THE STUDY OF GOD
by Thomas Paine
RELIGION has two principal enemiesFanaticism and Infidelityor that whichis called atheism. The first requires to be combated by reason and moralitytheother by natural philosophy.
The existence of a God is the first dogma of the Theophilanthropists....
The universe is the Bible of a true Theophilanthropist. It is there that hereads of God. It is there that the proofs of his existence are to be sought andto be found. As to written or printed booksby whatever name they are calledthey are the works of man's handsand carry no evidence in themselves that Godis the author of any of them. It must be in something that man could not makethat we must seek evidence for our beliefand that something is the universe;the true Bible; the inimitable work of God.
Contemplating the universethe whole system of creationin this point oflightwe shall discover that all that which is called natural philosophy isproperly a divine study. It is the study of God through his works. It is thebest study by which we can arrive at a knowledge of his existenceand the onlyone by which we can gain a glimpse of his perfection.
Do we want to contemplate his power? We see it in the immensity of thecreation. Do we want to contemplate his wisdom? We see it in the unchangeableorder by which the incomprehensible whole is governed. Do we want to contemplatehis munificence? We see it in the abundance with which he fills the earth. Do wewant to contemplate his mercy? We see it in his not withholding that abundanceeven from the unthankful. In finedo we want to know what God is? Search notwritten or printed booksbut the scripture called the Creation.
It has been the error of the schools to teach astronomyand all the othersciences and subjects of natural philosophyas accomplishments only; whereasthey should be taught theologicallyor with reference to the Being who is theauthor of them: for all the principles of science are of divine origin. Mancannot makeor inventor contrive principles. He can only discover them; andhe ought to look through the discovery to the Author.
When we examine an extraordinary piece of machineryan astonishing pile ofarchitecturea well executed statueor a highly finished paintingwhere lifeand action are imitatedand habit only prevents our mistaking a surface oflight and shade for cubical solidityour ideas are naturally led to think ofthe extensive genius and talents of the artist. When we study the elements ofgeometrywe think of Euclid. When we speak of gravitationwe think of Newton.How then is itthat when we study the works of God in the creationwe stopshortand do not think of God? It is from the error of the schools in havingtaught those subjects as accomplishments onlyand thereby separated the studyof them from the Being who is the author of them.
The schools have made the study of theology to consist in the study ofopinions in written or printed books; whereas theology should be studied in theworks or books of the creation. The study of theology in books of opinions hasoften produced fanaticismrancorand cruelty of temper; and from hence haveproceeded the numerous persecutionsthe fanatical quarrelsthe religiousburnings and massacres that have desolated Europe. But the study of theology inthe works of the creation produces a direct contrary effect. The mind becomes atonce enlightened and serene; a copy of the scene it beholds: information andadoration go hand in hand; and all the social faculties become enlarged.
The evil that has resulted from the error of the schools in teaching naturalphilosophy as an accomplishment onlyhas been that of generating in the pupilsa species of atheism. Instead of looking through the works of the creation tothe Creator himselfthey stop shortand employ the knowledge they acquire tocreate doubts of his existence. They labor with studied ingenuity to ascribeeverything they behold to innate properties of matter; and jump over all therestby saying that matter is eternal.