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on 3 June 2015
This is a very interesting book with a very easy-to-read writing style, albeit over 200 years old. (Paine particularly wanted it to be easy-to-read so that it would be available to as many people as possible.)
Thomas Paine certainly knew his subject and explained his thinking with a very clear logic.
He denounces religion whilst still believing in God. Whilst his logic appears sound when he argues against religion, he explains his belief in God using misjudged logic. Since this book was written many years before Darwin's book on the Theory of Natural Selection, Thomas Paine is unable to account for the creation of life and thus he relies on a god to start creation (although not at described in the Bible).
The book is interesting from an historical point of view, as well as from a religious / atheist argument. Paine must have been highly motivated and a very brave man to publish his radical opinion in such detail.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 30 April 2011
It has been said of Tom Paine that he was the father of the American Revolution. "Without the pen of the author of `Common Sense', the sword of Washington would have been raised in vain,' John Adams once wrote of him. Yet Adams came to despise Paine, as did so many members of the Republic he had done so much to serve. When Paine died in penury in 1809, only six people attended his funeral (two of them reportedly freed black men).

The basis of this repudiation was this book. His fierce denunciation of all revealed religions - `all national institutions of Churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions set up to terrify and enslave mankind (p.22) and his ridicule of the Bible earned calumny and ostracism.

What he set out to do was to discredit the claim that the Bible is the revealed Word of God. Paine was not an atheist. He was a deist. His deism was a form of natural theology. God is revealed in creation. But he barely devotes any space to elaborating or defending these views. Paine's attack is on revealed religion, specifically that religion can be revealed in a holy book. Therefore Paine's denial of the bodily resurrection of Jesus and the revealed nature of the Bible generally is anathema for those believers persuaded of the inerrnacy of scripture, as it was then. It's important to bear in mind that believers make more than a claim that a deity exists - they claim that God has a plan for the world, and the Bible reveals it. Paine denied this. This made him a heathen as far as the devout were concerned. Thus they did not spare him opprobrium then; they wouldn't do so now.

Paine had three lines of attack.

First, the Old Testament is a bloodthirsty and violent text and sanctions the commission of murder and rapine. We are told in the book of Numbers that Moses discovers that his victorious armies have spared the women of a conquered city. This act of mercy brings forth a plague among the Hebrews - God is none too pleased. So Moses commands his armies to slaughter the women and boys, but to keep the girls for rape (p.102). This is from the book that is supposed to be the foundation text of our moral values - and taught to generations of Sunday school children.

Second, the absurdities of the so-called wonders the Bible reports - for instance, the sun standing still upon Mt Gideon. Paine notes sardonically that such `a circumstance could not have happened without being known all over the world. One half would have wondered why the sun did not rise, and the other why it did not set, and the tradition of it would have been universal; whereas there is not a nation of the world that knows anything about it.' (page. 107)

Third, the inconsistencies in the so-called divine testimony. For instance Matthew and Luke give genealogies of Jesus that contradict one another. Both gospel writers trace Jesus' lineage back to King David - but Matthew names 28 progenitors, Luke names 43. This is the inerrant word of god, is it not? (pp. 154-155). The resurrection is the keystone of the faith - but we have only the dubious testimony of a handful of witnesses to vouch for it and the testimony that is adduced contradicts itself. The Gospels cannot agree where the risen Christ appeared to his disciples. Matthew says at a mountain. Luke says they saw him Jerusalem. The gospels and the New Testament cannot agree when and where the risen Christ appeared, and to how many of his followers and disciples he appeared to.

If Jesus did not rise from the dead then Christianity - at least the fundamentalist sort - is a dead-letter. The efforts of contemporary theologians like Don Cupitt to purge Christianity of supernatural atavisms and convert it into a rationalist faith are futile. The monotheistic religions seem to me to depend on the bells and whistles of miracles, which demonstrate that God has real power in the world, and is owed obedience and worhsip on this basis. Although David Hume's arguments against theism were a lot more radical, he did not attempt, unlike Paine, to make an explicit challenge to the status of the Bible as a foundational holy text. Paine therefore was the greater threat. Believers knew and continue to know that on the authority of the Bible everything was and is staked. For this temerity he was anathematised.

