Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Thomas Paine

I think that the deceased person whom, in the unlikely event of there being an afterlife in which such things were possible, I would most like to have a prolonged discourse with would undoubtedly be Thomas Paine. We need someone like that to clean the Augean stables of modern society from the acidic dung of religion and sham representative democracy.

Thursday 19 March 2009

The more I learn about him the closer I feel towards his thought. It seems that I have spent my lifetime laboriously working out what he had already done two hundred years ago. He was an inventor – I am inventive. He believed in writing simply and attacked flowery verbosity. So do I. He realised that so-called revealed religion is a made up thing which, whatever its original purpose, is used to control people's minds. I have only just come to that realisation. He railed against ‘elected despots’ and wanted democracy to be truly representative – delegated power that can be recalled at any time. He opposed capital punishment – two hundred years ago. He proposed family allowances and a universal state pension. 
Interestingly he also went to a selective grammar school.
Someone said that his works ought to be included in every school child's curriculum. I heartily agree – although they do need updating because he could not have predicted the rise of corporate capitalism and employment slavery. In The Age of Reason he attacked Christianity because that was his milieu and just included ‘the Turkish Church’ as one of the things he did not believe in. Islam is the most powerful and dangerous of creeds (although the current pope seems keen on rivalling it in winning points for dangerous stupidity) and needs to be vigorously addressed.
He was also too trusting of the ability of the people to resist the efforts of those with power to deceive them. He thought that, once ignorance had been dispelled with knowledge and wisdom they could not unlearn what they had learned and would never trust again. He did not realise the power of mass media to distract and education to bore. He did not stress the need for continual struggle and continual questioning.
His love affair with the French Revolution turned sour with the Reign of Terror and then with the dictatorship of Napoleon. He had more hope and encouragement in the US Revolution but even there he felt his ideas betrayed. His views on religion were fashionable but short-lived. He would have despaired (had he been the despairing type, which I doubt) if he had seen the US now and how it had subverted his ideas by making representative democracy dependent on corporate sponsorship and the rise of religiosity.
What I find extraordinary is that I have just discovered Thomas Paine. The problem is that we are not introduced to ideas and the originators of ideas at school. It ought to be compulsory. In Indonesia, as in many other places, education is by curriculum and (approved) text book. It is designed to promote ignorance through boredom and tedious learning of inaccurate facts and half-baked notions. Education ought to be about providing food for thought and about learning to chew our food and digest it well. What it actually is is getting young people to swallow indigestible stuff and vomit it back intact at regular intervals.

Thursday 19 March 2009

AF would also like to meet David Hume and John Stuart Mill if such things were possible.
I shall try to find out about them. This is Thomas Paine's creed. I would replace the first line with: On the whole it seems reasonable to accept the idea of God as a working hypothesis and prayer seems to work. I don't hope for anything after death except that I may have left something good behind. Dreams of happiness are a vain distraction. A bit wordy though.
I believe in one God, and no more; and I hope for happiness beyond this life.
I believe in the equality of man; and I believe that religious duties consist in doing justice, loving mercy, and endeavouring to make our fellow-creatures happy.
But, lest it should be supposed that I believe many other things in addition to these, I shall, in the progress of this work[1], declare the things I do not believe, and my reasons for not believing them.
I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish Church, by the Roman Church, by the Greek Church, by the Turkish Church, by the Protestant Church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church.
All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.
I do not mean by this declaration to condemn those who believe otherwise; they have the same right to their belief as I have to mine. But it is necessary to the happiness of man that he be mentally faithful to himself. Infidelity does not consist in believing, or in disbelieving; it consists in professing to believe what he does not believe.
I'll let you get on with your studies and stop troubling you! Have a safe journey to the lab.