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believe me ? certainly they would not. Would they believe



PART I. THE AGE OF REASON. 49

me a whit the more if the thing had been a fact; certainly
they would not. Since then a real miracle, were it to hap-
pen, would be subject to the same fate as the falsehood,
the inconsistency becomes the greater, of supposing the Al-
mighty would make use of means that would not answer
the purpose for which they were intended, even if they were
real.

If we are to suppose a miracle to be something so entirely
out of the course of what is called nature, that she must go
out of that course to accomplish it, and we see an account
given of such miracle by the person who said he saw it, it
raises a question in the mind very easily decided, which is,
is it more probable that nature should go out of her course,
or that a man should tell a lie? We have never seen, in
our time, nature go out of her course; but we have good
reason to believe that millions of lies have been told in the
same time; it is, therefore, at least millions to one, that the
reporter of a miracle tells a lie.

The story of the whale swallowing Jonah, though a whale
is large enough to do it, borders greatly on the marvellous ;
but it would have approached nearer to the idea of miracle,
if Jonah had swallowed the whale. In this, which may serve
for all cases of miracles, the matter would decide itself, as
before stated, namely, is it more probable that a man should
have swallowed a whale, or told a lie.

But supposing that Jonah had reallyjswallowed the whale,
and gone with it in his belly to Ninevah, and to convince
the people that it was true, have cast it up in their sight, of
the full length and size of a whale, would they not have be-
lieved him to have been the devil, instead of a prophet? or,
if the whale had carried Jonah to Ninevah, and cast him up
in the same public manner, would they not have believed
the whale to have been the devil, and Jonah one of his imps ?

The most extraordinary of all the things called miracles,
related in the New Testament, is that of the devil flying
away with Jesus Christ, and carrying him to the top of a
high mountain ; and to the top of the highest pinnacle of
the temple, and shewing him and promising to him all the
kingdoms of the world. How happened it that he did not
discover America; or is it only with kingdoms that his sooty
highness has any interest ?

I have too much respect for the moral character of Christ,
to believe that he told this whale of a miracle himself; nei-
ther is it easy to account for what purpose it could have
been fabricated, unless it were to impose upon the connois-

H



50 THE ACE OF REASON. PAttT I.

seurs of miracles, as is sometimes practised upon the con-
noisseurs of Queen Anne's farthings, and collectors of relics
and antiquities; or to render the belief of miracles ridicu-
lous, by outdoing miracle, as Don Quixote outdid chivalry ;
or to embarrass the belief of miracles, by making it doubtful
by what power, whether of God or of the Devil, any thing
called a miracle was performed. It requires, however, a
great deal of faith in the devil to believe this miracle.

In every point of view in which those things called mira-
cles can be placed and considered, the reality of them is
improbable, and their existence unnecessary. They would
not, as before observed, answer any useful purpose, even if
they were true ; for it is more difficult to obtain belief to a
miracle, than to a principle evidently moral, without any
miracle. Moral principle speaks universally for itself.
Miracle could be but a thing of the moment, and seen but
by a few ; after this it requires a transfer of faith from God
to man, to believe a miracle upon man's report. Instead
therefore of admitting the recitals of miracles as evidence of
any system of religion being true, they ought to be consi-
dered as sypmtoms of its being fabulous. It is necessary to
the full and upright character of truth, that it rejects the
crutch ; and it is consistent with the character of fable, to
seek the aid that truth rejects. Thus much for mystery and
miracle.

As mystery and miracle took charge of the past and the
present, prophesy took charge of the future, and rounded
the tenses of faith. It was not sufficient to know what had
been done, but what would be done. The supposed pro-
phet was the supposed historian of times to come ; and if
he happened, in shooting with a long bow of a thousand
years, to strike within a thousand miles of a mark, the in-
genuity of posterity could make it point-blank; and if he
happened to be directly wrong, it was only to suppose, as in
the case of Jonah and Ninevah, that God had repented him-
self and changed his mind. What a fool do fabulous systems
make of man !

