The Age of Reason

The Age of Reason is a work by English and American political activist Thomas Paine (pictured), arguing for the philosophical position of Deism. Following in the tradition of eighteenth-century British deism, it challenges institutionalized religion and the legitimacy of the Bible. It was published in three parts in 1794, 1795, and 1807, and became a best-seller in the United States, where it caused a short-lived deistic revival. Fearing its revolutionary ideas, the British government prosecuted printers and book-sellers who tried to publish and distribute it. The Age of Reason highlights what Paine saw as corruption among Christian churches and criticizes their efforts to acquire political power. Paine advocates reason over revelation, leading him to reject miracles and to view the Bible as "an ordinary piece of literature rather than as a divinely inspired text". He promotes natural religion and argues for the existence of a creator-God. Most of Paine's arguments had long been available to educated people, but his engaging, irreverent and inexpensive pamphlets made deism appealing and accessible to a mass audience.

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