Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Christianity Unveiled - Being An Examination of The Principles And Effects of The - Christian Religion
Author: Holbach, Paul Henri Thiry, baron d', 1723-1789
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Christianity Unveiled - Being An Examination of The Principles And Effects of The - Christian Religion" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



CHRISTIANITY UNVEILED

Being An Examination of The Principles And Effects of The Christian
Religion

By Nicolas-Antoine Boulanger

Translated From The French By W. M. Johnson.

  "Slave to no Sect, who takes no private read,
  But looks through Nature up to Nature's God;

  "And knows where faith, law, morals, all began,
  All end in love of God, and love of Man."

Pope


London

Printed & Published By R. Carlile, 56, Fleet Street.

1819



TRANSLATOR'S PREFACE.

In this philosophic age, when nature, reason, and the rights of man have
resumed their empire; when the genius of a great, generous, and brave
people is giving the last blow to superstition and despotism, the
publication of a work which has greatly contributed to these glorious
events, must be highly acceptable, not only to the literary world, but
even to the community at large, who eagerly seek after instruction, the
moment they believe it necessary for their happiness.

This publication bears a conspicuous rank among those works whose free
and independent sentiments have introduced a happy change in the public
mind, and concurred with the writings of Rousseau, Mably, Raynal, and
Voltaire, in bringing forward the French Revolution: a revolution which
will probably prove the harbinger of the complete triumph of reason.
Persecutions and wars will then cease for ever throughout the civilized
world.

In offering this translation to the public, I pay a tribute that every
member of society owes to his fellow-citizens, that of endeavouring to
acquaint them with their true rights and duties, and, consequently, the
means most conducive to their happiness.

New York, 1804.



LETTER FROM THE AUTHOR TO A FRIEND.

I receive, Sir, with gratitude, the remarks which you send me upon my
work. If I am sensible to the praises you condescend to give it, I am
too fond of truth to be displeased with the frankness with which you
propose your objections. I find them sufficiently weighty to merit all
my attention. He but ill deserves the title of philosopher, who has not
the courage to hear his opinions contradicted. We are not divines; our
disputes are of a nature to terminate amicably; they in no way resemble
those of the apostles of superstition, who endeavour to overreach each
other by captious arguments, and who, at the expence of good faith,
contend only to advocate the cause of their vanity and their prejudices.
We both desire the happiness of mankind, we both search after truth;
this being the case, we cannot disagree.

You begin by admitting the necessity of examining religion, and
submitting opinions to the decision of reason. You acknowledge that
Christianity cannot sustain this trial, and that in the eye of good
sense it can never appear to be any thing but a tissue of absurdities,
of unconnected fables, senseless dogmas, puerile ceremonies, and notions
borrowed from the Chaldeans, Egyptians, Phenicians, Grecians, and
Romans. In one word, you confess that this religious system is only,
the deformed offspring of almost all ancient superstitions, begotten
by oriental fanaticism, and diversely modified by the circumstances
and prejudices of those who have since pretended to be the inspired
ambassadors of God, and the interpreters of his will.

You tremble at the horrors which the intolerant spirit of Christians has
caused them to commit, whenever they had power to do it; you feel that a
religion founded on a sanguinary deity must be a religion of blood. You
lament that phrenzy, which in infancy takes possession of princes and
people, and renders them equally the slaves of superstition and her
priests; which prevents their acquaintance with their true interests,
renders them deaf to reason, and turns them aside from the great objects
by which they ought to be occupied. You confess that a religion founded
upon enthusiasm or imposture can have no sure principles; that it must
prove an eternal source of disputes, and always end in causing troubles,
persecutions, and ravages; especially when political power conceives
itself indispensibly obliged to enter into its quarrels. In fine, you
go so far as to agree that a good Christian who follows literally the
conduct prescribed to him as the most perfect by the gospel, knows
not in this world any thing of those duties on which true morality
is founded; and that if he wants energy he must prove an useless
misanthrope, or if his temper be warm a turbulent fanatic.

After acknowledging all this, how could it happen that you should
pronounce my work a dangerous one! You tell me that a-wise man ought to
think only for himself; that to the populace a religion is necessary, be
it good or bad; that it is a restraint necessary to gross and ignorant
minds, which, without it, would have no longer any motive for abstaining
from vice. You look upon a reform of religious prejudices as impossible,
because it is the interest of many of those persons who alone can effect
it, to continue mankind in that ignorance of which themselves reap
the advantage. These, if I mistake not, are the weightiest of your
objections. I will endeavour to remove them.

Books are generally written for that part of a nation whose
circumstances, education, and sentiments, place them above the
commission of crimes. This enlightened portion of society, which governs
the other, reads and judges of writings; if they contain maxims false
or injurious, they are soon either condemned to oblivion, or held up to
public execration; if they contain only truth, they are not in danger.
Fanatics and ignorant people are the disturbers of society. Sensible,
enlightened, and disinterested persons are ever the friends of peace.

You are not, Sir, of the number of pusillanimous thinkers, who believe
that truth is capable of doing harm. It does harm to those only who
deceive mankind, and to the rest of the human species it will always be
useful. You ought long to have been convinced that the evils with which
mankind are afflicted, arise only from our errors, our prejudices, our
interests misunderstood, and the false ideas we attach to objects.

In fine, it is easy to see that the policy and morality of man have
been particularly corrupted by their religious prejudices. Was it not
religious and supernatural ideas which caused sovereigns to be looked
upon as gods? It is then religion which raised up tyrants and despots;
tyrants and despots made wicked laws; their example corrupted the great,
the great corrupted the lower classes of mankind; these vitiated
beings became unhappy slaves, employed either in injuring themselves,
flattering the great, or struggling to get clear of their misery. Kings
were styled images of God: they were absolute like him they created
justice and injustice; their wills often sanctified oppression,
violence, and rapine. The means of obtaining their favours were vice and
meanness. Thus nations became filled with perverted citizens, who, under
leaders corrupted by religious notions, made continually a war,
either open or clandestine, and were left destitute of any motive for
practising virtue.

Has this religion influenced the manners of sovereigns, who derive their
divine power from it? Do we not behold princes, overflowing with faith,
continually undertaking the most unjust wars; wasting the blood and
treasure of their subjects; wrenching the bread from the hands of the
poor; permitting and even commanding every species of injustice? Does
this religion, considered by so many sovereigns as the support of their
thrones, render them more humane, temperate, chaste, or faithful to
their oaths? Alas! when we consult history, we there find sovereigns who
were orthodox, zealous, and religious to a scruple, and at the same time
guilty of perjury, usurpation, adultery, robbery, and murder; men who,
in fine, behaved as if they feared not the God whom they honoured
with their mouths. Among the courtiers who surrounded them, we see a
continual alliance of Christianity and vice, devotion and iniquity,
religion and treason. Among the priests of a poor and crucified God, who
found their existence upon religion, and pretend that without it there
could be no morality, do we not see reigning amongst them, pride,
avarice, wantonness, and revenge?

Amongst us, education is very little attended to by the government,
which shews the most profound indifference concerning an object the most
essential to the happiness of states. With most modern nations public
education is confined to teaching of languages, useless to most who
learn them. Christians, instead of morality, inculcate the marvellous
fables and incomprehensible dogmas of a religion extremely repugnant to
right reason. At the first step a young man makes in his studies, he is
taught that he ought to renounce the testimony of his senses, to reject
his reason as an unfaithful guide, and blindly conform himself to the
dictates of his masters? But who are these masters? Priests, whose
interest it is to continue mankind in errors, of which they alone reap
the advantage. Can the abject and isolated mind of these mercenary
pedagogues be capable of instructing their pupils in that of which
themselves are ignorant? Will they teach then to love the public good,
to serve their country, to know the duties of the man and citizen?
Certainly not; we can expect nothing from the hands of such teachers
but ignorant and superstitious pupils, who, if they have profited of the
lessons they have received, are unacquainted with every thing necessary
in society, of which they must consequently become useless members.

On whatever side we cast our eyes, we see the study of the object most
important to man totally neglected. Morality, in which I also comprehend
policy, is considered of very little importance in European education.
The only morality taught by Christians is, the enthusiastic,
impracticable, contradictory, and uncertain morality contained in the
gospel. This is calculated only to degrade the mind, to render virtue
odious, to form abject slaves, and break the spring of the soul; or,
if it is sown in warm and active minds, to produce turbulent fanatics,
capable of shaking the foundations of society.

Notwithstanding the inutility and perversity of the morality which
Christianity teaches mankind, its partisans presume to tell us, that
without this religion we cannot have morals. But what is it to have
morals, in; the language of Christians? It is to pray without ceasing,
to frequent churches, to do penance, and to: abstain from pleasure; it
is to live in selfishness and solitude. What good results to society
from these practices, all of which may be observed by a man who has
not the shadow of virtue? If such morals lead to heaven, they are
very useless on earth. But certain it is, that a man may be a faithful
observer of all that Christianity enjoins, without possessing any of the
virtues which reason shews to be necessary to the support of political
society.

It is necessary, then, to carefully distinguish Christian morality from
political morality; the former makes saints, the latter citizens: one
makes men useless, or even hurtful to the world; the other has for
its object the formation of members useful to society; men active
and vigorous, who are capable of serving it, who fulfil the duties
of husbands, fathers, friends, and companions, whatever may be their
metaphysical opinions, which, let theologists say what they will, are
much less sure than the invariable rules of good sense.

In fact, it is certain, that man is a social being, who in all things
seeks his own happiness; that he does good when he finds it his
interest; that he is not commonly bad, because that would be contrary
to his welfare. This being premised, let education teach men to know
the relations which exist among themselves, and the duties arising from
those relations; let governments, calling to their aid laws, rewards,
and punishments, confirm the lessons given by education; let happiness
accompany useful and virtuous actions, let shame, contempt, and
chastisement be the rewards of vice. Then would mankind have a true
morality, founded in their own nature upon their mutual wants, and the
interest of nations at large. This morality, independent of the sublime
notions of Theology, might perhaps have very little in common
with Christian morality; but society has nothing to lose from this
circumstance, as has already been proved.

When the people receive a proper education, which, by inspiring them
early in life with virtuous principles, will habituate them to do homage
to virtue, detest crimes, contemn vice, and shrink from infamy; such
an education cannot be vain, when continual example shall prove to
the citizens that talents and virtue are the only means of arriving at
honour, fortune, distinction, consideration, and favour; and that vice
conducts only to contempt and ignominy.

If the clergy have usurped from the sovereign power the right of
instructing the people, let the latter re-assume its rights, or at least
not suffer the former to enjoy the exclusive liberty of governing the
manners of mankind, and dictating their morality. Let them teach, if
they please, that their God transforms himself into bread, but let them
never teach that we ought to hate or destroy those who refuse to believe
this ineffable mystery. Let no individual in society have the power of
exciting citizens to rebellion, of sowing discord, breaking the bands
which unite the people amongst one another, and disturbing the
public tranquillity for the sake of opinions. If it be said that all
governments think it their interest to support religious prejudices,
and manage the clergy through policy, although they themselves
are undeceived; I answer, that it is easy to convince enlightened
government, that it is their true interest to govern a happy people;
that upon the happiness it procures the nation, depends the stability
and safety of the government; in one word, that a nation composed of
wise and virtuous citizens, are much more powerful than a troop of
ignorant and corrupted slaves, whom the government is forced to deceive
in order to satisfy, and to deluge with impositions that it may succeed
in any enterprise.

Thus let us not despair, that truth will one day force its way even to
thrones. If the light of reason and science reaches princes with so much
difficulty, it is because interested priests and starveling courtiers
endeavour, to keep them in a perpetual infancy, point out to them
chimerical prospects of power and grandeur, and thus turn away their
attention from objects necessary to their true happiness.

Every government must feel that their power will always be tottering
and precarious, so long as it depends for support on the phantoms of
religion, the errors of the people, and the caprices of the priesthood.
It must feel the inconveniencies resulting from fanatic administrations,
which have hitherto produced nothing but ignorance and presumption,
nothing but obstinate, weak citizens, incapable of doing service to-the
state, and ready to receive the false impressions of guides who would
lead them astray.. It must perceive what immense resources might be
derived from the wealth, which has been accumulated by a body of useless
men, who, under pretensions of teaching the nation, cheat and devour
it.1 Upon this foundation (which to the shame of mankind be it said,
has hitherto served only to support sacerdotal pride) a wise government
might raise establishments which would become useful to the state in
forming the youth, cherishing talents, rewarding virtuous services, and
comforting the people.

I flatter myself, Sir, that these reflections will exculpate me in your
eyes. I do not hope for the suffrages of those who feel themselves,
interested in the continuance of the evils suffered by their
fellow-citizens; it is not such whom I aim to convince nothing can be
made to appear evident to vicious and unreasonable men. But I presume
to hope, that you will cease to look upon my book as dangerous, and my
expectations as altogether chimerical. Many immoral men have attacked
the Christian religion, because it opposed their propensities; many wise
men: have despised it, because to them it appeared, ridiculous; many
persons have looked upon it with indifference, because they did not feel
its real inconveniencies. I attack it as a citizen, because it appears
to me to be injurious to the welfare of the state, an enemy to the
progress, of the human, mind, and opposed to the principles of true
morality, from which political interests can never be separated. It
remains only for me to say, with a poet, who was, like myself, an enemy,
to superstition:

  .........Si tibi vera videtur
     Dede menus, et si falsa est, accingere contra.

I am, &c.

     1 Some have thought that the clergy might one day serve as a
     barrier against despotism, but experience sufficiently
     proves that this body always stipulates for itself alone.



CHRISTIANITY UNVEILED



CHAP. I.--INTRODUCTION.

OF THE NECESSITY OF AN INQUIRY RESPECTING RELIGION, AND THE OBSTACLES
WHICH ARE MET IN PURSUING THIS INQUIRY.


A reasonable being ought in all his actions to aim at his own happiness
and that of his fellow-creatures. Religion, which is held up as an
object most important to our temporal and eternal felicity, can be
advantageous to us only so far as it renders our existence happy in this
world, or as we are assured that it will fulfil the flattering promises
which it makes us respecting another. Our duty towards God, whom we look
upon as the ruler of our destinies, can be founded, it is said, only
on the evils which we fear on his part. It is then necessary that man
should examine the grounds of his fears. He ought, for this purpose, to
consult experience and reason, which are the only guides to truth. By
the benefits which he derives from religion in the visible world which
he inhabits, he may judge of the reality of those blessings for which it
leads him to hope in that invisible world, to which it commands him to
turn his views.

Mankind, for the most part, hold to their religion through habit. They
have never seriously examined the reasons why they are attached to it,
the motives of their conduct, or the foundations of their opinions.
Thus, what has ever been considered as most important to all, has been
of all things least subjected to scrutiny. Men blindly follow on in the
paths which their fathers trod; they believe, because in infancy they
were told they must believe; they hope, because their progenitors hoped;
and they tremble, because they trembled. Scarcely ever have they deigned
to render an account of the motives of their belief. Very few men
have leisure to examine, or fortitude to analyse, the objects of their
habitual veneration, their blind attachment, or their traditional
fears. Nations are carried away in the torrent of habit, example, and
prejudice. Education habituates the mind to opinions the most monstrous,
as it accustoms the body to attitudes the most uneasy. All that has long
existed appears sacred to the eyes of man; they think it sacrilege
to examine things stamped with the seal of antiquity. Prepossessed in
favour of the wisdom of their fathers, they have not the presumption to
investigate what has received their sanction. They see not that man has
ever been the dupe of his prejudices, his hopes, and his fears; and
that the same reasons have almost al ways rendered this enquiry equally
impracticable.

The vulgar, busied in the labours necessary to their subsistence, place
a blind confidence in those who pretend to guide them, give up to
them the right of thinking, and submit without murmuring to all they
prescribe. They believe they shall offend God, if they doubt, for a
moment, the veracity of those who speak to them in his name. The great,
the rich, the men of the world, even when they are more enlightened
than the vulgar, have found it their interest to conform to received
prejudices, and even to maintain them; or, swallowed up in dissipation,
pleasure, and effeminacy, they have no time to bestow on a religion,
which they easily accommodate to their passions, propensities, and
fondness for amusement. In childhood, we receive all the impressions
others wish to make upon us; we have neither the capacity, experience,
or courage, necessary to examine what is taught us by those, on whom our
weakness renders us dependent. In youth, the ardour of our passions, and
the continual ebriety of our senses, prevent our thinking seriously of
a religion, too austere and gloomy to please; if by chance a young man
examines it, he does it with partiality, or without perseverance; he
is often disgusted with a single glance of the eye on an object so
disgusting. In riper age, new passions and cares, ideas of ambition,
greatness, power, the desire of riches, and the hurry of business,
absorb the whole attention of man, or leave him but few moments to think
of religion, which he never has the leisure to scrutinize. In old age,
the faculties are blunted, habits become incorporated with the machine,
and the senses are debilitated by time and infirmity; and we are no
longer able to penetrate back to the source of our opinions; besides,
the fear of death then renders an examination, over which terror
commonly presides, very liable to suspicion.

Thus, religious opinions, once received, maintain their ground, through
a long succession of ages; thus nations transmit from generation to
generation ideas which they have never examined: they imagine their
welfare to be attached to institutions in which, were the truth known,
they would behold the source of the greater part of their misfortunes.
Civil authority also flies to the support of the prejudices of mankind,
compels them to ignorance by forbidding inquiry, and holds itself in
continual readiness to punish all who attempt to undeceive themselves.

Let us not be surprised, then, if we see error almost inextricably
interwoven with human nature. All things seem to concur to perpetuate
our blindness, and hide the truth from us. Tyrants detest and oppress
truth, because it dares to dispute their unjust and, chimerical
titles; it is opposed by the priesthood because it annihilates their
superstitions. Ignorance, indolence, and passion render the great part
of mankind accomplices of those who strive to deceive them, in order to
keep their necks beneath the yoke, and profit by their miseries. Hence
nations groan under hereditary evils, thoughtless of a remedy; being
either ignorant of the cause, or so long accustomed to disease, that
they have lost even the desire of health.

If religion be the object most important to mankind, if it extends its
influences not only over our conduct in this life, but also over
our eternal happiness, nothing can demand from us a more serious
examination. Yet it is of all things, that, respecting which, mankind
exercise the most implicit credulity. The same man, who examines
with scrupulous nicety things of little moment to his welfare, wholly
neglects inquiry concerning the motives which determine him to believe
and perform things, on which, according to his own confession, depend
both his temporal and eternal felicity. He blindly abandons himself to
those whom chance has given him for guides; he confides to them the care
of thinking for him, and even makes a merit of his own indolence and
credulity. In matters of religion, infancy and barbarity seem to be the
boast of the greater part of the human race.

Nevertheless, men have in all ages appeared, who, shaking off the
prejudices of their fellows, have dared to lift before their eyes the
light of truth. But what could their feeble voice effect against errors
imbibed at the breast, confirmed by habit, authorised by example, and
fortified by a policy, which often became the accomplice of its own
ruin? The stentorian clamours of imposture soon overwhelm the calm
exhortations of the advocates of reason. In vain shall the philosopher
endeavour to inspire mankind with courage, so long as they tremble
beneath the rod of priests and kings.

The surest means of deceiving mankind, and perpetuating their errors,
is to deceive them in infancy. Amongst many nations at the present day,
education seems designed only to form fanatics, devotees, and monks;
that is to say, men either useless or injurious to society. Few are the
places in which it is calculated to form good citizens. Princes, to
whom a great part of the earth is at present unhappily subjected, are
commonly the victims of a superstitious education, and remain all their
lives in the profoundest ignorance of their own duties, and the truest
interests of the states which they govern. Religion seems to have been
invented only to render both kings and people equally the slaves of the
priesthood. The latter is continually busied in raising obstacles to the
felicity of nations. Wherever this reigns, other governments have but a
precarious power; and citizens become indolent, ignorant, destitute
of greatness of soul, and, in short, of every quality necessary to the
happiness of society.

If, in a state where the Christian religion is professed, we find
some activity, some science, and an approach to social manners; it is,
because nature, whenever it is in her power, restores mankind to
reason, and obliges them to labour for their own felicity. Were all
Christian nations exactly conformed to their principles, they must
be plunged into the most profound inactivity. Our countries would be
inhabited by a small number of pious savages, who would meet only to
destroy each other. For why should a man mingle with the affairs of a
world, which his religion informs him is only a place of passage? What
can be the industry of that people, who believe themselves commanded
by their God to live in continual fear, to pray, to groan, and afflict
themselves incessantly? How can a society exist which is composed of men
who are convinced that, in their zeal for religion, they ought to hate
and destroy all whose opinions differ from their own? How can we expect
to find humanity, justice, or any virtue, amongst a horde of fanatics,
who copy in their conduct a cruel, dissembling, and dishonest God? A God
who delights in the tears of his unhappy creatures, who sets for them
the ambush, and then punishes them for having fallen into it? A God who
himself ordains robbery, persecution, and carnage?

Such, however, are the traits with which the Christian religion
represents the God which it has inherited from the Jews. This God was
a sultan, a despot, a tyrant, to whom all things were lawful. Yet he is
held up to us as a model of perfection. Crimes, at which human nature
revolts, have been committed in his name; and the greatest villanies
have been justified by the pretence of their being committed, either by
his command, or to merit his favour. Thus the Christian religion, which
boasts of being the only true support of morality, and of furnishing
mankind with the strongest motives for the practice of virtue, has
proved to them a source of divisions, oppressions, and the blackest
crimes. Under the pretext of bringing peace on earth, it has overwhelmed
it with hate, discord, and war. It furnishes the human race with a
thousand ingenious means of tormenting themselves, and scatters amongst
them scourges unknown before. The Christian, possessed of common sense,
must bitterly regret the tranquil ignorance of his idolatrous ancestors.

If the manners of nations have gained nothing by the Christian religion,
governments, of which it has pretended to be the support, have drawn
from it advantages equally small. It establishes to itself in every
state a separate power, and becomes the tyrant or the enemy of every
other power. Kings were always the slaves of priests; or if they refused
to bow the knee, they were proscribed, stripped of their privileges, and
exterminated either by subjects whom religion had excited to revolt, or
assassins whose hands she had armed with her sacred poignard. Before the
introduction of the Christian religion, those who governed the state,
commonly governed the priesthood; since that period, sovereigns have
dwindled into the first slaves of the priesthood, the mere executors of
its vengeance and its decrees.

Let us then conclude, that the Christian religion has no right to boast
of procuring advantages either by policy or morality. Let us tear aside
the veil with which it envelopes itself. Let us penetrate back to its
source. Let us pursue it in its course, we shall find that, founded on
imposture, ignorance, and credulity, it can never be useful but to men
who wish to deceive their fellow-creatures. We shall find, that it
will never cease to generate the greatest evils among mankind, and that
instead of producing the felicity it promises, it is formed to cover
the earth with outrages, and deluge it in blood; that it will plunge the
human race in delirium and vice, and blind their eyes to their truest
interests and their plainest duties.



CHAP. II.--SKETCH OF THE HISTORY OF THE JEWS.

In a small country, almost unknown to others, lived a nation, the
founders of which having too long been slaves among the Egyptians, were
delivered, from their servitude by a priest of Heliopolis, who, by means
of his superior genius and knowledge, gained the ascendancy over them.1
This man, known by the name of Diodorus Siculus also relates the history
of Moses--Vide translation of Abbe Terrasson.

     1 Maneton and Cheremon, Egyptian historians, respecting
     whom testimonies have been transmitted to us by Joseph the
     Jew, inform us that a multitude of lepers were drawn out of
     Egypt by king Amenophis; and that these exiles elected for
     their leader a priest of Heliopolis whose name was Moses,
     and who formed for them a religion and a code of laws.
     Joseph contre Appion. liv. i. chap. ix. II, 12.