It has been shewn, in a former part of this work, that the
original meaning of the words prophet and prophesying has
been changed, and that a prophet, in the sense of the word
as now used, is a creature of modern invention ; and it is
owing to this change in the meaning of the words, that the
flights and metaphors of the Jewish poets and phrases and
expressions now rendered obscure, by our not being acquaint-
ed,with the local circumstances to which they applied at the



PART I. THE AGE OF REASON. 51

time they were used, have been erected into prophecies,
and made to bend to explanations, at the will and whimsical
conceits of sectaries, expounders, and commentators. Every
thing unintelligible was prophetical, and every thing insig-
nificant was typical. A blunder would have served for a
prophecy ; and a dish-clout for a type.

If by a prophet we are to suppose a man, to whom the
Almighty communicated some event that would take place
in future, either there were such men, or there were not.
If there were, it is consistent to believe that the event, so
communicated, would be told in terms that could be under-
stood ; and not related in such a loose and obscure manner
as to be out of the comprehension of those that heard it,
and so equivocal as to fit almost any circumstance that
might happen afterwards. It is conceiving very irreverent-
ly of the Almighty, to suppose he would deal in this jesting
manner with mankind ; yet all the things called prophesies
in the book called the Bible, come under this description.

But it is with prophecy as it is with miracle ; it could
not answer the purpose even if it were real. Those to whom
a prophecy should be told, could not tell whether the man
prophesied or lied, or whether it had been revealed to him,
or whether he conceited it; and if the thing that he pro-
phesied, or intended to prophecy, should happen, or some-
thing like it, among the multitude of things that are daily
happening, nobody could again know whether he foreknew
it, or guessed at it, or whether it was accidental. A pro-
phet, therefore, is a character useless and unnecessary ; and
the safe side of the case is, to guard against being imposed
upon by not giving credit to such relations.

Upon the whole, mystery, miracle, and prophecy, are
appendages that belong to fabulous and not to true religion.
They are the means by which so many Lo heres ! and Lo
theres! have been spread about the world, and religion
been made into a trade. The success of one impostor gave
encouragement to another, and the quieting salvo of doing
some good by keeping up a pious fraud, protected them from
remorse.

Having now extended the subject to a greater length
than I first intended, I shall bring it to a close by abstract-
ing a summary from the whole.

First That the idea or belief of a word of God existing
in print, or in writing, or in speech, is inconsistent in itself
for reasons already assigned. These reasons, among many
others, are the want of an universal language ; the muta-

H2



52 THE AGE OF REASON. PART I.

bility of language ; the errors to which translations are
subject ; the possibility of totally suppressing such a word ;
the probability of altering it, or of fabricating the whole,
and imposing it upon the world.

Secondly That the Creation we behold is the real and
ever existing word of God, in which we cannot be deceived.
It proclaims his power, it demonstrates his ^wisdom, it
manifests his goodness and beneficence.

Thirdly That the moral duty of man consists in imitating
the moral goodness and beneficence of God manifested in
the Creation towards all his creatures. That seeing as we
daily do the goodness of God to all men, it is an example
calling upon all men to practise the same towards each
other; and consequently that everything of persecution and
revenge between man and man, and every thing of cruelty
to animals, is a violation of moral duty.

I trouble not myself about the manner of future exist-
ence. I content myself with believing, even to positive
conviction, that the power that gave me existence is able to
continue it, in any form and manner he pleases, either with
or without this body ; and it appears more probable to me
that I shall continue to exist hereafter, than that I should
have had existence, as I now have, before that existence
began.

It is certain that, in one point, all nations of the earth
and all religions agree ; all believe in a God ; the things in
which they disagree, are thejredundancies annexed to that
belief; and therefore, if ever an universal religion should
prevail, it will not be believing any thing new, but in get-
ting rid of redundancies, and believing as man believed at
first. Adam, if ever there was such a man, was created a
Deist ; but in the mean time, let every man follow, as he has,
a right to do, the religion and the worship he prefers.



END OF THE FIRST PART.



THE



AGE OF REASON,



BEING



AN INVESTIGATION



OF



TRUE AND FABULOUS THEOLOGY.



BY THOMAS PAINE.



PRINTED AND PUBLISHED BY R. CARLILE, 55, FLEET STREET.

