William Edelen: Thomas Paine




It was Theodore Roosevelt who called Thomas Paine “the filthy little atheist.”

What that stupid statement accomplished was only to prove the ignorance of Roosevelt. Thomas Paine, one of our giant founders, was not in any sense an atheist. He did have a total contempt for the bible, the church and the clergy, as did our major Founding Fathers. But having a contempt for the bible and the clergy does not, in any sense, make one an atheist.

Thomas Paine was a devout deist, who said and wrote time and again “I believe in one God…”

He also wrote “I would not dare to so dishonor my Creator God by attaching His name to that book (the bible). Men and books lie. Only nature does not lie.”

He explained what he meant in these words. The character if Moses is the most horrid tale that can be imagined. Moses was a wretch that committed the most horrible atrocities that can be found in the literature of any nation. For Moses said unto them (according to the bible) kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known a man by lying with him, but all the women that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.”

“Among the most detestable villains in history, you could not find one worse than Moses. Here is an order, attributed to “God” to butcher the boys, to massacre the mothers and to debauch and rape the daughters. I would not dare so dishonor my Creator’s name by (attaching) it to this filthy book.”

And again, Paine wrote, “It is the duty of every true Deist to vindicate the moral justice of God against the evils of the bible.”

And again: “Accustom a people to believe that priests and clergy can forgive sins… and you will have sins in abundance.”

And again: “The Christian church has set up a religion of pomp and revenue in pretended imitation of a person (Jesus) who lived a life of poverty.”

George Washington read Paine’s words to his troops to keep their morale high and their passions aflame. Abraham Lincoln said that he, daily, read the writings of Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson.

Thomas Edison paid this tribute to Paine: “When we consider Paine’s planning of this great American republic, he may be justly considered the founder.” James Madison wrote these words: “Paine’s The Rights of Man is the clearest exposition written of the principles on which the United States is founded.”

It was Thomas Paine who gave us one of the most classic lines in all of literature, in words that should be over every church door, every school door, every state capitol, every government office and every judicial chamber: “Infidelity does not consist in believing or in disbelieving anything; but infidelity consists in professing to believe what a person does not believe. It is impossible to calculate the moral damage that mental lying has produced in society.”

Andrew Jackson gives us our final word: “Thomas Paine has erected a monument in the hearts of all lovers of liberty. His The Rights of Man will be more enduring than all the piles of marble and granite that man can erect.”

Paine did erect one of the great monuments of civilization. He called it… the United States of America.