January 29th is Thomas Paine's birthday. Thomas Paine was born on January 29, 1737 to a lower income working class family. In spite of the fact that he was not a trust fund baby, Thomas Paine changed the world for the better!
Struggling to make ends meet in London, England in 1774, after suffering through the death of his first wife and child, a divorce from his second wife and a business failure and a bankruptcy, Thomas Paine had the wonderful opportunity and great fortune to meet the Deist Benjamin Franklin. Ben Franklin recognized the profound character and genius of Paine. He suggested that Tom Paine should go to America and make his home there. Franklin wrote a letter of recommendation for Paine, to help him secure employment in America. In all probability, Ben Franklin more than likely gave Paine the money he needed for his journey to America, since Paine was then living hand to mouth.
On November 30, 1774 Thomas Paine arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Unfortunately he was ill with typhoid fever and was so weak he had to be carried off the ship. It took six weeks for Paine to recover from his illness. He was cared for by Ben Franklin's physician, Benjamin Rush.
In March of 1775 Paine secured a position as editor of the Pennsylvania Magazine. He wrote many important articles using a pen name for the magazine. Some of his articles were in opposition to slavery and others giving reasons why the people in the 13 English colonies should break free from England and the British monarchy. Paine's writing on the topic of the people in the colonies breaking with their mother country culminated with his powerful pamphlet Common Sense, which he wrote in the last part of 1775 and published on January 10, 1776. The rational and moving arguments in Common Sense won enough popular support for the breaking away from England by the American colonists to actually make the American Revolution a reality. The financial windfall from the sale of Common Sense was altruistically donated by Tom Paine to the American Revolutionary cause, despite his own unstable financial situation.
Starting something is a lot easier than seeing it through to its completion. After the American Revolution was started, the American rebels suffered one devastating loss after another. The Continental Army was pushed out of Long Island, New York, which was followed quickly by another crushing defeat at Fort Lee, New Jersey. The rebel army was chased completely out of New York and New Jersey and was licking its wounds across the Delaware River in Pennsylvania just five months after the signing of the Deistic document the Declaration of Independence.
The Deist George Washington knew the power of Paine's pen. He asked his fellow Deist Thomas Paine to write an inspiring pamphlet to encourage the people to continue their work to sustain the American Revolution. Thomas Paine wrote not just one pamphlet to accomplish this, but a series of 13 pamphlets called The Crisis. The first in the series of The Crisis Washington had his officers read to his remaining soldiers on December 23, 1776, just two days prior to the crossing of the Delaware River and the Battle of Trenton the day after the crossing.
By holding on against the odds and never quitting, the American revolutionaries were able to win enough battles to secure the financing of the French government. This financial and material backing by France ensured the victory of the American Revolution and its life improving ideals. However, without the inspiring and challenging writings of Paine, the battles would not have been won and the French would never have backed the American Revolution. This, in all probability, would have caused the American Revolution to fail.
After the success of the American Revolution, Thomas Paine was not at all finished with working to make the world a better place. He wrote The Rights of Man, which was to counter the arguments of British conservative Edmund Burke's anti-revolutionary Reflections on the Revolution in France. Paine was attacked by the British government for The Rights of Man and the book was banned. In 1792, in answer to sedition and libel charges, Paine wrote, "If, to expose the fraud and imposition of monarchy ... to promote universal peace, civilization, and commerce, and to break the chains of political superstition, and raise degraded man to his proper rank; if these things be libellous ... let the name of libeller be engraved on my tomb."
Next Thomas Paine wrote The Age of Reason. This Deistic book is, in my opinion, the very best and most important book ever written about God, Deism and religion. It may be surprising to many people, but Paine's primary reason for writing The Age of Reason was to persuade people who were rushing towards Atheism, to stop and think, and to realize that religion is not from God, but is the product of greedy men who depicted God as a jealous, genocidal and threatening entity for their own selfish reasons. In a letter to the American Revolutionary Samuel Adams, who was a Christian and who took issue with Paine's The Age of Reason, Paine wrote:
"With respect to the "Age of Reason," which you so much condemn, and that I believe without having read it, for you say only that you heard of it, I will inform you of a circumstance, because you cannot know it by other means."
"I have said in the first page of the first part of that work that it had long been my intention to publish my thoughts upon religion, but that I had reserved it to a later time of life. I have now to inform you why I wrote it and published it at the time I did."
"In the first place, I saw my life in continual danger. My friends were falling as fast as the guillotine could cut their heads off, and as I every day expected the same fate, I resolved to begin my work. I appeared to myself to be on my death-bed, for death was on every side of me, and I had no time to lose. This accounts for my writing it at the time I did; and so nicely did the time and the intention meet, that I had not finished the first part of that work more than six hours before I was arrested and taken to prison. Joel Barlow was with me and knows the fact."
"In the second place, the people of France were running headlong into atheism, and I had the work translated and published in their own language to stop them in that career, and fix them to the first article (as I have before said) of every man's creed who has any creed at all, I believe in God."
The success of the American Revolution in the political realm, made a Deistic Revolution in Religion possible. Prior to the completion of the American Revolution, there was not a nation in which people could openly and freely discuss and debate religious issues. Blasphemy laws made this impossible. The American Republic's Jeffersonian and Constitutional principle of separation of religion from government made this long overdue debate possible. In The Age of Reason Paine wrote:
Soon after I had published the pamphlet Common Sense, in America, I saw the exceeding probability that a revolution in the system of government would be followed by a revolution in the system of religion. The adulterous connection of church and state, wherever it had taken place, whether Jewish, Christian, or Turkish, had so effectually prohibited by pains and penalties, every discussion upon established creeds, and upon first principles of religion, that until the system of government should be changed, those subjects could not be brought fairly and openly before the world; but that whenever this should be done, a revolution in the system of religion would follow. Human inventions and priestcraft would be detected; and man would return to the pure, unmixed and unadulterated belief of one God, and no more.