Summarize Paine's argument for science (that is, the empirical study of nature) as the "one true religion."

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Thomas Paine described himself as a "Theophilanthropist," one who loves God and man. These two loves were connected by his attitude to science. It is through scientific knowledge, Paine argued, that we come to the truest appreciation of and reverence for God's creation. In The Age of Reason, Paine wrote:

The true Deist has but one Deity; and his religion consists in contemplating the power, wisdom, and benignity of the Deity in its works, and in endeavoring to imitate Him in everything moral, scientifically, and mechanical.

According to Paine, God has made ample provision for mankind, and this is best appreciated through a scientific understanding of his work. However, the point of science is not only to understand and revere the Deity, but to "imitate Him" by using science to provide for and ameliorate the lot of one's fellow creatures.

Paine, like most Enlightenment thinkers who believed in God at all, thought that reason was God's greatest gift to mankind. He says it is sacrilegious and ungrateful to worship a mystery and dismiss the inability of "human reason" to understand God, "as if man could give reason to himself." Paine regards the scientific method, proceeding on the basis of reason and evidence, as vital when thinking about God or any of His works. Paine argues it is science, therefore, that allows us to understand and revere God through His works, and ultimately to imitate God by applying His faculty of reason to the goal of improving mankind.

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