141+ Best Thomas Paine Quotes: Exclusive Selection

Thomas Paine was an English-born American political activist, philosopher, political theorist, and revolutionary. He authored the two most influential pamphlets whose writings influenced the American Revolution, and helped pave the way for the Declaration of Independence. Insightful Thomas Paine quotes reveal his free thoughts on common sense, rights of man, the revolutionary war, the duty of a patriot and liberty.

If you’re searching for thoughtful activist quotes that perfectly capture what you’d like to say or just want to feel inspired yourself, browse through an amazing collection of profound Thomas Jefferson quotes, Edmund Burke quotes, and wise Benjamin Franklin quotes.

Most Famous Thomas Paine Quotes

A body of men holding themselves accountable to nobody ought not to be trusted by anybody. – Thomas Paine

To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead. – Thomas Paine

I have always strenuously supported the right of every man to his own opinion, however different that opinion might be to mine. He who denies to another this right, makes a slave of himself to his present opinion, because he precludes himself the right of changing it. – Thomas Paine

Character is much easier kept than recovered. – Thomas Paine

The strength and power of despotism consists wholly in the fear of resistance. – Thomas Paine

Every national church or religion has established itself by pretending some special mission from God, communicated to certain individuals. The Jews have their Moses; the Christians their Jesus Christ, their apostles and saints; and the Turks their Mahomet; as if the way to God was not open to every man alike. – Thomas Paine

The intellectual part of religion is a private affair between every man and his Maker, and in which no third party has any right to interfere. The practical part consists in our doing good to each other. But since religion has been made into a trade, the practical part has been made to consist of ceremonies performed by men called priests … By devices of this kind true religion has been banished, and such means have been found out to extract money, even from the pockets of the poor, instead of contributing to their relief. – Thomas Paine

The World is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion. – Thomas Paine

If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace. – Thomas Paine

A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right. – Thomas Paine

We have it in our power to begin the world over again. – Thomas Paine

Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one. – Thomas Paine

The real man smiles in trouble, gathers strength from distress, and grows brave by reflection. – Thomas Paine

Titles are but nicknames, and every nickname is a title. – Thomas Paine

Virtues are acquired through endeavor, Which rests wholly upon yourself. So, to praise others for their virtues Can but encourage one’s own efforts. – Thomas Paine

There are matters in the Bible, said to be done by the express commandment of God, that are shocking to humanity and to every idea we have of moral justice. – Thomas Paine

War involves in its progress such a train of unforeseen circumstances that no human wisdom can calculate the end; it has but one thing certain, and that is to increase taxes. – Thomas Paine

Arms discourage and keep the invader and plunderer in awe, and preserve order in the world as well as property… Horrid mischief would ensue were the law-abiding deprived of the use of them. – Thomas Paine

Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it. – Thomas Paine

What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value. – Thomas Paine

My country is the world, and my religion is to do good. – Thomas Paine

It is necessary to the happiness of man that he be mentally faithful to himself. – Thomas Paine

It is not a God, just and good, but a devil, under the name of God, that the Bible describes. – Thomas Paine

The whole religious complexion of the modern world is due to the absence from Jerusalem of a lunatic asylum. – Thomas Paine

The art of publicity is a black art; but it has come to stay, and every year adds to its potency. – Thomas Paine

I prefer peace. But if trouble must come, let it come in my time, so that my children can live in peace. – Thomas Paine

I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. ‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death. – Thomas Paine

He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself. – Thomas Paine

Reputation is what men and women think of us; character is what God and angels know of us. – Thomas Paine

He that rebels against reason is a real rebel, but he that in defence of reason rebels against tyranny has a better title to Defender of the Faith, than George the Third. – Thomas Paine

But such is the irresistible nature of truth, that all it asks, and all it wants is the liberty of appearing. – Thomas Paine

Those who want to reap the benefits of this great nation must bear the fatigue of supporting it. – Thomas Paine

