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´╗┐Title: Good Sense
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 "Good Sense" ***

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GOOD SENSE WITHOUT GOD:

OR

FREETHOUGHTS OPPOSED TO SUPERNATURAL IDEAS


By Baron D'holbach


"Freethinker's Library" Series

London: W. Stewart & Co.



A Translation Of Baron D'holbach's "Le Bon Sens"


Transcriber's note: this e-text is based on an undated English translation
of "Le Bon Sens" published c. 1900. The name of the translator was not
stated.



     "_Atheism_ leaves men to Sense, to Philosophy, to Laws, to
     Reputation, all which may be guides to moral Virtue, tho'
     Religion were not: but Superstition dismounts all these, and
     erects an absolute Monarchy in the Minds of Men.  Therefore,
     Atheism did never perturb States; but Superstition hath been
     the confusion of many.  The causes of Superstition are
     pleasing and sensual rights, and Ceremonies; Excess of
     Pharisaical and outside holiness, Reverence to Traditions
     and the stratagems of Prelates for their own Ambition and
     Lucre."--_Lord Bacon._



CONTENTS

1. APOLOGUE

2. What is Theology?

3. What is Theology?

4. Man is not born with any ideas of Religion

5. It is not necessary to believe in a God

6. Religion is founded on credulity

7. All religion is an absurdity

8. The idea of God is impossible

9. On the Origin of Superstition

10. On the Origin of all Religion

11. Religious fears expose men to become a prey to imposters

12. Religion seduces ignorance by the aid of the marvellous

13. Religion seduces ignorance by the aid of the marvellous

14. No Religion, if not ages of Stupidity and Barbarism


16. What serves as a basis to Religion is most uncertain

17. It is impossible to be convinced of the existence of a God

18. It is impossible to be convinced of the existence of a God

19. The existence of God is not proved

20. It explains nothing to say, that God is a spirit

21. Spirituality is an absurdity

22. Whatever exists is derived from Matter

23. What is the metaphysical God of modern Theology?

24. Less unreasonable to adore the Sun, than adore a spiritual Deity

25. A spiritual Deity is incapable of volition and action

26. What is God?

27. Some remarkable Contradictions in Theology

28. To adore God, is to adore a fiction

29. Atheism is authorised by the infinity of God

30. Believing not safer than not believing in God

31. Belief in God is a habit acquired in infancy

32. Belief in God is a prejudice ov successive generations

33. On the Origin of Prejudices

34. On the effects of Prejudices

35. Theology must be instilled before the age of reason

36. The wonders of nature do not prove the existence of God

37. Nature may be explained by natural causes

38. Nature may be explained by natural causes

39. The world has never been created: Matter moves of itself

40. The world has never been created: Matter moves of itself

41. Motion is essential to Matter: no Spiritual Mover

42. The existence of Man does not prove the existence of God

43. Neither Man nor the Universe are the effects of chance

44. Order of the Universe does not prove the existence of a God

45. Order of the Universe does not prove the existence of a God

46. Absurd to adore a divine intelligence

47. Qualities given God contrary to the Essence attributed to him

48. Qualities given God contrary to the Essence attributed to him

49. Absurd to say that the human race is the object of the Universe

50. God is not made for Man, nor Man for God

51. Untrue that the object of the Universe was to render Man happy

52. What is called Providence is a word without meaning

53. This pretended Providence is the enemy of Man

54. The world is not governed by an intelligent being

55. God cannot be considered immutable

56. Good and evil are the necessary effects of natural causes

57. The consolations of Theology and paradise are imaginary

58. Another romantic reverie

59. Vain that Theology attempts to clear its God from human defects

60. Impossible to believe God is of infinite goodness and power

61. Impossible to believe God is of infinite goodness and power

62. Theology's God a monster of absurdity and injustice

63. All Religion inspires contemptible fears

64. Religion, the same as the most somber and servile Superstition

65. The love of God is impossible

66. An eternally tormenting God is a most detestable being

67. Theology is a tissue of palpable contradictions

68. The pretended works of God do not prove Divine Perfections

69. The perfection of God and the pretended creation of angels

70. Theology preaches Omnipotence of its God, yet makes impotent

71. Per all religious systems, God is capricious and foolish

72. It is absurd to say that Evil does not proceed from God

