Heretic on the Hill: No Paine, No Gain

Thomas Paine may finally be getting his due. He isn’t exactly a founding father, more like a founding thinker, and advocate for church-state separation. But he never got a statue in Washington DC, never got a Broadway musical. One of those should be changing soon. Congressman Jamie Raskin has introduced a bill that would authorize a Thomas Paine memorial in Washington DC. Remarkably, the money has already been privately raised. The memorial and a site just need to be approved. You can help!

In 1776 Paine published a pamphlet, Common Sense, that crystallized the case for the American Revolution. It sold 150,000 copies immediately, and by the end of the war sold 500,000 in a new nation of about 2.5 million people. That’s like selling 66,000,000 copies today. And many who didn’t buy a copy heard it read aloud. During the war he wrote 13 more pamphlets in a series known as The American Crisis that bolstered the morale of the colonists and clarified the issues at stake in language people could understand.

The first of those 13 pamphlets was written while Paine was embedded with the Continental Army at Valley Forge. He walked 35 miles through snow to Philadelphia to have it printed. Washington had his officers read it to every soldier. It began, “These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.” Three days later the army crossed the Delaware, surprised the British at Trenton, and revived the flagging support for the war.

Paine’s accomplishments are too numerous to fully describe here. He helped secure funding for the war from France. He designed bridges. He wrote The Rights of Man in 1791, which was anti-royalty, pro-representative government, and pro-social programs to help the common man. He went to France to support the French Revolution and despite not speaking French was elected to the National Convention. He was one of nine men chosen to help write a new constitution.

In the 1790s Paine wrote The Age of Reason, a three-part work that makes a strong case for the separation of church and state, denies that the Bible was a sacred, historical text, and argues that Christianity was a human invention. Paine refers to “the adulterous connection of Church and State” and said they were virtually the same institution and did not act in the interests of common people. The Age of Reason also rejects Biblical miracles, supports scientific inquiry, and attacks the Christian church as being too politicized and institutionalized. Prosecutions of The Age of Reason’s publishers and booksellers in England for seditious and blasphemous libel lasted for the next thirty years.

Congressman Raskin puts it this way: “This luminary patriot of the Enlightenment and the American Revolution inspired people in the colonies not only to overthrow the tyranny of faraway kings but to launch a nation founded on principles of democratic self-government, the rights of men and of women, and reason and science.”

Click here to tell your representatives that they should support Raskin’s bill to establish a memorial to Thomas Paine.

Congressman Raskin, as you might know, is also the co-chair of the Congressional Freethought Caucus which welcomed two new members this week; Representatives Carolyn Maloney (NY-12) and Jimmy Gomez (CA-34)! If you are a constituent of theirs, please consider sending them a thank you note through this link.

If your Representative is not yet a member of the CFC you can reach out to them here and invite them to be the next member to join the caucus. They don’t need to be nonreligious to join, they just need to be committed to secular governance. It takes just two minutes and sometimes an ask is all it takes! If you have a personal relationship with a member and would like to send them additional materials, don’t hesitate to reach out. After all, that’s what I’m here for!

The Secular Coalition for America works on a daily basis to build relationships with your representatives in the federal governments in order to ensure your rights and interests are being respected. This necessary work depends on your support. Please click here or the button below if you would like to help us protect and defend evidence and reason based policy in 2022.

Your lobbyist,

Scott MacConomy
Director of Policy and Government Affairs
Secular Coalition for America


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