Before Paine, atheism was an idea that most of the upper classes kept to themselves. Thomas Paine took radical thinking about politics and religion out of the salons of the rich, then distilled it into works anyone could understand. Paine argued convincingly for the American Revolution in his bestselling pamphlet Common Sense. His Rights of Man helped to inspire the French Revolution. Paine was a deist, not an atheist; he penned his most controversial work, The Age of Reason, with the aim of purifying, not destroying, religion. Nonetheless, over centuries The Age of Reason been a rallying cry in support of rationalism over blind faith.
In his own words: "Of all the tyrannies that afflict mankind, tyranny in religion is the worst. Every other species of tyranny is limited to the world we live in, but this attempts a stride beyond the grave and seeks to pursue us into eternity."