My response to David’s review of “The Age of Reason”
Before you read my response to David’s review, I want to offer you a preamble to my response to David’s review and my position about God and religion. I’m taking the liberty to paraphrase what Mr. Paine wrote in his book, for I believe the same way: “My disagreement with David and my disbelief in religion and God does not mean I condemn David or others who believe otherwise. They have a right to their beliefs as I do mine.”
David’s statements about Mr. Paine’s comments in “The Age of Reason” are in blue, and my response to David is in gray..
David stated: Paine's assertion that this Gospel narrative was just conjured up in men's minds from the heathen mythology either demonstrates ignorance of the Christian faith or his total disregard for the truth available to him.
My response: The “Holy Bible” is in fact a collection of writings written by men. None of the claims of miracles, stories or quotes of Jesus in the Bible can be validated to be true. It cannot be proved that Jesus was even a real person. David states Mr. Paine has a total disregard for the truth available to him. What truth? The Holy Bible? To assert the Bible is true is to ignore the numerous fallacies, contradictions, and the conjured-up miracles in the Bible. The truth is that one must have “faith” to believe in the Bible and “faith” is belief without evidence. Mr. Paine did not disregard the truth available to him if that meant the Holy Bible for the Holy Bible has not been proven to be true. His dissecting of the Christian religion was a brilliant commentary about the truth of Christianity.
David stated: In either case, his work is discredited, for one should not attempt to write upon a subject of which he knows nothing about and then must be true to what he does understand. Paine in his work "The Age of Reason" does neither.
My response: Cleary, Mr. Paine knew his subject because what he wrote made sense. His argument against Christianity and religion in general was reasonable and logical. One may not agree with his conclusions, but I don’t see how anyone could state he didn’t know his subject of discussion. Simply because one disagrees with Mr. Paine’s observations and commentary doesn’t mean his work isn’t creditable.
David stated: According to Paine, if God is going to reveal himself to man and offer him redemption through His Son Jesus Christ, he cannot do so in real time and as a historical event. It must not be recorded in history but be a real event in time every time for every human being who will ever live for that person to be obligated to believe it. That notion itself is utter foolishness and are we to be at the mercy of Mr. Paine and his dictating to God how God must work out the redemption of His own creation!
My response: Foolishness? Foolishness is a God that requires obedience to his word and yet does not provide verifiable evidence of his existence and an unfalsifiable document containing his so-called “Word”. Foolishness is a God that sacrifices himself to himself to give we sinners a loophole from the very rules he made up. Mr. Paine was simply pointing out that each of us who care about truth cannot rely upon hearsay and storytelling (myths & fables) about such an extraordinary claim about Jesus and redemption. Carl Sagan said, “"Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence". Mr. Paine is asking for extraordinary proof for an extraordinary claim.
David stated: There is absolutely no resemblance to any other form of religion or mythology that has ever been offered by the minds of men to be compared to the sacred text of the Old or New Testaments. This only requires one to do some work in examining and comparing the writings. There is only one conclusion one can honestly come to, there is nothing like the Scriptures in content or validity.
My response: Those who believe in the “holy books” of various religions, the Quran (Muslim), the Torah (Jewish), the Vedas (Hindu), the numerous “holy” books of Buddhism, and any other holy book for any other unnamed religion would say the same about the Holy Bible. Their “holy book(s)” is the truth and others are false. David continually claims Mr. Paine did not know what he was writing about. Perhaps he asserts that claim because Mr. Paine is attacking his religion. I don’t believe David knows what level of knowledge Mr. Paine had of Christianity or of any other religion. It appears to me as someone who is not blinded by my devotion to a religion, Mr. Paine’s Age of Reason is written by someone who does know his subject.
David stated: When presenting his objection, Paine of necessity should have been honest about what he was objecting. It is obvious from the work Paine has little understanding about the things of which he is writing. The result of "The Age of Reason" is to lead people into foolishness and the utter disregard of the truth.
My response: Once again David asserts Paine is clueless about Christianity with no evidence to support his claim. Is it not foolish to call a document (the Holy Bible) that is full of errors, contradictions and unfalsifiable as truth?
David provided Mr. Paine’s comment: "When also I am told that a woman called the Virgin Mary, said, or gave out, that she was with child without any cohabitation with a man, and that her betrothed husband, Joseph, said that an angel told him so, I have a right to believe them or not; such a circumstance required a much stronger evidence than their bare word for it; but we have not even this for neither Joseph nor Mary wrote any such matter themselves; it is only reported by others that they said so it is hearsay upon hearsay, and I do not choose to rest my belief upon such evidence." - Thomas Paine (The Age of Reason)
David’s comment about the above: Paine in his attempt to push his reason into reality here pulls a story out of the Gospel narrative and attempts to close the reader's mind to an examination of the sacred text. He could certainly choose not to believe the text; however, he must do so while staring the weight of history in the face.