Be this as it may, Moses, by the confession of the Bible itself, began
his career by assassinating an Egyptian, who was quarrelling with an
Hebrew; after which he fled into Arabia, and married the daughter of
an idolatrous priest, by whom he was often reproached for his cruelty.
Thence he returned into Egypt, and placed himself at the head of his
nation, which was dissatisfied with king Pharaoh. Moses reigned very
tyrannically; the examples of Korah, Dathan, and Abirain, prove to what
kind of people he had an aversion. He at last disappeared like Romulus,
no one being able to find his body, or the place of his sepulture.

Moses, being educated in the mysteries of a religion, which was fertile
in prodigies, and the mother of superstitions, placed himself at
the head of a band of fugitives, whom he persuaded that he was an
interpreter of the will of their God, whose immediate commands he
pretended to receive. He proved his mission, it is said, by works which
appeared supernatural to men ignorant of the operations of nature, and
the resources of art. The first command that he gave them on the part of
his God was to rob their masters, whom they were about to desert. When
he had thus enriched them with the spoils of Egypt, being sure of their
confidence, he conducted them into a desert, where, during forty years,
he accustomed them to the blindest obedience, he taught them the will of
heaven, the marvellous fables of their forefathers, and the ridiculous
ceremonies to which he pretended the Most High attached his favours. He
was particularly careful to inspire them with the most envenomed hatred
against the gods of other nations, and the most refined cruelty to those
who adored them. By means of carnage and severity, he rendered them a
nation of slaves, obsequious to his will, ready to second his passions,
and sacrifice themselves to gratify his ambitious views. In one word,
he made the Hebrews monsters of phrenzy and ferocity. After having thus
animated them with the spirit of destruction, he shewed them the lands
and possessions of their neighbours, as an inheritance assigned them by
God himself.

Proud of the protection of Jehovah, the Hebrews marched forth to
victory. Heaven authorised in them knavery and cruelty. Religion, united
to avidity, rendered them deaf to the cries of nature; and, under the
conduct of inhuman chiefs, they destroyed the Canaanitish nations with
a barbarity, at which every man must revolt, whose reason is not wholly
annihilated by superstition. Their fury destroyed every thing, even
infants at the breast, in those cities whither these monsters carried
their victorious arms. By the commands of their God, or his prophets,
good faith was violated, justice outraged, and cruelty exercised.

This nation of robbers, usurpers, and murderers, at length established
themselves in a country, not indeed very fertile, but which they found
delicious in comparison with the desert in which they had so long
wandered. Here, under the authority of the visible priests of their
hidden God, they founded a state, detestable to its neighbours, and at
all times the object of their contempt or their hatred. The priesthood,
under the title of a theocracy, for a long time governed this blind and
ferocious people. They were persuaded that in obeying their priests they
obeyed God himself.

Notwithstanding their superstition, the Hebrews at length, forced by
circumstances, or perhaps weary of the yoke of priesthood, determined
to have a king, according to the example of other nations. But in the
choice of their monarch they thought themselves obliged to have recourse
to a prophet. Thus began the monarchy of the Hebrews. Their princes,
however, were always crossed in their enterprises by inspired priests
and ambitious prophets, who continually laid obstacles in the way of
every sovereign whom they did not find sufficiently submissive to their
own wills. The history of the Jews at all times shews us nothing
but kings blindly obedient to the priesthood, or at war with it, and
perishing under its blows.

The ferocious and ridiculous superstitions of the Jews rendered them at
once the natural enemies of mankind, and the object of their contempt.
They were always treated with great severity by those who made inroads
upon their territory. Successively enslaved by the Egyptians, the
Babylonians, and the Grecians, they experienced from their masters
the bitterest treatment, which was indeed but too well deserved. Often
disobedient to their God, whose own cruelty, as well as the tyranny of
his priests frequently disgusted them, they were never faithful to their
princes. In vain were they crushed beneath sceptres of iron; it was
impossible to render them loyal subjects. The Jews were always the dupes
of their prophets, and in their greatest distresses their obstinate
fanaticism, ridiculous hopes, and indefatigable credulity, supported
them against the blows of fortune. At last, conquered with the rest of
the earth, Judah submitted to the Roman yoke.

Despised by their new masters, the Jews were treated hardly, and
with great haughtiness; for their laws, as well as their conduct, had
inspired the hearts of their conquerors with the liveliest detestation.
Soured by misfortune, they became more blind, fanatic, and seditious.
Exalted by the pretended promises of their God; full of confidence in
oracles, which have always announced to them a felicity which they
have never tasted; encouraged by enthusiasts, or by impostors, who
successively profit by their credulity; the Jews have, to this day,
expected the coming of a Messiah, a monarch, a deliverer, who shall free
them from the yokes beneath which they groan, and cause their nation to
reign over all other nations in the universe.



CHAP. III.--SKETCH OF THE HISTORY OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION.

In the midst of this nation, thus disposed to feed on hope and chimera,
a new prophet arose, whose sectaries in process of time have changed the
face of the earth. A poor Jew, who pretended to be descended from the
royal house of David,1 after being long unknown in his own country,
emerges from obscurity, and goes forth to make proselytes. He succeeded
amongst some of the most ignorant part of the populace. To them he
preached his doctrines, and taught them that he was the Son of God,
the deliverer of his oppressed nation, and the Messiah announced by the
prophets. His disciples, being either impostors, or themselves deceived,
rendered a clamorous testimony of his power, and declared that his
mission had been proved by miracles without number. The only prodigy
which he was incapable of effecting, was that of convincing the Jews,
who, far from being touched with his beneficent and marvellous works,
caused him to suffer an ignominious death. Thus the Son of God died
in the sight of all Jerusalem; but his followers declare that he was
secretly resuscitated three days after his death. Visible to them alone,
and invisible to the nation which he came to enlighten and convert to
his doctrine, Jesus, after his resurrection, say they, conversed some
time with his disciples, and then ascended into heaven, where, having
again become equal to God the father, he shares with him the
adorations and homages of the sectaries of his law. These sectaries, by
accumulating superstitions, inventing impostures, and fabricating dogmas
and mysteries, have, by little and little, heaped up a distorted and
unconnected system of religion which is called Christianity, after the
name of Christ its founder.

     1 The Jews say that Jesus was the son of one Pandira, or
     Panther, who had seduced his mother Mary, a milliner, the
     wife of Jochanan. According to others, Pandira, by some
     artifice, enjoyed her several times, while she thought him
     her husband; after which, she becoming pregnant, her
     husband, suspicious of her fidelity, retired into Babylon.
     Some say that Jesus was taught magic in Egypt, from whence
     he went and exercised his art in Galilee, where he was put
     to death.--Vide Peiffer, Theol. Jud. and Mahom. &c.
     Principia. Lypsiae, 1687.


The different nations, to which the Jews were successively subjected,
had infected them with a multitude of Pagan dogmas. Thus the Jewish
religion, Egyptian in its origin, adopted many of the rites and opinions
of the people, with whom the Jews conversed. We need not then be
surprised, if we see the Jews, and the Christians their successors,
filled with notions borrowed of the Phenicians, the Magi or Persians,
the Greeks, and the Romans. The errors of mankind respecting religion
have a general resemblance; they appear to differ only by their
combinations. The commerce of the Jews and Christians with the Grecians
made them acquainted with the philosophy of Plato, so analogous to the
romantic spirit of the orientals, and so conformable to the genius of a
religion which boasts in being inaccessible to reason.1 Paul, the most
ambitious and enthusiastic of the apostles, carried his doctrines,
seasoned with the sublime and marvellous, among the people of Greece and
Asia, and even the inhabitants of Rome. He gained proselytes, as every
man who addresses himself to the imagination of ignorant people may do;
and he may be justly styled the principal founder of a religion, which,
without him, could never have spread far; for the rest of its followers
were ignorant men, from whom he soon separated himself to become the
leader of his own sect.2

     1 Origen says, that Celsus reproached Christ with having
     borrowed many of his maxims from Plato. See Origen contra
     Cel. chap. i. 6. Augustin confesses, that he found the
     beginning of the Gospel of John, in Plato. See S. Aug. Conf.
     I. vii. ch. 9, 10, 11. The notion of the word is evidently
     taken from Plato; the church has since found means of
     transplanting a great part of Plato, as we shall hereafter
     prove.

     2 The Ebionites, or first Christians, looked upon St. Paul
     as an apostate and an heretic, because he wholly rejected
     the law of Moses, which the other apostles wished only to
     reform.


The conquests of the Christian religion were, in its infancy, generally
limited to the vulgar and ignorant. It was embraced only by the most
abject amongst the Jews and Pagans. It is over men of this description
that the marvellous has the greatest influence.1 An unfortunate God, the
innocent victim of wickedness and cruelty, and an enemy to riches and
the great, must have been an object of consolation to the wretched. The
austerity, contempt of riches, and apparently disinterested cares of
the first preachers of the gospel, whose ambition was limited to the
government of souls; the equality of rank and property enjoined by their
religion, and the mutual succours interchanged by its followers; these
were objects well calculated to excite the desires of the poor, and
multiply Christians. The union, concord, and reciprocal affection,
recommended to the first Christians, must have been seductive to
ingenious minds: their submissive temper, their patience in indigence,
obscurity, and distress, caused their infant sect to be looked upon as
little dangerous in a government accustomed to tolerate all sects. Thus,
the founders of Christianity had many adherents among the people,2 and
their opposers and enemies consisted chiefly of some idolatrous priests
and Jews, whose interest it was to support the religion previously
established. By little and little, this new system, covered with the
clouds of mystery, took deep root, and became too strong and extensive
to be suppressed. The Roman government saw too late the progress of an
association it had despised. The Christians now become numerous,
dared to brave the Pagan gods, even in their temples. The emperors and
magistrates, disquieted at such proceedings, endeavoured to extinguish
the sect which gave them umbrage. They persecuted such as they could
not reclaim by milder means, and whom their fanaticism had rendered
obstinate. The feelings of mankind are ever interested in favour of
distress; and this persecution only served to increase the number of the
friends of the Christians. The fortitude and constancy with which they
suffered torment, appeared supernatural and divine in the eyes of those
who were witnesses to it; their enthusiasm communicated itself, and
produced new advocates for the sect, whose destruction was attempted.

     1  The first Christians were, by way of contempt, called
     Ebionites, which signifies beggars or mendicants. See Origen
     contra Celsum, lib. ii. et Euseb. Hist. Eccles. lib. iii. c.
     37. Ebion, in Hebrew, signifies poor. The word Ebion has
     since been personified into the meaning of an heretic, or
     the leader of a sect, who were excluded from sacred things,
     and scarcely considered as men. It promised them that they
     should one day have their turn, and that, in the other life,
     they should be happier than their masters.


     2  Le peuple.


After this explanation, let Christians no longer boast the marvellous
progress of their religion. It was the religion of poverty; it announced
a God who was poor. It was preached by the poor, to the poor and
ignorant. It gave them consolation in their misery. Even its gloomy
ideas were analogous to the disposition of indigent and unhappy men. The
union and concord so much admired in the earlier Christians, is by no
means surprising. An infant and oppressed sect naturally remain united,
and dread a separation of interests. It is astonishing that, in
those early days, men who were themselves persecuted and treated as
malcontents, should presume to preach intolerance and persecution. The
tyranny exercised against them wrought no change in their sentiments.
Tyranny only irritates the human mind, which is always invincible, when
those opinions are attacked to which it has attached its welfare. Such
is the inevitable effect of persecution. Yet Christians, who ought to
be undeceived by the example of their own sect, have to this day been
incapable of divesting themselves of the fury of persecution.

The Roman emperors, having themselves become Christians, that is to
say, carried away by a general torrent, which obliged them to avail
themselves of the support of a powerful sect, seated religion on the
throne. They protected the church and its ministers, and endeavoured to
inspire their courtiers with their own ideas. They beheld with a jealous
eye those who retained their attachment to the ancient religion. They,
at length, interdicted the exercise of it, and finished by forbidding it
under the pain of death. They persecuted without measure those who held
to the worship of their ancestors. The Christians now repaid the Pagans,
with interest, the evils which they had before suffered from them. The
Roman empire was shaken with convulsions, caused by the unbridled zeal
of sovereigns and those pacific priests, who had just before preached
nothing but mildness and toleration. The emperors, either from policy or
superstition, loaded the priesthood with gifts and benefactions, which
indeed were seldom repaid with gratitude. They established the
authority of the latter; and at length respected as divine what they had
themselves created. Priests were relieved from all civil functions, that
nothing might divert their minds from their sacred ministry.1 Thus the
leaders of a once insignificant and oppressed sect became independent.
Being at last more powerful than kings, they soon arrogated to
themselves the right of commanding them. These priests of a God of
peace, almost continually at variance with each other, communicated the
fury of their passions to their followers; and mankind were astonished
to behold quarrels and miseries engendered, under the law of grace,
which they had never experienced under the peaceful reign of the
Divinities, who had formerly shared without dispute the adoration of
mortals.

Such was the progress of a superstition, innocent in its origin, but
which, in its course, far from producing happiness among mankind, became
a bone of contention, and a fruitful source of calamities.


_Peace upon earth, and good will towards men._

Thus is the gospel announced, which has cost the human race more blood
than all other religions of the earth taken collectively.

     1  See Tillemont's Life of Constantine. Vol. IV. Art. 32.


_Love the Lord thy God with all thy strength, and thy neighbour as
thyself._

This, according to the God and Legislator of the Christians, is the sum
of their duties. Yet we see it is impossible for Christians to love that
severe and capricious God whom they worship. On the other hand, we see
them eternally busied in tormenting, persecuting, and destroying their
neighbours and brethren.

To find an explanation of these contradictions, it is sufficient to cast
our eyes upon the God which the Christians inherited from the Jews.
Not contented with the shocking colours in which he was painted, the
Christians have still more disfigured his portrait. The Legislator of
the Hebrews speaks only of the transient punishments of this life; the
Christian represents his God as pouring out unbounded vengeance to all
eternity. In one word, Christian fanaticism feeds itself with the idea
of an hell, where its God, transformed into a ferocious executioner, as
unjust as implacable, shall bathe himself in the tears of his wretched
creatures, and perpetuate their existence, to render them eternally
miserable. There, clothed in vengeance, he shall mock at the torments
of sinners, and listen with rapture to the groans with which they shall
make the brazen roofs of their prisons resound; not the smallest hope of
some distant termination of their pains shall give them an interval of
imaginary relief.

The Christians in adopting the terrible God of the Jews, have sublimed
his cruelty. They represent him as the most capricious, wicked, and
cruel tyrant which the human mind can conceive, and suppose him to treat
his subjects with a barbarity and injustice truly worthy of a demon. In
order to be convinced of this truth, let us contemplate, for a moment,
a picture of the Jewish mythology, adopted and rendered still more
extravagant by the Christians.



CHAP. IV.--OF THE CHRISTIAN MYTHOLOGY,

OR THE IDEAS OF GOD, AND HIS CONDUCT, GIVEN US BY THE CHRISTIAN
RELIGION.

God, by an inconceivable act of his omnipotence, created the universe
out of nothing.1 He made the earth for the residence of man, whom he
created in his own image. Scarcely had this man, the prime object of
the labours of his God, seen the light, when his Creator set a snare for
him, into which he undoubtedly knew that he must fall. A serpent, who
speaks, seduces a woman, who is not at all surprised at the phenomenon.
She, being persuaded by the serpent, solicits her husband to eat of a
fruit forbidden by God himself. Adam, the father of the human race,
by this light fault, draws upon himself and his innocent posterity
innumerable evils, which are followed, but not terminated by death. By
the offence of only one man, the whole human race incurs the wrath of
God, and they are at length punished for involuntary faults with an
universal deluge. God repents having peopled the earth, and he finds it
easier to drown and destroy the human race, than to change their hearts.

A small number of the just, however, escaped this destructive flood; but
the deluged earth, and the destruction of mankind, did not satiate the
implacable vengeance of their Creator. A new generation appeared, These,
although descended from the friends of God, whom he had preserved in the
general shipwreck of the world, incense him by new crimes. The almighty
is represented as having been incapable of rendering his creature such
as he desired him. A new torrent of corruption carries away mankind; and
wrath is again excited in the bosom of Jehovah.

     1 Ex nihilo nihil fit, was considered as an axiom by ancient
     philosophers. The creation, as admitted by the Christians of
     the present day, that is to say, the eduction of all things
     from nothing, is a theological invention, not, indeed, of
     very remote date. The word Barah, which is used in Genesis,
     signifies to compote, arranges to dispose matter already
     existing.


Partial in his affections and his preferences, he, at length, casts his
eyes on an idolatrous Assyrian. He enters into an alliance with this
man, and covenants that his posterity shall be multiplied to the number
of the stars of heaven, or the sands of the sea, and that they shall for
ever enjoy the favour of God. To this chosen race he reveals his
will; for them, unmindful of his justice, he destroys whole nations.
Nevertheless, this favoured race is not the more happy or the more
attached to their God. They fly to strange gods, from whom they seek
succours, which are refused to them by their own. They frequently
insult the God who is able to exterminate them. Sometimes he punishes,
sometimes consoles them; one while he hates them without cause, and
another caresses them with as little reason. At last, finding it
impossible to reclaim this perverse people, for whom he continues to
feel the warmest tenderness, he sends amongst them his own son. To this
son they will not listen. What do I say? This beloved son, equal to God
his father, is put to an ignominious death by his favourite nation. His
father, at the same time, finds it impossible to save the human race,
without the sacrifice of his own son. Thus an innocent God becomes
the victim of a just God, by whom he is beloved. Both consent to this
strange sacrifice, judged necessary by a God, who knows that it will
be useless to an hardened nation, which nothing can reclaim. We should
expect that the death of this God, being useless to Israel, must
serve, at least, to expiate the sins of the rest of the human race.
Notwithstanding the eternal alliance with the Hebrews, solemnly sworn to
by the Most High, and so many times renewed, that favourite nation find
themselves at last deserted by their God, who could not reduce them
to obedience. The merits of the sufferings and death of his Son, are
applied to the nations before excluded from his bounty. These are
reconciled to heaven, now become more just in regard to them, and return
to grace. Yet, in spite of all the efforts of God, his favours are
lavished in vain. Mankind continued to sin, enkindle the divine wrath,
and render themselves worthy of the eternal punishments, previously
prepared and destined for the greater part of the human race.

Such is the faithful history of the God, on whom the foundation of the
Christian religion is laid. His conduct being so strange, cruel, and
opposite to all reason, is it surprising to see the worshippers of this
God ignorant of their duties, destitute of humanity and justice,
and striving to assimilate themselves to the model of that barbarous
divinity which they adore? What indulgence have mankind a right to
expect from a God, who spared not even his own son? What indulgence can
the Christian, who believes this fable, shew to his fellow-creature?
Ought he not to imagine that the surest means of pleasing his God, is to
imitate his ferocity and cruelty? 1

     1 The sacrifice of the Son of God is mentioned as a proof of
     his  benevolence. Is it not rather a proof of his ferocity,
     cruelty, and implacable vengeance? A good Christian, on his
     death-bed said, "he had never been able to conceive how a
     good God could put an innocent God to death, to appease a
     just God."


It is at least evident, that the sectaries of such a God must have a
precarious morality, founded on principles destitute of all firmness.
This God, in fact, is not always unjust and cruel; his conduct varies.
Sometimes he appears to have created all nature for man alone; at
others, he seems to have created man only as an object, whereon to
exercise his arbitrary rage. Sometimes they are cherished by him,
notwithstanding all their faults; at others, the whole species is
condemned to eternal misery for an apple. This unchangeable God is
alternately agitated by anger and love, revenge and pity, benevolence
and fury. His conduct is continually destitute of that uniformity which
characterises wisdom. Partial in his affections, he makes it the duty of
his favourite people to commit deliberately the most atrocious crimes.
He commands them to violate good faith, and contemn the rights of
nations. He enjoins upon them the commission of robbery and murder.
On other occasions, we see him forbidding the same crimes, ordaining
justice, and prescribing to mankind abstinence from whatever disturbs
the good order of society. This God, who is in turn styled the God of
Vengeance, the God of Mercies, the God of Arms, and the God of Peace, is
ever at variance with himself. His subjects are consequently each one at
liberty to copy that part of his conduct which he finds most congenial
to his humour. Hence their morality becomes arbitrary. It is surprising,
that Christians have never yet been able to agree amongst themselves,
whether it would be most pleasing to their God to tolerate the various
opinions of mankind, or to exterminate all who differ from themselves.
It is, in fact, a problem with them, whether it be most expedient to
persecute and assassinate those who think not as they do, or to treat
them with humanity, and suffer them to live in peace.

Christians, however, do not fail to justify the strange and often
iniquitous conduct attributed to their God in the Scriptures. This
God, say they, being of right the absolute master of his creatures, can
dispose, of them at his pleasure, and for this no one can accuse him of
injustice, or demand an account of his conduct. His justice is not
the justice of mankind, and they have no right to censure any of his
actions. It is easy to perceive the insufficiency of this answer.
Mankind in making justice an attribute of their God, can have no idea
of this virtue, but by supposing that it resembles the justice of their
fellow-creatures. If God have a justice, which in its essence differs
from that of man, we know not what it is, and we attribute to him a
quality of which we have no idea. If it be said, that God owes nothing
to his creatures, he is supposed to be a tyrant, whose conduct has no
rule but his own caprice, and who cannot continue to be a model for
us, having no longer any relation with us, seeing all relations must
be reciprocal. If nothing be due from God to his creatures, how can any
thing be due from them to him? If, as we are continually told, men are
to God, as the clay in the hands of the potter, no moral relation can
exist between them. It is, nevertheless, upon those relations that all
religion is founded. Therefore, to say that God has no duty towards his
creatures, and that his justice is different from that of mankind, is
to sap the foundations of all religion and justice, which necessarily
suppose that punish them for doing evil.

In fine, how can the followers of the Christian system reconcile that
barbarous conduct, and those sanguinary commands, attributed to him in
the Scriptures, with his goodness or his wisdom? And how can goodness
be an attribute of a God, who has created most of the human race only to
damn them eternally? God ought to reward mankind for doing good.

Here we shall be told that the conduct of God is, to us, an impenetrable
mystery, that we have no right to scrutinize it, and that our feeble
reason must be lost whenever it attempts to sound the depth of divine
wisdom. We are informed that we must adore in silence, and tremblingly
submit to the oracles of a God, who has himself sufficiently made known
his will in his holy Scriptures. This is what they call revelation, to
which we proceed in the next chapter.



CHAP. V.--OF REVELATION.

How can we know, without the aid of reason, that God hath spoken? But,
on the other side, is not reason proscribed by the Christian religion?
Is not the use of reason forbidden, in the examination of the marvellous
dogmas with which we are presented by this religion? Does it not
continually exclaim against a profane reason, which it accuses of
insufficiency, and often regards as rebellious to heaven? In order to be
capable of judging of divine revelation, we must have a just idea of the
Divinity. But seeing human reason is too weak and grovelling to exalt
itself to an acquaintance with the Supreme Being, from what source shall
we derive that idea, beside revelation itself? Thus revelation itself is
to become the proof of the authority of revelation.

