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.
The effect of this obscurity has been that of turning everything upside down, and representing it in reverse, and among the revolutions it has thus magically produced, it has made a revolution in theology.
That which is now called natural philosophy, embracing the whole circle of science, of which astronomy occupies the chief place, is the study of the works of God, and of the power and wisdom of God in his works, and is the true theology.
I love it. It's a way of thinking about christianity and science that I'd never been cognizant of before (not surprising considering the distance, both chronologically and intellectually, between TPaine and myself). Christians, in the literally meaning, which I happened to be obsessed with, means the followers of the anointed one (christos). They follow a man, thus the use of Manism to describe the cult. And if a god existed, studying that which he made, i.e. the universe, would be the true theology.
Yeah, there's no god, don't worry, I'm not going to turn believer on you... But how different would the religion be if people thought that way? What follows in the rest of section 8, with a few Platonic echoes, is an elegant questioning of the purposes of both theology and science and the existence of natural law .
It is a fraud of the Christian system to call the sciences human invention; it is only the application of them that is human. 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.
Since, then, man cannot make principles, from whence did he gain a knowledge of them, so as to be able to apply them, not only to things on earth, but to ascertain the motion of bodies so immensely distant from him as all the heavenly bodies are? From whence, I ask, could he gain that knowledge, but from the study of the true theology?
Obviously I need to read more TPaine.