On Deism and the Writings of Thomas Paine
The following reflections, written last winter, were
occasioned by certain expressions in some of the public papers against
Deism and the writings of Thomas Paine on that subject.
"Great is Diana of the Ephesians,"
was the cry of the people of Ephesus (Acts xix. 28); and the cry of
"our holy religion" has been
the cry of superstition in some instances, and of hypocrisy in others,
from that day to this.
The Brahmin, the follower of Zoroaster, the Jew, the
Mahometan, the Church of Rome, the Greek Church, the Protestant Church,
split into several hundred contradictory sectaries, preaching in some
instances damnation against each other, all cry out,
"our holy religion."
The Calvinist, who damns children of a span long to
hell to burn forever for the glory of God, (and this is called
Christianity), and the Universalist who preaches that all shall be saved
and none shall be damned, (and this also is called Christianity), boast
alike of their holy religion and their Christian faith.
Something more therefore is necessary than mere
cry and wholesale assertion,
and that something is TRUTH; and as inquiry is the road to truth, he
that is opposed to inquiry is not a friend to truth.
The God of Truth is not the God of fable; when,
therefore, any book is introduced into the world as the Word of God, and
made a ground-work for religion, it ought to be scrutinized more than
other books to see if it bear evidence of being what it is called. Our
reverence to God demands that we do this, lest we ascribe to God what is
not His, and our duty to ourselves demands it lest we take fable for
fact, and rest our hope of salvation on a false foundation.
It is not our calling a book
holy that makes it so, any
more than our calling a religion holy that entitles it to the name.
Inquiry therefore is necessary in order to arrive at truth. But inquiry
must have some principle to proceed on, some standard to judge by,
superior to human authority.
When we survey the works of Creation, the revolutions
of the planetary system, and the whole economy of what is called nature,
which is no other than the laws the Creator has prescribed to matter, we
see unerring order and universal harmony reigning throughout the whole.
No one part contradicts another. The sun does not run against the moon,
nor the moon against the sun, nor the planets against each other.
Everything keeps its appointed time and place.
This harmony in the works of God is so obvious, that
the farmer of the field, though he cannot calculate eclipses, is as
sensible of it as the philosophical astronomer. He sees the God of order
in every part of the visible universe.
Here, then, is the standard to which everything must
be brought that pretends to be the work or Word of God, and by this
standard it must be judged, independently of anything and everything
that man can say or do. His opinion is like a feather in the scale
compared with the standard that God himself has set up.
It is, therefore, by this standard, that the Bible,
and all other books pretending to be the Word of God, (and there are
many of them in the world,) must be judged, and not by the opinions of
men or the decrees of ecclesiastical councils. These have been so
contradictory, that they have often rejected in one council what they
had voted to be the word of God in another; and admitted what had been
In this state of uncertainty in which we are, and
which is rendered still more uncertain by the numerous contradictory
sectaries that have sprung up since the time of Luther and Calvin, what
is man to do? The answer is easy. Begin at the root -- begin with the
Bible itself. Examine it with the utmost strictness. It is our duty so
Compare the parts with each other, and the whole with
the harmonious, magnificent order that reigns throughout the visible
universe, and the result will be, that if the same Almighty wisdom that
created the universe dictated also the Bible, the Bible will be as
harmonious and as magnificent in all its parts, and in the whole, as the
But if, instead of this, the parts are found to be
discordant, contradicting in one place what is said in another, (as in
II Sam. xxiv, 1, and I Chron. xxi, 1, where the same action is ascribed
to God in one book and to Satan in the other,) abounding also in idle
and obscene stories, and representing the Almighty as a passionate,
whimsical Being, continually changing His mind, making and unmaking His
own works as if He did not know what He was about, we may take it for
certainty that the Creator of the universe is not the author of such a
book, that it is not the Word of God, and that to call it so is to
dishonor His name.
The Quakers, who are a people more moral and regular
in their conduct than the people of other sectaries, and generally
allowed so to be, do not hold the Bible to be the word of God.
They call it a history of
the times, and a bad history it is, and also a history of bad men
and of bad actions, and abounding with bad examples.
