If you want to celebrate Thomas Paine Day in Arkansas, this has got to be a time that tries your soul.
The proposal by state Rep. Lindsley Smith, Fayetteville Democrat, to commemorate Jan. 29 as "Thomas Paine Day" failed in the state House of Representatives after a legislator questioned Paine's writings criticizing the Bible and Christianity. … state Rep. Sid Rosenbaum, Little Rock Republican, quizzed Miss Smith about Paine and quoted passages from Paine's book, "The Age of Reason," which Mr. Rosenbaum called anti-religious.
"He did some good things for the nation, but the book that he wrote was anti-Christian and anti-Jewish," Mr. Rosenbaum said. "I don't think we should be passing things out like this without at least debating it and letting people in the House know what we're voting on."
Or by, you know, lying about them. The Age of Reason isn't anti-Christian or anti-Jewish. It's anti-religion. "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." This is without question the most powerful document of Deism. (It's free right here, by the way.) Paine was basically turned into a pariah by the book, though, so this vote carries a kind of terrific irony.
I understand why legislators want to perpetuate the story that all of our founding fathers were Christians (budding Jerry Falwells, depending on who you ask). I don't understand the importance of believing that they all really dug church.