Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Paine and Postexistence

Zelph in a comment to this post writes:

Even radical deists like Paine agreed with Jefferson and Franklin that without belief in God and in a future life, morality in society could not be sustained. Really? While Franklin may have believed this, I'm not so sure about Paine and Jefferson, particularly Paine. Do you have any quotes from Paine or Jefferson saying anything to this effect?

BV: The italicized material is a quotation from Avery Dulles, not from me. Without too much trouble, I found the following in Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason, Part I (LLA edition), p. 58:

I content myself with believing, even to positive conviction, that the Power that gave me me existence is able to continue it, in any form and manner he pleases, either with or without this body; and it appears more probable to me that I shall continue to exist hereafter than that I should have had existence, as I now have, before that existence began.

On p. 3 we read:

I believe in one God, and no more; and I hope for happiness beyond this life.

I believe in the equality of man . . . .

The context suggests that this belief in equality is justified by the fact that all humans are created by God, and that morality rests on a divine foundation.

Dulles' nuanced discussion of Deism is a good antidote to the usual loose talk that one hears from liberals and ACLU-types.