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This was the only public good the
Reformation did; for, with respect to religious good, it might as well
not have taken place. The mythology still continued the same; and a
multiplicity of National Popes grew out of the downfall of the Pope of
Christendom.



CHAPTER XIII - COMPARISON OF CHRISTIANISM WITH THE RELIGIOUS IDEAS
INSPIRED BY NATURE.

HAVING thus shewn, from the internal evidence of things, the cause
that produced a change in the state of learning, and the motive for
substituting the study of the dead languages, in the place of the
Sciences, I proceed, in addition to the several observations already
made in the former part of this work, to compare, or rather to confront,
the evidence that the structure of the universe affords, with the
christian system of religion. But as I cannot begin this part better
than by referring to the ideas that occurred to me at an early part of
life, and which I doubt not have occurred in some degree to almost every
other person at one time or other, I shall state what those ideas were,
and add thereto such other matter as shall arise out of the subject,
giving to the whole, by way of preface, a short introduction.

My father being of the quaker profession, it was my good fortune to have
an exceedingly good moral education, and a tolerable stock of useful
learning. Though I went to the grammar school, I did not learn Latin,
not only because I had no inclination to learn languages, but because of
the objection the quakers have against the books in which the language
is taught. But this did not prevent me from being acquainted with the
subjects of all the Latin books used in the school.

The natural bent of my mind was to science. I had some turn, and
I believe some talent for poetry; but this I rather repressed than
encouraged, as leading too much into the field of imagination. As
soon as I was able, I purchased a pair of globes, and attended the
philosophical lectures of Martin and Ferguson, and became afterwards
acquainted with Dr. Bevis, of the society called the Royal Society, then
living in the Temple, and an excellent astronomer.

I had no disposition for what was called politics. It presented to
my mind no other idea than is contained in the word jockeyship. When,
therefore, I turned my thoughts towards matters of government, I had to
form a system for myself, that accorded with the moral and philosophic
principles in which I had been educated. I saw, or at least I thought I
saw, a vast scene opening itself to the world in the affairs of America;
and it appeared to me, that unless the Americans changed the plan they
were then pursuing, with respect to the government of England, and
declared themselves independent, they would not only involve themselves
in a multiplicity of new difficulties, but shut out the prospect that
was then offering itself to mankind through their means. It was from
these motives that I published the work known by the name of Common
Sense, which is the first work I ever did publish, and so far as I can
judge of myself, I believe I should never have been known in the world
as an author on any subject whatever, had it not been for the affairs
of America. I wrote Common Sense the latter end of the year 1775, and
published it the first of January, 1776. Independence was declared the
fourth of July following. [NOTE: The pamphlet Common Sense was first
advertised, as "just published," on January 10, 1776. His plea for the
Officers of Excise, written before leaving England, was printed, but not
published until 1793. Despite his reiterated assertion that Common Sense
was the first work he ever published the notion that he was "junius"
still finds some believers. An indirect comment on our Paine-Junians
may be found in Part 2 of this work where Paine says a man capable of
writing Homer "would not have thrown away his own fame by giving it to
another." It is probable that Paine ascribed the Letters of Junius to
Thomas Hollis. His friend F. Lanthenas, in his translation of the Age of
Reason (1794) advertises his translation of the Letters of Junius from
the English "(Thomas Hollis)." This he could hardly have done without
consultation with Paine. Unfortunately this translation of Junius cannot
be found either in the Bibliotheque Nationale or the British Museum, and
it cannot be said whether it contains any attempt at an identification
of Junius--Editor.]

Any person, who has made observations on the state and progress of the
human mind, by observing his own, can not but have observed, that there
are two distinct classes of what are called Thoughts; those that we
produce in ourselves by reflection and the act of thinking, and those
that bolt into the mind of their own accord. I have always made it a
rule to treat those voluntary visitors with civility, taking care to
examine, as well as I was able, if they were worth entertaining; and it
is from them I have acquired almost all the knowledge that I have. As
to the learning that any person gains from school education, it serves
only, like a small capital, to put him in the way of beginning learning
for himself afterwards. Every person of learning is finally his own
teacher; the reason of which is, that principles, being of a distinct
quality to circumstances, cannot be impressed upon the memory; their
place of mental residence is the understanding, and they are never so
lasting as when they begin by conception. Thus much for the introductory
part.