For several centuries past the dispute has been about
doctrines. It is now about fact. Is the Bible the Word of God, or is it
not? For until this point is established, no doctrine drawn from the
Bible can afford real consolation to man, and he ought to be careful he
does not mistake delusion for truth. This is a case that concerns all
There has always existed in Europe, and also in
America, since its establishments, a numerous description of men, (I do
not here mean the Quakers,) who did not, and do not believe the Bible to
be the Word of God. These men never formed themselves into an
established society, but are to be found in all the sectaries that
exist, and are more numerous than any, perhaps equal to all, and are
daily increasing. From Deus,
the Latin word for God, they have been denominated
Deists, that is, believers in
God. It is the most honorable appellation that can be given to man,
because it is derived immediately from the Deity. It is not an
artificial name like Episcopalian, Presbyterian, etc., but is a name of
sacred signification, and to revile it is to revile the name of God.
Since then there is so much doubt and uncertainty
about the Bible, some asserting and others denying it to be the Word of
God, it is best that the whole matter come out. It is necessary for the
information of the world that it should.
A better time cannot offer than while the Government,
patronizing no one sect or opinion in preference to another, protects
equally the rights of all; and certainly every man must spurn the idea
of an ecclesiastical tyranny, engrossing the rights of the press, and
holding it free only for itself.
While the terrors of the Church, and the tyranny of
the State, hung like a pointed sword over Europe, men were commanded to
believe what the Church told them, or go to the stake. All inquiries
into the authenticity of the Bible were shut out by the Inquisition. We
ought therefore to suspect that a great mass of information respecting
the Bible, and the introduction of it into the world, has been
suppressed by the united tyranny of Church and State, for the purpose of
keeping people in ignorance, and which ought to be known.
The Bible has been received by the Protestants on the
authority of the Church of Rome, and on no other authority. It is she
that has said it is the Word of God.
We do not admit the authority of that Church with respect to its
pretended infallibility, its
manufactured miracles, its setting itself up to forgive sins, its
amphibious doctrine of transubstantiation, etc.; and we ought to be
watchful with respect to any book introduced by her, or her
ecclesiastical councils, and called by her the Word of God: and the more
so, because it was by propagating that belief and supporting it by fire
and faggot, that she kept up her temporal power.
That the belief of the Bible does no good in the
world, may be seen by the irregular lives of those, as well priests as
laymen, who profess to believe it to be the Word of God, and the moral
lives of the Quakers who do not. It abounds with too many ill examples
to be made a rule for moral life, and were a man to copy after the lives
of some of its most celebrated characters, he would come to the gallows.
Thomas Paine has written to show that the Bible is not
the Word of God, that the books it contains were not written by the
persons to whom they are ascribed, that it is an anonymous book, and
that we have no authority for calling it the Word of God, or for saying
it was written by inspired penmen, since we do not know who the writers
This is the opinion not only of Thomas Paine, but of
thousands and tens of thousands of the most respectable characters in
the United States and in Europe. These men have the same right to their
opinions as others have to contrary opinions, and the same right to
publish them. Ecclesiastical tyranny is not admissible in the United
With respect to morality, the writings of Thomas Paine
are remarkable for purity and benevolence; and though he often enlivens
them with touches of wit and humor, he never loses sight of the real
solemnity of his subject. No man's morals, either with respect to his
Maker, himself, or his neighbor, can suffer by the writings of Thomas
It is now too late to abuse Deism, especially in a country where the press is free, or where free presses can be established. It is a religion that has God for its patron and derives its name from Him. The thoughtful mind of man, wearied with the endless contentions of sectaries against sectaries, doctrines against doctrines, and priests against priests, finds its repose at last in the contemplative belief and worship of one God and the practice of morality; for as Pope wisely says,
“He can't be wrong, whose life is in the right."
The survey shows a giant step forward for Deism in the fact that it actually uses the word "Deist" and for the very significant raw numbers it shows as representing the number of people who are Deists. In reality, the number of Deists is actually higher than the survey shows because the survey uses an outdated definition of Deist. For a more accurate definition please see our Deism Defined page.
Click here to read the actual survey. (It's in PDF)
One of the reasons the freethinker Giordano Bruno was tortured and murdered by being burned alive by the Catholic Church during the Inquisition was that he said the Universe is eternal and infinite which violates the superstitions in the Bible found in Genesis. This new study vindicates Bruno.
Obama supporters forget that when all is said and done, Obama is just another politician. This article shows he's proving that he is nothing but a politician by doing more than any other president to mix religion and government, especially through giving tax-dollars to religious organizations.