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DEISM - Faith of Our Founding Fathers

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Author Topic: DEISM - Faith of Our Founding Fathers  (Read 855 times)
Bianca
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« on: June 30, 2007, 03:15:53 pm »






                            T W O   O U T S P O K E N   A M E R I C A N   D E I S T S



In stark contrast to the above mentioned American Deists, who were somewhat reluctant to openly express their personal opinions on God and religion, are Thomas Paine and Ethan Allen. Both of these men not only openly spoke and wrote of their Deistic beliefs but they actually wrote complete books about them. Paine and Allen both believed individuals and society as a whole would be better off with the natural religion/spiritual philosophy of Deism in place of the various revealed religions.

Thomas Paine wrote The Age of Reason in which he openly and honestly stated his views on religion. Paine said he had wanted to wait until his twilight years to write about God and religion because he felt this would elicit the most honest ideas since death would not be far off. He ended up writing The Age of Reason in December of 1793 when he was 57 years old, yet death was at his door, literally.

Paine was then living in Paris, France and was a member of the governmental body, the Convention. Because he spoke out against executing the King and Queen of France, yet called for abolishing the title, he made powerful enemies in the Convention. He writes in the preface to the second part of The Age of Reason, "Conceiving, after this, that I had but a few days of liberty, I sat down and brought the work" (the first part of The Age of Reason) "to a close as speedily as possible; and I had not finished it more than six hours, in the state it has since appeared, before a guard came there, about three in the morning, with an order signed by the two Committees of Public Safety and Surety-General for putting me in arrestation as a foreigner, and conveyed me to the prison of the Luxembourg."

After The Age of Reason was published, Tom Paine was attacked by both preachers and politicians alike! A book seller in England who dared to carry Paine's Deistic work was even arrested for blasphemy!

Although The Age of Reason points out many contradictions in both the Old and New Testaments, it also offers a look at the more positive part of Deism. And it does this in a most beautiful way.

Paine writes, "First - Canst thou by searching find out God? Yes; because, in the first place, I know I did not make myself, and yet I have existence; and by searching into the nature of other things, I find that no other thing could make itself; and yet millions of other things exist; therefore it is, that I know, by positive conclusion resulting from this search, that there is a power superior to all those things, and that power is God.

"Secondly - Canst thou find out the Almighty to perfection? No; not only because the power and wisdom He has manifested in the structure of the creation that I behold is to me incomprehensible, but because even this manifestation, great as it is, is probably but a small display of the immensity of power and wisdom by which millions of other worlds, to me invisible by their distance, were created and continue to exist."

Deism teaches that the only word of God is the Creation. Paine expounds on this profound idea throughout The Age of Reason.

"But some, perhaps, will say: Are we to have no Word of God - no revelation? I answer, Yes; there is a Word of God; there is a revelation.

"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."

He continues, "It is only in the Creation that all our ideas and conceptions of a Word of God can unite. The Creation speaks a universal language, independently of human speech or human language, multiplied and various as they be. It is an ever-existing original, which every man can read. It cannot be forged; it cannot be counterfeited; it cannot be lost; it cannot be altered; it cannot be suppressed. It does not depend upon the will of man whether it shall be published or not; it publishes itself from one end of the earth to the other. It preaches to all nations and to all worlds; and this Word of God reveals to man all that is necessary for man to know of God."

Reason played a big part in 18th century life. With the horrors of the Inquisition still officially in place in Mexico at the time of the American Revolution, far-sighted people like Paine and Jefferson believed reason should not only apply to government, but to religion as well. Not only did these people want to prevent more witch and heretic hangings and burnings, they thought God deserved our best. Reason was looked at as the greatest gift from God other than life itself.

In The Age of Reason Paine wrote regarding reason, "It is only by the exercise of reason that man can discover God. Take away that reason, and he would be incapable of understanding anything; and, in this case, it would be just as consistent to read even the book called the Bible to a horse as to a man. How, then, is it that people pretend to reject reason?"

Tom Paine's contemporary and fellow Deist Ethan Allen was just as outspoken regarding religion as Paine was. In Allen's book, Reason: The Only Oracle of Man, he gives a very in-depth look at Deism. Reason was written between 1780 and 1784 and was published in November 1785. Allen had to sell large parcels of his land in order to pay for the printing of his book.

Ethan Allen came into national prominence in the early days of the American Revolution. America desperately needed a victory against the British, as well as guns and supplies. Ethan Allen helped in a critical way to provide both with the American capture of Fort Ticonderoga.


     



In Michael A. Bellesiles book, Revolutionary Outlaws: Ethan Allen and the Struggle for Independence on the Early American Frontier, evidence of Ethan Allen's strong independent mind is demonstrated. Allen was living in Connecticut, when at that time inoculation was illegal. Because Allen already considered himself a Deist and strongly embraced the "question authority" philosophy of the Enlightenment, he had himself inoculated - on Sunday in front of the Salisbury meetinghouse! When his cousin Jonathan Lee, who was a Calvinist preacher, threatened Ethan Allen with prosecution (for this was pre-revolutionary America where government and religion were tightly entwined) Allen, "made several unpleasant references to Jesus Christ, Beelzebub, hell, and every little insipid Devil." This caused him to be tried for blasphemy. He and his family were later ostracized from the community.


When Ethan Allen stated that he did not believe in the Christian doctrine of original sin he was told that without original sin there is no need for Christianity. After reflection Allen agreed, there is no need for Christianity, he reasoned.

The person credited with introducing Allen to Deistic thought is the same doctor who gave him the inoculation that caused so much trouble, Thomas Young. After reading the works of some of the great Enlightenment philosophers that Young made available to him, according to Bellesiles, "Allen found the answers he demanded in the cool rationalism of the Deistic Enlightenment."

Ethan Allen demonstrated the same type of altruism that was in the character of many of America's founders. But, like Paine, he exhibited it not only on the battlefield and in his readiness to risk everything for the Revolutionary cause. He also gave up his personal goals and political career after the Revolutionary War in order to speak and write freely concerning his spiritual beliefs. The publication of Reason coincided with the termination of his political career.

In Reason, Ethan Allen confronts Christianity's argument of faith versus reason. He writes, "Those who invalidate reason, ought seriously to consider, whether they argue against reason with or without reason; if with reason, then they establish the principle, that they are laboring to dethrone, but if they argue without reason, (which, in order to be consistent with themselves, they must do) they are out of the reach of rational conviction, nor do they deserve a rational argument."

Ethan Allen also points out the danger of surrendering our reason. If his Deistic philosophy was followed by people in our day, tragedies such as Jones Town, Waco, and Uganda would never have happened.

"Such people as can be prevailed upon to believe, that their reason is depraved, may easily be led by the nose, and duped into superstition at the pleasure of those, in whom they confide, and there remain from generation to generation; for when they throw away the law of reason, the only one which God gave them to direct them in their speculations and duty, they are exposed to ignorant or insidious teachers, and also to their own irregular passions, and to the folly and enthusiasm of those about them, which nothing but reason can prevent or restrain; nor is it a rational supposition that the commonality of mankind would ever have mistrusted, that their reason was depraved, had they not been told so, and it is whispered about, that the first insinuation of it was from the Priests."

We are very fortunate to have the historic and political legacy America's founders have left us. Now it is time for us to also discover and explore their spiritual legacy as well - Deism.
« Last Edit: June 30, 2007, 03:37:09 pm by Bianca2001 » Report Spam   Logged

Your mind understands what you have been taught; your heart what is true.


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