Policy Research: How Thomas Paine’s “Tug of War” With Christianity Shaped American Politics

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Religion has long been intertwined with the monarchical structure of the British empire, with the monarch serving as the conduit through which divine right is conferred. However, the Enlightenment era introduced disruptive ideas, challenging traditional beliefs and emphasizing individual experiences, rationality, and empirical evidence. This paper will consider the conflict between divine right and the Enlightenment Era in the 17th century by analyzing Thomas Paine’s “The Age of Reason”, in which he advocated for a critical interpretation of the Bible as a work of literature rather than divine revelation. Paine’s skepticism towards Christianity and the concept of revelation sparked polarized responses, with some embracing his rationalist approach while others vehemently condemned it. This paper will evaluate how critics like Richard Watson responded with works such as “An Apology for the Bible,” defending the validity of biblical miracles and highlighting the necessity of Christianity as a spiritual faith. Paine’s ideas elicited outrage from religious communities, as evidenced by satirical drawings and fabricated accounts disparaging his views. Even in death, Paine faced rejection, as exemplified by the Quaker community’s refusal to grant his burial request due to his deistic beliefs. Despite facing vehement opposition during his lifetime, Paine’s advocacy for reason and skepticism left a lasting impact on American intellectual thought, inspiring a legacy of rationalism and religious skepticism.

Main Author: Ellesse Chen

Co-authors: N/A

Research Paper Type: Historical Analysis Paper

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