Thomas Paine Answers: Basic Arguments

This page refers to the exercises on the Thomas Paine excerpt.

1. Paine argues that since, by definition, the concept of ‘revelation’ entails direct communication between a divine power and the believer, one cannot be expected to believe that something is a revelation if one was not the person who had the experience with the divine power. Accepting that somebody else received a ‘revelation’ based on their own testimony is logically equivalent to believing something on hearsay (see para 15 & 16).

2. The credibility of the Christian mythology is undermined by showing how its principal events and beliefs were borrowed from existing or recently historical myths and stories and share the same form. This technique, which Nietzsche called a ‘genealogy’ when he used it to analyse moral and ethical systems, explains the existence of something by revealing its historical origins. In broad terms, it is not dissimilar to the way biologists and evolutionists explain the emergence of new species as adaptations from earlier ones (see para 20 & 21).

3. In Paine’s view, the story of the immaculate conception or virgin birth is something that could not admit of evidence even if it were true, for the mechanism by which a human being might be impregnated by a God might be invisible. But what makes the Ascension and Resurrection even less credible is that these two events could have admitted of credible evidence but failed to. In other words, they are events that could have been witnessed and recorded by a large number of independent witnesses. The fact that there fails to be any record or independent witness of these two events strikes Paine as highly suspicious, and not a little convenient for those wishing to promote the Christian mythology. (see para 24, 25 & 26).

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