That fame is afforded to a man who had a significant role to play in the American Declaration of Independence, is hardly surprising; that the same person had a say in the formative years of the French revolution, is laudable; that his views also significantly contributed to the structure of democracy in Britain, identifies him as a profound political thinker; that this person also challenged orthodox religion – with such lucidity as to strip of the pretentious mask of reason from said intellectuals – marks him as a genius, a philosopher, a man far ahead of his times. These by itself would be enough to hold deep admiration for Thomas Paine, but my reverence stems from recognition of him as my teacher.
In eastern tradition, to which I ascribe, a true teacher (its a mark of our times, that I feel obligated to prefix the word with true) is recognized by his influence, not by his deeds. And is held with the same esteem, if not more, as one’s parents. The latter fathers our physical manifestation, but the former fathers our thoughts. Thomas Paine’s essays, or pamphlets as they were called in his time, have done more to bring clarity and focus to my views on society, morality, religion and politics than any other single source. It is not to say that I agree with all his opinion; but that I admire the logic, simplicity and clarity of his arguments, which are surpassed only by eloquence and poetry of his writings. I refrain from saying more, lest my faults color your judgement, and leave you with some of his quotes. I hope they encourage you to read his works; which I assure, will be an enjoyable and a rewarding experience.
- A long habit of not thinking a thing WRONG, gives it a superficial appearance of being RIGHT, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom. But the tumult soon subsides. Time makes more converts than reason.
- SOME writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins. Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness POSITIVELY by uniting our affections, the latter NEGATIVELY by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first is a patron, the last a punisher.
- He who takes nature for his guide, is not easily beaten out of his argument. I draw my idea of the form of government from a principle in nature which no art can overturn, viz. that the more simple any thing is, the less liable it is to be disordered, and the easier repaired when disordered; and with this maxim in view I offer a few remarks on the so much boasted constitution of England. (goes on to point severe shortcomings in the then British constitution)
- As to religion, I hold it to be the indispensable duty of government to protect all conscientious professors thereof, and I know of no other business which government has to do therewith.
- These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as Freedom should not be highly rated.
- There is a natural firmness in some minds which cannot be unlocked by trifles, but which, when unlocked, discovers a cabinet of fortitude.
- Vigor and determination will do anything and everything.
- The nearer any disease approaches to a crisis, the nearer it is to a cure. Danger and deliverance make their advances together, and it is only the last push, in which one or the other takes the lead.
- The worst of all policies is that of doing things by halves. Penny-wise and pound-foolish, has been the ruin of thousands.
- A good opinion of ourselves is exceedingly necessary in private life, but absolutely necessary in public life, and of the utmost importance in supporting national character. (The best defence for patriotism, which I regard as nothing more than collective selfishness. Humanity being an un-attainable virtue; patriotism is a neccassary vice.)
- Misfortune and experience are lost upon mankind, when they produce neither reflection nor reformation. Evils, like poisons, have their uses, and there are diseases which no other remedy can reach.
- A substantial good drawn from a real evil, is of the same benefit to society, as if drawn from a virtue; and where men have not public spirit to render themselves serviceable, it ought to be the study of government to draw the best use possible from their vices. When the governing passion of any man, or set of men, is once known, the method of managing them is easy; for even misers, whom no public virtue can impress, would become generous, could a heavy tax be laid upon covetousness. (A just explanation for materialism and capitalism, this exactly why they do more good than socialism)
- If nothing but distress can recover you to reason, to punish will become an office of charity.
- I do not mean by this declaration to condemn those who believe otherwise; they have the same right to their belief as I have to mine. But it is necessary to the happiness of man, that he be mentally faithful to himself. Infidelity does not consist in believing, or in disbelieving; it consists in professing to believe what he does not believe.
- THE WORD OF GOD IS THE CREATION WE BEHOLD and it is in this word, which no human invention can counterfeit or alter, that God speaketh universally to man.
- Morality is injured by prescribing to it duties that, in the first place, are impossible to be performed; and, if they could be, would be productive of evil; or, as before said, be premiums for crime. The maxim of doing as we would be done unto does not include this strange doctrine of loving enemies: for no man expects to be loved himself for his crime or for his enmity.