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Thought for the Day: The Age of Reason Should Have Read The Kuzari

I am quite certain that I never bought a copy of "The Age of Reason", by Thomas Paine.  Nonetheless, I found a copy in the house.  I suspect that I inherited it along jumble of other books I was sent when a spinster cousin (who had been a librarian and a bit of an intellectual) passed away.  I was the closest anyone in my family had to being an intellectual, so I got sent all of her off beat books.  I recently (having run out of other bathroom reading) decided to give it a whirl.  It's actually quite a good read.

It is with good reason that the Constitution of the United States guarantees freedom of religion.  Many of the more prominent founding fathers were not Christian, but were more along the lines that I would classify as Unitarian, but is also called deism and theistic rationalism... blah, blah, blah... meaning to say that they believed in a G-d who created the world, and who could certainly communicate with said world if He so chose, but that we have no record of such communication.  I cannot speak to all the details and shade of difference, but I believe I have a good understanding of Thomas Paine's views.

The Age of Reason is very well written and the arguments are cogent.  One thing I particularly liked was that he stated what he believed in no uncertain terms, the premises off which he worked, and then logically proved his idea.  I would say that he definitively proved his point that the Bible in his hands -- namely a crude translation with no accompanying explanation -- has no standing as an authoritative communication from the Creator to His creation.  Moreover, it is not even a reasonable base from which to develop a philosophy of life.

Two of his most powerful and fundamental arguments are that is that hearing someone else tell over their prophecy is nothing more than hearsay, and a miracle is no proof of divine origin.  The Kuzari, published over 600 years earlier made precisely the same points.  The Kuzari uses those and other arguments to deliver much more decisive blows against both the Christian Bible and Muslim Koran.

The Age of Reason made a fatal error:  he relied on a crude translation.  Mr. Paine, for all his brilliance (perhaps because of the arrogance engendered by that brilliance) felt that he could see through the translation well enough to understand the original intent.  He came to that (quite obviously mistaken) conclusion, without ever contacting the Jews to see if they had more information.  He admits that up front; one of the reasons I like his work.

The Jews, of course, never relied on miracles nor hearsay.  The Torah was and is accepted by us only because it was received en masse by the entire Jewish people; a direct communication from the Creator of the World directly to an entire nation.  In public; no smoke, no mirrors, no tricks.

Shame.  Those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat its mistakes.


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