October 16, 2003


Thomas Paine – A Conversation on Christianity and America’s Founding (Exclusive commentary by Steve Farrell, Oct 16, 2003, Washington Dispatch)

Q. I see, you are in agreement with Washington “that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government,” that “religion and morality are indispensable supports” of “political prosperity.” Would you also agree with him “[that] the pure and benign light of Revelation … [is at] the Foundation of our Empire”?

A. “[Indeed, but I shall take his point further. P]olitical as well as spiritual freedom is the gift of God through Christ.”

Q. Mr. Paine. Your “Age of Reason” fans won’t like that quote. They’ll accuse me of producing it out of thin air?

A. [Yeah, oh well. No comment.]

Q. But wait a minute. I’m not through with this topic. If political freedom comes from Christ, as you say, what then, in your opinion, is the most important end of government?

A. “[A]bove all things, the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience.”

Q. Do you mean to say, protecting religious freedom is more important than, let’s say, protecting property?

A. “[I do. T]here is a point to view this matter in of superior consequence to the defence of property; and that point is liberty in all its meanings. In the barbarous ages of the world, men in general had no liberty. The strong governed the weak at will; ‘till the coming of Christ there was no such thing as political freedom in any known part of the earth.”

Q. You feel strongly about this, don’t you?

A. “[Yes.] First. Because till spiritual freedom was made manifest, political liberty did not exist[, as I just stated]. Secondly. Because in proportion that spiritual freedom has been manifested, political liberty has increased. Thirdly, whenever the visible church has been oppressed, political freedom has suffered with it. … [Thus,] as the union between spiritual freedom and political liberty seems nearly inseparable, it is our duty to defend both. And defense in the first instance is best.”

Q. Your points are well taken. Till the coming of Christ there was no such thing as political freedom. Your words need repeating today, in Congress, in the courts, in the classroom. Can we talk about miracles now?

A. [Let’s.]

Q. Mr. Paine, this commentator receives much ridicule for bringing to light God’s hand in establishing this nation, whether through His miraculous intervention in the War for Independence on the side of the Americans, or His inspiring the mind’s of the Founders in the establishment of our constitution. It has been said that you, and the other Founders, did not believe in miracles, and that Christian men ought to stop injecting their private agenda into their writing. Would you please comment on that.

A. [Yes, oh well, there they go again. Who ever said that about American Founder Thomas Paine, is wrong. I do believe in miracles. I, in fact, wrote and testified of the occurrence of miracles in the Bible and in America during this period.]

Q. You did? Tell me more.

A. “[Yes, I did. But let me preface my remarks with a request that the reader remember that any comments I made during the Founding Era on miracles that appear to be against a belief in miracles, ought to be kept in their intended context, that is, I was concerned, as was General Washington, about Americans who refused to take up arms to defend family and country, under the delusion that God alone would fight our battles. I felt this a false manifestation of Christianity, and the sort of response one expects of cowards, not Christians. I wrote to the Quakers:] ‘Could the peaceable principle of the Quakers be universally established, arms and the art of war would be wholly extirpated. But we live not in a world of angels. The reign of Satan is not ended; neither are we to expect to be defended by miracles. The pillar of the cloud existed only in the wilderness. In the nonage of the Israelites. It protected them in their retreat from Pharoah, while they were destitute of the natural means of defense, for they brought no arms from Egypt; but it neither fought their battles nor shielded them from danger afterwards.’”

“[It was to say, as I wrote later,] ‘throw not the burden of the day upon Providence, but ‘show your faith by your works,’ that God may bless you.’ [You see, God brings about His miracles, by common and natural means, most often when humans meet Him half way.]”

When you read the stuff the supposedly deistic Founders said, they make Jerry Falwell sound like an atheist.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 16, 2003 5:28 PM

Brilliant. Thanks, Orrin.

Posted by: at October 16, 2003 6:00 PM

You people confuse me. On one hand you have people making out Washingtion, Jefferson, and Madison to be Falwell, Swaggert, and Robertson... but on the other hand, they are Emerson, Thoreau, and the 'pastor' at the local Unitarian church?

My favorite book on the subject is Mark Knoll's "Search for Christian America"..but I don't even know if that's right anymore

Posted by: tim at October 17, 2003 8:55 AM


The problem is the secularists attempt to make them into Robespieres, Marats and Rousseaus.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford,Ct. at October 18, 2003 10:17 AM
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