My response: Once again, the Bible makes an unfalsifiable claim. A virgin birth? Where is the proof that Mary was a virgin when she became pregnant? Was there a blood test to see if Joseph was the father or someone else? No. Was there a blood test of Jesus? No. One might say that wasn’t available then, true. That is not our problem. The problem would be how could anyone believe of this miraculous conception without proof? (God would know but, if he is real, he failed miserably in providing evidence of Mary’s miraculous conception) Mr. Paine was correct to call the miraculous conception, as reported by others, hearsay upon hearsay. You stated Mr. Paine is attempting to close the reader’s mind to an examination to the sacred text? Really? No, He is not! He is merely stating his opinion about his examination about the “sacred text”?
David stated: This is not just an isolated story told by someone, it is attached to ancient documents of which there are thousands of copies in various languages and cultures.
My response: Again, hearsay upon hearsay and unfalsifiable.
David stated: The event itself was afore told by even older writers of the Old Testament in the Prophecies concerning the Christ. The account of the Christ, his birth, death, burial, and resurrection is the central theme in the revelation given in the sacred Scriptures. We have 66 books written by over 40 authors over the period of 1,500 years from different aspects of life all speaking the same theme. The weight of these things of course does not necessitate one must believe it, but if you reject it, at least be honest about what you are rejecting.
My response: Because David disagrees with Mr. Paine’s reasoning, he has no other choice than to claim Mr. Paine is dishonest because David cannot defend a story that has no evidence for being true.
David stated: Let's apply a little logic to Paine's affixing of right ideas to words, "But admitting, for the sake of a case, that something has been revealed to a certain person, and not revealed to any other person, it is revelation to that person only." - Thomas Paine. Using his reasoning, hypothetically speaking, if I'm walking down the road and find a strange plant, very green, and having three leaves and it seems to be growing on a vine. I examine it closely and discover that this plant causes a very serious rash on every part of the skin it touches. Now that is a revelation to me (one I "sorely" intend to remember), but according to Paine, if I warn you about its characteristics', you are not obliged to believe it because you did not experience it personally. Even if you do believe me, according to Paine, it is not a revelation, but only hearsay. This contradicts reason and again applies new definitions to words to add credence to his ideas, he seems to apply this technique often.
My response: David’s example above is nonsense. We can validate or prove a real experience. We cannot validate or prove someone reportedly experiencing a divine revelation in the mind or a one-on-one experience of some type. If David told me, he got a rash or some other physical ailment after touching a plant, I would tend to believe him because those things happen, and it can be proven. If one tells me, he had a revelation and it cannot be validated or proved, then it is hearsay.
David stated: According to Paine's reasoning, all the discoveries of Albert Einstein are now only hearsay, and we are not obliged to believe them because we did not discover them personally. Once truth is revealed, it remains truth as long as that truth is with us. Only if we lose that revelation is it necessary to rediscover it.
My response: David’s statement above is the one that got me up and out my chair yelling in disbelief “What, what?” In the words of our not-so-great President, “Come on man.” Einstein’s discoveries are hearsay! They have been proven to be true or are at least explained by scientific theory. There is evidence for all the things he discovered. By the way, scientific theory is not a guess. It is a conclusion of known facts. A scientific theory can change with new information and is the truth as best we can determine because of evidence. David said once truth is revealed it remains true. I’m sure David is talking about the Bible. The Bible is full of assertions and claims that simply cannot be validated or proven. His claim is that if it’s in the Bible it’s the truth. The Bible is full of hearsay,
David states: Paine says in his reasoning that he allows for such a revelation of God if God so pleases to give one. God has shown great mercy in giving such a revelation, but it was not good enough for Mr. Paine, unless God gave it to him personally. Then Paine demands that having done so, he is no responsibility to tell anyone of such revelation that God gave, for if he did it would only be hearsay. Paine's reasoning demands of God, that He (God) must give his revelation personally to every human being over and over again till the end of time, and that each one has no responsibility to warn anyone else for in doing so they would be spreading hearsay.
My response: Once again I must disagree with my friend, I absolutely agree with Mr. Paine’s statements above, he’s right! Of course, I disagree with Mr. Paine’s belief in a God, but I understand his comments above if one believes in a God. I ask my friend David to reread Mr. Paine’s statements above with an open mind and he may find that he understands Mr. Paine’s view even though he disagrees.
