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Freethinkers Book Club: Common Sense by Thomas Paine

  • Wednesday, May 22, 2024
  • 7:00 PM - 8:30 PM
  • https://meet.google.com/beh-azmo-wcw


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Freethinkers Book Club

Common Sense by Thomas Paine

Speaker: Gary Berton

(President, Thomas Paine National Historical Association)

Wednesday, May 22, 2024, 7:00 – 8:30 pm

Common Sense is a 47-page pamphlet written by Thomas Paine, where he presents moral and political arguments to encourage common people in the American Colonies to fight for independence and establishment of an egalitarian government. It was first published anonymously in January 1776 at the beginning of the American Revolution and became an immediate sensation. Thomas Paine was a deist and a strong supporter of the separation of religion and government.

Gary Berton is a leading Thomas Paine scholar and President of the Thomas Paine National Historical Association.  He will be presenting a brief biography of Thomas Paine before leading book club discussion of Common Sense. Afterwards, other Thomas Paine works and impact will be presented. Ample time for discussion and Q&A is planned. Gary has selected five passages from Common Sense for particular discussion.

1.Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one; for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries by a government, which we might expect in a country without government, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer. Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence; the palaces of kings are built on the ruins of the bowers of paradise. For were the impulses of conscience clear, uniform, and irregularly obeyed, man would need no other lawgiver; but that not being the case, he finds it necessary to surrender up a part of his property to furnish means for the protection of the rest; and this he is induced to do by the same prudence which in every other case advises him out of two evils to choose the least. Wherefore, security being the true design and end of government, it unanswerably follows, that whatever form thereof appears most likely to ensure it to us, with the least expence and greatest benefit, is preferable to all others.

2. Here then is the origin and rise of government; namely, a mode rendered necessary by the inability of moral virtue to govern the world; here too is the design and end of government, viz. freedom and security. And however our eyes may be dazzled with show, or our ears deceived by sound; however prejudice may warp our wills, or interest darken our understanding, the simple voice of nature and of reason will say, it is right.

3. MANKIND being originally equals in the order of creation, the equality could only be destroyed by some subsequent circumstance;…

4. As to religion, I hold it to be the indispensible duty of all government, to protect all conscientious professors thereof, and I know of no other business which government hath to do therewith. Let a man throw aside that narrowness of soul, that selfishness of principle, which the niggards of all professions are so unwilling to part with, and he will be at once delivered of his fears on that head. Suspicion is the companion of mean souls, and the bane of all good society. For myself, I fully and conscientiously believe, that it is the will of the Almighty, that there should be diversity of religious opinions among us: It affords a larger field for our Christian kindness. Were we all of one way of thinking, our religious dispositions would want matter for probation; and on this liberal principle, I look on the various denominations among us, to be like children of the same family, differing only, in what is called their Christian names.

5. To the Quakers:

And here without anger or resentment I bid you farewel. Sincerely wishing, that as men and christians, ye may always fully and uninterruptedly enjoy every civil and religious right; and be, in your turn, the means of securing it to others; but that the example which ye have unwisely set, of mingling religion with politics, may be disavowed and reprobated by every inhabitant of AMERICA.

We hope you will join us for this discussion. You are also welcomed if you have not read the book, but please take a look at one or more of these resources.

Please join us!

Participants are encouraged to join the Pittsburgh Freethought Community if not already a member.

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