Why am I writing about him in my atheism blog? Because he is not only the patriot's hero, he's also the secular humanist's. Though he believed in God, he was a deist--one who believes in a divine creator who does not interfere in human affairs. His writings on the subject promote reason above revelation, and rail against intitutionalized religion and Christian doctrines.
I'll be wearing this t-shirt today:
That image is kind of small; it says, "My country is the world. My religion is to do good."
By the end of his life, his views on religion had so ostracized him in the United States that only a handful of people attended his funeral. His obituary in the New York Citizen included the summary, "He lived long, did some good and much harm." Sheesh.
Things get really hinky at this point. He wanted to be buried in a Quaker churchyard, but none would receive his body for burial so he was laid to rest under a tree on his farm. Ten years later, William Cobbett, who had written a slanderous biography of Paine but became his #1 fan after actually reading his works, exhumed the remains with the intention of giving him a proper burial in England, Paine's native land.
What happened next? Let me quote Susan Jacoby's Freethinkers: "[F]or no apparent reason, [Cobbett] kept the bones in a box in his house. His heirs failed to keep track of the remains, so they are lost to posterity--something that probably would not have struck the author of The Age of Reason as a catastrophe."
But yeah, his bones are missing.