How does Paine appeal to religion in the first essay of The Crisis?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Although Thomas Paine was not himself conventionally religious, he was a master persuader who knew how to use his audience's beliefs as a way to motivate them.  In this essay, Paine uses religious references to argue that the American cause was just and to encourage the reader to support that cause.

First, Paine repeatedly refers to the idea that God would recognize the justice of the American cause.  For example, he argues that the British have done things that would make God despise them  He says that he cannot imagine that God would have

... relinquished the government of the world, and given us up to the care of devils; and as I do not, I cannot see on what grounds the king of Britain can look up to heaven for help against us: a common murderer, a highwayman, or a house-breaker, has as good a pretence as he.

In saying this, he uses religion to argue that the American cause is just and that of the British is not.

In addition, Paine uses religious imagery to try to persuade colonists that they should actively support the Revolution.  He uses words that they would have recognized as coming from the Bible to do this.  For example, he tells them

Say not, that thousands are gone, turn out your tens of thousands; throw not the burden of the day upon Providence, but "show your faith by your works," that God may bless you.

By doing these things, Paine uses religious ideas and religious references to persuade the colonists to support the Revolution.


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