Thomas Paine, Secular Chaplain


I’ve admired Paine for many years.  He stands as a Forgotten Founder in American history.

There’s hardly a more radical book to change Governments than “Common Sense” and hardly any more radical to change Religion than “The Age of Reason.”  Bookends for Thomas Paine’s vision for Independence of Body and Independence of Mind.

It wasn’t all about One Country, for Paine.

“My country is the world, and my religion is to do good.” (The Rights of Man, Part II)

To paraphrase cellist Pablo Casals, love of country is a good thing, but why should love stop at the border?

Paine saw the need for change in America, and how that change could stir up radical movements around the world to benefit those who are poor and powerless.

His words remain powerful for anyone of good conscience, faith or no faith.

See these lines, quoted by Chris Hedges on Truthdig:

“Where liberty is, there is my country,” Benjamin Franklin once said to Paine. “Where liberty is not, there is my country,” Paine replied. For Paine, the role of a citizen extended beyond national borders. The fight of those living under any system of tyranny was his fight. “When it shall be said in any country in the world ‘My poor are happy; neither ignorance nor distress is to be found among them; my jails are empty of prisoners, my streets of beggars; the aged are not in want, the taxes are not oppressive; the rational world is my friend, because I am a friend of happiness’: when these things can be said,” Paine wrote, “then may that country boast of its constitution and its government.”


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