To say that any people are not fit for freedom, is to make poverty their choice, and to say they had rather be loaded with taxes than not. – Thomas Paine

Any system of religion that has anything in it that shocks the mind of a child, cannot be true. – Thomas Paine

The most formidable weapon against errors of every kind is reason. – Thomas Paine

The Vatican is a dagger in the heart of Italy. – Thomas Paine

Belief in a cruel God makes a cruel man. – Thomas Paine

Of all the tyrannies that affect mankind, tyranny in religion is the worst. – Thomas Paine

That God cannot lie, is no advantage to your argument, because it is no proof that priests can not, or that the Bible does not. – Thomas Paine

It is the direction and not the magnitude which is to be taken into consideration. – Thomas Paine

The abilities of man must fall short on one side or the other, like too scanty a blanket when you are abed. If you pull it upon your shoulders, your feet are left bare; if you thrust it down to your feet, your shoulders are uncovered. – Thomas Paine

When men yield up the privilege of thinking, the last shadow of liberty quits the horizon. – Thomas Paine

It is an affront to treat falsehood with complaisance. – Thomas Paine

Persecution is not an original feature in any religion; but it is always the strongly marked feature of all religions established by law. – Thomas Paine

Moderation in temper is always a virtue; but moderation in principle is always a vice. – Thomas Paine

It is not a field of a few acres of ground, but a cause, that we are defending, and whether we defeat the enemy in one battle, or by degrees, the consequences will be the same. – Thomas Paine

Suspicion is the companion of mean souls, and the bane of all good society. – Thomas Paine

Reason obeys itself; and ignorance submits to whatever is dictated to it. – Thomas Paine

Every science has for its basis a system of principles as fixed and unalterable as those by which the universe is regulated and governed. Man cannot make principles; he can only discover them. – Thomas Paine

The instant formal government is abolished, society begins to act. A general association takes place, and common interest produces common security. – Thomas Paine

One good schoolmaster is of more use than a hundred priests. – Thomas Paine

He who is the author of a war lets loose the whole contagion of hell and opens a vein that bleeds a nation to death. – Thomas Paine

Is it not a species of blasphemy to call the New Testament revealed religion, when we see in it such contradictions and absurdities. – Thomas Paine

To establish any mode to abolish war, however advantageous it might be to Nations, would be to take from such Government the most lucrative of its branches. – Thomas Paine

An army of principles can penetrate where an army of soldiers cannot. – Thomas Paine

That which we obtain too easily, we esteem too lightly. – Thomas Paine

It is error only, and not truth, that shrinks from inquiry. – Thomas Paine

A thing moderately good is not so good as it ought to be. Moderation in temper is always a virtue; but moderation in principle is always a vice. – Thomas Paine

When we are planning for posterity, we ought to remember that virtue is not hereditary. – Thomas Paine

Society in every state is a blessing, but government, even in its best stage, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one. – Thomas Paine

Every religion is good that teaches man to be good; and I know of none that instructs him to be bad. – Thomas Paine

We can only reason from what is; we can reason on actualities, but not on possibilities. – Thomas Paine

There are two distinct classes of what are called thoughts: those that we produce in ourselves by reflection and the act of thinking, and those that bolt into the mind of their own accord – Thomas Paine

Now, Sir, it is impossible for serious men, to whom God has given the divine gift of reason, and who employs that reason to reverence and adore the God that gave it, it is I say, impossible for such a man to put confidence in a book that abounds with – Thomas Paine

Give to every other human being every right that you claim for yourself – that is my doctrine – Thomas Paine

It is impossible to calculate the moral mischief, if I may so express it, that mental lying has produced in society. When a man has so far corrupted and prostituted the chastity of his mind as to subscribe his professional belief to things, he does not believe he has prepared himself for the commission of every other crime. – Thomas Paine

Is it popular to pay our debts, to do justice, to defend the injured and insulted country, to protect the aged and the infant, and give top liberty a land to live in? Then must taxation, as the means by which these things are done, be popular likewi – Thomas Paine

