Chuckling here, by “Tom,” I do not mean our much loved and honored blogging friend “Citizen Tom,” but rather the original Thomas Paine as you see quoted in this internet meme. Just so we’re clear.
Like most internet quotes and memes it is inaccurate or a misquote stretched and pulled to fit into an agenda.
The actual quote is, “To argue with a man who has renounced the use and authority of reason, and whose philosophy consists in holding humanity in contempt, is like administering medicine to the dead, or endeavoring to convert an atheist by scripture.”
I have highlight the edited out parts. They are exceedingly important because they provide us with context, intent, and meaning.
We all frequently renounce the use of reason. Reason is not even the most effective way of communicating. There is also nonsense, absurdity, satire, mockery, comedy, and assorted other love languages.
Note how Tom specifies we have, “renounced the use and authority of reason, and whose philosophy consists in holding humanity in contempt…..” When you combine those two things what it means is that our head and heart are both wrong and we refuse to be reasonable about it. By holding humanity in contempt we are saying we don’t want to understand, we just hate you and want you destroyed.
Endeavoring to convert an atheist by scripture is well, see the first part. Futile. It’s futile because they haven’t got the eyes to see, the heart to hear, and they don’t want to, either.
Here’s the good news, however! There are very few people who will hit all three chords consistently at all times. I hold humanity in contempt but only early in the morning before coffee and for scattered moments throughout the day. That means I am fully redeemable about 23 hrs a day.
I am not just talking about faith and salvation here, but all issues and causes. There are numerous disagreements among Christians in which the same thing applies, using and accepting the authority of reason and refusing to hold humanity in contempt, may not change any minds, but it won’t hurt either.
Second of all, those of us in Christ are actually called to administer medicine to the dead. Using and accepting the authority of reason and refusing to hold humanity in contempt, will save absolutely no one, but it sure doesn’t hurt the situation either.
Which brings me to the point of my post. Poor Tom’s good name is being much maligned as his words are distorted to support an agenda that suggests, don’t even talk to “those kind of people.” Cancel culture. Tribalism, what have you. His words are being edited and used to create separation and division. Also, to justify being unreasonable. People tend to throw up this meme when they really mean, talk to the hand because the ears aren’t listening.
I don’t think he would have liked that.