Thomas Paine: Faith And Reason Essay

1280 words - 5 pages

The issue of Faith versus Reason and the relationship between them has been discussed throughout civilization. A prime figure in this discussion during the recent past, the mid 18’th to the early 19’th centuries, was Thomas Paine. Paine’s writings during both the United States and French revolutions helped to spearhead the respective countries into revolution and eventually freedom. As such, Paine is certainly seen as an influential figure during this time period for practical reasons. But Paine is equally important because of the way in which he influenced entire countries and helped to bring about change. Paine’s approach to doing this shows the distinction between faith and reason as well as how the two can coexist together and accomplish a great many things. To adequately see this relationship it is necessary to look at the way Thomas Paine lived as well as his writings and then to compare how these two things relate and affected the world as a whole. In this way it is possible to get a clear view of the relationship between faith and reason and how it relates to a time period and a man.

The issue of faith versus reason is clearly evident throughout Paine’s life as much of his life seemed to focus on conflicts and contradictions. Paine was born in 1737 in Thetford, England in a relatively poor section of the city. It is speculated that this poorer upbringing combined with the rather brutal and tyrannous rule of the local Duke set the basis for Paine’s later crusades against those in power and quests in favor of equality and protection for the lower class. Much of Paine’s early life was spent wandering from place to place and station to station without ever really finding a niche. His formal education lasted up until the age of twelve when he was sent off to apprentice to his father who was a corset maker. The business went into decline shortly there after though which caused Paine to go to sea for awhile and to then eventually take a job collecting the excise tax. It was after losing this job in seventeen seventy three that Paine eventually set off to America, largely penniless, in the hopes of starting over again and perhaps finding some level of stability.

Paine’s early years are interesting because the instability which one can see during these years continues throughout his life. Even after writing the incredibly successful and important Common Sense in 1776 and The American Crisis papers from 1776 to 1783 he was still unable to find a real place within society. Paine never made any money off of his publications because he waived fees and royalties so that more copies of his work could be produced and sold at a lower price. For this reason Paine was often penniless and seemed perpetually on the edge of bankruptcy. This apparent nobility and selflessness is balanced however by the fact that for the majority of his adult life after his publications, Paine lived off of either the United States government or off...

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