Bill Moyers: Thomas Paine is still too dangerous

June 14, 2009 | By | 4 Replies More

I highly recommend this 25-minute discussion led by Bill Moyers in order to learn Thomas Paine’s story.   Why is Paine so under-appreciated?   Moyers discusses Paine’s deeply democratic ideas with author Harvey J. Kaye and National Review senior editor Richard Brookhiser.

What did Thomas Paine advocate for? An exceedingly progressive agenda:

  • Ending slavery
  • Granting women total equality
  • Complete separation of church and state.
  • Establishment of public education

Paine was also a deist (not an atheist), who, in The Age of Reason, unrelentingly attacked organized religions, which he considered to be fraudulent.  He claimed that all books are written by men, not God.   On the other hand, he believed that the creation was God’s presence and that people who want to know God should study creation rather than reading supposedly sacred writings.

Ironic, then, that Thomas Paine was held in high esteem by Ronald Reagan and Newt Gingrich.


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Category: History, Politics

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (4)

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  1. I don't know about Reagan so much, but Gingrich is anything but stupid. He was an early supporter of the space program and science education, but he is first an foremost an opportunist. Paine is an icon—someone most people respect but never read—and has become identified with good ol' American values—again, because no one really reads him. You might be surprised how few people know he died in abject poverty or that he was almost executed by the Directoire in the French Revolution.

  2. I'm a fifth-grade teacher in Colorado, and a crucial part of teaching civics is providing students with our primary sources: the founding documents. This is critical in understanding what “We the People” really means. Today, as they did over 230 years ago, those documents instill in students the belief that all our voices are important. That is Paine's greatest contribution to our country. His pamphlet, Common Sense, spoke to all the voices in the 13 colonies during a time of great fear and indecision. He gave a vast number of citizens a vision of what each could do, 176 days before the Declaration of Independence. A belief that power should radiate from the citizens. That message is still paramount to all our students today. For that pamphlet alone, Paine needs to be recognized as a integral part of the American miracle.

    Mark Wilensky,

    author of "The Elementary Common Sense of Thomas Paine: An Interactive Adaptation for All Ages"

  3. Tony Coyle says:

    I agree, Mark. Gingrich is that worst of all evils – a clever and conscienceless opportunist. If he has scruples, they have been well hidden.

    Paine's own scruples were evidenced by his unwillingness to compromise his principles, despite many opportunities to do so. A man before his time. I've thought that 'Thomas in the Twentieth Century' could provide an intriguing counterpoint to 'A Connecticut Yankee' – if only I could write. I'm certain he would have been immeasurably successful in a less restrictive world.

  4. Tim Hogan says:

    Mark, take a look at Moyers' "America 101" for why I believe Moyers should be President. And more on Tom Paine!

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