73. The foreknowledge of God proves his cruelty

74. Absurdity of the stories concerning Original Sin, and Satan

75. The Devil, like Religion, was invented to enrich the priests

76. God has no right to punish man

77. It is absurd to say, that the conduct of God a mystery

78. Ought we look for consolation, from the author of our misery?

79. God who punishes the faults which he might have prevented

80. What is called Free Will is an absurdity

81. But we must not conclude that Society has no right to punish

82. Refutation of the arguments in favour of Free Will

83. Refutation of the arguments in favour of Free Will

84. God, if there were a God, would not be free

85. According to Theology, man is not free a single instant

86. There is no evil, and no sin, but must be attributed to God

87. The prayers prove dissatisfaction of the divine will

88. Absurd to imagine repair of misfortune in another world

89. Theology justifies the evil permitted by its God

90. Jehovah, exterminations prove an unjust and barbarous God

91. Is God a generous, equitable, and tender father?

92. Man's life, deposes against goodness of a pretended God

93. We owe no gratitude to what is called _Providence_

94. It is folly to suppose that Man is the favourite of God

95. A comparison between Man and brutes

96. There are no animals so detestable as Tyrants

97. A refutation of the excellence of Man

98. An oriental Tale

99. It is madness to see nothing but the goodness of God

100. What is the Soul?

101. The existence of a _Soul_ is an absurd supposition

102. It is evident that Man dies _in toto_

103. Incontestible arguments against the Spirituality of the Soul

104. On the absurdity of the supernatural causes

105. It is false that Materialism degrades

106. It is false that Materialism degrades

107. Idea of future life only useful to priest's trade

108. It is false that the idea of a future life is consoling

109. All religious principles are derived from the imagination

110. Religion a system to reconciles contradictions by mysteries

111. Absurdity of all Mysteries, invented for the interests of Priests

112, Absurdity of all Mysteries, invented for the interests of Priests

113. Absurdity of all Mysteries, invented for the interests of Priests

114. An universal God ought to have revealed an universal Religion

115. Religion is unnecessary, as it is unintelligible

116. All Religions are rendered ridiculous by the multitude of creeds

117. Opinion of a famous Theologian

118. The God of the Deists is not less contradictory

119. Aged belief in a Deity does not prove the existence of God

120. All Gods are savage: all Religions are monuments of ignorance

121. All religious usages bear marks of stupidity and barbarism

122. The more a religion is ancient and general, the more suspect

123. Scepticism in religious matters from very superficial study

124. Revelations examined

125. Where is the proof that God ever shewed himself or spoke to Men

126. There is nothing that proves miracles to have been ever performed

127. Strange that God spoke differently to different sects

128. Obscurity and suspicious origin of oracles

129. Absurdity of all miracles

130. Refutation of the reasoning of Pascal on miracles

131. Every new revelation is necessarily false

132. Blood of martyrs testifies _against_ the truth of miracles

133. Fanaticism of martyrs, and the interested zeal of missionaries

134. Theology makes its God an enemy to Reason and Common Sense

135. Faith irreconcilable with Reason; and Reason preferable to Faith

136. To what absurd and ridiculous sophisms the religious are reduced

137. Ought a man to believe, on the assurance of another man

138. Faith can take root only in feeble, ignorant, or slothful minds

139. That one Religion has greater pretensions to truth an absurdity

140. Religion is unnecessary to Morality

141. Religion the weakest barrier that can be opposed to the passions

142. Honour is a more salutary and powerful bond than Religion

143. Religion does not restrain the passions of kings

144. Origin of "the divine right of kings"

145. Religion is fatal to political ameliorations

146. Christianity preaching implicit obedience to despotism

147. One object of religious principles: eternize the tyranny of kings

148. Fatal it is to persuade kings they are responsible to God alone

149. A devout king is the scourge of his kingdom

150. Tyranny finds Religion a weak obstacle to the despair of the people

151. Religion favours the wickedness of princes

152. What is an enlightened Sovereign?

153. Of the prevailing passions and crimes of the priesthood

154. The quackery of priests

155. Religion has corrupted Morality, and produced innumerable evils

156. Every Religion is intolerant

157. The evils of a state Religion

