The age at which a child is presumed to know right from wrong and be capable of responsible action.

This work made Thomas Paine a virtual outcast among his former revolutionary friends. It was written in 1793 while Paine was imprisoned and awaiting execution in France. Even those who agreed with him avoided him for political reasons.

Yet The Age of Reason was and is a remarkable work. Paine later wrote and published the Age of Reason: Part II and though he finished the Age of Reason: Part III, it was never published. In the Age of Reason Paine gives his thoughts on religion in clear, concise, and logical prose. The following is an excerpt:

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

I believe in the equality of man; and I believe that religious duties consist in doing justice, loving mercy, and endeavoring to make our fellow-creatures happy.

But, lest it should be supposed that I believe in many other things in addition to these, I shall, in the progress of this work, declare the things I do not believe, and my reasons for not believing them.

I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church.

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.

I do not mean by this declaration to condemn those who believe otherwise; they have the same right to their belief as I have to mine. But it is necessary to the happiness of man, that he be mentally faithful to himself. Infidelity does not consist in believing, or in disbelieving; it consists in professing to believe what he does not believe.

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. He takes up the trade of a priest for the sake of gain, and in order to qualify himself for that trade, he begins with a perjury. Can we conceive any thing more destructive to morality than this?

The Age of Reason, as defined by the Catholic Encyclopedia...

"The name given to that period of human life at which persons are deemed to be morally responsible. This, as a rule, happens at the age of seven, or thereabouts, though the use of reason requisite for moral discernment may come before, or may be delayed until notably after, that time."

"At this age Christians come under the operation of ecclesiastical laws, such as the precept of assistance at Mass on Sundays and holydays, abstinence from meat on certain days, and annual confessions, should they have incurred mortal sin. The obligation of Easter Communion literally understood applies to all who have reached "the years of discretion" ; but according to the practical interpretation of the Church it is not regarded as binding children just as soon as they are seven years old."

"At the age of reason a person is juridically considered eligible to act as witness to a marriage, as sponsor at baptism or confirmation, and as a party to the formal contract of betrothal ; at this age one is considered capable of receiving extreme unction, or being promoted to first tonsure and minor orders, of being incumbent of a simple benefice (beneficium simplex) if the founder of it should have so provided ; and, lastly, is held liable to ecclesiastical censure."

"In the present discipline, however, persons do not incur these penalties until they reach the age of puberty, unless explicitly included in the decree imposing them. The only censure surely applicable to persons of this age is for the violation of the clausura of nuns, while that for the maltreatment, suadente diabolo, of clerics is probably so."

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