Monday, August 11, 2008

Unfinished business before fading to black

I'm going "off the air" for a couple of weeks.

It's that time.

Before the screen fades to black — or white or light ... we have one piece of unfinished business — that anonymous quotation from a couple of days ago. It's the one that skewered Christianity.

("Of all the systems of religion that ever were invented, there is none more derogatory to the Almighty, more unedifying to man, more repugnant to reason, and more contradictory in itself, than this thing called Christianity....")

The author was Thomas Paine, the same Thomas Paine who perhaps more than any single person is responsible for America's independence. The quote is from his "Age of Reason," which did not condemn Christ, the historical Jesus, but the religionists who seized on his name and twisted its message to their own, often brutal, ends.

Newly independent Americans found their own "reasons" to reject Paine's anti-Christian treatise. Accordingly, Paine's pivotal role in our history was obscured until relatively recently.

"Age of Reason" was a refutation of all "revealed" religions (Jewish, Christian, and "Turkish"). Like so many other prominent American leaders and thinkers of the nation's early history, Paine was a Deist.

He explained the origin of his belief this way:

"If we consider the nature of our condition here, we must see there is no occasion for such a thing as revealed religion. What is it we want to know? Does not the creation, the universe we behold, preach to us the existence of an Almighty Power that governs and regulates the whole? And is not the evidence that this creation holds out to our senses infinitely stronger than anything we can read in a book that any impostor might make and call the word of God? As for morality, the knowledge of it exists in every man's conscience."

As a Quaker, I find it significant that Paine was raised as a Quaker and had this to say in "Age of Reason" about Quakerism. "The only sect that has not persecuted are the Quakers; and the only reason that can be given for it is that they are rather Deists than Christians. They do not believe much about Jesus Christ, and they call the scriptures a dead letter. Had they called them by a worse name, they had been nearer the truth."

Fade to black — or white or light ....

Labels: , , ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home