Irreligion Made Easy: The Reaction to Thomas Paine’s The Age of Reason

  • Patrick W. Hughes


Thomas Paine’s The Age of Reason, published in two parts (1794 and 1795), was certainly not the first attack by a deist on revealed religion, the Bible, and Christianity. For nearly a hundred years, the fortress of Christianity had been assailed by a cadre of deists who argued that religious truths must conform to reason, and that divine revelation was either unreliable or dangerous superstition.1 The defenders of Christianity in Europe and America did not sit idly by as the basis of their faith was questioned, and for a hundred years they had met the deist threat squarely, and, in their opinion, with triumph.2 As many of Paine’s detractors were only too happy to point out, there was very little “new” in The Age of Reason, and Paine was frequently charged with being little more than a plagiaristic imitator of previous British and French deists. American minister G. W. Snyder, for example, called The Age of Reason “nothing but a jumble of sentences, which the author borrowed from … deistical writers” such as Thomas Hobbes, John Toland, Anthony Collins, Thomas Chubb, Matthew Tindal, David Hume, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and the arch-infidel Voltaire.3 A pseudonymous Scottish author even slyly suggested that perhaps The Age of Reason would be more aptly named “The Age of Plagiarism.”4


French Revolution Intended Audience Christian Religion Christian Doctrine Common Reader 
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© Patrick W. Hughes 2016

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  • Patrick W. Hughes

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