Age of Reason, The
The Age of Reason: Being an Investigation of True and Fabulous Theology, a deistic treatise written by eighteenth-century British radical and American revolutionary Thomas Paine, critiques institutionalized religion and challenges the inerrancy of the Bible. Published in three parts in 1794, 1795, and 1807, it was a bestseller in America, where it caused a short-lived deistic revival. British audiences, however, fearing increased political radicalism as a result of the French revolution, received it with more hostility. The Age of Reason presents common deistic arguments; for example, it highlights the corruption of the Christian Church and criticizes its efforts to acquire political power. Paine advocates reason in the place of revelation, leading him to reject miracles and to view the Bible as an ordinary piece of literature rather than as a divinely inspired text. The Age of Reason is not atheistic, but deistic: it promotes natural religion and argues for a creator-God. Thomas Paine (29 January 1737–8 June 1809) was an English pamphleteer, revolutionary, radical, inventor, and intellectual. He lived and worked in Britain until age 37, when he emigrated to the British American colonies, in time to participate in the American Revolution. His principal contribution was the powerful, widely-read pamphlet, Common Sense (1776), advocating colonial America’s independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain, and of The American Crisis (1776-1783), a pro-revolutionary pamphlet series. Later, he greatly influenced the French Revolution. He wrote the Rights of Man (1791), a guide to Enlightenment ideas. Despite not speaking French, he was elected to the French National Convention in 1792. The Girondists regarded him an ally, so, the Montagnards, especially Robespierre, regarded him an enemy. In December of 1793, he was arrested and imprisoned in Paris, then released in 1794. He became notorious because of The Age of Reason (1793-94), the book advocated deism and argued against Christian doctrines. In France, he also wrote the pamphlet Agrarian Justice (1795), discussing the origins of property, and introduced the concept of a guaranteed minimum income. He remained in France during the early Napoleonic era, but condemned Napoleon’s dictatorship, calling him “the completest charlatan that ever existed”. In 1802, he returned to America at President Thomas Jefferson’s invitation. Thomas Paine died, at age 72, in No. 59 Grove Street, Greenwich Village, N.Y.C., on 8 June 1809. His burial site is located in New Rochelle, New York where he had lived after returning to America in 1802. His remains were later disinterred by an admirer looking to return them to England; his final resting place today is unknown.