Mokita: The Religion of Paine
More on Thomas Paine from the New Yorker article:
"Paine's religious opinions were those of three-fourths of the men of letters of the last age," Joel Barlow observed, probably overstating the case only slightly. Paine's views were hardly original; what was new was his audience. While other Enlightenment writers wrote for one another, Paine wrote, as always, for everyone. His contemporaries believed that radical philosophical speculation-especially critiques of religion-was to be shared only with men of education (and, it was assumed, judgement). The poor could not be trusted with such notions; freed of church-based morality, they would run amok. Paine disagreed, profoundly. To say that he was villified for doing this is to miss the point. He was destroyed.