Were the Founders Inspired by God?
Recently, Gilbert Watch received an email from a reader criticizing one of our Contributing Editors, Silence Dogood, for quoting Thomas Paine. His concern was that, based on his reading a book written by Thomas Paine, it seemed odd that Silence Dogood, who works tirelessly "to ensure that our Country and its Divine principles are left intact for future generations," would quote a man who stated that there was "no religion...more derogatory to the Almighty...than..Christianity." His criticism that Silence might not be informed about the Founders writings implicitly included Gilbert Watch as well.
According to your website, “Silence is a native Arizonan whose love of investigative research and drive for knowledge was ingrained early in life… Silence’s children are the prime motivation behind tireless work that ensures that our Country and its Divine principles are left intact for their generation and future generations to come.” Thomas Paine is then quoted: “Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigues of supporting it.” I found Thomas Paine to be an interesting choice. I read the articles titled “Will God Survive in Amerika? We have a Choice” and “The Role of Religion in The Founding Fathers' Constitutional Formula.” In these articles, the writer refers to the anti-Christian “Amerikans” and the “secular left.”
"Based on what I have read, many of the more well-known Founding Fathers were secularists meaning they were not exclusively allied or against any particular religion. However, some of them, especially Thomas Paine, had particular complaints against Christianity. In fact, he wrote an entire book on it. It is called “Age of Reason.”
"Has Silence, or any of the other contributors read it? I ask because I cannot imagine having read it and still quoting Thomas Paine on this website. For your reference, below is an excerpt from “Age of Reason.”
”Of all the systems of religion that ever were invented, there is no more derogatory to the Almighty, more unedifying to man, more repugnant to reason, and more contradictory to itself than this thing called Christianity. Too absurd for belief, too impossible to convince, and too inconsistent for practice, it renders the heart torpid or produces only atheists or fanatics. As an engine of power, it serves the purpose of despotism, and as a means of wealth, the avarice of priests, but so far as respects the good of man in general it leads to nothing here or hereafter.”
"By no means am I advocating Thomas Paine’s viewpoint. I just think it is important for people who use the Founding Fathers to support their position to be well-informed."
Gilbert Watch Response
Thank you for your email, mostly because it gave me the opportunity to broaden my own understanding of Thomas Paine. Since you have decided to study American history, I would like to direct you to the permanent paragraph at the top of my blog. Here it is:
We can restore our Republic, beginning at the local level. First, learn all you can about the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence. Study the Founders themselves, and the Founders’ Principles that guided them in creating those documents. Go to the experts for this information: Shane Krauser, the National Center for Constitutional Studies, and The Jefferson Center. Also, learn how to exert your Civic Authority. Go to the Center for Self-Governance to find out when the 5 classes are available near you. "Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." Margaret Mead.
There are many people, mostly progressives, who have worked hard to pick out the secular aspects of what the Founders believed. The larger body of work proves otherwise. It just depends on what you choose to look for. It would take a lifetime to read everything that Thomas Jefferson wrote, for example. No matter how the Left tries to denigrate him, he was a deeply religious Christian who lived by the actual words of Jesus, and repeatedly wrote of his honor for God. Like everything else he studied, he didn't parrot third parties. He went to the Source.
Silence Dogood gives lessons on the Founding documents and has studied the Founders for several years.
Here is Silence Dogood's response to you. Please note that our time is extremely valuable as we fight to preserve our Republic, and we don't waste it trying to change the mind of a progressive. If you are truly interested in knowing the Truth, then "Seek and you shall find." If what you would rather do is argue with us, we won't engage.
Response from Silence Dogood
Thomas Paine believed there is a God and that this is evidenced by the world and universe around us. Paine was a skeptic and outspoken critic of organized religion and questioned the validity of things written by man (such as the Bible or revelations). In his eyes, men were easily capable of corruption both in religion as well as in government.
I might suggest reading Paine's "The Study of God" written in January 1797.... three years after he published the first part of "The Age of Reason." Here is an excerpt:
"It has been the error of the schools to teach astronomy, and all the other sciences and subjects of natural philosophy, as accomplishments only; whereas they should be taught theologically, or with reference to the Being who is the author of them: for all the principles of science are of Divine origin. Man cannot make, or invent, or contrive principles. He can only discover them; and he ought to look through the discovery to the Author.
"When we study the elements of geometry, we think of Euclid. When we speak of gravitation, we think of Newton. How then is it, that when we study the works of God in the creation, we stop short, and do not think of God? It is from the error of the schools in having taught those subjects as accomplishments only, and thereby separated the study of them form the Being who is the author of them. . . .
"The evil that has resulted from the error of the schools in teaching natural philosophy as an accomplishment only has been that of generating in the pupils a species of atheism. Instead of looking through the works of the creation to the Creator himself, they stop short, and employ the knowledge they acquire to create doubts of His existence. They labor with studied ingenuity to ascribe everything they behold to innate properties of matter; and jump over all the rest, by saying that matter is eternal."
It has been said that Paine's "The Age of Reason" helped spark the second Great Awakening and revivalist movement. It was from this movement that many new religions began including one that I personally practice.
Regardless of Paine's religious views, it does not negate the circumstance or meaning of his words, "Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigues of supporting it." These words are as true today as they were in 1777.
I think it is unChristlike to hold someone's religious views against them and overlook or discredit the good that they have done. I look at all of the Founders as men who were divinely chosen by God as the choicest spirits on the earth at the time, to establish the government we have today. They could have all been full-fledged Atheists and it still wouldn't have changed my opinion as to who they were and what role they played in our nation's history. I would still believe that they were divinely inspired whether they knew it at the time or not. Certainly I have worked more on political issues with people who practice a different faith than myself than with those who are of my same religion.
Ultimately, only God will be the judge of man.
As Paine said, "I consider myself in the hands of my Creator, and that he will dispose of me after this life consistently with His justice and goodness. I leave all these matters to Him, as my Creator and friend, and I hold it to be presumption in man to make an article of faith as to what the Creator will do with us hereafter."
Imagine if more people today had even just the simple belief that there IS a Creator of the world....