Let us pass on from this conjuror's circle, and open the sacred books,
destined to enlighten mankind, and before which reason must fall
prostrate. Do they exhibit any precise ideas of the God, whose oracles
they announce? Can we draw from them any just conceptions of its
attributes? Is not this God represented as a mass of extraordinary
qualities, which form an inexplicable enigma? If this revelation be, as
is supposed, an emanation from God himself, who can confide in him? Does
he not paint himself as false, unjust, deceitful, and Cruel; as setting
snares for mankind; seducing, hardening, and leading them astray? 1

     1 By the Scriptures and the Fathers of the Church, God is
     always represented as a seducer. He permits Eve to be
     seduced by a serpent. He hardens the heart of Pharaoh.
     Christ himself is a stone of stumbling. Such are the points
     of view under which the Divinity is exhibited to us.

Thus the man, desirous of being assured of the truth of Christian
revelation, finds himself, at the first step of enquiry, plunged into
distrust and perplexity, which is increased by the indeterminable
disputes of his sacred guides, who have never been able to agree upon
the manner of understanding the oracles of a Divinity which they say has
revealed itself.

The hesitation and fear of the man who honestly examines the revelation
adopted by Christians, must redouble, when he sees their God represented
as revealing himself only to a few favourites of the human race,
while he carefully conceals himself from the remainder, to whom,
notwithstanding this, revelation is equally necessary. He must be
uncertain whether or not he is of the number, to whom this partial God
deigns to make himself known.

Must not his heart be troubled at the sight of a God, who vouchsafes
to discover himself, and announce his decrees, only to a number of
men, inconsiderable in comparison with the whole human race? Is he not
tempted to accuse this God of a malevolence too dark, when he finds that
for want of revealing himself to so many millions of mankind, he has
caused their inevitable misery through an endless succession of ages?
What ideas must he form to himself of a God who inflicts this punishment
upon them for their ignorance of secret laws, which he has published by
stealth in an obscure and unknown corner of Asia?

Thus Christians, even when they consult the Scriptures, find all things
conspiring to put them on their guard against the God exhibited therein.
Every thing inspires distrust of his moral character. All things float
in an uncertainty. This God, in concert with the pretended interpreters
of his will, seems to have formed the design of redoubling the darkness
of his ignorance. He is, however, told, in order to appease his doubts,
that the revealed will of God consists of mysteries; that is to say,
things inaccessible to human understanding. In this case what need was
there of having spoken? Ought a God to reveal himself to mankind for
the sole purpose of not being comprehended? Is not such conduct as
ridiculous as it is unreasonable? To say that God has revealed himself
only to announce mysteries, is to say that he has revealed himself in
order to remain unknown, to conceal from us his views, embarrass our
understandings, and augment our ignorance and uncertainty.

A true revelation, proceeding from a just and good God, and necessary to
all mankind, ought to be clear enough to be understood by all the human
race. But will the revelation, upon which Judaism and Christianity are
founded, bear the test of this criterion? The Elements of Euclid are
intelligible to all who endeavour to understand them. This work excites
no dispute among geometricians. Is it so with the Bible? and do its
revealed truths occasion no disputes among divines? By what fatality
have writings revealed by God himself still need of commentaries? and
why do they demand additional lights from on high, before they can be
believed or understood? Is it not astonishing, that what was intended as
a guide for mankind, should be wholly above their comprehending? Is
it not cruel, that what is of most importance to them should be least
known? All is mystery, darkness, uncertainty, and matter of dispute, in
a religion intended by the Most High to enlighten the human race.

Far from contenting themselves with the pretended mysteries contained in
the Scriptures, the priests of the Christian religion have, from age
to age, invented new ones, which, though never mentioned by their God,
their disciples are forced to believe. No Christian can entertain a
doubt concerning the mysteries of the Trinity, the Incarnation, and the
efficacy of sacraments; and yet Christ never explained these subjects.
Among Christians every thing seems to be abandoned to the imagination,
caprice, and arbitrary decision of priests, who arrogate to themselves
the right of fabricating mysteries and articles of faith, as their
interests occasionally require. Thus, this revelation perpetuates itself
by means of the Church, which pretends to be inspired by God, and which,
far from enlightening the minds of her children, delights to confound,
and plunges them in a sea of uncertainty!

Such are the effects of this revelation, which forms the basis of the
Christian religion, and of the reality of which we are not permitted to
doubt. God, it is said, has spoken to mankind. But when has he spoken?
Thousands of years ago, by prophets and inspired men, whom he has chosen
as organs of communication with mankind. But how can it be proved
to have been God himself who spoke, except by having recourse to the
testimony of the very persons who pretend to have received his commands?
These interpreters of the divine will were then men; and are not men
liable to be deceived themselves, and prone to deceive others? How then
can we discover what confidence is due to the testimony which these
organs of heaven give in favour of their own mission? How shall we be
made sure that they have not been the dupes of some illusion, or an
overheated imagination?

At this remote period, how can we be certain that Moses conversed with
God, and received from him the law which he communicated to the
Hebrews? What was the temperament of this Moses? Was he phlegmatic or
enthusiastic, honest or knavish, ambitious or disinterested, a practiser
of truths or of falsehood? What confidence can be placed in the
testimony of a man, who, after pretending to have performed so many
miracles, could not convert his people from idolatry; and who, after
having caused forty-seven thousand Israelites to perish by the sword,
has the effrontery to assume the title of the meekest of mankind? Is it
certain that the books which are attributed to Moses, and report so many
miraculous circumstances, are perfectly authentic? In fine, what
proof have we of his mission, except the testimony of a number of
superstitious, ignorant, and credulous Israelites, who were probably the
dupes of a ferocious legislator?

What proofs does the Christian religion give us of the mission of Jesus
Christ? Are we acquainted with his character and temperament? What
degree of confidence can we place in the testimony of his disciples,
who, by their own confession, were ignorant and unlearned men, and,
consequently, liable to be imposed upon by the artifices of a dexterous
impostor? Ought not the testimony of the most learned in Jerusalem
to have greater weight with us, than that of the lowest vulgar, whose
ignorance always renders them the dupes of those who endeavour to
deceive them? These enquiries bring us to an examination of the proofs
which are adduced in support of the Christian religion.



CHAP. VI.--OF THE PROOFS OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION.

MIRACLES, PROPHECIES, AND MARTYRS.

We have seen, in the preceding chapters, what just reasons there are to
doubt the authenticity of the revelation of the Jews and Christians.

And further, relative to this article, Christianity has no advantage
over any other religion.

All the religions on earth, notwithstanding their discordance, declare
that they have emanated from God, and pretend to possess an exclusive
right to his favours.

The Indian asserts, that the Brama himself is the author of his worship.
The Scandinavian derives his from the awful Odin. If the Jew and the
Christian have received theirs from Jehovah by the ministry of Moses and
Jesus, the Mahometan affirms, that he has received his from his prophet,
inspired by the same God. Thus, all religions pretend to a divine
origin; and they all interdict the use of reason in the examination
of their sacred titles. Each pretends to be the only true one, to the
exclusion of all others. All menace with the wrath of heaven those who
refuse to submit to their authority, and all acquire the character of
falsehood by the palpable contradictions with which they are filled; by
the mis-shapen, obscure, and often odious ideas which they give of the
Godhead; by the whimsical laws which they attribute to him, and by the
disputes which they generate among their sectaries. In fine, they all
appear to be a mass of impostures and reveries, equally disgusting to
reason. Thus, on the score of pretensions, the Christian religion has no
advantage over the other superstitions with which the world is infected;
and its divine origin is contested by all others with as much propriety
as theirs is denied by it.

How then shall we decide in its favour? How prove the validity of its
pretensions? Has it any superior qualities, by which it merits the
preference? And if so, what are they? Does it, better than any other,
make us acquainted with the nature and essence of God? Alas! it only
renders them more incomprehensible. It represents him as a capricious
tyrant, whose whimsies are sometimes favourable, but more commonly
injurious to mankind. Does it render mankind better? Alas! it arms them
against each other, renders them intolerant, and forces them to butcher
their brethren. Does it render empires flourishing and powerful?
Wherever it reigns, do we not see the people debased, destitute of
energy, and ignorant of true morality? What then are the proofs which
are to establish the superiority of the Christian religion over all
others? We are answered, "miracles, prophecies, and martyrs." But these
are to be found in all religions of the earth. There are in all nations
men, who, being superior to the vulgar in science and cunning, deceive
them with imposture, and dazzle them with performances which are judged
to be supernatural, by men ignorant of the secrets of nature and the
resources of art.

If the Jew cite the miracles of Moses, I see them performed before a
people most ignorant, abject, and credulous, whose testimony has no
weight with me.

I may, also, suspect that these pretended miracles have been inserted in
the sacred books of the Hebrews long after the death of those who
might have testified the truth concerning them. If the Christians cite
Jerusalem, and the testimony of Gallilee, to prove the miracles of
Christ, I see them attested only by an ignorant populace; or I demand
how it could be possible that an entire people, who had been witnesses
to the miracles of Christ, should consent to his death, and even
earnestly demand it? Would the people of London, or Paris, suffer a man
who had raised the dead, restored the blind to sight, and healed the
lame and paralytic, to be put to death before their eyes? If the Jews
demanded the death of Jesus, all his miracles are at once annihilated in
the mind of every unprejudiced person.

May not we, also, oppose to the miracles of Moses, and Christ, those
performed by Mahomet in presence of all Mecca and Arabia assembled? The
effect of his miracles was, at least, to convince the Arabians that
he was a divine person. The miracles of Jesus convinced nobody of his
mission. Saint Paul himself, who afterwards became the most ardent of
his disciples, was not convinced by the miracles, of which, in his
time, there existed so many witnesses. A new one was necessary for
his conviction. And by what right do they at this day demand belief of
miracles; which could not convince even in the time of the Apostles;
that is to say, a short time after they were wrought?

Let it not be said that the miracles of Christ are as well attested as
any fact in profane history, and that to doubt them is as ridiculous as
to doubt the existence, of Scipio or Cæsar, which we believe only on the
report of the historians by whom they are mentioned. The existence of a
man, of the general of an army, or an hero, is not improbable; neither
is it a miracle.1 We believe the probable facts, whilst we reject,
with contempt, the miracles recounted by Titus Livius. The most stupid
credulity is often joined to the most distinguished talents. Of this,
the Christian religion furnishes us with innumerable examples. In
matters of religion, all testimony is liable to suspicion. The most
enlightened men see but ill, when they are intoxicated with enthusiasm,
and dazzled by the chimeras of a wild imagination. A miracle is a thing
impossible in the order of nature. If this be changed by God, he is not
immutable.

It will probably be said, that, without changing, the order of things,
God and his favourites could not find resources in nature unknown
to mankind in general. But then their works would no longer be
supernatural, and would have nothing of the marvellous. A miracle is
an effect contrary to the established laws of nature. God himself,
therefore, cannot perform miracles without counteracting the
institutions, of his own wisdom A wise man, having seen a miracle, might
with propriety doubt the evidence of his own senses. He ought carefully
to examine, whether, the extraordinary effect, which he does not
comprehend, proceeds not from some natural cause, whose manner of acting
he does not understand.

     1 A supernatural event requires, in order to be believed,
     much stronger proofs than a fact in no-wise contradictory to
     probability. It is easy to believe, upon the testimony of
     Philostrates, that Appollonius existed, because his
     existence has nothing in it that shocks reason; but I will
     not believe Philostrates, when he tells me, that Appollonius
     performed miracles. I believe that Jesus Christ died; but I
     do not believe that he arose from the dead.


But let us suppose, for a moment, that miracles may exist, and that
those of Christ were real, or, at least, that they were inserted in the
Gospels by persons who imagined they had seen them. Are the witnesses
who transmitted, or the Apostles who saw them, extremely deserving of
credit? And have we not a right to refuse their testimonies? Were
those witnesses very deserving men? By the confession of the Christians
themselves they were ignorant men, taken from the dregs of the people,
and consequently credulous and incapable of investigation. Were those
witnesses disinterested? No; it was, undoubtedly, their chief interest
to support those miracles, upon which were suspended the divinity of
their master, and the truth of the religion they were endeavouring to
establish. Are those miracles confirmed by the testimony of cotemporary
historians? Not one of them has mentioned those extraordinary facts. We
find not a single Jew or Pagan in the superstitious city of Jerusalem
who heard even a word of the most marvellous facts that ever were
recorded, and facts which happened in the midst of them. The miracles
of Christ were ever attested by Christians only. We are requested to
believe that, at the death of the Son of God, the earth quaked, the
sun was darkened, and the dead arose. How does it happen that such
extraordinary events have been noticed only by a handful of Christians?
Were they the only persons who perceived them? We are told, also, that
Christ arose from the dead; to prove which, they appeal to the testimony
of his Apostles and followers. Would not one solemn apparition, in some
public place, have been more decisive than all those clandestine ones,
made to persons interested in the formation of a new sect? The Christian
faith, according to St. Paul, is founded on the resurrection of Christ.
This, then, ought to have been demonstrated to mankind, in the clearest
and most indisputable manner.1

     1 The Barilidians and Corinthians, heretics who lived in the
     infancy of Christianity, maintained that Jesus was not dead,
     and that Simon the Cyrenian was crucified in his place. See
     Epiph. Haer. c. 28. Thus, there were men, from the birth of
     the church, who doubted the crucifixion, and, consequently,
     the resurrection of Christ; and yet we are exhorted to
     believe them at the present day.


Have we not room to accuse the Saviour of the world with want of
benevolence, in shewing himself only to his disciples and favourites? It
seems that he did not desire that all the world should believe in him.
The Jews, it is said, deserve to be blinded for putting Christ to
death. But, if this be the case, why did the apostles preach to them the
gospel? Could it be expected that the Jews would believe the report of
the apostles, rather than their own eyes?

Miracles appear to have been invented to supply the want of good
reasons. Truth and evidence have no need of miracles to ensure their
reception. Is it not very astonishing that God Almighty should find
it easier to derange the order of nature, than to convince mankind of
truths the most evident, and calculated to force their assent? Miracles
were made to prove things which it is impossible to believe. There is
no need of miracles when we talk of reason. Things incredible are here
adduced in proof of incredible things. Almost all impostors who have
fabricated religions, have announced incredibilities to mankind. They
have afterwards fabricated miracles in proof of those incredibilities.
"You cannot comprehend," said they, "what I tell you; but I will clearly
prove to you that I tell the truth, by doing things that you cannot
comprehend." People have in all ages been overcome by this brilliant
reasoning. A passion for the marvellous has prevented enquiry. Mankind
have not perceived that miracles could neither prove impossibilities,
nor change the essence of truth. Whatever wonders a man, or, if you
please, a God may perform, they can never prove that two and two are
not four, or that three are no more than one. They cannot prove that
an immaterial being, destitute of organs, has spoken to man; or that
a good, wise, and just Being has commanded the execution of injustice,
folly, and cruelty. It appears, therefore, that miracles prove nothing,
unless it be the address and impostures of those who are desirous of
profiting by the stupid credulity of mankind, and endeavour to seduce
them into a belief of the most extravagant falsehoods. Such men have
always began by falsely pretending to have an intimate commerce with
God, in order to prove which, they have performed wonders that they
attribute to the Being by whom they say they were commissioned. Every
man, who performs miracles, endeavours to establish, not truth, but
falsehood. Truth is simple and evident; the marvellous is ever to be
suspected. Nature is always true to herself; she acts by unvarying
laws. To say that God performs miracles, is to say that he contradicts
himself, and violates the laws which he has prescribed to nature. It is
to say, that he renders useless human reason, of which he is the author.
Impostors alone can pronounce it necessary to discredit experience and
reject reason.

Thus, the pretended miracles of the Christian, as well as all other
religions, have no foundation, but the ignorance, credulity, and
enthusiasm of mankind, and the cunning of impostors. The same may be
said of prophecies. Mankind are ever anxious to pry into futurity;
and there are always some kind individuals disposed to aid them in the
gratification of this desire. There have been enchanters, diviners,
and prophets, in all the nations of the earth. The Jews have not been
happier, in this respect, than others. Tartars, Negroes, and Indians
have their share of impostors, All societies will find deceivers enough,
so long as they are willing to pay for deception.

These inspired men have not been ignorant, that their prophecies ought
to be extremely vague and ambiguous, in order that they might not, in
process of time, appear to have been falsehoods. We need not, therefore,
be surprised, that the Jewish prophecies are very dark, and of such a
nature, that any thing may be found in them which interpreters think
proper to seek. Those which are attributed to Christ, by his followers,
are not considered in the same light by the Jews, who still expect
the Messiah, whom the former believe to have been on earth eighteen
centuries ago. The Jewish prophecies uniformly announce the deliverer of
a discontented and oppressed nation. Such a one was also expected by
the Romans, and almost all the nations of the earth. All mankind have a
natural propensity to hope for a termination of the evils they suffer,
and believe that Providence cannot, in justice, fail to render them, one
day, happy. The Jews, the most superstitious nation on earth, building
upon the supposed promise of their God, have always expected the coming
of a monarch or conqueror, who is to elevate them from disgrace,
and crown them with triumph. It was impossible for them to see this
deliverer in the person of Jesus, who, instead of being the restorer of
the Hebrew nation, was its destroyer; and since whose coming, they seem
to have lost all favour with God.

It is asserted, that the destruction of the Jewish nation, and the
dispersion of the Jews, were themselves foretold, and that they furnish
a convincing proof of the truth of Christian prophecy. To this I answer,
it was easy to foretel the dispersion and destruction of a restless,
turbulent, and rebellious people, continually torn and convulsed by
intestine divisions. Besides, this people was often conquered and
dispersed. The temple destroyed by Titus, had previously suffered the
same fate from Nebuchadnezzar, who carried the captive tribes into
Assyria, and spread them through his territories. The dispersion of the
Jews is more perceptible than that of other conquered nations, because
they have generally, after a certain time, become confounded with
their conquerors; whereas the Jews refuse to intermingle, by domestic
connections, with the nations where they reside, and have religiously
maintained this distinction. It is not the same with the Cuebres or
Parsis, of Persia and Indostan, as well as the Armenians, who dwell
in Mahometan countries. The Jews remain dispersed, because they are
unsocial, intolerant, and blindly attached to their superstitions.1

Thus Christians have no reason to boast of the prophecies contained in
the books of the Jews, nor to make invidious applications of them to
that nation, because they detest its religion.

Judea was always subjected to priests, who had great influence over
affairs of state. They were always meddling with politics, and undertook
to foretel the events, fortunate or unfortunate, which were to befal the
nation. No country was ever more fertile in prophets.

This description of men instituted schools, where they initiated into
the mysteries of their art those who proved themselves worthy of that
honour, by discovering a wish to deceive a credulous people, and by such
honest means acquire riches and respect.2

The art of prophesying was then an actual profession, or an useful and
profitable branch of commerce in that miserable nation, which believed
God to be incessantly busied in their affairs. The great gains resulting
from this traffic of imposture must have caused divisions among the
Jewish prophets. Accordingly, we find them crying down each other. Each
one treated his rivals as false prophets, inspired by evil spirits.
There have always been quarrels among impostors, to decide who should
have the exclusive right of deceiving mankind.

     1 The Acts of the Apostles evidently prove, that, even
     before the time of Jesus, the Jews began to be dispersed.
     Jews came from Greece, Persia, Arabia, &c. to the feast of
     Pentecost. Acts, c. ii. 8. So that, after Jesus, the
     inhabitants of Judea only were dispersed by the Romans.

     2  Saint Jerome says, that the Sadducees did not adopt the
     prophets, but contented themselves with believing the five
     books of Moses. Dodwell, De Jure Laicorum, asserts, that the
     prophets prepared themselves to prophesy by drinking wine.
     See page 259. It seems they were jugglers, poets, and
     musicians, who had made themselves masters of their trades,
     and knew how to exercise them profitably.


If we examine the conduct of the boasted prophets of the Old Testament,
we shall find them far from being virtuous persons. We see arrogant
priests continually meddling with affairs of state, and interweaving
them with religion. We see in them seditious subjects, incessantly
caballing against all sovereigns, who were not sufficiently submissive
to them. They cross their projects, excite their subjects to rebellion,
effect their destruction, and thus accomplish the fatal predictions,
which they had before made against them.1 Such is the character of most
of the prophets, who have played a part in the history of the Jews.

The studied obscurity of the prophecies is such, that those which are
commonly applied to the Messiah, or the deliverer of Israel, are equally
applicable to every enthusiast or prophet that appeared in Jerusalem or
Judea. Christians, heated with the idea of Christ, think they meet him
in all places, and pretend to see him in the darkest passages of the
Old Testament. Deluding themselves by force of allegories, subtilties,
commentaries, and forced interpretations, they have discovered the most
formal predictions in all the vague oracles and nonsensical trash of the
prophets.2

     1  The prophet Samuel, displeased with Saul, who refused to
     second his cruelty, declared that he had forfeited the
     crown, and raised up a rival to him in the person of David.
     Elias appears to have been a seditious subject, who, finding
     himself unable to succeed in his rebellious designs, thought
     proper to escape due punishment by flight. Jeremiah himself
     gives us to understand that he conspired with the Assyrians
     against his besieged country. He seems to have employed
     himself in depriving: his fellow-citizens of both the will
     and the courage to defend themselves. He purchased a field
     of his relations, at the very time when he informed his
     countrymen that they were about to be dispersed, and led
     away in captivity. The king of Assyria recommends this
     prophet to his general, Nebuzaradan, whom he commands to
     take great care of him.--See Jeremiah.


     2  Any thing may be found in the Bible, if it be read with
     the imagination of Saint Augustine, who pretended to see all
     the New Testament in the Old. According to him, the death of
     Abel is a type of that of Christ; the two wives of Abraham
     are the synagogue and the church; a piece of red cloth held
     up by an harlot, who betrayed Jericho, signifies the blood
     of Christ; the lamb, goat, and lion, are figures of Jesus
     Christ; the brazen serpent represents the sacrifice on the
     cross. Even the mysteries of the Christian religion are
     announced in the Old Testament. Manna represents the
     Eucharist, &c. See S. Aug. Serm. 78. and Ep. 156. How can a
     man, in his senses, see, in the Immanuel announced by
     Isaiah, the Messiah, whose name is Jesus? Isaiah c. vii. v.
     14. How discover, in an obscure and crucified Jew, a leader
     who shall govern Israel? How see a royal deliverer and
     restorer of the Jews, in one, who, far from delivering his
     nation, came only to destroy their laws; and after whose
     coming their land was desolated by the Romans? A man must
     be sharp-sighted indeed to find the Messiah in their
     predictions. Jesus himself does not seem to have been more
     clear, or happy, in his prophecies. In the Gospel of Luke,
     chap. xxi. he speaks of the last judgment: he mentions
     angels, who, at the sound of the trumpet, assemble mankind
     together before him. He adds, "Verily I say unto you, this
     generation shall not pass away, until these things are
     accomplished." The world, however, still stands, and
     Christians have been expecting the last judgment for
     eighteen hundred years.


Men are not scrupulous respecting things which accord with their
desires. When we examine, without prejudice, the prophecies of the
Hebrews, we find them to be a mis-shapen mass of rhapsodies, the
offspring of fanaticism and delirium. We find them obscure and
enigmatical, like the oracles of the Pagans. In fine, it is evident that
these pretended divine oracles are the vagaries and impostures of men,
who imposed on the credulity of a superstitious nation which believes in
dreams, visions, apparitions, and sorceries, and received with avidity
any deception, provided it were sufficiently decorated with the
marvellous. Wherever mankind are ignorant, there will be found prophets
and workers of miracles, and these two branches of commerce will always
decay in the same proportion as mankind become enlightened.