From the time I was capable of conceiving an idea, and acting upon it
by reflection, I either doubted the truth of the christian system, or
thought it to be a strange affair; I scarcely knew which it was: but I
well remember, when about seven or eight years of age, hearing a sermon
read by a relation of mine, who was a great devotee of the church, upon
the subject of what is called Redemption by the death of the Son of God.
After the sermon was ended, I went into the garden, and as I was going
down the garden steps (for I perfectly recollect the spot) I revolted at
the recollection of what I had heard, and thought to myself that it was
making God Almighty act like a passionate man, that killed his son,
when he could not revenge himself any other way; and as I was sure a man
would be hanged that did such a thing, I could not see for what purpose
they preached such sermons. This was not one of those kind of thoughts
that had any thing in it of childish levity; it was to me a serious
reflection, arising from the idea I had that God was too good to do such
an action, and also too almighty to be under any necessity of doing it.
I believe in the same manner to this moment; and I moreover believe,
that any system of religion that has anything in it that shocks the mind
of a child, cannot be a true system.

It seems as if parents of the christian profession were ashamed to tell
their children any thing about the principles of their religion. They
sometimes instruct them in morals, and talk to them of the goodness of
what they call Providence; for the Christian mythology has five deities:
there is God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Ghost, the God
Providence, and the Goddess Nature. But the christian story of God the
Father putting his son to death, or employing people to do it, (for that
is the plain language of the story,) cannot be told by a parent to a
child; and to tell him that it was done to make mankind happier and
better, is making the story still worse; as if mankind could be improved
by the example of murder; and to tell him that all this is a mystery, is
only making an excuse for the incredibility of it.

How different is this to the pure and simple profession of Deism! The
true deist has but one Deity; and his religion consists in contemplating
the power, wisdom, and benignity of the Deity in his works, and in
endeavouring to imitate him in every thing moral, scientifical, and
mechanical.

The religion that approaches the nearest of all others to true Deism, in
the moral and benign part thereof, is that professed by the quakers: but
they have contracted themselves too much by leaving the works of God out
of their system. Though I reverence their philanthropy, I can not help
smiling at the conceit, that if the taste of a quaker could have been
consulted at the creation, what a silent and drab-colored creation it
would have been! Not a flower would have blossomed its gaieties, nor a
bird been permitted to sing.

Quitting these reflections, I proceed to other matters. After I had
made myself master of the use of the globes, and of the orrery, [NOTE by
Paine: As this book may fall into the bands of persons who do not know
what an orrery is, it is for their information I add this note, as the
name gives no idea of the uses of the thing. The orrery has its name
from the person who invented it. It is a machinery of clock-work,
representing the universe in miniature: and in which the revolution of
the earth round itself and round the sun, the revolution of the moon
round the earth, the revolution of the planets round the sun, their
relative distances from the sun, as the center of the whole system,
their relative distances from each other, and their different
magnitudes, are represented as they really exist in what we call the
heavens.--Author.] and conceived an idea of the infinity of space, and
of the eternal divisibility of matter, and obtained, at least, a general
knowledge of what was called natural philosophy, I began to compare, or,
as I have before said, to confront, the internal evidence those things
afford with the christian system of faith.

Though it is not a direct article of the christian system that this
world that we inhabit is the whole of the habitable creation, yet it is
so worked up therewith, from what is called the Mosaic account of the
creation, the story of Eve and the apple, and the counterpart of that
story, the death of the Son of God, that to believe otherwise, that is,
to believe that God created a plurality of worlds, at least as numerous
as what we call stars, renders the christian system of faith at once
little and ridiculous; and scatters it in the mind like feathers in the
air.



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