158. Religion legitimates and authorizes crime

159. The argument, that evils attributed to Religion are faults of men

160. Religion is incompatible with Morality

161. The Morality of the Gospel is impracticable

162. A society of Saints would be impossible

163. Human nature is not depraved

164. Concerning the effects of Jesus Christ's mission

165. The remission of sins was invented for the interest of priests

166. Who fear God?

167. Hell is an absurd invention

168. The bad foundation of religious morals

169. Christian Charity, as preached and practised by Theologians!!!

170. Confession, priestcraft's gold mine

171. Supposition of the existence of a God unnecessary to Morality

172. Supernatural Morality are fatal to the public welfare

173. The union of Church and State is a calamity

174. National Religions are ruinous

175. Religion paralyses Morality

176. Fatal consequences of Devotion

177. The idea of a future life is not consoling to man

178. An Atheist is fully as conscientious as a religious man

179. An Atheistical king far preferable to a religious king

180. Philosophy produces Morality

181. Religious opinions have little influence upon conduct

182. Reason leads man to Atheism

183. Fear alone makes Theists

184. Can we, and ought we, to love God?

185. God and Religion are proved to be absurdities

186. The existence of God, has not yet been demonstrated

187. Priests are more actuated by self-interest, than unbelievers

188. Presumption, and badness, more in priests, than in Atheists

189. Prejudices last but for a time

190. What if priests the apostles of reason

191. If Philosophy were substituted for Religion!

192. Recantation of an unbeliever at the point of death proves nothing

193. It is not true that Atheism breaks the bonds of society

194. Refutation of the opinion, that Religion necessary for the vulgar

195. Logical systems are not adapted to the capacity of the vulgar

196. On the futility and danger of Theology

197. On the evils produced by implicit faith

198. On the evils produced by implicit faith

199. All Religions were established by impostors, in days of ignorance

200. All Religions borrow from one another ridiculous ceremonies

201. Theology has always diverted philosophy from its right path

202. Theology explains nothing

203. Theology has always fettered Morality, and retarded progress

204. Theology has always fettered Morality, and retarded progress

205. Religion is an extravagance and a calamity

206. Religion prevents us from seeing the true causes of misfortunes



PUBLISHER'S NOTE


The chief design in reprinting this translation, is to preserve "_the
strongest atheistical work_" for present and future generations of English
Freethinkers.

The real author was, unquestionably, Paul Thyry; Baron D'Holbach, and not
John Meslier, to whom this work has been wrongly attributed, under the
title of "Le Bon Sens" (Common Sense).

In 1770, Baron D'Holbach published his masterpiece, "Systeme de la
Nature," which for a long time passed as the posthumous work of M. de
Mirabaud. That text-book of "Atheistical Philosophy" caused a great
sensation, and two years later, 1772, the Baron published this excellent
abridgment of it, freed from arbitrary ideas; and by its clearness of
expression, facility, and precision of style, rendered it most suitable
for the average student.

"Le Bon Sens" was privately printed in Amsterdam, and the author's name
was kept a profound secret; hence, Baron D'Holbach escaped persecution.



THE AUTHOR'S PREFACE


When we examine the opinions of men, we find that nothing is more
uncommon, than common sense; or, in other words, they lack judgment
to discover plain truths, or to reject absurdities, and palpable
contradictions. We have an example of this in Theology, a system revered
in all countries by a great number of men; an object regarded by them
as most important, and indispensable to happiness. An examination of
the principles upon which this pretended system is founded, forces us
to acknowledge, that these principles are only suppositions, imagined
by ignorance, propagated by enthusiasm or knavery, adopted by timid
credulity, preserved by custom which never reasons, and revered solely
because not understood.

In a word, whoever uses common sense upon religious opinions, and will
bestow on this inquiry the attention that is commonly given to most
subjects, will easily perceive that Religion is a mere castle in the
air. Theology is ignorance of natural causes; a tissue of fallacies
and contradictions. In every country, it presents romances void of
probability, the hero of which is composed of impossible qualities. His
name, exciting fear in all minds, is only a vague word, to which, men
affix ideas or qualities, which are either contradicted by facts, or
inconsistent.