Among the proofs of the authenticity of their religion, Christians
enumerate a multitude of martyrs, who have sealed with their blood their
belief of the opinions they had embraced. There is no religion destitute
of ardent defenders, who would sacrifice their lives for the opinions to
which they believe their eternal happiness attached. Superstitious and
ignorant men are obstinate in their prejudices. Their credulity prevents
them from suspecting any deception in their spiritual guides. Their
vanity persuades them that they are incapable of wavering; and if, in
fine, their imaginations be strong enough to see the heavens open, and a
recompense prepared therein for their courage, there is no torment they
will not brave and endure. In their intoxication they will despise all
torments of short duration; they will smile upon their executioners; and
their souls, alienated from earthly things, will become insensible to
pain. In such scenes, the hearts of spectators are softened; they admire
the astonishing firmness of the martyr; they catch his enthusiasm, and
believe his cause just. His courage appearing to them supernatural and
divine, becomes an indubitable proof of the truth of his opinions.

Thus, by a sort of contagion, enthusiasm communicates itself. Men are
always interested in the fate of those who shew the greatest firmness;
and tyranny always multiplies the friends of those whom it persecutes.
The constancy of the first Christians must, therefore, have produced
proselytes, by a natural effect of their conduct. Martyrs prove nothing,
unless it be the strength of the enthusiasm, error, and obstinacy
produced by superstition, and the barbarous folly of those who persecute
their fellow-creatures for religious opinions.

Every violent passion has its martyrs. Pride, vanity, prejudice, love,
patriotism, and even vice itself, produces martyrs; or, at least,
a contempt of every kind of danger. Is it, then, surprising, that
enthusiasm and fanaticism, the strongest passions of mankind, have
so often enabled men, inspired with the hopes they give, to face and
despise death? Besides, if Christians can boast a catalogue of martyrs,
Jews can do the same. The unfortunate Jews, condemned to the flames by
the Inquisition, were martyrs to their religion; and their fortitude
proves as much in its favour, as that of the Christians can do in favour
of Christianity. If martyrs demonstrate the truth of a religion, there
is no religion or sect which may not be looked upon as true.

In fine, among the perhaps exaggerated number of martyrs, boasted by
Christians, many were rather the victims of an inconsiderate zeal, a
turbulent and seditious spirit, than a real love of religion. The church
itself does not presume to justify some, who, transported by a volcanic
zeal, have troubled the peace of the earth, and poured out flaming
destruction on all who differed in opinion from themselves; until
mankind, consulting their own tranquillity and safety, have destroyed
them. If men of this description were to be considered as martyrs,
every disturber of society, when punished, would acquire a right to this
title.



CHAP. VII.--OF THE MYSTERIES OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION.


To reveal any thing to a man, is to discover to him secrets of which
he was before ignorant. If we ask Christians what the secrets were, the
importance of which rendered it necessary that they should be revealed
by God himself, we shall be told that the greatest of those secrets, and
the one most necessary to mankind, is the Unity of the Godhead; a secret
which, say they, human wisdom could never have discovered, of itself.
But are we not at liberty to doubt the truth of this assertion? Moses,
undoubtedly, declared an only God to the Hebrews, and did all in his
power to render them enemies to the idolatry and polytheism of other
surrounding nations, whose belief and whose modes of worship he
represented as abominable in the eyes of the celestial Monarch, who had
brought them out of the land of Egypt. But have not many wise men
among the heathens discovered, without the assistance of the Jewish
revelation, one supreme God, superior to all others? Moreover, was not
Fate, to which all the other gods of the heathens were subordinate,
an only God, to whose sovereign law all nature was subject? As to the
colours in which Moses paints his Godhead, neither Jews nor Christians
have a right to pride themselves therein. He is represented as
a capricious and irascible despot, full of cruelty, injustice,
partiality, and malignity. What kind of being shall we contemplate, when
we add to this the ineffable attributes ascribed to him in the Christian
theology? Is the Godhead described when it is said that it is a spirit,
an immaterial being, which resembles nothing presented to us by
our senses? Is not human understanding confounded with the negative
attributes of infinity, immensity, eternity, omnipotence, and
omniscience, with which he has been decorated, only to render him still
more incomprehensible? How can the wisdom, the goodness, justice, and
other moral qualities of this God, be reconciled with that strange and
often atrocious conduct, which are attributed to him in almost every
page of the Old and New Testament? Would it not have been better to have
left mankind in entire ignorance of the Godhead, than to reveal to him a
God made up of contradictions, which lead to eternal dispute, and serve
only to trouble his repose? To reveal such a God to mankind, is only to
discover to them the means to embarrass and render themselves wretched,
and quarrel with and injure one another.

But, be this as it may, is it true that Christianity admits but one God,
the same which was revealed by Moses? Do we not see Christians adore a
threefold divinity, under the name of the Trinity? The supreme God begat
from all eternity a son equal to himself; from these two proceeds a
third equal to the two first; these three Gods, equal in perfection,
divinity, and power, form, nevertheless, only one God. To overturn this
system, it seems sufficient only to shew its absurdity. Is it but to
reveal such mysteries as these that the Godhead has taken pains to
instruct mankind? Have opinions more absurd and contrary to reason ever
existed among the most ignorant and savage nations?l In the mean time,
however, the writings of Moses contain nothing that could authorise the
construction of a system so wild. It is only by having recourse to the
most forced explanations, that the doctrine of the Trinity is pretended
to be found in the Bible. As to the Jews, contented with the only God
which their legislator has declared to them, they have never attempted
to create a threefold one.

     1 The dogma of the Trinity is evidently borrowed from the
     reveries of Plato, or from the allegories under which that
     romantic philosopher chose to conceal his doctrine. It
     appears that to him the Christian religion is indebted for
     the greater part of its dogmas. Plato admitted three
     Hypostases, or modes of being in the Divinity. The first
     constituted the supreme God; the second the Logos, Word, or
     divine intelligence proceeding from the first; the third is
     the Spirit, or Soul of the World. The early teachers of the
     Christian religion appear to have been Platonics; their
     enthusiasm probably found in Plato a doctrine analogous to
     their feelings; had they been grateful, they would have
     recorded him as a prophet, or, at least, as one of the
     fathers of the church. The Jesuitical missionaries found a
     Divinity, nearly similar to that of the Christians, at
     Thibet. Among the Tartars, God is called Kon-cio-cik, the
     only God, and Kon-cio-sum, the threefold God. They also give
     him the titles On, Ha, Hum, intelligence, might, power or
     words, heart, love. The number three was always revered
     among the ancients; because Salom, which in the Oriental
     languages signifies three, signifies also health, safety,
     salvation.


The second of these Gods, or, according to the Christians, the second
person of the Trinity, having clad himself with human nature, and
become incarnate in the womb of a virgin, he submitted himself to the
infirmities of our species, and even suffered an ignominious death to
expiate the sins of the earth. This is what Christians call the mystery
of Incarnation. He must be indeed blind, who cannot see these absurd
notions are borrowed from the Egyptians, Indians, and Grecians, whose
ridiculous mythologies describe gods as possessing human forms, and
subject to infirmities, like mankind.1

     1 The Egyptians appear to have been the first who pretended
     that their gods had assumed material bodies. Foe, the God of
     the Chinese, was born of a virgin, who was fecundated by a
     ray of the sun. In Indostan nobody doubts the incarnations
     of Vistnou. It seems that theologists of all nations,
     despairing to exalt themselves to a level with God, have
     endeavoured to debase him to a level with themselves.


Thus, we are commanded by Christianity to believe that a God having
become man without doing injury to his divine nature, has suffered,
died, and offered himself a sacrifice to himself; and all this was
absolutely and indispensibly necessary to appease his own wrath. This
is what Christians denominate the mystery of the redemption of the human
race.

This dead God, however, was resuscitated. Thus the Adonis of the
Phenicians, the Osiris of the Egyptians, and the Atys of the Phrygians,
are represented as periodically resigning and re-assuming life. The
God of the Christians rises again, re-animated, and bursts the tomb,
triumphant.

Such are the wondrous secrets, or sublime mysteries, that the Christian
religion unfolds to its disciples. So great, so abject, and so ever
incomprehensible are the ideas it gives us of the divine Being. Such is
the illumination our minds receive from revelation! A revelation which
only serves to render still more impenetrable the clouds which veil the
divine essence from human eyes. God, we are told, is willing to render
himself inconsistent and ridiculous, to confound the curiosity of those
whom, we are at the same time informed, he desires to enlighten by
his special grace. What must we think of a revelation which, far from
teaching us any thing, is calculated to darken and puzzle the clearest
ideas?

Thus, notwithstanding the boasted revelation of the Christians, they
know nothing of that Being whom they make the basis of their religion.
On the contrary, it only serves to obscure all the notions which might
otherwise be formed of him. In Holy Writ he is called an hidden God.
David tells us, that he places his dwelling in darkness, that clouds
and troubled waters form the pavilion with which he is covered. In fine,
Christians, although enlightened, as they say, by God himself, have only
ridiculous and inconsistent ideas of him, which render his existence
doubtful, or even impossible, in the eyes of every man who consults his
reason.

What notions, indeed, can we form of a God, who, after having created
the world solely for the happiness of mankind, nevertheless suffers the
greater part of the human race to be miserable both in this world and
that which is to come? How can a God, who enjoys a supreme felicity, be
offended with the actions of his creatures? This God is then susceptible
of grief; his happiness can be disturbed; he is then dependent on man,
who can, at pleasure, delight or afflict him! How can a benevolent God
bestow on his creatures a fatal liberty by the abuse of which they may
incur his anger, and their own destruction? How can that Being, who is
himself the author of life and nature, suffer death? How can an only God
become triple without injuring his unity? We shall be answered, that
all these matters are mysteries; but such mysteries destroy even the
existence of God. It would be more reasonable to admit, with Zoroaster,
or Manes, two principles or opposite powers in nature, than to believe,
with Christians, that there is an omnipotent God, who cannot prevent
the existence of evil; a God who is just, and yet partial; a God
all-merciful, and yet so implacable, that he will punish through an
eternity the crimes of a moment; an only God, who is threefold; a God,
the chief of beings, who consents to die, being unable to satisfy by
any other means his divine justice. If, in the same subject, contraries
cannot subsist at the same time, either the existence of the God of the
Jews, or that of the Christians, must undoubtedly be impossible. Whence
we are forced to conclude, that the teachers of Christianity, by means
of the attributes with which they have decorated, or rather disfigured
their Godhead, have, in fact, annihilated the God of the Jews, or,
at least, so transformed him, that he is no longer the same. Thus,
revelation, with all its fables and mysteries, has only embarrassed the
reason of mankind, and rendered uncertain the simple notions which
they might form to themselves of that necessary Being, who governs the
universe with immutable laws. Though the existence of a God cannot be
denied, it is yet certain that reason cannot admit the existence of
the one which the Christians adore, and whose conduct, commands, and
qualities, their religion pretends to reveal. If they are Atheists,
who have no ideas of the Supreme Being, the Christian theology must be
looked upon as a project invented to destroy his existence.1

     1 Divines have always disagreed among themselves respecting
     the proofs of the existence of a God. They mutually style
     each other Atheists, because their demonstrations have never
     been the same. Few Christians have written on the existence
     of God, without drawing upon themselves an accusation of
     Atheism. Descartes, Clarke, Pascal, Arnauld; and Nicole,
     have been considered as Atheists. The reason is plain. It is
     impossible to prove the existence of a Being so inconsistent
     as the God of the Christians. We shall be told that men have
     no means for judging of the Divinity, and that our
     understandings are too narrow to form any idea of him. Why
     then do they dispute incessantly concerning him? Why assign
     to him qualities which destroy each other? Why recount
     fables concerning him? Why quarrel and cut each others
     throats, because they are differently interpreted by
     different persons?



CHAP. VIII.--MYSTERIES AND DOGMAS OF CHRISTIANITY.


Not content with having enveloped their God in mysterious clouds and
Judaic fables, the teachers of Christianity seen to be still busied
in the multiplication of mysteries, and embarrassing more and more the
reason of their disciples. Religion, designed to enlighten mankind,
is only a tissue of enigmas; a labyrinth which sound sense can never
explore. That which ancient superstitions found most incomprehensible,
seems not unaptly to be interwoven with a religious system, which
imposes eternal silence on reason. The fatalism of the Grecians has been
transformed, in the hands of Christian priests, into predestination.
According to this tyrannic dogma, the God of mercies has destined the
greatest part of mankind to eternal torments. He places them in this
world that they, by the abuse of their faculties and liberty, may render
themselves worthy of the implacable wrath of their Creator. A benevolent
and prescient God gives to mankind a free will, of which he knows they
will make so perverse an use, as to merit eternal damnation. Thus,
instead of furnishing them with the propensities necessary to their
happiness, he permits them to act, only that he may have the pleasure of
plunging them into hell. Nothing can be more horrid than the description
given us by Christians of this place, destined to be the future
residence of almost all mankind. There a merciful God will, throughout
an eternity, bathe himself in the tears of wretches, whom he created for
misery. Sinners, shut up in this awful dungeon, will be delivered up for
ever to devouring flames. There shall be heard weeping, and wailing,
and gnashing of teeth. The torments of this place shall, at the end of
millions of years, have only begun.

The consoling hope of a distant mitigation of pain shall be unknown. In
one word, God, by an act of his omnipotence, shall render man capable of
miseries uninterrupted, and interminable. His justice will punish finite
crimes, the effects of which are limited by time, by torments infinite
in degree and duration. Such is the idea a Christian forms of the God
that demands his love. This tyrant, creates him only to render him
miserable; he gives him reason to deceive him, and propensities to lead
him astray. He gives him liberty, that he may incur eternal ruin. He
gives him advantages above the beasts, that he may be subjected to
torments, which beasts, like inanimate substances, are incapable of
suffering. The dogma of predestination represents the lot of man as
worse than that of brutes and stones.1

     1 The doctrine of predestination was also a tenet of the
     Jews. In the writings of Moses, a God is exhibited, who, in
     his decrees, is partially fond of a chosen people, and
     unjust to all others. The theology and history of the Greeks
     represent men as punished for necessary crimes, foretold by
     oracles. Of this Orestes, Oedipus, Ajax, &c. are examples.
     Mankind have always described God as the most unjust of all
     beings. According to the Jansenists, God bestows his grace
     on whom he pleases, without any regard to merit. This is
     much more conformable to the Christian, Pagan, and Jewish
     fatalism, than the doctrine of the Molinists, who say that
     God grants his grace to all who ask and deserve it. It is
     certain that Christians in general are true fatalists. They
     evade this accusation, by declaring that the designs of God
     are mysteries. If so, why do they eternally dispute about
     them?


It is true, the Christian religion promises a blissful residence to
those whom God shall have chosen to be objects of his love. But this
place is reserved only for a small number of elect, who, without any
merit in themselves, shall, nevertheless, have unbounded claims upon the
grace of God.

Thus, the Tartarus and Elysium of the heathen mythology, invented by
impostors to awe and seduce mankind, have been transplanted into the
system of the Christians, who have given them the new appellation of
Heaven and Hell.

The followers of the Christian religion believe in a race of invisible
beings, different from man and subordinate to God, part of whom is
employed in executing the wrath of God upon offenders; and part in
watching over his works, and particularly the preservation of man. The
former, being malevolent spirits, are called devils, demons, &c. the
latter, being benevolent spirits, are called angels. They are supposed
to have the faculty of rendering themselves sensible, and taking the
human form. Good angels are, in the imagination of Christians, what the
Nymphs, Lares, and Penates, were imagined to be by the heathens, and
what the Fairies were with writers of romances. The sacred books of the
Jews and Christians are replete with these marvellous beings, whom God
has sent to his favourites to be their guides, protectors, and tutelar
deities.

Devils are considered as the enemies and seducers of the human race, and
perpetually busied in drawing them into sin. A power is attributed to
them of performing miracles, similar to those wrought by the Most High;
and, above, a power that counteracts his, and renders all his projects
abortive. In fact, the Christian religion does not formally allow
the same power to the devil as to God; nevertheless, it supposes that
malevolent being prevents mankind from entering into the enjoyment of
the felicity destined them by the goodness of God, and leads most of
them into eternal perdition. Christians, however, do virtually attribute
to the devil an empire much more extensive than that of the Supreme
Being. The latter, with difficulty, saves a few elect; while the former
carries off, in spite of him, the greater part of mankind, who listen to
his destructive temptations, rather than the absolute commands of God.
This Satan, the cause of so much terror to Christians, was evidently
borrowed from the doctrine of two principles, formerly admitted in Egypt
and all the East. The Osyris and Typhon of the Egyptians, the Orosmades
and Aharimanes of the Persians and Chaldeans, have undoubtedly given
birth to the continual war between the God of Christians and his
formidable adversary. By this system mankind have endeavoured to account
for all the good and evil with which life is chequered. An Almighty
Devil serves to justify the Supreme Being with respect to all necessary
and unremitted evils which afflict the human race.

Such are the dreadful and mysterious doctrines upon which Christians
in general are agreed. There are many others which are peculiar
to different sects. Thus, a numerous sect of Christians admit an
intermediate state between heaven and hell, where souls, too sinful for
the former and too innocent for the latter, are subjected for a time, in
order to expiate by their sufferings the sin they commit in this life;
after undergoing this punishment, they are received into the abodes
of eternal felicity. This doctrine, which was evidently drawn from
the reveries of Plato, has, in the hands of the Roman priests, been
converted into an inexhaustible source of riches. They have arrogated
to themselves the power of opening the gates of purgatory, and pretend
that, by their prayers, they can mitigate the rigour of the divine
decrees, and abridge the torments of the souls, condemned to this place
by a just God.1

     1 It is evident that the Roman Catholics are indebted to
     Plato for their purgatory. That great philosopher divided
     souls into three classes: the pure, the curable, and the
     incurable. The first returned, by refusion, to the universal
     soul of the world, or the divinity, from which they had
     emanated; the second went to hell, where they passed in
     review every year before the judges of that dark empire, who
     suffered them to return to light when they had sufficiently
     expiated their faults; the incurables remained in Tartarus,
     where they were to suffer eternal torment. Plato, as well
     as, Christian casuists, described the crimes, faults, &c.
     which merit those different degrees of punishment.


Protestant divines, jealous probably of the riches of the Catholic
clergy, have imprudently rejected the doctrine of a purgatory, whereby
they have much diminished their own credit. It would, perhaps, have been
wiser to have rejected the doctrine of an hell, whence souls can never
be released, than that of purgatory, which is more reasonable, and from
which the clergy can deliver souls by means of that all-powerful agent,
money.

The preceding remarks shew, that the Christian religion has been often
inculcated and spread by dint of terror. By striking mankind with
horror they render them submissive, and remove all his dependence on his
reason.1

     1 Mahomet perceived, as well as Christian divines, the
     necessity of frightening mankind, in order to govern them.
     "Those," says the Koran, "who do not believe, shall be
     clothed in a garment of fire; boiling water shall be poured
     on their heads; their skins and their entrails shall be
     smitten with rods of iron. Whenever they shall strive to
     escape from hell, and avoid its torments, they shall be
     thrust again into it; and the devils say unto them, 'taste
     the pain of burning'." See Alcoran, ch. viii.



CHAP. IX.--OF THE RITES AND MYSTERIOUS CEREMONIES

OR THEURGY OF THE CHRISTIANS.


If the doctrines of the Christian religion be mysteries inaccessible
to reason; if the God it announces be inconceivable, we ought not to be
surprised at seeing the rites and ceremonies of this religion mysterious
and unintelligible. Concerning a God, who hath revealed himself only to
confound human reason, all things must necessarily be incomprehensible
and unreasonable.

The most important ceremony of the Christian religion is called baptism.
Without this, no man, it is held, can be saved. It consists in pouring
water on the infant or adult, with an invocation on the name of the
Trinity. By the mysterious virtue of this water, and the words by which
it is accompanied, the person is spiritually regenerated. He is cleansed
from the stains, transmitted through successive generations, from the
father of the human race. In a word, he becomes a child of God, and is
prepared to enter into his glory at death. Now, it is said, that the
death of man is the effect of the sin of Adam; and if, by baptism, sin
be effaced, why is man still subject to death? But here we are told,
it is from the spiritual, not bodily death, that Christ has delivered
mankind. Yet this spiritual death is only the death of sinfulness. In
this case, how does it happen that Christians continue to sin, as if
they had never been redeemed and delivered from sin? Whence it results,
that baptism is a mystery impenetrable to reason; and its efficacy is
disproved by experience.1

In some Christian sects, a bishop or pontiff, by pronouncing a few
words, and applying a few drops of oil to the forehead, causes the
spirit to descend upon whom he pleases. By this ceremony the Christian
is confirmed in the faith, and receives invisibly a profusion of graces
from the Most High. Those who wandering farthest from reason, have
entered most deeply into the spirit of the Christian religion, not
contented with the dark mysteries common to other sects, have invented
one still darker and more astonishing, which they denominate
transubstantiation. At the all-powerful command of a priest, the God of
the Universe is forced to descend from the habitation of his glory, and
transform himself into a piece of bread. This bread is afterwards
worshipped by a people, who boast their detestation of idolatry.2

     1 The ceremony of baptism was practised in the mysteries of
     Mythias, and those initiated were thereby regenerated. This
     Mythias was also a mediator. Although Christian divines
     consider baptism necessary to salvation, we find Paul would
     not suffer the Corinthians to be baptised. We also learn
     that he circumcised Timotheos.

     2 The Bramas of Indostan distribute a kind of grain in their
     pagodas: this distribution is called Prajadnn, or
     Eucharist. The Mexicans believe in a kind of
     transubstantiation, which is mentioned by father Acosta. See
     his Travels, chap. xxiv. The Protestants have had the
     courage to reject transubstantiation, although it is
     formally established by Christ, who says, "Take, eat; this
     is my body." Averoes said, "Anima mea fit cum philosophie,
     non vero cum Christianis, gente stolidissima, qui Deuni
     faciunt et comedunt." The Peruvians have a religious
     ceremony, in which after sacrificing a lamb, they mingle his
     blood with flour, and distribute it amongst the people.--
     Aluetanae Quest, lib. ii. cap. 20.


In the puerile ceremonies, so highly valued by Christians, we cannot
avoid seeing the plainest traces of the Theurgy practised among the
Orientals, where the Divine Being, compelled by the magic power of
certain words and ceremonies uttered, by priests, or other persons
initiated into the necessary secret, descends to earth and performs
miracles. This sort of magic is also exercised among Christian priests.
They persuade their disciples that, by certain arbitrary actions, and
certain movements of the body, they can oblige the God of Nature to
suspend his laws, give himself up to their desires, and load them with
every favour they choose to demand. Thus, in this religion, the priest
assumes the right of commanding God himself.

On this empire over their God, this real Theurgy, or mysterious commerce
with heaven, are founded those puerile and ridiculous ceremonies
which Christians call sacraments. We have already seen this Theurgy
in Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist. We find it, also, in
penitence, or the power which the priests of some sects arrogate to
themselves, of remitting, in the name of Heaven, all sins confessed
to them. It is seen in orders, that is to say, in the ceremony which
impresses on certain men a sacred character, by which they are ever
after distinguished from profane mortals. It is seen in the rites and
functions which torture the last moments of the dying. It is seen in
marriage, which natural union, it is supposed, cannot meet with the
approbation of Heaven, unless the ceremony of a priest render it valid,
and procure it the sanction of the Most High.1

     1 The number of Roman Catholic sacraments, seven; a
     cabalistic, magic, and mysterious number.


We see this Theurgy, or white magic, in the prayers, forms, liturgies,
and, in short, in all the ceremonies of the Christians. We find it in
their opinion, that words disposed in a certain manner can influence
the will of God, and oblige him to change his immutable decrees. Its
efficacy is seen in exorcisms, that is, ceremonies, in which, by means
of a magic water and some mysterious words, it is pretended that evil
spirits which infest mankind can be expelled. Holy water, which has
taken the place of the _aqua lustralis_ of the Romans, is believed by
certain Christians to possess astonishing virtues. It renders sacred,
places and things which were profane. In fine, the Christian Theurgy
being employed by a pontiff in the consecration of a king, renders
him more respectable in the eyes of men, and stamps him with a divine
character.

