The Puritan intellectual and spiritual energies were so decisive in laying down the patterns of American intellectual and spiritual (Christian) life. Though Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin make clear their belief in God, discuss how their writing, ideas, and beliefs depart from the firmly established Puritan/Christian beliefs?
How Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin Writing, Ideas, and Beliefs Depart From Puritan / Christian Beliefs
The Age of Reason is credited for transforming the American psyche by establishing elaborate patters of intellectual and spiritual life. This epoch also saw the rise of influential public figures such as Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin. In particular, Paine and Franklin were prolific writers in an attempt to demystify enlightenment and gain an in-depth understanding of this emerging phenomenon. Both sought to apply key concepts developing from enlightenment to scientific, political and religious matters. The aforementioned individuals demonstrated a singleness of purpose when seeking to realize their goals and are regarded as some of the most ambitious figures in history. They are also remembered for questioning and critiquing long-standing notions in an attempt to innovate and introduce new ideas. Paine and Franklin painstakingly worked to promote and create an open-minded society where liberal ideas were easily accepted by the masses (Mills, 2018). For instance, Paine was an ardent supporter of human rights and firmly believed that it was an inalienable right given by the creator. Similarly, Franklin was concerned with humanity and believed in individual’s ability to better their current state through small incremental gains which would eventually result in self-improvement. Paine and Franklin’s ideas, writing, and beliefs departed from the established Puritan beliefs to form the foundation for a new emerging society.
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Paine is typically regarded as one of the most important figures during the American Revolution. He contributed to this period through his highly emotive writings which he hoped would influence sentiments within the colony. Paine was among the first authors to question and critique the divine rights of kings and the role of this particular belief in the subjugation of subjects. He, therefore, saw it fit to clamor for revolution within the United States to avoid living in servitude and being controlled by a tyrannical regime. It was for this very reason that Paine urged colonialists to strive for the creation of a new nation where every individual would now have a unique opportunity to enjoy the freedom of expression, religion, and association (Paine, 2015). Furthermore, he firmly believed that it was America’s right to be free and to make important choices with regard to its future. Paine expected former colonialists to be at the forefront of creating a new government, which differed from fundamental Puritan beliefs.
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Franklin was also among the first individuals to espouse the integral nature of responding appropriate during a particular moment in history with the intent of effecting change while avoiding time wastage. He led by example and toiled tirelessly to ensure that all his goals were realized, in addition to living a prosperous life. Franklin is also hailed for his role in the development of American values through a foundation of Protestant Christianity (Wilson, 2016). Puritans were especially known for their hard work, dedication, discipline, and education which would be essential when seeking to create a new nation. As an offshoot of a Puritan family, Franklin believed that human beings were inherently good and naturally innocent. It was this belief that guided his assumption that education was critical in transforming the lives of Americans and creating new perspectives which would ultimately improve the status quo. It would then free them from the yoke of religion and authority, eventually enabling them to lead a life of their own choosing.
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During the revolutionary period, Paine acknowledged the tough moral battles that individuals in the American colonies had to wage. It was a choice between obedience during a time of servitude or revolt with the ultimate aim of achieving independence. Paine inspired fellow colonialists through his incendiary writings that urged them to make this difficult choice and act bravely to secure their future. His stance differed from that of Franklin in the sense that he believed that individuals were born to transform their current condition and circumstances which would ultimately create indestructible rights. It was these very rights that eventually formed the basis for human rights and freedoms. Paine’s reliance on common sense ultimately convinced many colonialists to rebel, eventually resulting in the American Revolution.
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It is also worth noting that Franklin and Paine both shared similar opinions on specific topical issues that were of particular concern during the American Revolution. They both believed in individual’s right to elect representatives in an attempt to avert tyrannical rule. Furthermore, piety also guided their writings especially when seeking to gain a deeper understanding of man and the creation of institutions. Franklin and Paine opined that authority figures such as the Crown were preoccupied with monopolizing power in society with the primary purpose being profit. They viewed such institutions as unnecessary creations since human beings were capable of creating systems to manage their relations to each other. Human liberty and freedom was, therefore, necessary to enable individuals lead fulfilling lives built on a firm foundation of truth. The discerning nature of the human mind would ultimately seek a condition of freedom and liberty.
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In conclusion, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Paine were leading figures who established patterns of American intellectual and spiritual life. They believed in self-government through liberty, human rights and freedoms. Their focus on humanity also resulted in social reforms, departing traditional Puritan beliefs.
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