The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it NOW deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. – Thomas Paine

Accustom a people to believe that priests, or any other class of men who can forgive sins, and you will have sins in abundance – Thomas Paine

The New Testament, compared with the Old, is like a farce of one act – Thomas Paine

the colonists are by the law of nature free born, as indeed all men are, white or black. – Thomas Paine

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. – Thomas Paine

It is not a charity but a right, not bounty but justice, that I am pleading for. The present state of civilization is as odious as it is unjust. It is absolutely the opposite of what it should be, and it is necessary that a revolution should be made in it. The contrast of affluence and wretchedness continually meeting and offending the eye, is like dead and living bodies chained together – Thomas Paine

The moral duty of man consists of imitatingthe moral goodness and beneficence of God, manifested in the creation, toward all His creatures. – Thomas Paine

Public money ought to be touched with the most scrupulous conscientiousness of honor. It is not the produce of riches only, but of the hard earnings of labor and poverty. It is drawn even from the bitterness of want and misery. Not a beggar passes, or perishes in the streets, whose mite is not in that mass. – Thomas Paine

We do not admit the authority of the church with respect to its pretended infallibility, its manufactured miracles, its setting itself up to forgive sins. It was by propagating that belief and supporting it with fire that she kept up her temporal power. – Thomas Paine

It is the fable of Jesus Christ, as told in the New Testament, and the wild and visionary doctrine raised thereon, against which I contend. The story, taking it as it is told, is blasphemously obscene. – Thomas Paine

When it becomes necessary to do a thing, the whole heart and soul should go into the measure, or not attempt it. – Thomas Paine

To live with our enemies as if they may some time become our friends, and to live with our friends as if they may some time become our enemies, is not a moral but a political maxim – Thomas Paine

A man does not serve God when he prays, for it is himself he is trying to serve – Thomas Paine

For freemen like brothers agree; With one spirit endured, they one friendship pursued, and their temple was Liberty Tree – Thomas Paine

It has been the political career of this man to begin with hypocrisy, proceed with arrogance, and finish with contempt – Thomas Paine

Let the world see that this nation can bear prosperity; and that her honest virtue in time of peace is equal to her bravest valor in time of war. – Thomas Paine

My country is wherever liberty lives. – Thomas Paine

Government is a necessary evil – Thomas Paine

The choicest gift of God [is] the gift of reason. – Thomas Paine

It is the duty of every true Deist to vindicate the moral justice of God against the evils of the Bible. – Thomas Paine

The fate of Charles I has only made kings more subtle, not more just. – Thomas Paine

The more we bestow the richer we become. – Thomas Paine

The more men have to lose, the less willing are they to venture. – Thomas Paine

I believe in one God, and no more; and I hope for happiness beyond this life. – Thomas Paine

As to the Christian system of faith, it appears to me as a species of Atheism — a sort of religious denial of God. It professes to believe in a man rather than in God. It is a compound made up chiefly of Manism with but little Deism, and is as near to Atheism as twilight is to darkness. It introduces between man and his Maker an opaque body, which it calls a Redeemer, as the moon introduces her opaque self between the earth and the sun, and it produces by this means a religious, or an irreligious, eclipse of light. It has put the whole orbit of reason into shade. – Thomas Paine

It matters not where you live, or what rank of life you hold, the evil or the blessing will reach you all. – Thomas Paine

We must be compelled to hold this doctrine to be false, and the old and new law called the Old and New Testament, to be impositions, fables and forgeries. – Thomas Paine

There is something absurd in supposing a continent to be perpetually governed by an island. – Thomas Paine

The trade of governing has always been monopolized by the most ignorant and the most rascally individuals of mankind. – Thomas Paine

The Christian church has set up a religion of pomp and revenue in pretended imitation of a person (Jesus) who lived a life of poverty. – Thomas Paine

