to boast of meekness is the reverse of meekness, and is a lie in sediment."
Paine also uses clever internal dating techniques to show these documents were not written when they were supposed. How could Moses have known about the city of Dan (Gen 14) when its name wasn't changed (from Laish) until 331 years after his death (Judges 18). These little inconsistancies fill the second part of his book.
3) This book, especially the first part, tells about the history of paine's unique life and times in which he lived (especially france) through his own words.
Buy this book! If you like it, Buy any book by Robert Ingersoll they are all solid gold. I also recommend Dan Barker's "Losing Faith in Faith" for any beginning skeptic. Barker changed my life for the better.
"Where freedom is, there is my home" -Ben franklin
"Where freedom is not, there is mine" -Thomas Paine
42 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best book I have read on the subject of religion,
By A Customer
Thomas Paine's book against Christianity is a classic to Free-thinkers for its revolutionary courage and thought. I loved it for the honest, simple, eloquent language Paine brought to the work, and the countless errors and absurdities he found both in the Bible and the Church orthodoxy. The author gave the reader his opinions on religion, but his opinions consisted of far more than simple statements about what he thought of the doctrines of the Church. He gave his reasoning behind his denial of the virgin birth and mosaic account, and each reasoning is a blow to the religion's reasonable contentions. His belief in Deism and therefore a belief in God may be categorized as showing faith, but many do not realize the politics attached to the work. He wanted to take power away from the Church hierarchy while leading others from reactionary athiesm (believing in no God because of the belief was corrupted by the Church). Also, athiesm was not a rational conclusion during this time period because Newtonian science showed an intelligent system to the universe. The best recommendation for this book comes from those who did not give it 5 stars. They obviously disagree with the book's conclusions in some way. The atheist or agnostic cannot get over the fact that he accepted a God who revealed himself through science. The Christian says he missed the "true meaning" of the religion. They both remain silent about the evidence Paine brings against the Bible because they know he is correct, and so do I.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Still worth reading today,
This is a book which was written in 1795 but surprisingly enough is as clear and easy to read as books written today. The book consists of two parts, the fist is a discussion of deism as a rational religious belief and he second part consists of a textual analysis of the bible.
The second half is probably the more interesting part to read today. Payne goes through and compares the internal logic of the text of both the old and New Testament and Old Testament. The four gospels vary significantly in their account of a range of issues which Payne suggests proves that they were written in isolation from each other and suggests that their origin is hearsay. One example he raises is the account that suggests that when Jesus died the tombs of saints opened and they were returned to life. This rather significant event is not mentioned in the other gospels and that suggests that it was not true. He uses a similar approach to other gospels. In regard to the Old Testament he suggests convincingly that the suggestion that Moses wrote the first give books of the bible cannot be true. The key to understanding this is a close examination of the text. These books not only describe Moses life but also his death. The writing is inconsistent with personal authorship in other ways. (The text for instance suggesting that Moses was modest. If one was to make such an assertion about oneself it would not be consistent with the nature of the assertion)
The book is very short and apart from the discussion of the bible it is an interesting work in the context of history. It was written after the revolution but before Napoleon proclaimed himself emperor. Payne had little idea of what was to come and how quickly Catholicism would be re-introduced in France. An interesting book and the critique of the Bible is one of the foundations of modern scholarship in the area.
Most Helpful First | Newest First
Age Of Reason by Thomas Paine (Paperback - September 14, 2012)