Friday, August 17, 2018

Speaking out against fake news

Soon after the publication of "Common Sense" (1776) Thomas Paine states that he "saw the exceeding probability that a revolution in the system of government would be followed by a revolution in the system of religion" and that "man would return to the pure, unmixed and unadulterated belief of one God and no more". It is however important to recall that Paine's view of religion was "humanized" in the sense that religion involved the display of it in the works of the creation and by the repugnance we feel in ourselves to bad actions and the disposition to do good ones.

Although Paine arraigned the union of Church and State, his ideal Republic was religious; it was set upon a "conception of equality based on the divine sonship of every man". This faith underlay equally his burden against claims to divine personality by a Chosen People, a Priesthood, a Monarch "by the grace of God" or an Aristocracy. The Quakerism of America was driven by far more than a purely religious zeal.

It is in my opinion no accident that the recent distortions emanating from the Government of the United States of America involve endless debate about Nationalism, Isolationism, Sexism, Racism, Democracy, Immigration and Religion. Both our visceral prejudices and cerebral rationality are being put to the test again and again.  Even the propriety of language and behaviour is being confronted, not to mention the disparity between the rich and the poor, the disadvantaged and the privileged, the so-called "deplorables" and the elite. The disinfecting sunlight of revelation of many levels is at work.  Note however that the national media has launched an all-out attack upon the likes of Donald J. Trump who is instinctively committed to demonizing those who disagree with him.  Trump's deceit of "draining the swamp" has translated into nothing but trampling upon others in order to make himself higher.

Lest too much be attributed to Trump for having engendered the public demonstration against intellectual and moral shallowness, he is no more than an accident of history, a mere germ of society.  Humanity - if anything - is the root of the problem, such elemental features as fear, possession and lack of acuity. Trump is merely the puppet of self-interest and intolerance. His unquestionable absurdity at least diminishes his legitimacy.  Why it has taken the Americans so long and so tortuous a procedure to acknowledge this risibility is beyond comprehension.  Regularly the pundits proclaim their collective nausea for this mass endurance. But the contamination is at last beginning to face overwhelming authority. On almost an hourly basis we are exposed to Trump's mental and philosophical tawdriness, exceeding even the most unscrupulous erstwhile political strategy. It is a simple reminder that when it comes to authenticity we must believe what we see. Leave the clowning about to a Sunday amusement park.

And by the way, Dr. Benny Franklin (reputedly Thomas Paine's friend and ally) refused to attend Paine's funeral on the outskirts of New York City on June 8, 1809.  By contrast there were several African Americans who thought otherwise and who did participate in Paine's consignment to the grave.  It wasn't however until after the year 2000 that the American government saw fit to create a suitable memorial to the man they called one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, the man who authored the two most influential pamphlets at the start of the American Revolution and who inspired the patriots in 1776 to declare independence from Britain.

Excerpts from
The age of reason: being an investigation of true and fabulous theology
by Thomas Paine. ...

“Infidelity does not consist in believing or in disbelieving: it consists in professing to believe what he does not believe.”

“Every national church or religion has established itself by pretending some special mission from God communicated to certain individuals. The Jews have their Moses; the Christians their Jesus Christ, their apostles and saints; and the Turks their Mahomet; as if the way to God was not open to every man alike."

“The more unnatural any thing is, the more is it capable of becoming the object of dismal admiration.”

“Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and torturous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness, with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we called it the word of a demon than the word of God.”

“The proverbs, which are said to be Solomon's, though most probably a collection (because they discover a knowledge of life, which his situation excluded him from knowing) are an instructive table of ethics. They are inferior in keenness to the proverbs of the Spaniards, and not more wise and oeconomical than those of the American Franklin.”

Hallelujah Chorus

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