A constitution defines and limits the powers of the government it creates. It therefore follows, as a natural and also a logical result, that the governmental exercise of any power not authorized by the constitution is an assumed power, and therefore illegal. – Thomas Paine

Common sense will tell us, that the power which hath endeavoured to subdue us, is of all others, the most improper to defend us. – Thomas Paine

The study of theology, as it stands in Christian churches, is the study of nothing; it is founded on nothing; it rests on no principles; it proceeds by no authorities; it has no data; it can demonstrate nothing; and it admits of no conclusion. – Thomas Paine

The Deist needs none of those tricks and shows called miracles to confirm his faith, for what can be a greater miracle than the creation itself, and his own existence? – Thomas Paine

You cannot undermine police authority and then complain about rising crime. – Thomas Paine

What is it the Bible teaches us? – raping, cruelty, and murder. What is it the New Testament teaches us? – to believe that the Almighty committed debauchery with a woman engaged to be married, and the belief of this debauchery is called faith. – Thomas Paine

The slavery of fear had made men afraid to think. – Thomas Paine

If those to whom power is delegated do well, they will be respected; if not, they will be despised. – Thomas Paine

Reason and Ignorance, the opposites of each other, influence the great bulk of mankind. If either of these can be rendered sufficiently extensive in a country, the machinery of Government goes easily on. Reason obeys itself; and Ignorance submits to whatever is dictated to it. – Thomas Paine

It is from the Bible that man has learned cruelty, rapine, and murder; for the belief of a cruel God makes a cruel man. – Thomas Paine

We still find the greedy hand of government thrusting itself into every corner and crevice of industry and grasping at the spoil of the multitude. Invention is continually exercised to furnish new pretenses for revenue and taxation. It watches prosperity as its prey and permits none to escape without a tribute. – Thomas Paine

Independence is my happiness, and I view things as they are, without regard to place or person; my country is the world, and my religion is to do good. – Thomas Paine

But there are times when men have serious thoughts, and it is at such times, when they begin to think, that they begin to doubt the truth of the Christian religion; and well they may, for it is too fanciful and too full of conjecture, inconsistency, improbability and irrationality, to afford consolation to the thoughtful man. His reason revolts against his creed. He sees that none of its articles are proved, or can be proved. – Thomas Paine

The Church was resolved to have a New Testament, and as, after the lapse of more than three hundred years, no handwriting could be proved or disproved, the Church, which like former impostors had then gotten possession of the State, had everything its own way. It invented creeds, such as that called the Apostle’s Creed, the Nicean Creed, the Athanasian Creed, and out of the loads of rubbish that were presented it voted four to be Gospels, and others to be Epistles, as we now find them arranged. – Thomas Paine

The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value. I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress and grow brave by reflection. ‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink; but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death. – Thomas Paine

These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it NOW, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. – Thomas Paine

Men should not petition for rights, but take them – Thomas Paine

When extraordinary power and extraordinary pay are allotted to any individual in a government, he becomes the center, round which every kind of corruption generates and forms. – Thomas Paine

It is not in numbers, but in unity, that our great strength lies. – Thomas Paine

It is never to be expected in a revolution that every man is to change his opinion at the same moment. There never yet was any truth or any principle so irresistibly obvious that all men believed it at once. Time and reason must cooperate with each other to the final establishment of any principle; and therefore those who may happen to be first convinced have not a right to persecute others, on whom conviction operates more slowly. The moral principle of revolutions is to instruct, not to destroy. – Thomas Paine

Government is not a trade which any man or body of men has a right to set up and exercise for his own emolument, but is altogether a trust, in right of those by whom that trust is delegated, and by whom it is always resumable. It has of itself no rights; they are altogether duties. – Thomas Paine

Religion is a history of wickedness that has served to corrupt and brutalize humankind; and, for my part, I sincerely detest it as I detest everything that is cruel. – Thomas Paine

When all other rights are taken away, the right of rebellion is made perfect. – Thomas Paine

