Above, the great American, and Virginia stateman, Thomas Paine, author of "Age of Reason", written in 1784 in the current language of the colonial streets, for accessibility by the common man.
Paine was one of our Founding Fathers, a group that includes George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and others.
Paine is one of that group that is now held up by certain segments of our population as particularily godly people that founded America as a Christian nation.
While listing books this evening, I came across The Romance of American Methodism by Paul Neff Garber, a Professor of Church History at Duke University, published in Greensboro, North Carolina in 1931. In the preface, the author explains his purpose is to present a picture of the heroic era of Methodism, reflecting the baptism of courage, devotion to democracy, and warmth of heart reflected in the early circuit riders and laymen of the pioneer American Methodism.
On pages 42-45, the author recounts the state of colonial America (one assumes he had no reason to publish revisionist history, as current day writers do):
"It is necessary to understand the religious and moral conditions of America during and immediately after the Revolutionary War. Americans began to accept the views of the deists, namely that God may have created the world but that he was now far away and not in contact with mankind. It became popular to attack the divinity of Christ, to sneer at the Bbible and to label religion "superstition".
"Worship was universally neglected, while immorality, intemperance, and vice increased alarmingly on every hand.
"The close of the American Revolution did not restore religious normalcy to America. In fact, it seemed in 1784 that rationalism and deism would completely destroy Christianity in America. In 1784, Thomas Paine wrote his "Age of Reason", a popularization of the current deistic views.
"Prominient American leaders began to champion deistic views. Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin were known as deists and free thinkers. In 1784, General Ethan Allen wrote his "Reason The Only Oracle of Man" which is considered to be the first formal publication in American openly attacking the Christian faith.
"General Henry Dearborn, secretary of war in the Jefferson cabinet, was so hostile to churches that he remarked that "so long as these temples stand we cannot hope for good government."
"General Charles Lee in his will requested that he should no be buried "in any church or church-yard, or within a mile of any Presbyterian or Anabaptist meeting-house.
"When Ashbel Green entered Princeton College in 1782, he found among the students only two who professed religion. In 1795 there were but four or five Christians in the student body of Yale College. Lyman Beecher, a student at Yale, said in describing conditions there: "The college church was almost extinct. Most of the students were skeptical. Most of the class before me were infidels, and called each other Voltaire and Rousseau. The College of William and Mary was regarded as a hotbed of French politics. I can truly say that then, and for some years after, in every educated young man in Virginia whom I met I found a skeptic, if not an avowed unbeliever.
"Even in outlying districts unbelief became common. In 1793 the Kentucky legislature decided prayers were no longer necessary at its sessions. In many parts of the country revivals were unknown. The emigrants that moved westward did not go there because of religious convictions but rather to get plenty of good land. To these pioneers the economic question was the important one.
"Between the years 1812-1815 Samuel J. Mills, a New England religious leader made several tours of the West. In the state of Louisiana, Mills found people who had never seen a Bible nor heard of Jesus Christ. He estimated that seventy-six thousand Western families were without Bibles."
Below: Benjamin Franklin, a true Renaissance Man, and a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
His own views on religion?
"My parents had early given me religious impressions, and brought me through my childhood piously in the dissenting [puritan]way. But I was scarce fifteen, when, after doubting by turns of several points, as I found them disputed in the different books I read, I began to doubt of Revelation itself. Some books against Deism fell into my hands; they were said to be the substance of sermons preached at Boyle's lectures. [Robert Boyle (1627-1691) was a British physicist who endowed the Boyle Lectures for defense of Christianity.]It happened that they wrought an effect on me quite contrary to what was intended by them; for the arguments of the deists, which were quoted to be refuted, appeared to me much stronger than the refutations; in short, I soon became a thorough deist"
[Benjamin Franklin, "Autobiography,"p.66 as published in *The American Tradition in Literature,* seventh edition, McGraw-Hill,p.180]
Revisionist history is always the easiest to research and the easiest to disprove. Rather than reading the re-counting of history, whenever possible read the actual words of the available letters and journals. Read it for yourself.
The Romance of American Methodism,Paul Neff Garber, 1931, offered for sale by Chewybooks on Amazon, as of November 9, 2009.