Thomas Paine's major works-- Common Sense, The Rights of Man, and The Age of Reason-- "became three of the most widely read political tracts of the eighteenth century," and remain influential and relevant even today. Despite his widespread influence in shaping the politics of the American Revolution, he has never gained quite the same recognition as other politicians of his time. As Gordon Wood put it, this is probably because Paine simply did not fit in with the gentlemen of his time, those who came to be known as the Founding Fathers. In truth, he didn't quite seem to have a place with the American public ether. Other founders remained aloof as Paine maintained a rather unkempt and slovenly image. He was respected for his writings but it was not enough to truly be considered a part of their circle. Then, he alienated himself from the public by speaking out against Christianity, calling it "repugnant to reason," and earning himself the title of a "filthy little atheist." I don't think that any of this should discount him from being considered a part of the Founding Fathers today. His writings expressed the American ideals of independence and a decent happy life: ideals which were shared by other influential men of his time. Indeed, these ideas remain alive and widely relevant even today.
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