1819.



PREFACE.



I HAVE mentioned in the former part of The Age of Rea-
son, that it had long been my intention to publish my
thoughts upon religion ; but that I had originally reserved
it to a later period in life, intending it to be the last work I
should undertake. The circumstances, however, which ex-
isted in France in the latter end of the year 1793, determined
me to delay it no longer. The just and humane principles
of the revolution, which philosophy had first diffused, had
been departed from. The idea, always dangerous to society
as it is derogatory to the Almighty, that priests could forgive
sins, though it seemed to exist no longer, had blunted the
feelings of humanity, and callously prepared men for the
commission of all manner of crimes. The intolerant spirit
of church persecutions had transferred itself into politics;
the tribunal, styled revolutionary, supplied the place of
an inquisition ; and the guillotine and the stake out-did the
fire and faggot of the church. I saw many of my most inti-
mate friends destroyed ; others daily carried to prison ; and
I had reason to believe, and had also intimations given me,
that the same danger was approaching myself.

Under these disadvantages, I began the former part of the
Age of Reason-; I had, besides, neither Bible nor Testa-
ment to refer to, though I was writing against both ; nor
could I procure any ; notwithstanding which, I have pro-
duced a work that no Bible believer, though writing at his
ease, and with a library of church books about him, can re-
fute. Towards the latter end of December of that year, a
motion was made and carried, to exclude foreigners from
the convention. There were but two in it, Anacharsis
Cloots nnd myself; and I saw, I was particularly pointed at
by Bourdon deTOise, in his speech on that motion.



V PREFACE.

Conceiving, after this, that I had but a few days of liberty,
I sat down and brought the work to a close as speedily as
possible ; and I had not finished it more than six hours, in
the state it has since appeared, before a guard came there
about three in the morning, with an order signed by the two
committees of public safety and surety-general, for putting
me in arrestation as a foreigner, and conveyed me to the
prison of the Luxembourg. I contrived, in my way there,
to call on Joel Barlow, and I put the manuscript of the work
into his hands, as more safe than in my possession in prison ;
and not knowing what might be the fate in France, either of
the writer or the work, I addressed it to the protection of
the citizens of the United States.

It is with justice that J say, that the guard who executed
this order, arid the interpreter of the Committee of General
Surety, who accompanied them to examine my papers, treated
me not only with civility, but with respect. The keeper of
the Luxembourg, Bennoit, a man of a good heart, showed
to me every friendship in his power, as did also all his
family, while he continued in that station. He was removed
from it, put into arrestation, and carried before the tribunal
upon a malignant accusation, but acquitted.

After I had been in the Luxembourg about three weeks,
the Americans, then in Paris, went in a body to the conven-
tion, to reclaim me as their countryman and friend; but
were answered by the President, Vader, who was also Pre-
sident of the Committee of Surety-General, and had signed
the order for my arrestation, that I was born in England.
I heard no more after this, from any person out of the walls
of the prison, till the fall of Robespierre, on the 9th of Ther-
midor July 27, 1794.

About two months before this event, I was seized with a
fever, that in its progress had every symptom of becoming
mortal, and from the effects of which I am not recovered.
It was then that I remembered with renewed satisfaction,
and congratulated myself most sincerely, on having written
the former part of " The Age of Reason" I had then but



PREFACE. T

little expectation of surviving, and those about me had less.
I know, therefore, by experience, the conscientious trial of
my own principles.

I was then with three chamber comrades, Joseph Van-
huele, of Bruges, Charles Bastini, and Michael Robyns, of
Louvain. The unceasing and anxious attention of these
three friends to me, by night and by day, I remember with
gratitude, and mention with pleasure. It happened that a
physician (Dr. Graham) and a surgeon (Mr. Bond), part of
the suite of General O'Hara, were then in the Luxembourg.
I ask not myself, whether it be convenient to them, as men
under the English Government, that I express to them my
thanks ; but I should reproach myself if I did not ; and also
to the physician of the Luxembourg, Dr. Markoski.