Thus all is magic and mystery, all is incomprehensible, in a religion
revealed by God himself, to enlighten the darkened understanding of
mankind.



CHAP. X.--OF THE INSPIRED WRITINGS OF THE CHRISTIANS.

Christians endeavour to prove the divine origin of their religion by
certain writings, which they believe to be sacred, and to have been
inspired by God himself. Let us then see if these writings do really
exhibit marks of that wisdom, omniscience, and perfection which we
attribute to the Divinity.

The Bible, every word of which Christians believe to have been dictated
by inspiration, is composed of an incongruous collection of the sacred
writings of the Hebrews, called the Old Testament; to which are added, a
number of works, more recent indeed, but of equal inspiration, known by
the name of the New Testament. At the head of this collection are five
books which are attributed to Moses, who was, it is said, in writing
them, the secretary of God. He therein goes back to the origin of
things. He attempts to initiate us into the mystery of the creation of
the world, of which he has only the most vague and confused ideas. He
betrays at every word a profound ignorance of the laws of Nature. God,
according to Moses, created the sun, which, in our planetary system, is
the source of light, several days after he had created the light. God,
who can be represented by no image, created man in his own image. He
creates him male and female; but, soon forgetting what he had done, he
creates woman from one of the ribs of the man. In one word, we see,
at the very entrance of the Bible, nothing but ignorance and
contradiction.1 It appears, at once, that the cosmogony of the Hebrews
is only a tissue of fables and allegories, incapable of giving any true
idea of things, and calculated to please only a savage and ignorant
people, destitute of science, and unqualified for reasoning. In the rest
of the writings of Moses, we see little but a string of marvellous and
improbable stories, and a mass of ridiculous and arbitrary laws. The
author concludes with giving an account of his own death. The books
posterior to Moses exhibit equal ignorance. Joshua stops the sun, which
did not move. Sampson, the Jewish Hercules, has strength to overthrow
a temple.--But we should never finish the enumeration of the fables and
falsehoods of these books, which are audaciously attributed to the Holy
Ghost. The story of the Hebrews presents us only with a mass of tales,
unworthy the gravity of history and the majesty of Divinity ridiculous
to reason, it appears to have been invented only to amuse the credulity
of a stupid and infant people.

     1 St. Augustin confesses that there is no way of preserving
     the true sense of the three first chapters of Genesis
     without wronging religion and attributing things to God
     which are unworthy of him; and declares, that recourse must
     be had to allegory. Aug. de Genesi, contra Machineos.
     Origen, also, grants, if we take the history of the Bible
     literally, it is absurd and contradictory.--Philos.  p. 12.


This strange compilation is intermingled with obscure, and unconnected
oracles, with which different prophets have, from time to time,
enriched Jewish superstition. Every thing in the Old Testament breathes
enthusiasm, fanaticism, and delirium, often decorated with pompous
language. There, every thing is to be found, except good sense, good
logic, and reason, which seems to be absolutely excluded from the books
which guide the conduct of the Hebrews and Christians.

We have already mentioned the abject, and often absurd ideas of God,
which are exhibited in the Bible. In this book, all his conduct appears
ridiculous. He blows hot and cold, and contradicts himself every moment.
He acts imprudently, and then repents of what he had done. He supports
with one hand, and destroys with the other. After having punished all
the human race with death, for the sins of man, he declares, by Ezekiel,
that he is just, and will not render children responsible for the
iniquities of their fathers. He commands the Hebrews, by the mouth of
Moses, to rob the Egyptians. In the decalogue, published by Moses, theft
and murder are forbidden. In short, Jehovah, ever in contradiction with
himself, varies with circumstances, preserves no uniformity of conduct,
and is represented in the books, said to be inspired by his spirit, as a
tyrant, which the most decided villain would blush to be.

When we cast our eyes over the New Testament, there, also, we see
nothing characteristic of that spirit of truth which is said to have
dictated this work. Four historians, or fabulists, have written the
marvellous history of the Messiah. Seldom agreeing with respect to the
circumstances of his life, they sometimes contradict each other in the
most palpable manner. The genealogy of Christ, given us by Matthew,
differs widely from that given us by Luke. One of the Evangelists says,
that Christ was carried into Egypt; whilst, by another, this event is
not even hinted at.

One makes the duration of his mission three years, while another
represents it as only as many months. We do not find them at all better
accord respecting the facts in general which they report. Mark says
that Christ died at the third hour, that is to say, nine o'clock in the
morning: John says that he died at the sixth hour, that is, at noon.
According to Matthew and Mark, the women who, after the death of Jesus,
went to his sepulchre, saw only one angel; whereas, according to Luke
and John, they saw two. These angels were, by some, said to be within
the tomb; by others, without. Several of the miracles of Jesus are also
differently reported by the Evangelists. This is likewise the case with
his appearances after his resurrection. Ought not all these things to
excite a doubt of the infallibility of the Evangelists, and the reality
of their divine inspirations? What shall we say of the false and forged
prophecies, applied to Christ in the gospel? Matthew pretends that
Jeremy foretold that Christ should be betrayed for thirty pieces of
silver; yet no such prophecy is to be found in Jeremiah. Nothing is
more singular than the manner in which Christian divines evade these
difficulties. Their solutions are calculated to satisfy only those who
conceive it their duty to remain in blindness.1

     1 Jerome himself says, that the quotations of Matthew do not
     agree with the Greek version of the Bible. Erasmus is
     obliged to confess that the Holy Spirit permitted the
     Apostles to go astray.


Every man of sense must feel, that all the industry and sophism on earth
can never reconcile such palpable contradictions; and the efforts of
interpreters serve only to shew the weakness of their cause. Is it,
then by subterfuges, subtilties, and falsehoods, that we are to render
service to God?

We find equal errors and contradictions in the pompous gasconade and
declamatory bombast of St. Paul. The epistles and harangues of this man,
inspired by the Spirit of God, appear to be the enthusiastic ravings of
a madman. The most laboured commentaries have, in vain, endeavoured to
reconcile the contradictions with which his work are filled, and the
inconsistency of his conduct, which sometimes favoured and sometimes
opposed Judaism.1 We do not find ourselves more enlightened by the works
attributed to the other Apostles. It seems as if these persons, inspired
by the Holy Ghost, came on the earth only to prevent their disciples
from comprehending what they had been sent to teach them.

     1 St. Paul himself informs us, that he was ravished up to
     the third heaven. Why was he transported thither, and what
     did he learn by his journey? Things unspeakable, which no
     man could, comprehend. What advantage are mankind to derive
     from all this? St. Paul, in the Acts of the Apostles, is
     guilty of a falsehood, in saying before the high-priest,
     that he is persecuted, because he is a Pharisee, and on
     account of the resurrection. Here: are two untruths. First,
     because Paul was, at that time, the most zealous Apostle of
     the Christian religion, and consequently a Christian.
     Secondly, because the accusations brought against him did
     not refer to his opinion on resurrection. If we know that
     the Apostles sometimes wandered from the truth, how shall we
     believe them at others? Further, we see this great Apostle
     continually changing his counsels and conduct. At Jerusalem,
     he point-blank opposes Peter, who favoured Judaism; whereas
     he himself afterwards complied with Jewish rites. In fine,
     he always accommodates himself to the circumstances of the
     time, and becomes all things to all men. He seems to have
     set an example to the Jesuits, of their conduct in the
     Indies, with which they are reproached, where they unite the
     worship of the Pagans to that of Christ.


At the foot of the collection, which forms the New Testament, we find
the mystic work known by the name of the Revelation of St. John. This is
an unintelligible thing, in which the author has endeavoured to collect
and concentrate all the gloomy and dreadful ideas contained in the rest
of the Bible. It exhibits to the wretched race of Man the awful and
approaching end of a perishing world. It is filled with horrid pictures,
by gazing on which, the trembling Christian becomes petrified with
fear and wonder, indifferent to life, and useless, or an incumbrance
to society. Thus, in a manner not unworthy of itself, terminates this
compilation, so inestimable and adorable to Christians, so ridiculous
and contemptible to the man of reason, so unworthy of a good and
bounteous God; so detestable to him who contemplates the unparalleled
evils it has occasioned on the earth.

Having taken for the rule of their conduct and opinions a book so full
of blasphemous fables and striking, contradictions concerning God,
Christians have never agreed in the interpretation of his will, or
precisely known what he exacted from them. Thus they have made this
obscure work a bone of contention, an inexhaustible source of quarrels,
a common arsenal, where all contending parties have supplied themselves
with arms for mutual destruction. Geometricians dispute not concerning
the fundamental principles of their science. By what fatality does it
happen that Christian revelation, the foundation of a religion on which
depends the eternal felicity of man, should be unintelligible, subject
to disputes, and often deluge the earth with blood? To judge by effects,
such a revelation ought rather to be thought the work of a malign
spirit, a genius of darkness and falsehood, than of a God desirous to
preserve, enlighten, and beautify mankind.



CHAP. XI.--OF CHRISTIAN MORALITY.


Were we to believe Christians, there could have been no true morality on
earth before the coming of the founder of their sect. They represent
the world is having been plunged in darkness and vice at all times and
places where Christ was unknown. Yet morality was always necessary to
mankind; for, without it, no society can exist. We find, that before
the time of Christ, there were flourishing and virtuous nations, and
enlightened philosophers, who continually reminded mankind of their
duties. The precepts of Socrates, Confucius, and the Gymnosophists
of India, are by no means inferior to those of the Messiah of the
Christians. We find, amongst heathens, innumerable instances of equity,
humanity, temperance, disinterestedness, patience, and meekness, which
flatly contradict the pretensions of the Christians, and prove that,
before Christ was known on earth, virtues flourished, which were for
more real than those he came to teach to men.

Was a supernatural revelation necessary to inform mankind that society
cannot exist without virtue, and that, by the admission of vice,
societies consent to their own destruction? Was it necessary that a God
should speak, to shew that they have need of mutual aid and mutual love?
Was assistance from on High necessary to discover that revenge is an
evil, and an outrage upon the laws, which, when they are just, assume to
themselves the right of retribution? Is not the forgiveness of injuries
connected with this principle? And is not hatred eternalized where
implacable revenge is exercised? Is not the pardoning of our enemies a
greatness of soul, which gives us an advantage over those who offend us?
When we do good to our enemies does it not give us a superiority over
them? Is not such conduct calculated to multiply our friends? Does not
every man, who is desirous to live, perceive that vice, intemperance,
and voluptuousness must shorten the period of life? Has not experience
demonstrated to every thinking being, that vice is injurious and
detestable, even to those who are not free from its empire, and that the
practice of virtue is the only means, of acquiring real esteem and love?
However little mankind may reflect on what they themselves, their true
interests, and the end of society are, they must feel what they ought
to be to each other. Good laws will render them good; and where
these exist, there is no need of flying to heaven for rules for the
preservation and happiness of society. Reason is sufficient to teach us
our duties to our fellow-creatures. What assistance can it receive from
a religion by which it is continually contradicted and degraded?

It is said, that Christianity, far from counteracting morality, is its
chief support, and renders its obligations more sacred, by giving them
the sanction of God. In my opinion, however, the Christian religion,
instead of supporting morality renders it weak and precarious. It cannot
possibly have any solid foundation on the commands of a God, who is
changing, partial, and capricious; and ordains with the same mouth,
justice and injustice, concord and carnage, toleration and persecution.
It is impossible to follow the precepts of a rational morality, under
the empire of a religion, which makes a merit of the most destructive
zeal, enthusiasm, and fanaticism. A religion, which commands us to
imitate the conduct of a despot who delights to ensnare his creatures,
who is implacable in his vengeance, and devotes to flaming destruction
all who have the misfortune to displease him, is incompatible with all
morality. The innumerable crimes with which the Christian, more than any
other religion, has stained itself, have always been committed under the
pretext of pleasing the ferocious God whom the Christians have inherited
from the Jews. The moral character of this God, must, of necessity,
govern the moral conduct of those who adore him.

Hence arises the uncertainty of Christians, whether it be most
conformable to the spirit of their religion to tolerate, or to
persecute, those who differ from them in opinion. The two parties
find themselves equally authorised in modes of conduct which are
diametrically opposite. At one time, Jehovah declares his detestation
of idolaters, and makes it a duty to exterminate them; at another time
Moses forbids his people to speak ill of the God of nations. The Son of
God forbids persecution, after having said that men must be constrained
to enter into his kingdom. Yet, as the idea of a severe and cruel
God makes a much deeper impression than that of a bounteous one, true
Christians have generally thought it their duty to exert their zeal
against those whom they have supposed to be enemies to their God. They
have imagined it impossible to offend him by espousing his cause
with too much ardour. Toleration has seldom been practised, except by
indolent and phlegmatic Christians, of a temperament little analogous to
that of the God whom they serve.

Must not a true Christian, to whose imitation the example of the saints
and heroes of the Old Testament are proposed, become ferocious and
sanguinary? Will he not find motives for cruelty in the conduct of
Moses, who twice caused the blood of Israel to stream, and immolated to
his God more than forty thousand victims? To justify his own, will he
not appeal to the perfidious cruelty of Phineas, Jabel, and Judith? Will
he not see David to be a monster of barbarity, adultery, and rebellion,
which nevertheless does not prevent his being a man after God's own
heart? In short, the whole Bible informs the Christian that his God
is delighted with a furious zeal in his service; and this zeal is
sufficient to close his eyes on every species of crime.

Let us not, then, be surprised to see Christians incessantly persecuting
each other. If they are at any time tolerant, it is only when they are
themselves persecuted, or too weak to persecute others. Whenever they
have power they become the terror and destruction of each other.
Since Christianity first appeared on earth, its different sects have
incessantly quarrelled. They have mutually exercised the most refined
cruelty. Sovereigns, in imitation of David, have espoused the quarrels
of discordant priests, and served God by fire and sword. Kings
themselves have often perished the victims of religious fanaticism,
which tramples on every moral duty in obedience to its God.

In a word, the religion, which boasts of having brought peace on earth,
and good will towards men, has for eighteen centuries caused more
ravages, and greater effusions of blood, than all the superstitions of
heathenism. It has raised walls of separation between the citizens of
the same state. It has abandoned concord and affection from families. It
has made a duty of injustice and inhumanity. The followers of a God, who
was unjustly offended at mankind, became as unjust as he. The servants
of a jealous and vindictive God, conceived it their duty to enter into
his quarrels and avenge his injuries. Under a God of cruelty, it was
judged meritorious to cause the earth to echo with groans, and float in
blood.

Such are the important services which the Christian religion has
rendered to morality. Let it not be said, that it is through a shameful
abuse of this religion, that these horrors have happened. A spirit of
persecution and intolerance is the spirit of a religion ordained by
a God, jealous of his power, a God who has formally commanded the
commission of murder; a God, who, in the excess of his anger, has not
spared even his own Son! The servant of such a God is much surer to
please him by exterminating his enemies, than by permitting them to
offend him in peace. Such a God must necessarily serve as a pretext to
the most destructive excesses. A zeal for his glory is used as a veil
to conceal the passions of all impostors and fanatics who pretend to be
interpreters of the will of heaven; and the enthusiastic hopes to
wash away the greatest crimes by bathing his hands in the blood of the
enemies of his God.

By a natural consequence of the same principles, an intolerant religion
can be only conditionally submissive to the authority of temporal
sovereigns. Jews and Christians cannot be obedient to a temporal
government, unless its laws be conformed to the arbitrary and often
ridiculous commands of their God. But who shall decide whether the laws,
most advantageous to society, are conformed to the will of this
God? Without doubt, his ministers, the confidants of his secrets and
interpreters of his oracles. Thus, in a Christian state, the citizens
must be subject rather to spiritual than temporal government, to
the priest rather than the magistrate. Hence must arise civil war,
bloodshed, proscription, and all that inspires the human breast with
horror.

Such is the support afforded to morality by a religion, the first
principle of which is to admit the God of the Jews, that is, a tyrant,
whose fantastic commands annihilate every rule necessary to the tranquil
existence of society. This God creates justice and injustice, his
supreme will changes good into bad, and vice into virtue. His caprice
overturns the laws which he himself had given to nature. He destroys at
his pleasure the moral relations among mankind. In his own conduct he
dispenses with all duties towards his creatures. He seems to authorise
them to follow no certain laws, except those prescribed to them, in
different circumstances, by the voice of his ministers and prophets.
These, when in power, preach nothing but submission. If an attempt be
made to abridge that power, they preach arms and rebellion. Are they
weak? They preach toleration, patience, and meekness. Are they strong?
They preach persecution, revenge, rapine, And cruelty. They always find
in Holy Writ arguments to authorise these different modes of conduct,
They find in the oracles of their just and immutable God, arguments
amply sufficient to justify actions diametrically opposite in their
nature and offence. To lay the foundation of morality on such a God,
or open books which contain laws so contradictory, is to give it an
unstable base; it is to found it on the caprice of those who speak in
the name of God; it is to found it on the temperament of each one of his
adorers.

Morality should be founded upon invariable rules. A God who destroys
these rules destroys his own work. If God be the creator of man, if he
intends their happiness and preservation, he would have them to be
just, humane, and benevolent, and averse to injustice, fanaticism, and
cruelty.

From what has been said, we may see what we ought to think of those
divines who pretend that, without the Christian religion there could
be neither morality nor virtue among mankind. The converse of this
proposition would much higher approach the truth; and it might be
maintained, that every Christian who imitates his God, and practises all
his commands, must necessarily be an immoral person. If it be said,
that those commands are not always unjust, and that the Scriptures often
breathe benevolence, harmony, and equity, I answer, Christians must have
an inconstant morality, sometimes good and sometimes bad, according
to interest and individuals. It appears that Christians must either be
wholly destitute of true morality, Or vibrate continually from virtue to
vice, and from vice to virtue.

The Christian religion is but a rotten prop to morality. It will not
bear examination, and every man who discovers its defects will be ready
to believe that the morality founded on such a basis can be only a
chimera. Thus we often behold men, who have couched the neck beneath
the yoke of religion, break loose at once and abandon themselves to
debauchery, intemperance, and every kind of vice. Escaping from the
slavery of superstition, they fly to complete anarchy, and disbelieve
the existence of all moral duties, because they have found religion to
be but a fable. Hence, among Christians, the words infidel and libertine
have become synonymous. All these inconveniences would be avoided if
mankind, instead of being taught a theological, were taught a natural
morality. Instead of interdicting intemperance and vice, because
they are offensive to God and religion, they should be prevented, by
convincing man that they are destructive to his existence, and render
him contemptible in society: that they are disapproved and forbidden by
reason and nature, who aim at his preservation, and direct him to take
the path that leads to permanent felicity. Whatever may be the will of
God, and independently of the future rewards and punishments announced
by religion, it is easy to prove to every man that it is, in this world,
his interest to preserve his health, to respect virtue, acquire the
esteem of his fellow-creatures, and, in fine, to be chaste, temperate,
and virtuous. Those whose passions will not suffer them to attend to
principles so clear and reasonable, will not be more docile to the voice
of a religion, which they will cease to believe the moment it opposes
their misguiding propensities.

Let, then, the pretended advantages which the Christian religion lends
morality be no longer boasted. The principles drawn from revelation
tend to its destruction. We have frequent examples of Christian nations,
whose morals are far more corrupted than those of people whom they
style infidels and heathens. The former are, at least, most subject to
religious fanaticism, a passion calculated to banish justice and all the
social virtues from society.

Christianity creates intolerants and persecutors, who are much more
injurious to society than the most abandoned debauchees. It is, at
least, certain, that the most Christian nations of Europe, are not those
where true morality is most felt and practised. In Spain, Portugal, and
Italy, where the most superstitious sect of Christians has fixed its
residence, people live in the most shameful ignorance of their duties.
Robbery, assassination, debauchery, and persecution, are there carried
to their worst extreme; and yet all men are full of religion. Few
virtuous men exist in those countries. Religion itself there becomes an
accomplice to vice, furnishes criminals with an asylum, and procures
to them easy means of reconciliation with God. Presents, prayers, and
ceremonies, there furnish mankind with a dispensation from the practice
of virtue. Amongst nations, who boast of possessing Christianity in
all its purity, religion has so entirely absorbed the attention of its
sectaries, that morality enters not into their thought; and they think
they fulfil all their duties by a scrupulous observation of the minutiae
of superstitious ceremonies, whilst they are strangers to all social
affections, and labour for the destruction of human happiness.



CHAP. XII.--OF THE CHRISTIAN VIRTUES.


What has been said is sufficient to shew what we ought to think of
Christian morality. If we examine the virtues recommended in the
Christian religion, we find them but ill calculated for mankind.
They lift him above his sphere, are useless to society, and often of
dangerous consequence. In the boasted precepts, which Jesus Christ came
to give mankind, we find little but extravagant maxims, the practice
of which is impossible, and rules which, literally followed, must prove
injurious to society. In those of his precepts that are practicable,
we find nothing which was not as well or better known to the sages of
antiquity, without the aid of Revelation.

According to the Messiah, the whole duty of man consists in loving God
above all things, and his neighbour as himself. Is it possible to obey
this precept? Can man love a God above all things, who is represented
as wrathful, capricious, unjust, and implacable? who is said to be cruel
enough to damn his creatures eternally? Can man love, above all things,
an object the most dreadful that human imagination could ever conceive?
Can such an object excite in the human heart a sentiment of love? How
can we love that which we dread? How can we delight in the God under
whose rod we tremble? Do we not deceive ourselves, when we think we love
a being so terrible, and so calculated to excite nothing but horror?1

     1 Seneca says, with much truth, that a man of sense cannot
     fear the Gods, because no man can love what he fears. De
     Benef. 4. The Bible says, the fear of the Lord is the
     beginning of wisdom. I think it rather the beginning of
     folly.


Is it even practicable for mankind to love their neighbours as
themselves? Every man naturally loves himself in preference to all
others. He loves his fellow-creatures only in proportion as they
contribute to his happiness. He exercises virtue in doing good to his
neighbour. He acts generously when he sacrifices his self love to his
love for another. Yet he will never love his fellow creatures but for
the useful qualities he finds in them. He can love them no farther than
they are known to him, and his love for them must ever be governed by
the good he receives from them.

To love one's enemies is then impossible. A man may abstain from doing
evil to the person by whom he is injured; but love is an affection
which can be excited in our hearts only by an object which we supposed
friendly to us. Politic nations, who have enacted just and wise
laws, have always forbidden individual to revenge, or do justice to
themselves, A sentiment of generosity, of greatness of soul, or heroism,
may induce mankind to do good to those from whom they suffer injuries.
By such means they exalt themselves above their enemies, and may even
change the disposition of their hearts. Thus, without having recourse
to a supernatural morality, we feel that it is our interest to stifle
in our hearts the lust of revenge. Christians may, therefore, cease to
boast the forgiveness of injuries, as a precept that could be given
only by their God, and which proves the divine origin of their morality.
Pythagoras, long before the time of Christ, had said, let men revenge
themselves upon their enemies, only by labouring to convert them into
friends. Socrates taught that it was not lawful for a man, who had
received an injury, to revenge it by doing another injury.

