What makes a radical thinker who they are? Or,Modern Sexual Taboos and Their Morality Articles what makes a revolutionary idea so revolutionary? And, as my article will question, how far can a radical thinker go? To take a case examination, observe Thomas Paine. In the 1700’s, he opposed Monarchy, Racism, Sexism, slavery, and revealed religion — some things which we are only truly conquering today. In the time of Paine, those of another skin color were afforded no rights at all and slavery was a normal, respected institution. After centuries of his work, only some of his ideals had been met. Today, there are many philosophers and social scientists who advocate new radical ideas. Some of them claim that animals deserve more rights than they are currently given, while others work for environment protection programs. The concept of giving rights to animals or working to protect the environment are largely new concepts. To quote Henry Stephens Salt, “When Lord Erskine, speaking in the House of Lords in 1811, advocated the cause of justice to the lower animals, he was greeted with loud cries of insult and derision.” [Animals’ Rights, by Henry Stephens Salt, chapter 1, 1894.] Although many humane individuals today advocate the humane treatment of animals, still those many individuals will consume those who they believe deserve “humane treatment.”
What was it that made Thomas Paine a genius? It was the fact that he accepted viewpoints on evidence and reason — viewpoints which have only been confirmed recently. Furthermore, it was also the fact that in the time of Paine, many of his viewpoints were disregarded as infidelity. To which he responded quite admirably, “Infidelity does not consist in believing, or in disbelieving; it consists in professing to believe what he does not believe.” [The Age of Reason, by Thomas Paine, part 1, chapter 1.] Many of the orthodoxes that Paine challenged were held sacred. He detested revealed religion as much as he detested cruelty, and he worked fervently to relinquish the world of both calamities. Thomas Paine did not see things as sacred and non-sacred, though. Or, to simplify that statement, he did not see things that were unquestionable or undeserving of investigation. As well as offering reasoning and evidence to his claims, he had this creed of scientific observation and questioning, and that is why we consider him a genius today.
There are those, however, who would argue against Paine for as long as they could, who would say as much against him as would be permitted. Those individuals who detested Abolitionism, Women’s Suffrage, and equality of mankind held prejudice and bigotry closer to their heart than reason and compassion. It is rather for the sake of their cultural upbringing that they came to detest Paine and his views than from any method of investigation. Some individuals offered frail arguments for religion and slavery, of which Paine has a history of outrightly and powerfully refuting them. If Thomas Paine had been more intelligent than he was, would he have come to many of the conclusions of modern, radical thinkers? Although he did admit that animals were to be treated with affection, he did not advocate their right to life or liberty. If he had time and energy, as well as more critical investigation, would he have come to the position of being a Vegetarian and an Enviornmentalist? The question now is: what prevented him from reaching this even more radical position? Perhaps it was that his culture, being extremely limited as it was, did not allow that much investigation. Given the fact that Paine was utmostly intelligent and critical in all claims, it would only seem natural that given the right amount of time, he would reach even more radical opinions. Of course, perhaps the amount of unorthodox opinions (based on reason and evidence) one can reach may be measured in proportion to one’s own intelligence and to the Freethought principles of one’s society. And when I said radical opinions, do not confuse that with simply the idea of them being radical, but being combinely radical and logical. For example, if an individual lived in a society where to read or write was forbidden, and to be happy was a crime, and if this individual were to come to the same conclusions as Thomas Paine, then they would have been more radical compared to their society, yet they had managed to come to reasonable and logical ideas.
The topic of this essay is modern sexual taboos and their morality. In the following pages, I will discuss the ethics and the reason concerning many things today which are detested by some: masturbation, homosexuality, prostitution, and other sexual taboos which are detested by many: Pedophilia, Zoophilia, Incest, and Free Love. The purpose of telling the story of Thomas Paine is to reaffirm the fact that we must consider proposals and arguments on the merit of their evidence and reasoning. We cannot accept a doctrine simply because it was taught to us by parents and society, no matter how delicate or sensitive an issue it may be. I understand there are some who may attempt to suppress freedom of thought. In May of 1812, Thomas Paine’s book The Age of Reason was being sold by Daniel Isaac Eaton and he was imprisoned for 18 months. The crime was questioning the established religion. Percival Bysshe Shelley defended Eaton, “To torture and imprison the asserter of a dogma, however ridiculous and false, is highly barbarous and impolitic:-How, then, does not the cruelty of persecution become aggravated when it is directed against the opposer of an opinion yet under dispute, and which men of unrivalled acquirements, penetrating genius, and stainless virtue, have spent, and at last sacrificed, their lives in combating.” [A Letter to Lord Ellenborough, by Percival Bysshe Shelley.] It was made a crime by the bishops, the cardinals, and the popes of the world to investigate their faith, for what has such investigation revealed but the absurdity of their dogma? In another similar case, many individuals who oppose Euthanasia in Europe have written numerous books, but not against Euthanasia, but against the discussion of Euthanasia! Wesley J. Smith, an opponent to Euthanasia, has said of the discussion of Euthanasia, “This is a strange definition of academic freedom.” [“Animal Rights Extremism At Princeton: Peter Singer Gets A Chair,” by Wesley J. Smith.] Those who oppose the investigation or discussion of their beliefs should be regarded highly suspiciously of; if their creed is the right one, then why must its evidences and proofs be hidden from public investigation, unless, of course, such evidences and proofs are highly inadequate?