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PRINTED AND PUBLISHED BY R. CARLILË,

NO. 84 FLEET-STREET, AND

W. Carver, no. 8 ELM-ST. N. YORK.

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INTRODUCTION.

BY THE EDITOR.

NO writer probably has exposed the impositions practised upon mankind under the garb of religion with more effect than Thomas Paine; and no one has borne a greater share of obloquy from those who conceive their interests to be connected with a continuance of the fraud. The pulpit and the press have teemed incessantly with the most virulent censures against him.-But patient and persevering, temperate and firm, he suffered no error to escape him. and the exposure of the blunders and absurdities of his adversaries is the only revenge which he has condescended to take for their insolent abuse. His object was the happiness of man, and no calumny could divert him from his purpose. He conscientiously believed that human happiness depended on the belief of one God, and the practice of moral virtue; and that all religious faith beyond that led to persecution and misery. History gives an awful confirmation of the justness of his opinion. Dr. Bellamy, author of " The history of all religions," comes to this conclusion at last, that he was " well assured that true religion consists neither in doctrines, nor opinions, but in uprightness of heart."

Religion has been most shamefully perverted, for sinister purposes, and made to consist in the belief of something supernatural and incomprehensible; and these incomprehensible beliefs are made to vary in different countries as may suit those who tyranize over the minds and consciences of men. Thus, in some countries, he who says, he believes, that a certain man, in former times, was translated bodily to heaven, that another took a journey leisurely there in a fiery chariot, and that a third arrested the course of the sun to give him more daylight for human slaughter, is denominated a pious, good man. In other countries, a person to gain the same appellation, must believe that Mahomet, in one night, took a ride to heaven upon his horse Borack, had a long conversation with the angel Gabriel, visited all the planets, and got to bed with his wife before morning; and, upon another occasion, that he cut the moon in two parts, and carried the one half in his pocket to light his army. Whilst on the contrary the philosopher, who, wishing to instruct and render his fellow men happy, honestly declares that he puts no faith in such idle stories, is considered an impious, wicked man.

It is time that these prejudices, so disgraceful to the intelligence of the present age, should be banished from the world, and it behoves all men of understanding and talents to lend a helping hand to effect it.

"Prejudices," says Lequinio, an elegant French writer, in his work entitled, "Les Prejuges Detruits,"" arise out of ignorance and the want of reflection; these are the basis on which the system of despotism is erected, and it is the master piece of art in a tyrant, to perpetuate the stupidity of a nation, in order to perpetuate its slavery and his own dominion. If the multitude knew how to think, would they be dupes to phantoms, ghosts, hobgoblins, spirits, &c. as they have been at all times and in all nations. What is nobility for example, to a man who thinks? What are all those abstract beings, children of an exalted imagination, which have no existence but in vulgar credulity, and who cease to have being as soon as we cease to believe in them? The greatest, the

most absurd, and the most foolish of all prejudices, is that very prejudice which induces men to believe that they are necessary for their happiness, and for the very existence of society."

The same writer observes, that, "while there are religions, we are told there will be fanaticism, miracles, wars, knaves, and dupes. There are penitents, fanatics, and hypocrits, in China and in Turkey, as well as in France;* but there is not any religion, perhaps, in which there exists such a spirit of intolerance as in that professed by the christian priests, the author of which preached up toleration by his example, as well as by his precepts."

Notwithstanding the intolerant spirit which prevails pretty universally among all those, who call themselves true believers; notwithstanding the persecutions and inquisitorial tortures which take place daily, in a greater or less degree, throughout the christian world, there are many who, although they profess liberal opinions, are so indifferent in matters of religion, as to contend, that they ought not to be discussed, except by those whose peculiar province it is to teach them. Upon this principle, Mr. Paine has been condemned by many, even of his friends, as though all men had not an equal stake at issue, and an equal right to express their opinions on so momentous a subject. This sentiment exhibits an apathy to human suffering, in those who express it, that is certainly not very flattering to their goodness of heart.

Were it not for the writings of philosophers, which, where they have been permitted to be read, have in some measure softened the asperity of fanaticism, all christendom would, no doubt, now experience the same sufferings as are at this time indured in Spain, under the government of the pious Ferdinand.

Even Bishop Watson, who wrote an "apology for the Bible," in answer to the "Age of Reason," disclaims the above illiberal sentiment; graciously conceding the right of private judgment in matters of religion. He says, "it would give me much uneasiness to be reported an enemy to free inquiry in religious matters, or as capable of being animated into any degree of personal analevolence against those who differ from me in opinion. On the contrary, I look upon the right of private judgment, in every concern respecting God and ourselves, as superior to the controul of human authority."

It is with some reluctance that I make the following extract of a private letter, a copy of which has lately been inclosed to me by my correspondent at New-York; but the contents are so much in point on this occasion, that I am induced to take the liberty. It was written by one of the most distinguished patriots of the American revolution, and who still remains a living witness of the services of those who essentially contributed to that memorable event, in answer to a letter covering that of Mr. Paine to Andrew A. Dean; which will appear in this publication.-"I thank you, sir, for the inedited letter of Thomas Paine, which you have been so kind as to send me. I recognize in it the strong pen and dauntless mind of Common Sense, which among the numerous pamphlets written on the same occasion, so preeminently united us in our revolutionary opposition.

"I return the two numbers of the periodical paper, as they appear to make part of a regular file. The language of these is too harsh, more calculated to irritate than to convince or to persuade. A devoted friend myself to freedom of religious inquiry and opinion, I am pleased to see others exercise the right without reproach or censure; and I respect their conclusions, however different from my own. It is their own reason, not mine, nor that of any other, which has been given them by their creator for the investigation of truth, and of the evidences even of those truths which are presented to us as revealed by himself. Fanaticism, it is true, is not sparing of her invectives against those who refuse blindly to follow her dictates in abandonment of their own reason. For the use of this reason, however, every one is responsible to the God who

The author's country,

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