Thomas Paine

“My country is the world; my religion is to do good,” said Thomas Paine, a remarkable and courageous radical thinker who defended the French Revolution and the American War of Independence in his pamphlets and books such as Common Sense. He wrote The Rights of Man, supporting, amongst other things, written constitutions to limit the power of governments, and “natural rights” to education, pensions and welfare.

In The Age of Reason he attacked traditional Christianity and revealed religion, though he retained a belief in God: “The most detestable wickedness, the most horrid cruelties, and the greatest miseries that have afflicted the human race, have had their origin in this thing called revelation, or revealed religion…”

His books were burned in England, he spent some time in prison in France, and he died in New York, poor, ill and unfairly despised for what people thought was his atheism, though in fact he was a deist.