Notions of this being, or rather, _the word_ by which he is designated,
would be a matter of indifference, if it did not cause innumerable ravages
in the world. But men, prepossessed with the opinion that this phantom is
a reality of the greatest interest, instead of concluding wisely from its
incomprehensibility, that they are not bound to regard it, infer on the
contrary, that they must contemplate it, without ceasing, and never lose
sight of it. Their invincible ignorance, upon this subject, irritates
their curiosity; instead of putting them upon guard against their
imagination, this ignorance renders them decisive, dogmatic, imperious,
and even exasperates them against all, who oppose doubts to the reveries
which they have begotten.

What perplexity arises, when it is required to solve an insolvable
problem; unceasing meditation upon an object, impossible to understand,
but in which however he thinks himself much concerned, cannot but excite
man, and produce a fever in his brain. Let interest, vanity, and ambition,
co-operate ever so little with this unfortunate turn of mind, and society
must necessarily be disturbed. This is the reason that so many nations
have often been the scene of extravagances of senseless visionaries, who,
believing their empty speculations to be eternal truths, and publishing
them as such, have kindled the zeal of princes and their subjects, and
made them take up arms for opinions, represented to them as essential to
the glory of the Deity. In all parts of our globe, fanatics have cut each
other's throats, publicly burnt each other, committed without a scruple
and even as a duty, the greatest crimes, and shed torrents of blood. For
what? To strengthen, support, or propagate the impertinent conjectures of
some enthusiasts, or to give validity to the cheats of impostors, in the
name of a being, who exists only in their imagination, and who has made
himself known only by the ravages, disputes, and follies, he has caused.

Savage and furious nations, perpetually at war, adore, under divers names,
some God, conformable to their ideas, that is to say, cruel, carnivorous,
selfish, blood-thirsty. We find, in all the religions, "a God of armies,"
a "jealous God," an "avenging God," a "destroying God," a "God," who
is pleased with carnage, and whom his worshippers consider it a duty to
serve. Lambs, bulls, children, men, and women, are sacrificed to him.
Zealous servants of this barbarous God think themselves obliged even to
offer up themselves as a sacrifice to him. Madmen may everywhere be seen,
who, after meditating upon their terrible God, imagine that to please him
they must inflict on themselves, the most exquisite torments. The gloomy
ideas formed of the deity, far from consoling them, have every where
disquieted their minds, and prejudiced follies destructive to happiness.

How could the human mind progress, while tormented with frightful
phantoms, and guided by men, interested in perpetuating its ignorance and
fears? Man has been forced to vegetate in his primitive stupidity: he has
been taught stories about invisible powers upon whom his happiness was
supposed to depend. Occupied solely by his fears, and by unintelligible
reveries, he has always been at the mercy of priests, who have reserved to
themselves the right of thinking for him, and of directing his actions.

Thus, man has remained a slave without courage, fearing to reason, and
unable to extricate himself from the labyrinth, in which he has been
wandering. He believes himself forced under the yoke of his gods, known
to him only by the fabulous accounts given by his ministers, who, after
binding each unhappy mortal in the chains of prejudice, remain his
masters, or else abandon him defenceless to the absolute power of tyrants,
no less terrible than the gods, of whom they are the representatives.

Oppressed by the double yoke of spiritual and temporal power, it has been
impossible for the people to be happy. Religion became sacred, and men
have had no other Morality, than what their legislators and priests
brought from the unknown regions of heaven. The human mind, confused
by theological opinions, ceased to know its own powers, mistrusted
experience, feared truth and disdained reason, in order to follow
authority. Man has been a mere machine in the hands of tyrants and
priests. Always treated as a slave, man has contracted the vices of
slavery.