But why read this now? This text is over two centuries' old. You'll notice the anachronisms like referring to Islam as the 'Turkish' religion and such like but I think that this book can be read for its aesthetic qualities and the forthright quality of its prose. I also think that it is emblematic of a free thinker's mind but most of all I think that Paine set out to destroy (in his words) three frauds: mystery, miracle and prophecy. Dismayingly, these frauds still hold the credulous in thrall today. Look at the mega-churches in the US or the self-aggrandising fraud Sathya Sai Baba accumulation of a $12 Billion empire, not a single cent of which was made from a single day's worth of honest toil. Paine's battle therefore is still to be won.
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on 23 January 2015
In the current climate I'm interested in what has been written on the belief systems of the world. This is a lucid read by a founder of the USA and it illustrates why so many people emigrated from oppressive Europe. Christians have no prior clean hands,when it comes to beliefs over science and Paine illustrates clearly why man organised religions are based on lies and become so destructive to man.
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on 26 September 2014
This is the 18th century version of Dawkins' God Delusion, except Paine believed in a divine Creator of the universe. He, nevertheless insisted the Bible was irrelevant, fraudulent, and unbelievable. This is a brave book for its time and Paine conducts a forensic dissection of the Bible and shows it to be false. My only disappointment was the omission of the final book in his analysis. You need to tune into the flowery language of his time. Excellent read.
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on 8 February 2016
After years of being trapped with religious superstition and suffering spiritual abuses. Found this book helpful as this engages your God given reason. Written in the 17th Century but not long winded its still relevant. Check it out!!!
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on 30 December 2013
This book reveals the evidence (in my opinion) that religion has no place in our modern society, it certainly is not the first intelligent discussion against the bible and I'm sure it will not be the last.
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on 14 October 2012
There can be no doubt that The Age of Reason is is a supreme work of reason and clarity of thought that is just as relevant today as when it was written two centuries ago. It is the product of a great and enlightened intellect. I believe it should be widely read, especially by those who engage in the faith vs. science debate or anyone who values good writing.

Unfortunately this Dover edition is poorly produced on poor quality paper and in a font that is not easy on the eye. More importantly it is incomplete containing only Parts I and II, Part III being totally absent. I cannot recommend it.

A much better edition, also available form Amazon, is published by Truth Seeker Company with an introduction by Bob Johnson, it is better printed with a more substantial feel to it. In addition to Part III it includes all of Paine's known essays and correspondence regarding God, Deism, the Bible and Theology. It is more expensive but is much better value for the money.
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on 12 May 2002
There is no finer introduction to Biblical criticism than Paine's Age of Reason. He shattered the veiled world of acadamia with a sledgehammer method that exposesd the errors and false claims of the organised church establishment. It is important to remember that this book was written at a time of great social upheaval when the Church was yet another arm of the governing elite who used the Bible to keep the rich man in his castle and the poor man at his gate. One cannot fail to be impressed by Paine's sharp penetrating intelect in his destructive handling of the Bible. Yet, in equal measure, he propounds a sublime concept of God and a truer, more pure religion. He had the courage and blunt honesty to write in plain terms that which others had known for years but dared not say publicly. You will not be able to honestly refute anything he writes, i.e unless an emotional and sentimental attatchment to the Bible has blinkered your eyes against the truth. It is a wonderful book and should be read by millions today in an attempt to resist atheism and develop a more sublime awareness of higher things - which was Paine's intention in writing it. My only criticism of this publication is that it does not include Part 3 in which Paine proves (within the Bible text) that the so-called prophesies in the Old Testament of the coming of Christ, are nothing but gross distortions by the later Christian writers in an attempt to legitimise their new religion.
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on 15 September 2014
Arrived promptly, and in good order thank you
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on 28 January 2015
This book should be read by everyone in the world.
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