I have some reason to believe, because I cannot discover
any other cause, that this illness preserved me in existence.
Among the papers of Robespierre that were examined and
reported upon to the Convention, by a Committee of De-
puties, is a note in the hand-writing of Robespierre, in the
following words :

" Demander que Thomas Paine Demand that Thomas Paine

soit decrete d'accusation, pour be decreed of accusation for the

1'interet de I'Amerique autant interest of America as well as of

que de la France." France.

From what cause it was that the intention was not put in
execution, I know not, and cannot inform myself; and there-
fore I ascribe it to impossibility, on account of that illness.

The Convention, to repair as much as lay in their power
the injustice I had sustained, invited me publicly and unani-
mously to return into the Convention, and which I accepted,
to shew I could bear an injury without permitting it to in-
jure my principles, or my disposition. It is not because
right principles have been violated, that they are to be
abandoned.

I have seen, since I have been at liberty, several publica-
tions written, some in America, and some in England, as



VI PREFACE.

answers to the former part of " The Age of Reason." If
the authors of these can amuse themselves by so doing, I
shall not interrupt them. They may write against the work,
and against me, as much as they please ; they do me more
service than they intend, and I can have no objection that
they write on. They will find, however, by this second
part, without its being written as an answer to them, that
they must return to their work, and spin their cobweb over
again. The first is brushed away by accident.

They will now find that I have furnished myself with a
Bible and Testament ; and I can say also, that I have found
them to be much worse books than I had conceived. If I
have erred in any thing, in the former part of the Age of
Reason, it has been by speaking better of some parts of those
books than they deserved.

I observe, that all my opponents resort, more or less, to
what they call Scripture Evidence and Bible Authority, to
help them out. They are so little masters of the subject,
as to confound a dispute about authenticity with a dispute
about doctrines; I will, however, put them right, that if they
should be disposed to write any more } they may know how
to begin,

Oct. 1795. THOMAS PAINE.



THE

AGE OF REASON.

PART THE SECOND.



IT has often been said, that any thing may be proreci
from the Bible, but before any thing can be admitted aa
proved by the Bible, the Bible itself must be proved to be
true; for if the Bible be not true, or the truth of it be
doubtful, it ceases to have authority, and cannot be admittec
as proof of any thing.

It has been the practice of all Christian commentators 01
the Bible, and of all Christian priests and preachers, t
impose the Bible on the world as a mass of truth, and ai
the word of God ; they have disputed and wrangled, anc
have anathematized each other about the supposable mean-
ing of particular parts and passages therein ; one has saic
and insisted that such a passage meant such a thing; ano-
ther that it meant directly the contrary; and a, third, that it
meant neither one nor the other, but something different
from both ; and this they call understanding the Bible.

It has happened, that all the answers which I have seen
to the former part of the Age of Reason have been written
by priests ; and these pious men, like their predecessors,
contend and wrangle, and pretend to understand the Bible;
each understands it differently, but each understands it best ;
and they have agreed in nothing, but in telling their read-
ers that Thomas Paine understands it not.

Now instead of wasting their time, and heating them-
selves in fractious disputations about doctrinal points drawn
from the Bible, these men ought to know, and if they do
not, it is civility to inform them, that the first thing to be
understood is, whether there is sufficient authority for be-
lieving the Bible to be the word of God, or whether there
is not ?

There are matters in that book, said to be done by the
express command of God, that are as shocking to humanity,
and to every idea we have of moral justice, as any thing
done by Robespierre, by Carrier, by Joseph le fion, in



THE AGE OF REASON. PART II.

France, by the English government in the East-Indies, or
by any other assassin in modern times. When we read in the
books ascribed to Moses, Joshua, &c. that they (the Israel-
ites) came by stealth upon whole nations of people, who,
as the history itself shows, had given them no offence ; that
they put all those nations to the sword ; that they spared
neither age nor infancy ; that they utterly destroyed men,
women and children; that they left not a soul to breathe / ex-
pressions that are repeated over and over again in those
books, and that too with exulting ferocity; are we sure
these things are facts ? are we sure that the Creator of
man commissioned these things to be done ? are we sure
that the books that tell us so were written by his authority ?