Christ must have forgotten that he spoke to men, when, in order
to conduct them to perfection, he commanded them to abandon their
possessions to the avidity of the first who should demand them; to turn
the other cheek to receive a new insult; to oppose no resistance to
the most outrageous violence; to renounce the perishable riches of this
world; to forsake houses, possessions, relations, and friends to follow
him; and to reject even the most innocent pleasures. Who does not see,
in these sublime precepts, the language of enthusiasm and hyperbole? Are
not they calculated to discourage man, and throw him into despair? If
literally practised, would they not prove ruinous to society?

What shall we say of the morality, which commands the human heart to
detach itself from objects which reason commands it to love? When
we refuse the blessings offered us by nature, do we not despise the
benefactions of the One Supreme? What real good can result to society
from the melancholy and ferocious virtues which Christians consider
indispensible?

Can a man continue useful to society, when his mind is perpetually
agitated with imaginary terrors, gloomy ideas, and black inquietudes,
which incapacitate him for the performance of his duties to his family,
his country, and mankind? If the Christian adhere strictly to
the gloomy principles of his religion, must he not become equally
insupportable to himself, and those by whom he is surrounded?

It cannot be said, that, in general, fanaticism and enthusiasm are the
bases of the morality of Christ. The virtues which he recommends tend to
render men unsocial, to plunge them into melancholy, and often to render
them injurious to their fellow-creatures. Among human beings, human
virtues are necessary; Christian virtues are not calculated on the scale
of real life. Society has need of real virtues, from which it may derive
energy, activity, and support. Vigilance, labour, and affection, are
necessary to families. A desire of enjoying lawful pleasures, and
augmenting the sum of their happiness, is necessary to all mankind.
The Christian religion is perpetually busied in degrading mankind
by threatening them with dismaying terrors, or diverting them with
frivolous hopes; sentiments equally proper to turn them from their true
duties. If the Christian literally obey the precepts of his legislator,
he will ever be either an useless or injurious member of society.1

     1 Notwithstanding the eulogies lavished by Christians on the
     precepts of their divine master, some of them are wholly
     contrary to equity and right reason. When Jesus says, make
     to yourselves friends in heaven with the mammon of
     unrighteousness, does he not plainly insinuate, that we may
     take from others wherewithal to give alms to the poor?
     Divines will say that he spoke in parables; these parables
     are, however, easily unfolded. In the mean time, this
     precept is but too well followed. Many Christians cheat and
     swindle during all their lives, to have the pleasure of
     making donations at their death to churches, monasteries,
     &c. The Messiah, at another time, treated his mother, who
     with parental solicitude was seeking him, extremely ill. He
     commands his disciples to steal an ass. He drowns an herd of
     swine, &c. It must be confessed, these things do not agree
     extremely well with good morality.


What real advantage can mankind derive from those ideal virtues, which
Christians style evangelic, divine, &c. and which they prefer to the
social, humane, and substantial virtues, and without which they pretend
no man can please God, or enter into his glory? Let us examine those
boasted virtues in detail. Let us see of what utility they are to
society, and whether they truly merit the preference which is given
them, to those which are pointed out by reason as necessary to the
welfare of mankind.

The first of the Christian virtues is faith, which serves as a
foundation for all the others. It consists in an impossible conviction
of the revealed doctrines and absurd fables which the Christian religion
commands its disciples to believe. Hence it appears that this virtue
exacts a total renunciation of reason, and impracticable assent to
improbable facts; and a blind submission to the authority of priests,
who are the only guarantees of the truth of the doctrines and miracles
that every Christian must believe under penalty of damnation.

This virtue, although necessary to all mankind, is nevertheless, a gift
of Heaven, and the effect of a special grace. It forbids all doubt and
enquiry; and it deprives man of the liberty of exercising his reason
and reflection. It reduces him to the passive acquiescence of beasts in
matters which he is, at the same time, told are of all things the most
important to his happiness. Hence it is plain, that faith is a virtue
invented by men, who, shrinking from the light of reason, deceived their
fellow-creatures, to subject them to their own authority, and degraded
them that they might exercise an empire over them. If faith be a virtue,
it is certainly useful only to the spiritual guides of the Christians,
for they alone gather its fruits. It cannot but be injurious to other
men, who are taught by it to despise that reason, which distinguishes
them from brutes, and is their only faithful guide in this world.
Christians, however, represent this reason as perverted, and as
unfaithful guide; by which they seem to intimate that it was not made
for reasonable beings. May we not, however, ask them how far this
renunciation of reason ought to be carried? Do not they themselves, in
certain cases, have recourse to reason? Do they not appeal to reason,
when they endeavour to prove the existence of their God?

Be this as it may, it is an absurdity to say we believe that of which
we have no conception. What, then, are the motives of the Christian, for
pretending to such a belief? His confidence in his spiritual guides. But
what is the foundation of this confidence? Revelation. On what, then, is
Revelation itself founded? On the authority of spiritual guides. Such
is the manner in which Christians reason. Their arguments in favour of
faith are comprised in the following sentence. To believe our religion
it is necessary to have faith, and to have faith you must believe in our
religion. Or, it is necessary to have faith already, in order to believe
in the necessity of faith.1

     1 Many divines have maintained, that faith without works is
     sufficient for salvation. This is the virtue which is, in
     general, most cried up by them. It is, at least, the one
     most necessary to their existence. It is not, therefore,
     surprising that they have endeavoured to establish it by
     fire and sword, it was for the support of faith that the
     Inquisition burned heretics and Jews. Kings and priests
     persecute for the establishment of faith. Christians have
     destroyed those who were destitute of faith, in order to
     demonstrate to them their error. O wondrous virtue, and
     worthy of the God of mercies! His ministers punish mankind,
     when he refuses them his grace!!!


The phantom Faith vanishes at the approach of the sun of Reason. It
can never sustain a calm examination. Hence it arises, that certain
Christian divines are so much at enmity with science. The founder of
their religion declared, that his law was made for ignorant men and
children. Faith is the effect of a grace which God seldom grants to
enlightened persons, who are accustomed to consult their reason. It
is adapted only to the minds of men who are incapable of reflection,
tendered insane by enthusiasm, or invincibly attached to the prejudices
of Childhood. Science must ever be at enmity with this religion; for in
proportion as either of them gains ground, the other must lose.

Another Christian virtue, proceeding from the former, is Hope. Founded
on the flattering promises given by this religion to those who render
themselves wretched in this life, it feeds their enthusiasm. It
induces them firmly to believe that God will reward, in heaven, their
gloominess, inutility, indolence, prayers, and detestation of pleasures
on earth. How can a man, who, being intoxicated with these pompous
hopes, becomes indifferent to his own happiness, concern himself with
that of his fellow-creatures? The Christian believes that he pleases his
God by rendering himself miserable in this life; and however flattering
his hopes may be for the future, they are here empoisoned by the idea of
a jealous God, who commands him to work out his own salvation with fear
and trembling, and who will plunge him into eternal torture, if he for
a moment has the weakness to be a man. Another of the Christian virtues
is Charity. It consists in loving God and our neighbour. We have always
seen how difficult, not to say impossible, it is to feel sentiments of
tenderness for any being whom we fear. It will, undoubtedly, be said,
that the fear of Christians is a filial fear. But words cannot change
the essence of things. Fear is a passion totally opposite to love. A
son, who fears the anger, and dreads the caprices of a father, can never
love him sincerely. The love, therefore, of a Christian to his God can
never be true. In vain he endeavours to feel sentiments of tenderness
for a rigorous master, at whose idea his heart shrinks back in terror.
He can never love him but as a tyrant, to whom his mouth renders the
homage that his heart refuses. The devotee is not honest to himself,
when he pretends to love his God. His affection is a dissembled homage,
like that which men are forced to render to certain inhuman despots,
who, while they tread their subjects in the dust, demand from them the
exterior marks of attachment.

If some tender minds, by force of illusion, feel sentiments of divine
love, it is then a mystic and romantic passion, produced by a warm
temperament, and an ardent imagination, which present their God to them
dressed in smiles, with all his imputed faults concealed.1 The love of
God is not the least incomprehensible mystery of this religion.

     1 It is an ardent and tender temperament that produces
     mystic devotion. Hysterical women are those who commonly
     love God with most vivacity, they love him to distraction,
     as they would love a man. In monasteries, particularly Ste.
     Therese, Madeleine de Pazzy, Marie a la Coque, most of the
     devotees are of this description. Their imagination grows
     wild, and they give to their God, whom they paint in the
     most captivating colours, that tenderness which they are not
     permitted to bestow on beings of their own species. It
     requires a strong imagination to be smitten with an object
     unknown.


Charity, considered as the love of mankind, is a virtuous and necessary
disposition. It then becomes no more than that tender humanity which
attaches us to our fellows, and inclines us to love and assist them. But
how shall we reconcile this attachment with the commands of a jealous
God, who would have us to love none but himself, and who came to
separate the friend from the friend, and the son from the father?
According to the precepts of the gospel, it would be criminal to offer
God a heart shared by an earthly object. It would be idolatry thus
to confound the creature with the Creator. And further, how can the
Christian love beings who continually offend his God? Beings who would
continually betray himself into offence? How can he love sinners?
Experience, teaches us that the devout, obliged by principle to hate
themselves, have very little more affection for others. If this be not
the case, they have not arrived, at the perfection of divine love. We do
not find that those who are supposed to love the Creator most ardently,
shew much affection for his creatures. On the contrary, we see them fill
with bitterness all who surround them; they criticise with severity the
faults of others, and make it a crime to speak of human frailty with
indulgence.1 A sincere love for God must be accompanied with zeal. A
true Christian must be enraged when he sees his God offended. He must
aim himself with a just and holy severity to repress the offenders. He
must have an ardent desire to extend the empire of his religion. A zeal,
originating in this divine love, has been the source of the terrible
persecutions of which Christians have so often been guilty. Zeal
produces murderers as well as martyrs. It is this zeal that prompts
intolerant man to wrest the thunder from the hand of the Most High to
avenge him of his enemies. It is this zeal that causes members of the
same state, and the same family, to detest and torment each other for
opinions, and puerile ceremonies, which they are led to esteem as of
the last importance. It is this zeal that has a thousand times, kindled
those religious wars so remarkable for their atrocity. Finally, it is
this zeal for religion which justifies calumny, treason, carnage,
and, in short, the disorders most fatal to society. It has always
been considered as lawful to employ artifice, falsehood, and force, in
support of the cause of God. The most choleric and corrupted men are
commonly the most zealous. They hope that, for the sake of their
zeal, Heaven will pardon the depravity of their manners, be it ever so
excessive.

     1 Devotees are generally considered as scourges of society.
     A devout woman has seldom the talent of conciliating the
     love of her husband and his domestics. A gloomy and
     melancholy religion cannot render its disciples very
     amiable. A sad and sullen monarch must have sad and sullen
     subjects: Christians have judiciously remarked, that Jesus
     Christ wept, but never smiled.


It is from an effect of the same zeal that enthusiastic Christians fly
over every sea, and Continent to extend the empire of their God and make
new proselytes. Stimulated by this zeal, missionaries go to trouble
the repose of what they call heathen nations, whilst they would
be astonished and enraged to find missionaries from those nations
endeavouring to propagate a new religion in their country.1

When these propagators of the faith have had power in their hands,
they have excited the most horrid rebellions; and have, in conquered
countries, exercised cruelties calculated only to render the God
detestable whom they pretended to serve. They have thought that men who
have so long been strangers to their God could be little better than
beasts; and, therefore, judged it lawful to exercise every kind of
violence over them. In the eyes of a Christian, an infidel is seldom
worthier than a dog.

It is apparently in imitation of the Jews that Christian nations
have usurped the possessions of the inhabitants of the new world.
The Castilians and Portuguese had the same right to the possession of
America and Africa, that the Hebrews had to make themselves masters of
the land of Canaan, and exterminate its inhabitants, or reduce them
to slavery. Have not Popes arrogated the right of disposing of distant
empires to their favourite Monarchs in Europe? These manifest violations
of the law of nature and of nations appeared just to those Christian
Princes, in favour of whom religion sanctified avarice, cruelty, and
usurpation.2

     1 Kambi, Emperor of China, asked the Jesuit missionaries at
     Pekin, what they would say, if he should send missionaries
     to their nation. The revolts excited by the Jesuits in Japan
     and Ethiopia are well known. A holy missionary has been
     heard to say, that without muskets, missionaries could never
     make proselytes.

     2 St. Augustin says, that of right divine, all things belong
     to the just. A maxim which is founded on a passage in the
     Psalms, which says, the just shall eat the fruit of the
     labour of the unrighteous. It is known that the Pope, by a
     bull given in favour of the kings of Castile, Arragon, and
     Portugal, fixed the line of demarcation which was to rule
     the conquests which each had gained over the infidels. After
     such principles, is not the whole earth to become a prey to
     Christian rapacity?


Humility is, also, considered by Christians as a sublime virtue, and of
inestimable value. No super-natural and divine revelations are necessary
to teach us that pride does not become man, and that it renders him
disagreeable to others. All must be convinced, on a moment's reflection,
that arrogance, presumption, and vanity, are disgusting and contemptible
qualities.

But Christian humility is carried to a more refined extreme. The
Christian must renounce his reason, mistrust his virtues, refuse to do
justice to his own good actions, and repress all self-esteem, however
well merited. Whence it appears, that this pretended virtue only
degrades and debases man in his own eyes, deprives him of all energy,
and stifles in him every desire of rendering himself useful to society.
To forbid mankind to esteem themselves and merit the esteem of others,
is to break the only powerful string that inclines them to study,
industry, and noble actions. This Christian virtue is calculated only
to render them abject slaves, wholly useless to the world, and make
all virtue give place in them, to a blind submission to their spiritual
guides.

Let us not be surprised, that a religion which boasts of being
supernatural should endeavour to unnaturalize man. This religion, in
the delirium of its enthusiasm, forbids mankind to love themselves. It
commands them to hate pleasures and court grief. It makes a merit of
all voluntary evils they do unto themselves. Hence those austerities
and penances so destructive to health; those extravagant mortifications,
cruel privations, and gradual suicides, by which fanatic Christians
think they merit heaven. It must be confessed, all Christians do not
feel themselves capable of such marvellous perfections, but all believe
themselves more or less obliged to mortify the flesh, and renounce
the blessings prepared for them by a bounteous God, who, they suppose,
offers his good things only that they may be refused, and would be
offended should his creatures presume to touch them.

Reason cannot approve virtues which are destructive to ourselves, nor
admit a God who is delighted when mankind render themselves miserable,
and voluntarily submit to torments. Reason and experience, without
the aid of superstition, are sufficient to prove, that passions and
pleasures, pushed to excess, destroy us; and that the abuse of the
best things becomes a real evil. Nature herself inculcates upon us the
privation of things which prove injurious to us. A being, solicitous
for his own preservation, must restrain irregular propensities, and fly
whatever tends to his destruction. It is plain, that by the Christian
religion, suicide is, at least, indirectly authorised.

It was in consequence of these fanatical ideas that, in the earliest
ages of Christianity, the forests and deserts were peopled with perfect
Christians, who by flying from the world, left their families destitute
of support, and their country of citizens, to abandon themselves to an
idle and contemplative life. Hence those legions of monks and cenobites,
who, under the standards of different enthusiasts, have enrolled
themselves into a militia, burthensome and injurious to society. They
thought to merit heaven, by burying talents, which might be serviceable
to their fellow-citizens, and vowing a life of indolence and celibacy.
Thus, in nations which are the most faithful to Christianity, a
multitude of men render themselves useless and wretched all their lives.
What heart is so hard as to refuse a tear to the lot of the hapless
victims taken from that enchanting sex which was destined to give
happiness to our own! Unfortunate dupes of youthful enthusiasm, or
sacrificed to the ambitious views of imperious families, they are for
ever exiled from the world! They are bound by rash oaths to unending
slavery and misery. Engagements, contradicted by every precept of
nature, force them to perpetual virginity. It is in vain that riper
feelings, sooner or later, warm their breasts, and make them groan
under the weight of their imprudent vows. They regret their voluntary
sterility, and find themselves forgotten in society. Cut off from their
families, and subjected to troublesome and despotic gaolers, they sink
into a life of disgust, of bitterness, and tears. In fine, thus exiled
from society, thus unrelated and unbeloved, there only remains for them
the shocking consolation of seducing other victims to share with them
the torments of their solitude and mortifications.

The Christian religion seems to have undertaken to combat nature and
reason in every thing. If it admits some virtues, approved by reason,
it always carries them to a vicious excess. It never observes that
just mean, which is the point of perfection. All illicit and shameful
pleasures will be avoided by every man, who is desirous of his own
preservation, and the esteem of his fellow-creatures. The heathens knew
and taught this truth, notwithstanding the depravity of morals with
which they are reproached by Christians.1 The church even recommends
celibacy as a state of perfection, and considers the natural tie of
marriage as an approach to sin. God, however, declares in Genesis,
that it is not good for man to be alone. He also formally commanded all
creatures to increase and multiply. His Son, in the gospel, comes
to annul those laws. He teaches that, to attain to perfection, it is
necessary to avoid marriage, and resist the strongest desire with which
the breast of man is inspired--that of perpetuating his existence by a
posterity, and providing supports for his old age and infirmities.

     1 Aristotle and Epictetus recommend  chastity of speech.
     Menander said, that a good man could never consent to
     debauch a virgin or commit adultery. Tibullus said, casta
     placent superis. Mark Anthony thanks the Gods, that he had
     preserved his chastity in his youth. The Romans made laws
     against adultery. Father Tachard informs us, that the
     Siamans forbid not only dishonest actions, but also impure
     thoughts and desires. Whence it appears, that chastity and
     purity of manners were esteemed even before the Christian
     religion existed.


If we consult reason, we find, that the pleasures of love are always
injurious when taken in excess; and that they are always criminal when
they prove injurious. We shall perceive, that to debauch a woman is
to condemn her to distress and infamy, and annihilate to her all the
advantages of society; that adultery is destructive to the greatest
felicity of human life, conjugal union. Hence we shall be convinced,
that marriage, being the only means of satisfying our desire of
increasing the species and providing filial supports, is a state far
more respectable and sacred, than the destructive celibacy and voluntary
castration recommended as a virtue by the Christian religion.

Nature, or its author, invites man, by the attraction of pleasure,
to multiply himself. He has unequivocally declared, that women are
necessary to men. Experience shews, that they are formed for society,
not solely for the purpose of a transient pleasure, but to give mutual
assistance in the misfortunes of life, to produce and educate children,
form them into citizens, and provide in them support for themselves in
old age. In giving man superior strength, nature has pointed out his
duty of labouring for the support of his family; the weaker organs
of his companion are destined to functions less violent, but not less
necessary. In giving her a soul more soft and sensible, nature has, by
a tender sentiment, attached her more particularly to her children. Such
are the sure bands which the Christian religion would tear asunder. Such
the blessings it would wrest from man, while it substitutes in their
place an unnatural celibacy, which renders man selfish and useless,
depopulates society, and which can be advantageous only to the
odious policy of some Christian priests, who, separating from their
fellow-citizens, have formed a destructive body, which eternalizes
itself without posterity. _Gens oterna in qua nemo nascitur._

If this religion has permitted marriage to some sects, who have not the
temerity to soar to the highest pinnacle of perfection, it seems to
have sufficiently punished them for this indulgence, by the unnatural
shackles it has fixed on the connubial state. Thus, among them, we see
divorce forbidden, and the most wretched unions indissoluble. Persons
once married, are forced to groan under the weight of wedlock, even
when affection and esteem are dead, and the place of these essentials
to conjugal happiness is supplied by hatred and contempt. Temporal laws
also conspiring with religion, forbid the wretched prisoners to break
their chains. It seems as if the Christian religion exerted all its
powers to make us view marriage with disgust, and give the preference to
a celibacy which is pregnant with debauchery, adultery, and dissolution.
Yet the God of the Hebrews made divorce lawful, and I know not by
what right his Son, who came to accomplish the law of Moses, revoked an
indulgence so reasonable.

Such are the perfections which Christianity inculcates on her children,
and such the virtues she prefers to those which are contemptuously
styled human virtues. She even rejects these, and calls them false and
sinful, because their possessors are, forsooth, not filled with faith.
What! the virtues of Greece and Rome, so amiable, and so heroic, were
they not true virtues? If justice, humanity, generosity, temperance,
and patience be not virtues, to what can the name be given? And are
the virtues less because professed by heathens? Are not the virtues of
Socrates, Cato, Epictetus, and Antonine, real and preferable to the zeal
of the Cyrills, the obstinacy of Athanasius, the uselessness of Anthony,
the rebellion of Chrysostom, the ferocity of Dominic, and the meanness
of Francis?

All the virtues admitted by Christians, are either overstrained and
fanatic, tending to render man useless, abject, and miserable; or
obstinate, haughty, cruel, and destructive to society. Such are the
effects of a religion, which contemning the earth, hesitates not to
overwhelm it with trouble, provided it thereby heightens the triumph of
its God over his enemies. No true morality can ever be compatible with
such a religion.



CHAP. XIII.--OF THE PRACTICE AND DUTIES OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION.

If the Christian virtues be destitute of solidity, and produce no effect
which reason can approve, we shall find nothing more estimable in a
multitude of incommodious, useless, and often dangerous practices, which
Christians consider as their sacred duties, and by means of which they
are confident of obtaining the pardon and favour of God, and an eternal
abode with him in unspeakable glory and felicity.

The first and most essential duty of Christians is prayer. To continual
prayer their religion attaches its felicity. Their God, whom they
suppose to be overflowing with bounty, refuses to bestow his blessings
unsolicited. He grants them only to importunity. Sensible to flattery,
like the kings of the earth, he exacts an etiquette, and hears no
petitions unless they are presented in a certain form. What should we
say of a father who, knowing the wants of his children, should refuse to
give them necessary food, until wearied out with fervent supplications?
But in another view, does not it imply mistrust of the wisdom of God
to prescribe rules for his conduct? Does it not imply a doubt of his
immutability, to believe he can be prevailed on by his creatures
to alter his designs? If he knows all things, what need is there of
continually informing him what are the dispositions and desires of
his subjects? If he is almighty, how can he be flattered with the
submissions, adorations, and formalities with which Christians prostrate
themselves before him?

In one word, prayer supposes a capricious God, deficient in memory,
voracious of praise, fond of seeing his creatures abased in the dust,
and anxious to receive at every instant the most abject marks of their
submission.

Can these ideas, borrowed from earthly princes, be with propriety
applied to an omnipotent Being, who created the universe for man, and
desires only that he should be happy? Can it be supposed that such a
Being, without equal and without rival, should be jealous of his glory?
Can the prayers of man add glory to a Being beyond comparison superior
to all others? Cannot Christians see, that, in endeavouring to honour
and exalt their God, they only degrade and debase him?

It is also the opinion of Christians, that the prayers of one man may
be serviceable to others. Partial to his favourites, God hears petitions
only from their lips. He listens not to his people, unless their
prayers be offered up to him through his ministers. He becomes a sultan,
accessible only to his ministers, vizirs, eunuchs, and the women of
his seraglio. Hence the millions of priests and cenobites, who have
no business on earth but to raise their idle hands to Heaven, and pray
night and day for its blessings on society. Nations pay dearly for these
important services, and these pious impostors live in splendour and
ease, while real merit, labour, and industry languish in misery.

Under the pretence of devoting himself to prayer and other ceremonies
of his worship, the Christian, particularly in some of the more
superstitious sects, is obliged to remain idle, and stand with arms
across during a great part of the year. He is persuaded that he honours
God by his inutility. Feasts and fasts, multiplied by the interests
of priests and the credulity of the people, often suspended for long
intervals the labours necessary to the subsistence of society. Men fly
to temples to pray when they should stay at home and cultivate their
fields. There their eyes are fed with childish ceremonies, and their
ears are filled with fables and doctrines, of which they can comprehend
nothing. This tyrannical religion makes it a crime for the poor labourer
to endeavour, during consecrated days, to procure subsistence for a
numerous and indigent family. And civil authority, in concert with
religion, punishes those who have the audacity to earn bread, instead of
praying or being idle.

