Paine rejected 'revealed religion' - whether Christian, Jewish, or Islamic - and believed that religion should be based on reason alone. His own creed was minimalist:
I believe in God, and no more; and I hope for happiness beyond this life.
I believe in the equality of man, and I believe that religious duties consist in doing justice, loving mercy, and endeavoring to make our fellow-creatures happy.
He felt that the social revolutions that were then occuring in systems of government (in both America and France) would inevitably lead to revolutions in the system of religion. To that end he set out to hold the Bible and Christianity up to the bar of reason and to show that they were wanting.
Paine was a fascinting man with fascinating ideas. Some of his arguments against the Bible or against Christianity are not very compelling (revealing his own ignorance of the facts on occasion) but he was certainly no fool and he made some very thought-provoking points which deserve to be heard by each fresh generation of Christians.
So I was just thinking what a fascinating PhD it would make to examine Paine's little volume along with all the published responses it prompted. It would be a great case-study in apologetics and would also be interesting to see how much the Enlightenment was shaping not merely Paine's critique but also the Christian responses to it.
So many things to do and such little time! But if anyone out there wants to do it then that would be great.