It is not the antiquity of a tale that is any evidence of
its truth ; on the contrary, it is a symptom of its being
fabulous ; for the more ancient any history pretends to be,
the more it has the resemblance of a fable. The origin of
every nation is buried in fabulous tradition, and that of the
Jews is as much to be suspected as any other. To charge
the commission of acts upon the Almighty, which in their
own nature, and by every rule of moral justice, are crimes,
as all assassination is, and more especially the assassination
of infants, is matter of serious concern. The Bible tells us,
that those assassinations were done by the express command
of God. To believe, therefore, the Bible to be true, we
must unbelieve all our belief in the moral justice of God;
for wherein could crying or smiling infants offend ? And to
read the Bible without horror, we must undo every thing
that is tender, sympathysing, and benevolent in the heart of
man. Speaking for myself, if I had no other evidence that
the Bible is fabulous, than the sacrifice I must make to be-
lieve it to be true, that alone would be sufficient to deter-
mine my choice.

But, in addition to all the moral evidence against the
Bible, I will, in the progress of this work, produce such
other evidence, as even a priest cannot deny ; and shew
from that evidence, that the Bible is not entitled to credit,
as being the word of God.

But, before I proceed to this examination, I will shew
wherein the Bible differs from all other ancient writings
with respect to the nature of the evidence necessary to
establish its authenticity; and this is the more proper to be
done, because the advocates of the Bible, in their answers
to the former part of the Age of Reason, undertake to say,
and they put some stress thereon, that the authenticity of
the Bible is as well established as that of any other ancient



PART II. THE AGE OF REAfOff

book; as if our belief of the one could become any rale for
our belief of the other.

I know, however, but of one ancient book that authori-
tatively challenges universal consent and belief, and that is
Euclid's Elements of Geometry*; and the reason is, because
it is a book of self-evident demonstration, entirely inde-
pendent of its author, and of every thing; relating to time,
place, and circumstance. The mutters contained in that
book would have the same authority they now have, had
they been written by any other person, or had the work
been anonymous, or had the author never been known ; for
the identical certainty of who was the author, makes no
part of our belief of the matters contained in the book.
But it is quite otherwise with respect to the books ascribed
to Moses, to Joshua, to Samuel, &c. those are books of
testimony, and they testify of things naturally incredible ;
and therefore the whole of our belief, as to the authenticity
of those books, rests, in the first place, upon the certainty
that they were written by Moses, Joshua, and Samuel ;
secondly, upon the credit we give to their testimony. We
may believe the first, that is, we may believe the certainty
of the authorship, and yet not the testimony ; in the same
manner that we may believe that a certain person gave evi-
dence upon a case, and yet not believe the evidence that he
gave. But if it should be found, that the books ascribed to
Moses, Joshua, and Samuel, were not written by Moses,
Joshua, and Samuel, every part of the authority and authen-
ticity of those books is gone at once ; for there can be no such
thing as forged or invented testimony ; neither can there be
anonymous testimony, more especially as to things naturally
incredible; such as that of talking with God face to face,
or that of the sun and moon standing still at the cpmmand
of a man. The greatest part of the other ancient books are
works of genius; of which kind are those ascribed to Ho-
mer, to Plato, to Aristotle, to Demosthenes, to Cicero, &c.
Here again the author is not an essential in the credit we
give to any of those works; for, as works of genius, they
would have the same merit they have now, were they ano-
nymous. Nobody believes the Trojan story, as related by
Homer, to be true ; for it is the poet only that is admired :
and the merit of the poet will remain, though the story be

* Euclid, according to chronological history, lived three hun-
dred years before Christ, and about one hundred before Archi-
medes ; he was of the city of Alexandria, in Egypt,

B



10 THE AGE OF REASON, PART II.

fabulous. But if we disbelieve the matters related by the
Bible authors (Moses, for instance) as we disbelieve the
things related by Homer, there remains nothing of Moses in
our estimation, but an impostor. As to the ancient historians
from Herodotus to Tacitus, we credit them as far as they
relate things probable and credible, and no further; for if
we do, we must believe the two miracles which Tacitus



Online LibraryThomas PaineThe political and miscellaneous works of Thomas Paine .. (Volume 2) → online text (page 48 of 70)