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Was Thomas Paine An Atheist?
Since his death in 1809, Thomas Paine’s religious beliefs have been the subject of much debate and controversy. While Paine never explicitly stated that he was an atheist, it is clear from his writings and his actions that he was not a Christian and did not believe in organized religion.
Paine was born in the United Kingdom in 1737 and arrived in America in 1774, where he quickly became an influential figure in the American Revolution. Throughout his lifetime, Paine was a vocal advocate for freedom of religion and democracy, and he often used his writing to express his opinions, including his views on religion.
Paine never identified as a member of any single faith, and instead he advocated for a more individual approach to religion. He wrote frequently about the dangers of religious zealotry and argued that individuals should be free to choose their own religious beliefs. Paine was also highly critical of organized religion and often referred to the clergy as “priests of superstition.”
In The Age of Reason, his most famous work on religion, Paine directly attacked Christianity and argued that it was a man-made religion that had been corrupted by religious leaders. He also argued that the Bible was not the word of God, but rather a human-made book that contained errors and inconsistencies. Paine made it clear that he did not believe in the God of Christianity and argued that “all national institutions of churches appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.”
Paine’s views on religion were radical for his time and he was often harshly criticized for his opinions. He was even tried in absentia for blasphemy in England in 1792, but was ultimately pardoned by the Crown. His views on religion were so controversial that they even led to a rift between him and his close friend Benjamin Franklin.
In spite of the criticism, Paine remained steadfast in his views, and it is clear from his writings and his actions that he was not a Christian and did not believe in organized religion. While Paine never explicitly declared himself an atheist, his views on religion have lead many to conclude that he was indeed an atheist. As such, it is safe to say that Thomas Paine was an atheist.