All religions are in their nature kind and benign, and united with principles of morality. They could not have made proselytes at first by professing anything that was vicious, cruel, perseccuting, or immoral. Like everything else, they had their beginning; and they proceeded by persuasion,e xhortation, and example. How is it then that they lose their native mildness, and become morose and intolerant?--Thomas Paine, The Rights of Man (1791).
It proceeds from the connexion which Mr. Burke recommends. By engendering the church with the state, a sort of mule-animal, capable only of destroying, and not of breeding up, is produced, called The Church established by Law. it is a stranger, even from its birth, to any parent mother on which it is begotten, and whom in time it kicks out and destroys.
The inquisition in Spain does not proceed from the religion orginally professed, but from this mule-animal, engendered between the church and the state. The burnings in Smithfield proceeded from the same heterogeneous production; and it was the regeneration of this strange animal in England afterwards, that renewed rancour and irreligion among the inhabitants, and that drove the people called Quakers and Dissenters to America. Persecution is not an original feature of all law-religions, or religions established by law. Take away the law-establishment, and every religion assumes its original benignity. In America, a Catholic Priest is a good citizen, a good character, and a good neighbour; an Episcopalian Minister is of the same description: and this proceeds, independently of the men, for there being no law-establishment in America.
I think it would be a good idea if Christopher Hitchens, a fan of Thomas Paine, read him a little more closely and carefully...