Can reason subscribe to the ridiculous obligation of abstaining from
certain aliments and meats which is imposed by some sects of Christians?
In consequence of these laws, people, who live by their labour, are
forced to content themselves, during long intervals', with dear and
unwholesome provisions, more proper to generate disease than repair
strength.

What abject and ridiculous ideas must they entertain of God, who believe
he can be offended by the quality of the food that enters into the
stomachs of his creatures! Heaven, however, for a certain sum of money
becomes sometimes more accommodating. Priests have been continually
busied in straitening the path of their sectaries, that they might
transgress more frequently; and that the revenue arising from their
transgressions might thus become more ample. All things, even sin
itself, among Christians, contribute to the profit of the priests.

No religion ever placed its sectaries in more complete and continual
dependance on priests, than the Christian. Those harpies never lose
sight of their prey. They take infallible measures for subjecting
mankind, and making all contribute to their power, riches, and dominion.
Having assumed the office of mediator between the heavenly monarch and
his subjects, these priests were looked upon as courtiers in favour,
ministers commissioned to exercise power in his name, and favourites to
whom he could refuse nothing. Thus they became absolute masters of
the destiny of the Christians. They gained establishments and rendered
themselves necessary by the introduction of innumerable practices and
duties, which, though puerile and ridiculous, they had the address
to make their flocks look upon as indispensibly necessary to their
salvation. They represented the omission of these pretended duties as
a crime infinitely greater than an open violation of all the laws of
morality and reason.

Let us not then be surprized, that, in the most zealous, that is to say
the most superstitious sects, we see mankind perpetually infested with
priests. Scarcely are they born, when, under the pretext of washing
away original sin, their priests impose on them a mercenary baptism, and
pretend to reconcile them with a God whom they have as yet been unable
to offend. By means of a few words and magical ceremonies they are thus
snatched from the dominion of Satan. From the tenderest infancy their
education is frequently entrusted to priests, whose principal care is to
instil into them early the prejudices as necessary to the views of
the church. Terrors are now introduced into their minds which increase
during their whole lives. They are instructed in the fables, absurd
doctrines, and incomprehensible mysteries of a marvellous religion. In
one word, they are formed into superstitious Christians, and rendered
incapable of being useful citizens or enlightened men. Only one thing is
represented to them as necessary, which is to be in all things devoutly
submissive to his religion. "Be devout," say his teachers, "be blind,
despise thy reason, attend to Heaven, and neglect earth; this is all thy
God demands to conduct thee to eternal felicity."

To maintain the abject and fanatic ideas with which the priest
has filled his pupils in their childhood, he commands them to come
frequently, and deposit in his bosom their hidden faults, their most
secret actions and thoughts. He obliges them to humiliate themselves at
his feet, and render homage to his power. He frightens the criminals,
and afterwards, if they are judged worthy, he reconciles them to God,
who on the command of his ministers remits their sins. The Christian
sects that admit this practice, boast of it as extremely useful
in regulating the manners and restraining the passions of men; but
experience proves, that the countries in which this usage is most
faithfully observed, are distinguished rather for the dissolution than
the purity of their manners. By such easy expiations they are only
emboldened in vice. The lives of Christians are circles of successive
offences and concessions. The priesthood reap the profit of this
practice, by means of which they exercise an absolute dominion over the
consciences of mankind. How great must be the power of an order of men,
who possess all the secrets of families, can kindle at pleasure the
destructive flame of fanaticism, and open or shut the gates of heaven!

Without the consent of his priests, the Christian cannot participate in
the knowledge of the mysteries of his religion, from which they have a
right to exclude him entirely. This privation, however, he has no great
reason to lament. But the anathemas or excommunications of the priests
generally do a real mischief to mankind. These spiritual punishments
produce temporal effects, and every citizen who incurs the disgrace of
the church is in danger of that of the government, and becomes odious to
his fellow-citizens.

We have already remarked that priests have taken upon themselves the
management of marriages. Without their consent, a Christian cannot,
become a father. He must first submit to the capricious formalities of
his religion, without which his children must be excluded from the rank
of citizens.

During all his life, the Christian is obliged to assist in the
ceremonies of worship under the direction of his priests. When he has
performed this important duty, he esteems himself the favourite of God,
and persuades himself that he no longer owes any thing to society. Thus
frivolous practices take place of morality, which is always rendered
subordinate to religion.

When death approaches, the Christian, stretched in agony on his bed, is
still assailed in those distressful moments by priests. In some sects
religion seems to have been invented to render the bitter death of man
ten thousand times more bitter. A malicious priest comes to the couch
of the dying man, and holds before him the spectacle of his approaching
end, arrayed in more than all its terrors. Although this custom is
destructive to citizens, it is extremely profitable to the priesthood,1
who owe much of their riches to legacies procured by it. Morality is
not quite so highly advantaged by it. Experience proves, that most
Christians live in security and postpone till death their reconciliation
with God. By means of a late repentance, and largesses to the
priesthood, their faults are expiated, and they are permitted to hope
that Heaven will forget the accumulated crimes of a long and wicked
life.

     1 In Catholic countries.


Death itself does not terminate the empire of the priesthood in certain
sects, which finds means to make money even out of the dead bodies
of their followers. These, for a sufficient sum, are permitted to
be deposited in temples, where they have the privilege of spreading
infection and disease. The sacerdotal power extends still further. The
prayers of the church are purchased at a dear rate, to deliver the souls
of the dead from their pretended torments in the other world, inflicted
for their purification. Happy they who are rich in a religion, whose
priests being favourites with God, can be hired to prevail on him
to remit the punishments which his immutable justice had intended to
inflict!

Such are the principal duties recommended by the Christians; and upon
the observation of these they believe their salvation to depend. Such
are the arbitrary, ridiculous, and hurtful practices substituted for the
real duties of morality. We shall not combat the different superstitious
practices, admitted by some sects and rejected by others; such as the
honours rendered to the memory of those pious fanatics and obscure
contemplators whom Roman pontiffs have ranked among the saints. We say
nothing of those pilgrimages which superstition has so often produced,
nor those indulgences by means of which sins are remitted. We shall only
observe, that these things are commonly' more respected where they are
admitted, than the duties of morality, which in those places frequently,
are wholly unknown. Mankind find their natural propensities much
less thwarted by such rites, ceremonies, and practices, than by being
virtuous. A good Christian is a man who conforms exactly to all that his
priests exact from him; these substitute blindness and submission in the
place of all virtues.



CHAP. XIV.--OF THE POLITICAL EFFECTS OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION.


After having seen the inutility and even danger of the perfections,
virtues, and duties proposed by the Christian religion, let us enquire
whether its political influences be more happy, and whether it can in
reality promote the welfare of nations among whom it is established and
faithfully observed. We at once find, that wherever this religion is
admitted, two opposite legislations, ever at variance with each other,
establish themselves. Although this religion preaches love and peace, it
soon annihilates the effects of those precepts by the divisions which
it necessarily sows among its sectaries, who unavoidably interpret
diversely the ambiguous oracles announced in Holy Writ. We find,
that from the infancy of religion the most acrimonious disputes
have continually taken place among divines. The successive ages of
Christianity have been stained with schisms, heresies, persecutions,
and contests, widely discordant from its boasted spirit of peace and
concord; which is in fact incompatible with a religion whose precepts
are so dark and equivocal. In all religious disputes, each party
believes that God is on its side, and consequently they are obstinate.
Indeed, how can it be otherwise, when they confound the cause of God
with that of their own vanity? Thus, mutually averse to concession, they
quarrel and fight until force has decided a contest in which they never
appeal to reason, in fact, political authorities have ever been forced
to interfere in all the dissensions which have arisen among Christians.
Governments have always taken in the frivolous disputes of priests, and
foolishly considered them as objects of the last importance. They have
conceived, that in a religion established by God himself there could
be nothing of a trifling nature. Thus, princes have armed themselves
against their own subjects, whose opinions differed from theirs. The way
of thinking at court has decided the creed and the faith of subjects.
Opinions supported by kings and priests have been the only true
ones. Their creatures have been the guardians of orthodoxy, and were
commissioned to exterminate all whom they chose to denominate heretics
and rebels.

The prejudices of princes or their false policy, have caused them
to look upon those of their subjects, who differ from themselves in
religious opinions, as bad citizens, dangerous to the state, and enemies
to their power. If, leaving to priests the business of finishing their
own impertinent disputes, they had not assisted their quarrels and
persecutions, they would have died away of themselves, and never
have disturbed the peace of nations. If those kings had impartially
recompensed the good and punished the bad, without regard to their
worship, ceremonies, and speculative opinions, they would not have made
many of their subjects such enemies to that power, by which they found
themselves oppressed. Christians have always attempted to reclaim
heretics by injustice, violence, and persecution. Ought not they to have
perceived, that this conduct was calculated only to produce hypocrites
and hidden enemies, of open rebellions? But these reflections are not
designed for princes, who from their infancy, have been filled with
fanaticism and prejudices; They, instead of being actuated by virtuous
motives, have formed obstinate attachments to frivolities, and impetuous
ardour for doctrines foreign to the welfare of their states, and
a boundless wrath against all who refuse to bend to their despotic
opinions. Such sovereigns find it a shorter way to destroy mankind than
reclaim them by mild means. Their haughty despotism will not condescend
to reason. Religion assures them that tyranny is lawful, and cruelty
meritorious when they are employed in the cause of heaven.

The Christian religion, in fact, always makes despots and tyrants of all
the sovereigns by whom it is adopted. It represents them as gods upon
earth; it causes their very caprices to be respected as the will of
heaven itself. It delivers mankind into their hands as an herd of
slaves, of whom they may dispose at their pleasure. In return for their
zeal for religion, all the outrages upon justice that they can commit
are forgiven, and their subjects are commanded, under pain of the wrath
of the Most High, to submit without a murmur to the sword that strikes
instead of protecting themselves. It is not, therefore, matter of
surprise, that since the establishment of this religion, we see so
many nations groaning under devout tyrants, who, although obstinately
attached to religion, have been unjust, licentious, and cruel. Whatever
were the oppressions and ravages of these religious or hypocritical
princes, the priests have not failed to preach submission to their
subjects: On the other hand, let us not be surprised to see so many weak
and wicked princes, support in their turns the interest of a religion,
which their false policy judged necessary to the maintenance of their
authority. If kings were enlightened, just and virtuous, and knew and
practised their real duties, they would have had no need of the aid of
superstition in governing nations. But as it is more easy to conform to
rites than to acquire talents or practise virtue, this religion has,
in princes, too often found support for itself, and destruction for its
enemies.

The ministers of religion have not had the same complaisance for
princes, who refused to make a common cause with them, espouse their
quarrels, and become subservient to their passions. They have arisen
against those who have thwarted their views, punished their excesses,
touched their immunities, endeavoured to subject them to reason, or
repress their ambitious designs. The priests on such occasions, cry out,
Impiety! Sacrilege! Then they pretend that the sovereign puts his hand
to the censor, and usurps the rights granted them by God himself. Then
they endeavour to excite nations to rebellion. They arm fanatics against
sovereigns, whom they declare tyrants, for having been wanting in
submission to the church. Heaven is always ready to revenge any
injustice done to its ministers. They are themselves submissive, and
preach submission to others, only when they are permitted to share the
authority, or are too feeble to resist it. This is the reason why the
apostles, in the infancy of Christianity, being destitute of power,
preached subordination. No sooner had this religion gained sufficient
strength, than it preached resistance and rebellion; dethroning some
kings and assassinating others.

In every political body, where this religion is established, there are
two rival powers, which, by incessant contention, convulse and wound the
state. The citizens divide into opposite parties, each of which
fights, or thinks it fights, for God. These contests at different times
terminate differently, but the triumphant party is always in the right.
By attentive examination of such events, we shall escape the dominion of
fanaticism. It is by stimulating mankind to enquiry, that they must be
freed from the shackles of superstition. Let mankind think till they
have thrown aside their prejudices, and they will think justly. The
reign of the priesthood will cease when men cease to be ignorant and
credulous. Credulity is the offspring of ignorance, and superstition is
the child of credulity.

But most kings dread that mankind should be enlightened. Accomplices
with the priesthood, they have formed a league with them to stifle
reason, and persecute all who confide in its guidance. Blind to their
own interests, and those of their subjects, they wish only to command
slaves, forgetting those slaves are always at the disposal of the
priests. Thus we see science neglected, and ignorance triumphant, in
those countries where this religion holds the most absolute dominion.
Arts and sciences are the children of liberty, and separated from
their parent they languish and die. Among Christian nations, the least
superstitious are the most free, powerful, and happy. In countries where
spiritual and temporal despotism are leagued, the people grovel in the
most shameful ignorance and lethargic inactivity. The European nations,
who boast of possessing the purest faith, are not surely the most
flourishing and powerful. Their kings, enslaved themselves by priests,
have not energy and courage enough to make a single struggle for their
own welfare or that of their subjects. Priests, in such states, are the
only order of men who are rich; other citizens languish in' the deepest
indigence. But of what importance are the power and happiness of nations
to the sectaries of a religion who seek not for happiness in this world,
who believe riches injurious, preach a God of poverty, and recommend
abasement to the soul, and mortification of the flesh? It is without
doubt to oblige people to practise these maxims, that the clergy, in
many Christian states, have taken possession of most of the riches, and
live in splendour, while their fellow-citizens are set forward in the
road to heaven, unincumbered with any burthen of earthly wealth.

Such are the advantages political society derives from the Christian
religion. It forms an independent state within a state. It renders the
people slaves.

When sovereigns are obedient to it, it favours their tyranny. When they
are disobedient, it renders their subjects fanatic and rebellious. When
it accords with political power, it convulses, debases, and impoverishes
nations; when not, it makes citizens unsocial, turbulent, intolerant,
and mutinous.

If we examine in detail the precepts of this religion, and the maxims
which flow from its principles, we shall find it interdicts every thing
that can make a nation flourish. We have already seen the ideas of
imperfection that it attaches to marriage, and its esteem of celibacy.
These notions are highly unfavourable to population, which is,
incontrovertibly, the first source of power in a state.

Commerce is not less contradictory to the spirit of a religion, the
founder of which pronounced an anathema against riches, and excluded
them from his kingdom. All industry is interdicted to perfect
Christians; they live a provisory life on earth, and never concern
themselves with the morrow.

Must it not be a great temerity and sin for a Christian to serve in war?
Is not the man, who has never the right to believe himself absolutely
in a state of grace, extremely rash when he exposes himself to eternal
damnation? Is not the Christian, who ought to have charity for all men,
and love even his enemies, guilty of an enormous crime, when he kills
a man of whose dispositions he is ignorant, and whom he, perhaps,
precipitates at once into hell? A Christian soldier is a monster;
unless, indeed, he fights in the cause of religion. Then, if he dies,
"he dies a blessed martyr."

The Christian religion has always declared war against science and all
human knowledge. These have been looked upon as obstacles to salvation.
Neither reason nor study are necessary to men, who are to submit
their reason to the yoke of faith. From the confession of Christians
themselves, the founders of their religion were simple and ignorant men.
Their disciples must be as little enlightened as they were to admit the
fables and reveries they have received from them. It has always been
remarked, that the most enlightened men seldom make the best Christians.
Science is apt to embarrass faith; and it moreover turns the attention
from the great work of salvation, which is represented as the only
necessary one. If science be serviceable to political society, ignorance
is much more so to religion and its ministers.. Those ages, destitute of
science and industry, were the garden age of the church of Christ. Then
were kings dutifully submissive to priests; then the coffers of priests
held all the riches of society. The priests of a very numerous sect
have kept from the eyes of their followers even the sacred pages which
contain the laws of their religion. This conduct is, undoubtedly, very
discreet. Reading the Bible is the surest of all means to prevent its
being respected.

In one word, if the maxims of the Christian religion were rigorously
and universally followed, no political society could subsist. If this
assertion be doubted, listen to what was said by the earliest doctors of
the church, and it will be acknowledged, that their precepts are wholly
incompatible with the power and preservation of states. According to
Lactantius, no Christian can become a soldier. According, to St. Justin,
no Christian can be a magistrate. According to St. Chrysostom, no
Christian can meddle with commerce. And, according to a great number, no
man ought to study. In fine, join these maxims to those of Christ, apply
them in practice, and the result will be a perfect Christian, useless to
his family, his country, and mankind; an idle contemplator, unconcerned
in the interests of this world, and occupied entirely with the other,
whither it is his most important business to go.

Let us look into Eusebius, and see if the Christian be not a real
fanatic, from whom society can derive no advantage. "The manner of
life," says he, "in the Christian church, surpasses our present nature,
and the ordinary life of man. There they seek neither marriages,
children, nor riches. In fact, it is wholly foreign to the human manner
of living. The church is given up to an immense love of heavenly things.
The members, detached from earthly existence, and leaving only their
bodies below, transfer their souls to heaven, where they already dwell
as pure and celestial intelligences, and despise the life of other men."
A man strongly persuaded of the truth of Christianity cannot, in fact,
attach himself to any thing below. Every thing here is to him a cause
of stumbling, and calls away his attention from the great work of
his salvation. If Christians were not, fortunately, inconsistent
with themselves, and wandered not incessantly from their fanatical
perfections and sublime speculations, no Christian society could
subsist, and the nations illuminated by the gospel would return to their
pristine barbarity. We should see only wild beings, broken loose from
every social tie, and wandering in solitude through this vale of tears,
whose only employment would be to groan, to weep, and pray, and render
themselves and others wretched, in order to merit heaven.

In fine, a religion whose maxims tend to render mankind in general
intolerant, to make kings persecutors, and their subjects slaves or
rebels; a religion, the obscure doctrines of which give birth to eternal
disputes; a religion which debases mankind, and turns them aside from
their true interests; such a religion, I say, is destructive to every
society.



CHAP. XV.--OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH, OR PRIESTHOOD.


There have been, in all ages, men who know how to profit by the errors
of mankind. Priests of all religions, have laid the foundations of their
greatness, power, and riches, on the fears of the vulgar. No religion
has, however, had so many reasons as the Christian, for subjecting
people to the priesthood. The first preachers of the gospel, the
Apostles, are represented as divine men, inspired by God, and sharing
his omnipotence. If each individual among their successors has not
enjoyed the same privileges in the opinion of all Christians, yet the
body of priests, or Church, is never abandoned by the Holy Ghost, but
always illuminated thereby. They collectively, at all times, possess
infallibility, and consequently their decisions become perpetual
revelations, equally sacred with those of God himself.

Such being the attributes of the priesthood, this body must in virtue
of the prerogatives they hold from Christ himself have a right to
unconditional submission from men and nations. The enormous power they
have so long exercised is not, therefore, surprising. It should be
unlimited, since it is founded on the authority of the Almighty. It
should be despotic, because men have no right to resist divine power. It
must degenerate into abuse, for the priesthood is exercised by men whom
impunity always renders licentious and corrupt.

In the infancy of Christianity, the Apostles, commissioned by Jesus
Christ, preached the gospel to Jews and Gentiles. The novelty of their
doctrine, as we have already seen, procured them many proselytes among
the vulgar. The new Christians, inflamed with ardour for their new
opinions, formed in every city particular congregations, under the
government of men appointed by the Apostles. The latter having received
the faith at first hand, retained the inspection and direction of the
different Christian societies they had formed. Such appears to have been
the origin of Bishops or inspectors, which are perpetuated in the Church
to this day;1 an origin in which the princes of modern Christianity
sufficiently pride themselves. It is known that, in this infant sect,
the associates held, their goods in common. This duty appears to have
been rigorously exacted; for, by the command of St. Peter, two new
Christians were smitten to death, for having withheld some part of
their own property. The funds resulting from this practice, were at the
disposal of the Apostles; to this, commission the Bishops, inspectors,
or priests succeeded, when they became successors of the Apostles; and
as the priests must live by the altar, we may suppose that they paid
themselves, and not illiberally, for their instructions, out of the
public treasury. Those who attempted new spiritual conquests were,
probably, obliged to content themselves with the voluntary contributions
of their converts. However this may be, the treasures accumulated,
through the credulous piety of the faithful, became an object of the
avarice of priests, and begat discord among them. Each one wished to
govern, and have the disposal of the riches of the community. Hence the
cabals and factions which we find growing up with the church of God.
The priests were always first to wander from the principles of
their religion. Their own ambition and avarice always contradict the
disinterested maxims they teach to others.

     1 Saint Jerome highly disapproved the distinction of bishops
     and priests or curates. He pretends, that priests and
     bishops were according to St. Paul, the same thing, before,
     says he, by the instigation of the Devil, there were
     destinations in religion. At this day, bishops, who do
     nothing, enjoy great revenues; while innumerable curates,
     who labour, are dying with hunger.


So long as the Christian: religion was much depressed and persecuted,
discordant Bishops and priests combated in secret, and the noise of
their quarrels did not spread far abroad. But when Constantine wished
to secure to himself a party, the obscurity of which had favoured its
increase, until now become very numerous, the face of every thing in
the church was changed. Christian leaders, transformed to courtiers; and
seduced by authority, fought openly. They engaged sovereigns in their
quarrels, and persecuted their rivals. Laden by degrees with riches and
honours; they would no longer be recognized as the successors of the
poor and humble Apostles, sent by Christ to preach his doctrine.. They
became princes, and, supported, by the strongest arms, opinions, they
found themselves able to give laws to nations, and put the world in
confusion.

Under Constantine the Pontificate had been by a shameful imprudence
separated from the empire. The Emperors soon found they had cause to
repent this oversight. The Bishop of Rome, that former mistress of the
world, whose name still sounded awful in the ears of nations, knew how
to make a skilful advantage of the troubles of the empire, invaded by
barbarians, and the weakness of Emperors, too remote to watch over his
conduct. By dint of plots and intrigues, the Roman pontiff at length
seated himself on the throne of the Cæsars. It was for him that Emilius
and Scipio had fought. He was, in fine, looked upon in the west, as the
monarch of the Church, the universal Bishop, the Vicar of Jesus. Christ
upon earth, and the infallible organ of God. Although these haughty
titles were rejected in the East, the Roman, pontiff reigned, without
contest, in the greater part of the Christian world. He was a God
upon earth; through the imbecility of kings, he became arbiter of
their destinies, and founded a theocracy or divine government, of which
himself was chief, and they were his lieutenants. When they had the
audacity to become disobedient to him, he dethroned them, or excited
their subjects to rebellion. In a word, his spiritual arms were, through
a long succession of ages, stronger than the temporal ones of his
opponents. Nations had the stupidity to obey him, and the distribution
of crowns was in his power. To secure his dominion over princes, he
sowed divisions among them; and his empire would still retain its extent
and vigour, if a gradual increase of knowledge had not, in spite of
religious opposition, made its way among mankind, and kings, acting
inconsistently with their religion, listened to ambition rather than
duty. If the ministers of the church have received their power from
Christ himself, to resist these his representatives is, in feet,
to revolt against him. Kings, as well as subjects, cannot throw off
allegiance to God without a crime. The spiritual authority proceeding
from God, must, of right, have jurisdiction over temporal authority
proceeding from man. A prince, who is a true Christian, must become a
servant of the church, and, at best, the first slave of the clergy.

