The Mark Steel Lectures - Thomas Paine

When we think of the 4th of July, most of our thoughts rightly go to Thomas Jefferson's eloquent and timeless Declaration of Independence, but the man who really galvanized the American public to the cause of independence was an iconoclastic Brit by the name of Thomas Paine.

A true idealist and a representative of the Enlightenment, Paine spent his life passionately arguing against tyranny, slavery and the suffocating shackles of organized religion, and in favor of the equality of the sexes, a welfare system and even universal healthcare.

His original claim to fame came from the publication of a short pamphlet entitled Common Sense, which articulated the justification for revolution against the British Crown. This pamphlet would become the best seller of the time, as would his subsequent writings.

Paine had an unparalleled gift for distilling the essence of abstract philosophical discourse and making it seem obvious to even the most ordinary and uneducated persons, thereby gaining their support. His pen was truly mightier than his sword, and not just because he couldn't fight :)

The following is a light-hearted look by comedian Mark Steel at this often overlooked Founding Father.

You can learn about Paine's revolutionary attack on religion it in this episode of Atheism: A Brief History of Disbelief, with Jonathan Miller.
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