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The Age of Reason - Thomas Paine

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Chris OConnor

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Re: The Age of Reason - by Thomas Paine

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My father just bought me a copy of The Age of Reason so I should be able to start reading and discussing with you.Chris
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Re: The Age of Reason - by Thomas Paine

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misterpessimistic: To me, the fact that nature has potentially NO 'intelligent' creator makes it even more awe-inspiring. It is just too mundane to think it was merely an experiment of a god, don't you think?Not really; only if you hold intelligent design in opposition to the scientific understanding of nature. If you're talking with someone who says, for example, "the whole of the universe was created 5000 years ago, and nothing has changed all that much since then," I'd tend to agree with your opinion. The scientific explanation is more elaborate, and therefore more impressive. But there's no real reason that a person who believes firmly in intelligent design couldn't take the whole corpus of scientific knowledge to date and say, "that's true, and it's all the result of God's design." That preserves the elaborateness of the scientific model, so I see no reason to think it any less impressive -- added to that, it suggests the majesty of God into the bargain.But if your comment was in regard to my Mircea Eliade reference, I don't really think he's talking about intelligent design. His discussion is meant to include pagan and primitive religions, some of which are pantheistic and do not include creator gods. Paine's comments about Creation implying both the existence and character of God fall into that compass of Eliade's comments, but they aren't necessarily representative of the full range. All that Eliade means is that, at certain points in human civilization, people saw a quality in material phenomenon that we don't necessarily see now. I think that there are exceptions to the assertion that modern man doesn't see the world as imbued with sacred qualities, but Eliade is correct in observing that it's not longer the status quo, and moreover, that our social and cultural institutions discourage that view.Incidentally, I finished Part One today. I'm not looking forward to Part Two, as it looks to be mostly an elaboration of Paine's analysis of the Bible, but it's less than 100 pages, so I'll probably finish it out.I found Paine's discussion of mystery, miracle and prophecy to be particularly problematic. His understanding of those motifs in religion seemed to be the result of a lot of assumptions rather than any sort of concerted inquiry into the roles they actual play in religion. We've already talked about prophecy to some extent, and I've talked a little about the interpretive function of miracles in another thread. To wit: the understanding of miracles as something falling outside the province of natural law is only one interpretation among many, and a relatively recent one at that -- before you can really posit miracles as strictly supernatural, you have to have a fairly solid conception of nature as something that normally admit of no exceptions. The more traditional interpretation of the miraculous, as I understand it, is a matter of the meaning of unlikely events. The parting of the Red Sea in Exodus, for example, is not miraculous so much because it was considered impossible, but rather because it was so unlikely that it's occurence at the exact moment of need suggested divine intervention. That interpretation doesn't imply that anyone should accept at face value that the parting of the Red Sea was an actual event -- although, scientists have demonstrated that it's possible under certain, not terribly unusual, circumstances; but then, Paine isn't terribly sympathetic to the role of myth in religion, either.The subject of the mysteries is too broad to sum up here, nor do I feel that my current state of study really qualifies me for the job. Needless to say, though, what I have read leads me to suspect that Paine misunderstands the role played by mystery in religion as well.On a side note, I do find it interesting that Paine works into his theological argument some speculations about life on other planets. His theology is a little dubious as well, it seems.And I do hope that Part Two is a little more to the point of what we thought the whole book would be about: namely about the tension between religious thought and secularism.More later.
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Re: The Age of Reason - Thomas Paine

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Thank you for the information about reading online, but I prefer to have a book in hand, if possible. Luckily, I was able to get The Complete Writings of Thomas Paine through my library. I have not started reading it yet because I have been very busy, but will begin soon!
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Re: The Age of Reason - Thomas Paine

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I agree with Mad, part two is not all too enjoyable...redundant after the first couple of pages.I think the discussion will be served best by focusing on the first part only.Mr. P. The one thing of which I am positive is that there is much of which to be negative - Mr. P.The pain in hell has two sides. The kind you can touch with your hand; the kind you can feel in your heart...Scorsese's "Mean Streets"I came to kick ass and chew Bubble Gum...and I am all out of Bubble Gum - They Live, Roddy Piper
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Re: The Age of Reason - Thomas Paine

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I'm picking through Part Two, but let's follow Mr. P's suggestion and focus on Part One for now. I think we should start by making a short list of major topics. Any suggestions?
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Re: The Age of Reason - Thomas Paine

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I have a few parts marked off for discussion...but I have been out of time lately with the new job and all. Last night was the first time I got to sit and read in about a week. I will see what I can do to put some kind of list together, but I will gladly just follow along if you all beat me to it.Mr. P. The one thing of which I am positive is that there is much of which to be negative - Mr. P.The pain in hell has two sides. The kind you can touch with your hand; the kind you can feel in your heart...Scorsese's "Mean Streets"I came to kick ass and chew Bubble Gum...and I am all out of Bubble Gum - They Live, Roddy Piper
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Re: The Age of Reason - Thomas Paine

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Well, let me throw out a few suggestions and you guys can veto or accept at will.1) The validity of Paine's argument from morality: ie. that the content of the Old Testament is so immoral as to be an affront to the notion of a God.2) Whether or not Paine's conception of mythology or of religion itself is adequate to the task of criticizing religion.3) What, if anything, all of this has to do with the notion of purely secular governance.4) Whether or not Deism is really more rational than any other religious belief.I looked through my reading journal for some more ideas, but it occurs to me that I haven't made any entries about "The Age of Reason" there. It just hasn't provoked much thought on my part. I almost wish that we had chosen one of Paine's more influential works, perhaps "Common Sense".
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Quote:3) What, if anything, all of this has to do with the notion of purely secular governance.hmm...I was never under the impression that "Age" had anything to do with secular governance. It is about Paine's thoughts on organized religion.The other topics are fine with me, although I do not know how we can ascertain the depth of Paine's knowledge about religion and myth without reading other sources. Anyway, I am not sure it matters to me, for no matter the reason for it, myth gone awry needs to be discredited and done away with IMO. And Paine did that wonderfully with "Age".This is also why I can say that my initial feeling is that Deism is indeed more rational than the myriad other religions and their versions of god, for it unifies and neutralizes the deity, thus allowing for a system that unifies people, rather than factionalizing people with petty differences. I do not accept it, but there it is.Mr. P. The one thing of which I am positive is that there is much of which to be negative - Mr. P.The pain in hell has two sides. The kind you can touch with your hand; the kind you can feel in your heart...Scorsese's "Mean Streets"I came to kick ass and chew Bubble Gum...and I am all out of Bubble Gum - They Live, Roddy PiperEdited by: misterpessimistic  at: 7/19/05 10:05 am
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Re: The Age of Reason - Thomas Paine

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Let's just say it's pertinent to the present discussion. I'll try to have the new thread up by Wednesday of next week. I probably won't be able to do it before then, though, as I have a few other obligations to take care of, as well as a little more background work.
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Re: The Age of Reason - Thomas Paine

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The Bible discussion...You may be right in that I will probably not be interested. At least not now, with my shortened time for reading.Mr. P. The one thing of which I am positive is that there is much of which to be negative - Mr. P.The pain in hell has two sides. The kind you can touch with your hand; the kind you can feel in your heart...Scorsese's "Mean Streets"I came to kick ass and chew Bubble Gum...and I am all out of Bubble Gum - They Live, Roddy Piper
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