Study Guide

Common Sense Religion

By Thomas Paine

Religion

As the exalting one man so greatly above the rest cannot be justified on the equal rights of nature, so neither can it be defended on the authority of scripture; for the will of the Almighty, as declared by Gideon and the prophet Samuel, expressly disapproves of government by kings. (2.5)

There is no way the Bible would ever support the idea of a king ruling over people. The king is a sort of all-powerful being, and the only one in the universe who deserves this kind of power is God. Or at least that's what Paine thinks.

And when a man seriously reflects on the idolatrous homage which is paid to the persons of kings, he need not wonder that the Almighty, ever jealous of his honor, should disapprove of a form of government which so impiously invades the prerogative of heaven. (2.6)

When any serious person thinks about how wrong it is to treat kings like gods, they'll see that the only way to really please God is to create a democracy that is of the people, by the people, and for the people.

And man hath good reason to believe that there is as much of kingcraft, as priestcraft, in withholding the scripture from the public in Popish countries. (2.9)

In "Popish" or Catholic countries, regular folks are kept from reading the Bible for themselves. Instead, they have to listen to priests who interpret it for them. For Paine, though, this is just a sign of how corrupt it is for societies to be based on inequalities that have no basis in nature.

Even the distance at which the Almighty hath placed England and America, is a strong and natural proof, that the authority of the one, over the other, was never the design of Heaven. (3.19)

Paine looks at the massive distance between America and England as God's way of saying that the one should never rule over the other. It's a bit of a stretch even for a religious argument, but oh well.

Securing freedom and property to all men, and above all things, the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience. (3.47)

For Paine, there's nothing more important to the future of America than people's right to practice their religion in whatever way they see fit. And that's that.

But where, says some, is the King of America? I'll tell you. Friend, he reigns above, and doth not make havoc of mankind like the Royal Brute of Britain. (3.49)

When people ask Thomas Paine who the king of America is, his answer is that God is the only true king of America. Everybody else is just an elected representative of the people.

As to religion, I hold it to be the indispensable duty of all government, to protect all conscientious professors thereof. (4.21)

For Paine, it is the responsibility of government to protect anyone wishing to practice a certain religion. At this time in history, though, Britain was doing just the opposite.

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. (4.21)

Thomas Paine believes that only good will come from having lots of different people practice different religions in America. This will help people keep open minds and become more accepting toward other people, which are core values of Christianity.

The king and his worthless adherents are got at their old game of dividing the Continent, and there are not wanting among us, Printers, who will be busy in spreading falsehoods. (A.17)

For Paine, there is no person in the world who's a bigger insult to God than the King of England. This is because the King goes around posing as a god himself, demanding that everybody worship and respect him when he's done nothing to earn it.

[The] example which ye have unwisely set, of mingling religion with politics, may be disavowed and reprobated by every inhabitant of America. (A.40)

At the end of his pamphlet, Paine seems to be fed up with arguing against all those who want to resist war with Britain. When confronted with a Quaker who argues that Americans should trust God to take care of them instead of making war, Paine simply says that it's not good to mix religion and politics. Which is strange, considering how often he uses God in his earlier arguments.