Thomas Paine


When his revolutionary tract Common Sense appeared among the colonies, Paine (1737–1809) immediately became one of the most celebrated figures in America. By the time his The Age of Reason was printed, he had become one of the most hated. Though he was an important defender of the use of reason in religion, his belligerant attacks on Christianity did much to tarnish Deism and bring it into general disrepute.

Common Sense on the Origin of Government

The question of how the first societies came into being is standard among natural law theorists. Need is generally identified as the cause. Paine affirms this common thesis and applies it to the American situation.

Deism Compared to Christianity

Paine does not believe that Deism and Christianity can exist peacefully side-by-side. Deism is sufficient for the discovery of all theological truth and so must work to eradicate Christian "superstition" from society.

The Age of Reason on True Revelation

The source of our knowledge of God is not the revelation of the written word, but the revelation of creation. Nature must have had a Divine Cause. A few sections of the Bible actually advance this deistic view.

The Existence of God

Paine severely criticized Christianity, but he considered atheism to be equally implausible. God's existence, he held, is evident to the ordinary powers of the human mind through reasoned reflection on nature.