Such are the true causes of the corruption of morals. Ignorance and
servitude are calculated to make men wicked and unhappy. Knowledge,
Reason, and Liberty, can alone reform and make men happier. But every
thing conspires to blind them, and to confirm their errors. Priests cheat
them, tyrants corrupt and enslave them. Tyranny ever was, and ever will
be, the true cause of man's depravity, and also of his calamities. Almost
always fascinated by religious fiction, poor mortals turn not their eyes
to the natural and obvious causes of their misery; but attribute their
vices to the imperfection of their natures, and their unhappiness to the
anger of the gods. They offer to heaven vows, sacrifices, and presents, to
obtain the end of sufferings, which in reality, are attributable only to
the negligence, ignorance, and perversity of their guides, to the folly of
their customs, and above all, to the general want of knowledge. Let men's
minds be filled with true ideas; let their reason be cultivated; and there
will be no need of opposing to the passions, such a feeble barrier, as the
fear of gods. Men will be good, when they are well instructed; and when
they are despised for evil, or justly rewarded for good, which they do to
their fellow citizens.

In vain should we attempt to cure men of their vices, unless we begin by
curing them of their prejudices. It is only by showing them the truth,
that they will perceive their true interests, and the real motives that
ought to incline them to do good. Instructors have long enough fixed men's
eyes upon heaven; let them now turn them upon earth. An incomprehensible
theology, ridiculous fables, impenetrable mysteries, puerile ceremonies,
are to be no longer endured. Let the human mind apply itself to what is
natural, to intelligible objects, truth, and useful knowledge.

Does it not suffice to annihilate religious prejudice, to shew, that
what is inconceivable to man, cannot be good for him? Does it require any
thing, but plain common sense, to perceive, that a being, incompatible
with the most evident notions--that a cause continually opposed to
the effects which we attribute to it--that a being, of whom we can say
nothing, without falling into contradiction--that a being, who, far
from explaining the enigmas of the universe, only makes them more
inexplicable--that a being, whom for so many ages men have vainly
addressed to obtain their happiness, and the end of sufferings--does it
require, I say, any thing but plain, common sense, to perceive--that the
idea of such a being is an idea without model, and that he himself is
merely a phantom of the imagination? Is any thing necessary but common
sense to perceive, at least, that it is folly and madness for men to hate
and damn one another about unintelligible opinions concerning a being of
this kind? In short, does not every thing prove, that Morality and Virtue
are totally incompatible with the notions of a God, whom his ministers
and interpreters have described, in every country, as the most capricious,
unjust, and cruel of tyrants, whose pretended will, however, must serve as
law and rule the inhabitants of the earth?

To discover the true principles of Morality, men have no need of theology,
of revelation, or of gods: They have need only of common sense. They have
only to commune with themselves, to reflect upon their own nature, to
consider the objects of society, and of the individuals, who compose
it; and they will easily perceive, that virtue is advantageous, and vice
disadvantageous to themselves. Let us persuade men to be just, beneficent,
moderate, sociable; not because such conduct is demanded by the gods, but,
because it is pleasant to men. Let us advise them to abstain from vice
and crime; not because they will be punished in another world, but because
they will suffer for it in this.--_These are,_ says Montesquieu, _means
to prevent crimes--these are punishments; these reform manners--these are
good examples._

The way of truth is straight; that of imposture is crooked and dark.
Truth, ever necessary to man, must necessarily be felt by all upright
minds; the lessons of reason are to be followed by all honest men. Men are
unhappy, only because they are ignorant; they are ignorant, only because
every thing conspires to prevent their being enlightened; they are wicked
only because their reason is not sufficiently developed.

By what fatality then, have the first founders of all sects given to
their gods ferocious characters, at which nature revolts? Can we imagine
a conduct more abominable, than that which Moses tells us his God showed
towards the Egyptians, where that assassin proceeds boldly to declare, in
the name and by the order of _his God_, that Egypt shall be afflicted
with the greatest calamities, that can happen to man? Of all the different
ideas, which they give us of a supreme being, of a God, creator and
preserver of mankind, there are none more horrible, than those of the
impostors, who represented themselves as inspired by a divine spirit, and
"Thus saith the Lord."

Why, O theologians! do you presume to inquire into the impenetrable
mysteries of a being, whom you consider inconceivable to the human mind?
You are the blasphemers, when you imagine that a being, perfect according
to you, could be guilty of such cruelty towards creatures whom he has
made out of nothing. Confess, your ignorance of a creating God; and cease
meddling with mysteries, which are repugnant to _Common Sense_.



DETAILED TABLE OF CONTENTS GIVEN IN THE FRENCH EDITION


  Section

  1.  APOLOGUE

  2, 3.  What is Theology?

