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The School of Thought in Common Sense and The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine in his work, Common Sense (1776) appeals to reason and the employment of human common sense, according to the prevailing age of Enlightenment or Reason. He poses in support for independence from Britain. America’s welfare, in his view, should never be reliant upon Britain. Britain’s attachment to the U.S. springs only from selfish, vested interests but America owes no allegiance to Britain since both continents are distinct and separate as the two continents. Pained at some Americans still holding on to the coattails of mother Britain, Paine declares that Americans are immigrant Europeans whose mother is now America. Paine also stresses that there is no advantage to be gained in retaining British colonies and their identities. Since strained political relations, bloodshed, conflict are the consequences of British colonialism, Britain cannot be trusted even as an American ally. America’s main industries are trade and commerce hence continued league with Britain only will alienate potential trading partners. Britain’s only legacy to America has been strife, and plunder. Like Britain, America claims her right to self-government, and freedom, and therefore had to break free of the English yoke.

Thomas Paine in his work The Age of Reason (1794) asserts that each religion has an authoritative figure from whose lips inspiration and revelation are given and accepted by the faithful. Paine does not doubt the direct revelation given to prophets like Jesus, Moses and Mohammed but he affirms that blind belief by a second or third party is only hearsay. He therefore concludes that religion is hearsay since revelation is restricted to the first person. He undermines Christianity because it contains no original values only borrowed concepts from other heathen cultures. It must be understood that Paine subscribes to Deism which affirms the existence of God but does not validate any other doctrinal belief based on sacred text; instead revelation comes through personal experience.

The Age of Reason is published during the French Revolution where there is an abolition of state religion and binding articles of faith. The treatise puts forward Paine’s atheistic and agnostic beliefs. For example, he states that Jesus is not divinity as Christendom believes; rather, He is a copy of Confucius and other Greek philosophers who preceded him. Paine discredits the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ because concrete proof is lacking, according to popular scientific thought. He boldly asserted that Jesus himself never wrote an autobiographical work and denounces the whole of Christianity as a fable which only the gullible believe. Science and reason neglect and challenge formerly cherished Christian principles and truths. Enlightened philosophes demand tangible evidence for every argument. Paine rejects the holy inspiration of the Bible and gives logical explanation for supernatural events. He also stresses on the separation between church and state doctrine which places both church and state and two distinct entities which should never harmonise, or else certain core liberties would be compromised.

In sum, Paine’s school of thought merely reflects those of a lot of the philosophes during the enlightened and revolutionary period spanning 1770-1790. The consummation of Paine’s belief systems gave birth to modern American democracy which endorses the secular State, separated from the Church and the ascendancy of Science and Humanism, all viewed as sterling political standards that are common sense.

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