The mind once enlightened cannot again become dark. – Thomas Paine

Each of those churches shows certain books, which they call revelation, or the Word of God. The Jews say that their Word of God was given by God to Moses face to face; the Christians say, that their Word of God came by divine inspiration; and the Turks say, that their Word of God (the Koran) was brought by an angel from heaven. Each of those churches accuses the other of unbelief; and, for my own part, I disbelieve them all. – Thomas Paine

A nation under a well regulated government, should permit none to remain uninstructed. It is monarchical and aristocratical government only that requires ignorance for its support. – Thomas Paine

The fable of Christ and his twelve apostles is a parody of the sun and the twelve signs of the Zodiac, copied from the ancient religions of the Eastern world. Everything told of Christ has reference to the sun. His reported resurrection is at sunrise, and that on the first day of the week; that is, on the day anciently dedicated to the sun, and from thence called Sunday. – Thomas Paine

Of all the systems of religion that ever were invented, there is no more derogatory to the Almighty, more unedifying to man, more repugnant to reason, and more contradictory to itself than this thing called Christianity. Too absurd for belief, too impossible to convince, and too inconsistent for practice, it renders the heart torpid or produces only atheists or fanatics. As an engine of power, it serves the purpose of despotism, and as a means of wealth, the avarice of priests, but so far as respects the good of man in general it leads to nothing here or hereafter. – Thomas Paine

A constitution is not the act of a government, but of a people constituting a government; and government without a constitution is power without a right. All power exercised over a nation, must have some beginning. It must be either delegated, or assumed. There are not other sources. All delegated power is trust, and all assumed power is usurpation. Time does not alter the nature and quality of either. – Thomas Paine

When it shall be said in any country in the world my poor are happy; neither ignorance nor distress is to be found among them; my jails are empty of prisoners, my streets of beggars; the aged are not in want; the taxes are not oppressive; the rational world is my friend, because I am a friend of its happiness: When these things can be said, there may that country boast its Constitution and its Government – Thomas Paine

The Bible is a book that has been read more and examined less than any book that ever existed. – Thomas Paine

Christianity is the strangest religion ever set up, for it committed a murder upon Jesus in order to redeem mankind from the sin of eating an apple. – Thomas Paine

He who dares not offend cannot be honest. – Thomas Paine

No country can be called free which is governed by an absolute power; and it matters not whether it be an absolute royal power or an absolute legislative power, as the consequences will be the same to the people. – Thomas Paine

If I do not believe as you believe, it proves that you do not believe as I believe, and that is all that it proves. – Thomas Paine

Men who look upon themselves born to reign, and others to obey, soon grow insolent; selected from the rest of mankind their minds are early poisoned by importance; and the world they act in differs so materially from the world at large, that they have but little opportunity of knowing its true interests, and when they succeed to the government are frequently the most ignorant and unfit of any throughout the dominions. – Thomas Paine

Our greatest enemies, the ones we must fight most often, are within. – Thomas Paine

All churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Muslim, are simply human inventions. They use fear to enslave us. They are a monopoly for power and profit. – Thomas Paine

I have never made it a consideration whether the subject was popular or unpopular, but whether it was right or wrong; for that which is right will become popular, and that which is wrong, though by mistake it may obtain the cry or fashion of the day, will soon lose the power of delusion, and sink into disesteem. – Thomas Paine

Where knowledge is a duty, ignorance is a crime. – Thomas Paine

The greatest tyrannies are always perpetuated in the name of the noblest causes. – Thomas Paine

Rights are not gifts from one man to another, nor from one class of men to another. It is impossible to discover any origin of rights otherwise than in the origin of man; it consequently follows that rights appertain to man in right of his existence and must therefore be equal to every man. – Thomas Paine

Freedom had been hunted round the globe; reason was considered as rebellion; and the slavery of fear had made men afraid to think. But such is the irresistible nature of truth, that all it asks, and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing. – Thomas Paine

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