David stated: [according to Mr. Paine’s reasoning] Theologians who gave their lives studying this revelation would be only spreading hearsay to reveal their discoveries. Any common man when taking the time to consider the ramblings presented in "The Age of Reason" can see the absolute nonsense of his reasoning and utter lack of logic.
My response: Correct David! Hearsay is information received from other people that one cannot adequately substantiate. When theologians study revelations from the Bible they are studying hearsay or rumor. I don’t understand how a “common man” can’t at least agree that is hearsay. You can still believe hearsay, but it cannot be called “the truth.” I am a “common man” and I find Mr. Paine’s book “The Age of Reason” to be reasonable, logical, and enlightening.
David states: The logic and reason of Paine's "My own mind is my own church" soon break down. How is that going to be worked out in society?
My response: The answer to David’s question about how that is going to be worked out in society is: The same way today millions and millions of people who do not believe in Christianity or even a God live their lives their way. History is full of religious wars and mass murder (9-11 for example) because of the dogmatic promotion of religions and Gods. If more people kept their religion and God in their mind and not practice their religion in public, perhaps this world might be a better place. Mr. Paine was a deist and not a Christian. David cannot prove Mr. Paine’s way is the wrong way and David cannot prove Christianity is the right and true religion. By the way, using the Bible to prove that Christianity is the right and true religion is circular reasoning and is not acceptable evidence for that purpose.
David stated: He says he believes in one God and no more, yet in his own mind he conceives this notion of spirituality. How is anyone going to know this god that is in his own mind? No one can know this god but him, they are left to discover the god that reside in their mind and their understanding.
My response: There is nothing wrong with that.
David states: What he says one must believe becomes the very thing he says he does not believe. The one god he aspires everyone to believe in becomes many gods, the creations of many minds working from the table of human understanding.
My response: How is that any different than Christianity. There are so many different denominations within Christianity. Just look at how many different variations there are in Baptists. It appears to me there are hundreds if not thousands of different Gods within Christianity.
David stated: The one god Paine ascribes to, is the same as all the other gods of world religions that are contrived in the minds of men.
My response: All the religions of the world, including Christianity, were contrived in the minds of men. There is not one religious document written by either a God or Jesus Christ. The Holy Bible, even though it is often called the Word of God, is said to be inspired Word of God. God did not write the Holy Bible. Jesus did not write any literature. The God character of the Holy Bible, as best we can tell, was conjured-up in the minds of men. The entire Holy Bible is nothing more than hearsay and fantasy.
David states: They all prescribe a way by which those gods can be appeased, and eternal bliss obtained by some human effort or work. Paine's god offered him hope of happiness beyond this life and allowed him the pleasure of retaining the sins he took such pleasure in. What did he offer as atonement for his sins? Somehow his mind reasoned the good in his life would pay for the bad, or his god must simply unjustly look over sin and forgo judgment. This is in contrast to Christianity, which demonstrates man's corruption and his utter helplessness to answer for his crimes.
My response: Does not the Christian religion prescribe a way to appease the God of the Holy Bible? Yes, it does. According to the Holy Bible, Jesus Christ covers the sins of the sinners and to appease God allowing mankind to retain his sins because mankind is incapable of being without sin, according to the Christian religion.
David stated: But to the man who will not humble himself from his pride and deems himself worthy in value to pay of infinite debt, one must resort to Paine's god of his own mind. He then must stand in the face of God and declare I need not your gift of grace, I am able to pay my own debt!
My response: I do not see Mr. Paine’s book as an exercise in pride. He simply explains his observations and thoughts about God and Christianity and how he deals with the concept of a God as a deist. As a deist there are no rules to go by from a book filled with hearsay and rumor. Mr. Paine has no need to humble himself to a mythical God of the Christian religion.
David and his fellow Christians can no more prove Mr. Paine’s deism is wrong than they can prove their religion is right. I cannot prove any religion is wrong either, but I can and do reject all religions until one or more religions (that would be wild) is true.
Mr. Paine failed to prove a God exists but at least he saw the tremendous amount of nonsense the religion of Christianity (and all religions) display. Within his own mind he resolves the question is there a God? He chose to believe there is a God and worships that God in his own personal way. Nothing wrong with that considering the alternative: religious wars, personal sacrifice to needless and sometimes nonsensical rules and bigotry towards individuals of other religions. Although, there is one other alternative: do not believe in a God until it is proven there is a God.
Mr. Paine’s book The Age of Reason was way ahead of it’s time. Remember, just a short one hundred years earlier, Americans conducted the Salem Witch Trials which resulted in the deaths of innocent women. Humanity still has a way to go to shed the belief in a mythical God that threatens the preservation of humanity on earth. The need for an age of reason is now.