Let us not, then, be surprized, that, in the ages of ignorance, priests,
being most readily obeyed by people, more attached to heavenly than
earthly interests, were more powerful than kings. Among superstitious
nations the pretended voice of God and his interests is more listened
to than that of duty, justice, and reason. A good Christian, piously
submissive to the church, must be blind and unreasonable, whenever the
church commands him to be so. The power that has a right to render us
absurd, has the right to render us criminal.

Besides, those that derive their power from God can be subject to no
other power. Thus, the independence of the Christian clergy is founded
upon the principles of their religion. Of this circumstance, they have
taken care to profit, and impressed with this idea, they, after being
enriched by the generosity of kings and people, have always proved
ungrateful to the true sources of their own opulence and privileges.
What had been given this body, through surprize or impudence, it was
found impossible to recover from their hands. They foresaw, that future
generations, breaking loose from the fetters of prejudice, might tear
from them the donations they had gained by the extortions of terror,
and the evils of imposture. They, therefore, persuaded mankind that they
held from God alone what had been given them by their fellow-mortals:
and by a miracle of credulity, they were believed on their word.

Thus the interests of the clergy became separated from those of society.
Men devoted to God, and chosen to be his ministers, were no longer
confounded with the profane. Laws and civil tribunals renounced all
power over them. They could be judged only by members of their own body.
Hence the greatest excesses were often committed by them with impunity;
and their persons, at the disposal of God alone, were sacred and
inviolable. Their possessions, although they contributed nothing to
public charges, or, at least, no more than they pleased; were defended
and enlarged by fanatic sovereigns, who hoped thereby to conciliate the
favour of Heaven. In fact, those reverend wolves in shepherds' clothing,
under pretence of feeding with instruction, devoured with avarice,
and, secure in their disguise, fattened on the blood of their flocks,
unpunished and unsuspected. From their instructions for eighteen hundred
years past, what advantages have nations derived? Have these infallible
men found it possible to agree among themselves, on the most essential
points of a religion, revealed by God himself? Strange, indeed, is that
revelation, which needs continual commentaries, and interpretations.
What must be thought of these divine writings, which every sect
understands so differently? Those who are incessantly fed with the
gospel, do not understand these matters better, nor are they more
virtuous than others. They are commanded to obey the Church, and the
Church is never at accord with itself. She is eternally busied in
reforming, explaining, pulling down, and building up her holy doctrines.
Her ministers have, at will, created new doctrines unknown to Christ and
the Apostles. Every age has brought forth new mysteries, new ceremonies,
and new articles of faith. Notwithstanding the inspirations of the Holy
Ghost, this religion has never attained to that clearness, simplicity,
and consistency, which are the only indubitable proofs of a good system.
Neither councils, nor canons, nor the mass of decrees and laws, which
form the code of the Church, have ever yet been able to fix the objects
of her belief.

Were a sensible heathen desirous of embracing Christianity, he would be,
at the first step, thrown into perplexity, at the sight of the numerous
variety of sects, each of which pretends to conform precisely to the
word of God, and travel in the only sure road to salvation. When he
finds that these different-sects regard each other with horror that
they all deal out damnation: to all whose opinions differ from their
own; that they all unite their efforts to banish peace-from society;
that always, when power is in their hands, they persecute and inflict
the most refined cruelties on each other, for which shall he determine?
For, let us not be deceived--Christians, not satisfied with enforcing
by violence an exterior submission to the ceremonies of their religion,
have invented an art unknown to heathen superstitions, that of
tormenting the conscience, and exercising a tyranny over the mind
itself. The zeal of the ministers of the church is not limited to
exteriors; they steal into the foldings of the heart, and insolently
violate the most secret sanctuaries of thought.1 And-for this sacrilege,
their justification is a pretended interest in the salvation of souls.

     1 Spoken of the Romish clergy.


Such are the effects which necessarily result from the principles of a
religion, which teaches mankind that involuntary error is a crime that
merits the wrath of God. It is in consequence of such ideas, that
in certain countries, priests, with the permission of the civil
governments, pretend to a commission for maintaining the faith in its
purity. Judges in their own cause, they condemn to the flames all whose
opinions appear to them dangerous.1 Served by innumerable spies, they
watch the minutest actions of the people, and inhumanly sacrifice all
that have the misfortune to give them the smallest umbrage. To excite
suspicions in their minds, is to rush upon inevitable destruction. Such
are the blessings which the Holy Inquisition, all mild and gentle, pours
upon mankind.

     1 Civil tribunals, when they are just, have a maxim to look
     for every thing that can contribute to the defence of the
     accused. In the Inquisition a method directly opposite has
     been adopted. The accused is neither told the cause of his
     detention nor confronted with his accuser. He is ignorant of
     his crime, yet he is commanded to confess. Such are the
     maxims of Christian priests. The Inquisition, however,
     condemns nobody to die. Priests cannot themselves shed
     blood. That function is reserved for the secular arm; and
     they have even the effrontery to intercede for criminals,
     sure, however, of not being heard. Indeed, it is probable,
     they would make no small clamour, should the magistrate take
     them at their word. This conduct becomes men in whom
     Almighty interest stifles humanity, sincerity, and modesty.


Such are the principles of this sanguinary tribunal which perpetuates
the ignorance and infatuation of the people wherever the false policy of
governments permits its horrors to be exercised.

The disputes between Christian priests have been sources of animosity,
hatred, and heresy. We find these to have existed from the infancy of
the church. A religion founded on wonders, fables, and obscure oracles,
could only be a fruitful source of quarrels. Priests attended to
ridiculous doctrines instead of useful knowledge; and when they should
have studied true morality, and taught mankind their real duties,
they only strove to gain adherents. They busied themselves in useless
speculations in a barbarous and enigmatical science, which, under the
pompous title of the science of God, or theology, excited in the vulgar
a reverential awe. They invented a system, bigoted, presumptuous,
ridiculous, and as incomprehensible as the God whom they affected to
worship. Hence arose disputes on disputes concerning puerile subtilties,
odious questions, and arbitrary opinions, which far from being useful,
only served to poison the peace of society. In these bickerings we find
profound geniuses busied; and we are forced to reject the prostitution
of talents worthy a better cause. The vulgar, ever fond of riot, entered
into quarrels they could not understand. Princes undertook the defence
of the priests they wished to favour, and orthodoxy was decided by the
longest sword. Their assistance the church never hesitated to receive in
time of danger; for on such occasions the church relies rather on human
assistance than the promise of God, who declared that the sceptre of the
wicked should not rest upon the lot of the righteous. The heroes, found
in the annals of the church, have been obstinate fanatics, factious
rebels, or furious persecutors. They were monsters of madness, faction,
and cruelty.

The world in the days of our ancestors, was depopulated in defence of
extravagancies which excite laughter in a posterity, not indeed much
wiser than they were.

In almost all ages complaints have been made of abuses in the church,
and reformation has been talked of. Notwithstanding this pretended
reform, in the head, and in the members of the church, it has always
been corrupted. Avaricious, turbulent, and seditious priests have made
nations to groan under the weight of their vices, while princes were too
weak to reclaim them to reason. The divisions and quarrels which took
place among those ecclesiastical tyrants did indeed at length diminish
the weight of the yoke they had imposed on kings and nations. The empire
of the Roman pontiff, which endured many ages, was at last shaken by
irritated enthusiasts, and rebellious subjects, who presumed to examine
the rights of this formidable despot. Some princes, weary of their
slavery and poverty, readily embraced opinions which would authorise
them to enrich themselves with the spoils of the clergy. Thus the unity
of the church was destroyed, sects were multiplied, and each fought for
the defence of his own system.

These founders of these new sects were treated by the Roman pontiff as
innovators, heretics, and blasphemers. They, it is true, renounced some
of their old opinions; but content with having made a few steps towards
reason, they dared not to shake off entirely the yoke of superstition.
They continued to respect the sacred writ of the Christian, which they
still looked upon as the only faithful guide. Upon them they pretended
to found all their opinions. In fine, these books, in which every man
may find what he pleases, as they became more common from time to time,
produced new sects. Men were lost in a dark labyrinth, where each one
groped his way in error, and yet judged all but himself to be wrong.

The leaders of these sects, the pretended reformers of the church,
gained but a glimpse at the truth, and attended to nothing but minutiae.
They continued to respect the sacred oracles of the Christians,
and believe in their cruel and capricious God. They admitted their
extravagant mythology, and most of their unreasonable doctrines. In
fine, although they rejected some mysteries that were incomprehensible,
they admitted others not less so. Let us not be surprized, therefore,
that, notwithstanding these reforms, fanaticism, controversy,
persecution, and war, continued to rage throughout Europe. The reveries
of innovators only served to plunge nations into new misfortunes. Blood
continued to stream, and people grew neither more reasonable nor more
happy. Priests of all sects have ever wished to govern mankind and
impose on them their decisions as infallible and sacred. They were
always persecutors when in power, involved nations in their fury, and
shook the world by their fatal opinions. The spirit of intolerance and
persecution will ever be the essence of every sect founded on the Bible.
A mild and humane religion can never belong to a partial and cruel God?
whom the opinion of men can fill with wrath. Wherever Christian sects
exist, priests will exercise a power which may prove fatal to the state,
and bodies of fanatical enthusiasts will be formed, always ready to rush
to slaughter, when their spiritual guides cry, the church or the cause
of God is in danger.

Thus, in Christian countries, we see the temporal power servilely
submissive to the clergy, executing their commands, exterminating their
enemies, and supporting their rights, riches, and immunities. In
almost all nations where the church prevails, the most idle, useless,
seditious, and dangerous men are most liberally honoured and rewarded.
Superstition thinks she can never do enough for the ministers of her
gods. These sentiments are the same in all sects.1 Priests every
where endeavour to instil them into kings, and to make policy bend to
religion, in doing which they often oppose the best institutions. They
in all places aim at the superintendance of education, and they fill
their adherents with their fatal prejudices from their infancy.

     1 Except the Quaker.

It is, however, in places that remained subject to the Roman pontiff,
that the clergy have wallowed in the greatest profusion of riches and
power. Credulity has even enlisted kings among their subjects, and
debased them into mere executioners of their will. They were in
readiness to unsheath the sword whenever the priest commanded it. The
monarchs of the Roman sect, blinder than all others, had an unbounded
confidence in the clergy of their church that generally rendered them
mere tools of that body. This sect, by means of furious intoleration
and atrocious persecutions, became more numerous than any other one; and
their turbulent and cruel temper has justly rendered them odious to the
most reasonable, that is to say, least Christian nations.

The Romish system was, in fact, invented to throw all the power into
the hands of the clergy. Its priests have had the address to identify
themselves with God. Their cause was always his; their glory became the
glory of God. Their decisions were divine oracles; their possessions
appertained to the kingdom of heaven. Their pride, avarice, and cruelty,
were rendered lawful, because they were never actuated by other motives
than the interest of their heavenly master. In this sect, the priest saw
his king at his feet, humbly confessing his sins, and beseeching the
holy man that he might be reconciled to his God. Seldom was the priest
known to render his sacred ministry subservient to the good of mankind.
He thought not of reproaching monarchs with the abuse of their power,
the misery of their subjects, and the tears of the oppressed. Too timid,
or too much of a courtier to thunder truth in their ears, he mentioned
not to them the insupportable oppressions, the galling tyranny, and
useless wars under which their subjects groaned. But such objects never
interest the church, which might indeed be of some utility, if its
influence were exercised in bridling the excesses of superstitious
tyrants. The terrors of the other world would not be unpardonable
falsehoods, could they make the herd of wicked kings to tremble. This,
however, has not been the object of the ministers of religion. They
never stickled for the interest of mankind. They always burned incense
at the altar of tyranny, looked upon its crimes with indulgence, and
devised for them easy means of expiation. Tyrants were sure of the
pardon and favour of heaven, if they entered warmly into the quarrels
of the clergy. Thus, among the Catholics, priests governed kings, and
consequently all their subjects. Superstition and despotism formed an
internal alliance, and united their efforts, to plunge mankind into
slavery and wretchedness. Priests frightened nations with religious
terror, that they might be preyed upon by their sovereigns at leisure;
and, in return, those sovereigns loaded the priests with opulence and
power, and undertook, from time to time, to exterminate their enemies.

What shall we say of those subtle geniuses which Christians call
casuists, those pretended moralists who have computed the number of sins
against God which a man can commit without risking his salvation?
These men of profound wisdom have enriched Christian morality with a
ridiculous tarif of sins; they know precisely the degree of wrath which
each excites in the breast of the Almighty. True morality has but one
criterion for judging the sins of man; the greatest are those that
injure society most. The conduct which injures ourselves is imprudent
and unreasonable. That which injures others is unjust and criminal.

Every thing, even to idleness itself, is rewarded in Christian priests.
Multitudes of these drones are maintained in ease and affluence, while,
instead of serving society, they only prey upon it. They are paid with
profusion for useless prayers which they make with negligence. And while
monks and lazy priests, those blood-suckers of society, wallow in an
abundance shameful to the states by whom they are tolerated, the man
of talents, the man of science, and the brave soldier are suffered to
languish in indigence, and poorly exist on the mere necessaries of life.

In a word, Christianity makes nations accomplices in all the evils which
are heaped upon them by the Clergy. Neither the uselessness of their
prayers demonstrated by the experience of so many ages, the bloody
effects of their fatal controversies, nor even their licentious
excesses, have yet been sufficient to convince mankind how shamefully
they are duped by that infallible Church, to the existence of which,
they have had the simplicity to believe, their salvation.



CHAP. XVI.--CONCLUSION.


All which has hitherto been said, demonstrates, in the clearest manner,
that the Christian religion is contrary to true policy, and the welfare
of mankind. It can be advantageous only to ignorant and vicious princes,
who are desirous to reign over slaves, and who, in order to strip and
tyrannize over them with impunity, form a league with the priesthood,
whose function it has ever been to deceive in the name of heaven. But
such imprudent princes should remember, that, in order to succeed
in their projects, they must themselves become the slaves of the
priesthood, who (should the former fail in due submission, or refuse to
be subservient to their passions) will infallibly turn their sacred arms
against their royal heads.

We have seen, above, that the Christian religion is not, on account of
its fanatic virtues, blind zeal, and pretended perfections, the less
injurious to sound morality, right reason, the happiness of individuals,
and domestic harmony. It is easy to perceive that a Christian, who
proposes to himself as a model, a gloomy and suffering God, must take
pains to afflict and render himself wretched. If this world be only a
passage, if this life be only a pilgrimage, it must be ridiculous for
a man to attach himself to any thing here below. If his God be offended
with either the actions or opinions of his fellow-creatures, he must do
every thing in his power to punish them with severity, or be wanting in
zeal and affection to his God. A good Christian must fly the world, or
become a torment to himself and others.

These reflections are sufficient to answer those who pretend that the
Christian religion is the foundation of true policy and morality, and
that where it is not professed, there can be neither good men nor good
citizens. The converse of this proposition is undoubtedly much truer;
for we may assert, that a perfect Christian, who conforms to all the
principles of his religion, who faithfully imitates the divine men
proposed to him as a model, and practises their austerities in solitude,
or carries their fanatic enthusiasm and bigotry into society, must be
either useless to mankind, or a troublesome and dangerous citizen.1

     1 The clergy incessantly cry out against unbelievers and
     philosophers, whom they style dangerous subjects. Yet, if we
     open history, we do not find that philosophers are those who
     have embroiled states and empires; but that such events'
     have generally been produced by the religious. The
     Dominican, who poisoned the emperor Henry XI. James Clement,
     and Ruvaillac, were not unbelievers. They were not
     philosophers, but fanatic Christians.


Were we to believe the advocates of the Christian religion, it
would appear, that no morality can exist where this religion is not
established. Yet we may perceive, at a single glance, that there are
virtues in every corner of the earth. No political society could exist
without them. Among the Chinese, the Indians, and the Mahometans, there
are, undoubtedly, good citizens, tender fathers, affectionate husbands,
and dutiful children. And good people there, as well as with us, would
be more numerous, if they were governed by a wise policy, which, instead
of causing children to be taught a senseless religion, should give
them equitable laws, teach them a pure morality uncontaminated with
fanaticism, deter them from vice by suitable punishments, and invite
them to the practice of virtue by proper rewards.

In truth, it seems (I repeat it) that religion has been invented to
relieve governments from the care of being just, and reigning over
equitable laws. Religion is the art of inspiring mankind with an
enthusiasm, which is designed to divert their attention from the evils
with which they are overwhelmed by those who govern them. By means of
the invisible powers with which they are threatened, they are forced to
suffer in silence the miseries with which they are afflicted by visible
ones. They are taught to hope that, if they consent to become miserable
in this world, they will for that reason be happy in the next.

Thus religion has become the most powerful support of a shameful and
iniquitous policy, which holds it necessary to deceive mankind, that
they may the more easily be governed. Far from enlightened and virtuous
governments be resources so base! Let them learn their true interests,
and know that these cannot be separated from that of the people. Let
them know that no state can be truly potent, except the citizens who
compose it be courageous, active, industrious, virtuous, and attached
to their government. Let governments know, that the attachment of their
constituents can have no other foundation than the happiness which the
former procures the latter. If governments were penetrated with these
important truths, they would need the aid of neither religion nor
priests. Let them be just and equitable---let them be careful to reward
talents and virtue, to discourage inutility and punish vice, and their
states will soon be filled with worthy and sensible citizens, who
will feel it their own interest to serve and defend their country, and
support the government which is the instrument of their felicity. They
will do their duties, without the influence of revelation, or mysteries
of paradise or hell.

Morality will be preached in vain, if it is not supported by the example
of influential characters. It belongs to magistrates to teach morality,
by practising it, by inciting to virtue, and repressing vice in every
form. Their power is weakened the moment they suffer a power to arise,
in the state, whose influence is exerted to render morality subservient
to superstition and fanaticism. In states where education is entrusted
to a fanatic, enthusiastic clergy, we find citizens overwhelmed with
superstition, and destitute of every virtue, except a blind faith, a
ferocious zeal, a ridiculous submission to puerile ceremonies, and,
in one word, fantastic notions, which never render them better men.
Notwithstanding the happy influences attributed to the Christian
religion, do we find more virtues in those who profess it, than in those
who are strangers to it? Are the men, redeemed by the blood of even a
Deity, more honest than others? Among Christians, impressed with
their religion, one would imagine we should search in vain for rapine,
fornication, adultery, and oppression. Among the orthodox courtiers, who
surround Christian thrones, do we see intrigues, calumny, or perfidy?
Among the clergy, who announce to others such redoubtable dogmas, and
such terrible chastisements, do we find crimes that shun the day, and
every species of iniquity? All these men are Christians, who, unbridled
by their religion, continually violate the plainest duties of morality,
and knowingly offend a God, whom they are conscious of having irritated.
Yet they flatter themselves that they shall be able, by a tardy
repentance at death, to appease that divine justice which they have
insulted during the whole course of their lives.

In the mean time, we shall not deny, that the Christian religion
sometimes proves a restraint to timorous minds, which are incapable of
that fanaticism, and destitute of that destructive energy, which lead
to the commission of great crimes. But such minds would have been honest
and harmless without this restraint. The fear of rendering themselves
odious to mankind, of incurring contempt, and losing their reputation,
would have been a chain of equal strength, on the actions of such men.
Those who are so blind as to tread these considerations under foot,
would never be deterred from it by the menaces of religion.

Every man, who has received a proper education, experiences within
himself a painful sentiment of mingled shame and fear, whenever he soils
himself with the guilt of a dishonest action. He even condemns himself
frequently, with greater severity than others do. He dreads, and shuns
the eyes of his fellow-creatures; he even wishes to fly from himself.
This is what constitutes remorse.

In a word, Christianity puts no restraint upon the passions of mankind,
which might not be more efficaciously applied to them by reason,
education, and sound morality. If the wicked were sure of being
punished, as often as they think of committing dishonest actions, they
would be forced to desist. In a society well constituted, contempt
will always follow vice, and crimes will produce punishment. Education,
guided only by the good of society, ought ever to teach mankind to
esteem themselves, to dread the contempt of others, and fear infamy more
than death itself. But this kind of morality can never be consistent
with a religion which commands men to despise themselves, avoid the
esteem of others, and attempt to please only a God, whose conduct is
inexplicable.

In fine, if the Christian religion be, as is pretended, a restraint to
the crimes of men, if it produces salutary effects on some individuals;
can these advantages, so rare, so weak and doubtful, be compared with
the evident and immense evils which this religion has produced on the
earth? Can some few trifling crimes prevented, some conversions useless
to society, some sterile and tardy repentances, enter into the balance
against the continual dissensions, bloody wars, horrid massacres,
persecutions, and cruelties, of which the Christian religion has been a
continual cause and pretext? For one secret sinful thought suppressed by
it, there are even whole nations armed for reciprocal destruction; the
hearts of millions of fanatics are inflamed; families and states are
plunged into confusion; and the earth is bedewed with tears and blood.1
After this, let common sense decide the magnitude of the advantages
which mankind derive; from the glad tidings which Christians pretend to
have received from their God.

     1 Witness, even in this enlightened age, the Holy Crusade
     against France, for the purpose of restoring the Christian
     religion.


Many honest people, although not ignorant of the ills produced among
mankind by this religion, nevertheless consider it a necessary evil,
and think it dangerous to attempt to uproot it. Mankind, say they, are
naturally superstitious; they must be amused, with chimeras, and
become outrageous when deprived of them. But, I answer, mankind are
superstitious only because, in infancy, every thing contributes to
render them so. He is led to expect his happiness, from, chimeras,
because he is forbidden to seek for it from realities.

In fine, it is for philosophers and for magistrates to conduct mankind
back, to reason. The former will obtain the confidence and love of
the latter, when they endeavour to promote the public good. Undeceived
themselves, they may undeceive others by degrees. Governments will
prevent superstition from doing harm, when they despise it and stand
aloof from its ridiculous disputes. When they tolerate all sects, and
side with none, those sects, after quarrelling awhile, will drop their
masks, and become contemptible even to themselves. Superstition falls
beneath its own weight when, freedom of conscience being restored to
mankind, reason is at liberty to attack their follies. True toleration
and freedom of thought are the most proper instruments for the
destruction of religious fanaticism. Imposture is in nature timid, and
when she finds herself confronted with truth, her arms fall from her
hands.

If a criminal and undiscerning policy has, hitherto, in almost all parts
of the earth, had recourse to the aid of religion, to enslave mankind
and render them miserable, let a virtuous and more enlightened policy
hereafter destroy it by little and little to render them happy. If
education has hitherto formed enthusiasts and fanatics, let it be
hereafter calculated to form good citizens. If a morality founded on
miracles, and looking to futurity, has been unable to restrain the
passions of mankind, let a morality established upon their present and
real wants demonstrate that, in a well constituted society, happiness
is always the reward of virtue: shame, contempt, and punishment the
companions of vice, and the wages of sin.

If error be an evil, to it let truth be opposed. If enthusiasm produce
disorders in society, let it be suppressed.

Let us leave to Asia a religion begotten by the ardent imaginations of
the orientals. Let our milder climates be more reasonable, more free,
and more happy. Let us make them the residence of honesty, activity,
industry, social affections, and exalted minds. May not reason be
permitted to hope, that she shall one day re-assume the power so long
usurped from her by error, illusion, and deceit?

When will nations renounce chimerical hopes, to contemplate their true
interests? Will they never shake off the yokes of those hypocritical
tyrants, who are interested only in the errors of mankind? Let us hope
it. Truth must at last triumph over falsehood.--Mankind, fatigued with
their own credulity, will return to her arms.--Reason will break their
chains--Reason, which was created to reign, with undivided empire, over
all intelligent beings.

AMEN.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Christianity Unveiled - Being An Examination of The Principles And Effects of The - Christian Religion" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home