  4.  Man is not born with any ideas of Religion

  5.  It is not necessary to believe in a God

  6.  Religion is founded on credulity

  7.  All religion is an absurdity

  8.  The idea of God is impossible

  9.  On the Origin of Superstition

  10.  On the Origin of all Religion

  11.  Religious fears expose men to become a prey to imposters

  12, 13.  Religion seduces ignorance by the aid of the marvellous

  14.  There would never have been any Religion, if there had not been
       ages of Stupidity and Barbarism

  15.  All Religion was produced by the desire of domination

  16.  What serves as a basis to Religion is most uncertain

  17, 18.  It is impossible to be convinced of the existence of a God

  19.  The existence of God is not proved

  20.  It explains nothing to say, that God is a spirit

  21.  Spirituality is an absurdity

  22.  Whatever exists is derived from Matter

  23.  What is the metaphysical God of modern Theology?

  24.  It would be less unreasonable to adore the Sun, than to adore
       a spiritual Deity

  25.  A spiritual Deity is incapable of volition and action

  26.  What is God?

  27.  Some remarkable Contradictions in Theology

  28.  To adore God, is to adore a fiction

  29.  Atheism is authorised by the infinity of God, and the impossibility
       of knowing the Divine essence

  30.  Believing in God is neither safer nor less criminal than not
       believing in him

  31.  Belief in God is a habit acquired in infancy

  32.  Belief in God is a prejudice established by successive generations

  33.  On the Origin of Prejudices

  34.  On the effects of Prejudices

  35.  The Religious principles of modern Theology could not be believed
       if they were not instilled into the mind before the age of reason

  36.  The wonders of nature do not prove the existence of God

  37, 38.  Nature may be explained by natural causes

  39, 40.  The world has never been created: Matter moves of itself

  41.  Additional proofs that motion is essential to Matter, and that
       consequently it is unnecessary to imagine a Spiritual Mover

  42.  The existence of Man does not prove the existence of God

  43.  Nevertheless, neither Man nor the Universe are the effects of chance

  44, 45.  The order of the Universe does not prove the existence of a God

  46.  A Spirit cannot be intelligent it is absurd to adore a divine
       intelligence

  47, 48.  All the qualities, which Theology gives to its God are contrary
           to the Essence which is attributed to him

  49.  It is absurd to say that the human race is the object and end
       of the formation of the Universe

  50.  God is not made for Man, nor Man for God

  51.  It is not true that the object of the formation of the Universe
       was to render Man happy

  52.  What is called Providence is a word without meaning

  53.  This pretended Providence is the enemy of Man

  54.  The world is not governed by an intelligent being

  55.  God cannot be considered immutable

  56.  Good and evil are the necessary effects of natural causes.
       What is a God that cannot change any thing?

  57.  The consolations of Theology and the hope of paradise and of
       a future life, are imaginary

  58.  Another romantic reverie

  59.  It is in vain that Theology attempts to clear its God from human
       defects: either this God is not free, or else he is more wicked
       than good

  60, 61.  It is impossible to believe that there exists a God of
           infinite goodness and power

  62.  Theology makes its God a monster of absurdity, injustice,
       malice, and atrocity

  63.  All Religion inspires contemptible fears

  64.  There is no difference between Religion, and the most somber
       and servile Superstition

  65.  To judge from the ideas which Theology gives of the Deity, the
       love of God is impossible

  66.  An eternally tormenting God is a most detestable being

  67.  Theology is a tissue of palpable contradictions

  68.  The pretended works of God do not prove Divine Perfections

  69.  The perfection of God is not rendered more evident by the
       pretended creation of angels

  70.  Theology preaches the Omnipotence of its God, yet constantly
       makes him appear impotent

  71.  According to all religious systems, God would be the most
       capricious and most foolish of beings

  72.  It is absurd to say that Evil does not proceed from God

  73.  The foreknowledge attributed to God would give men a right
       to complain of his cruelty

  74.  Absurdity of the theological stories concerning Original Sin,
       and concerning Satan

  75.  The Devil, like Religion, was invented to enrich the priests

  76.  If God has been unable to render human nature incapable of sin,
       he has no right to punish man

  77.  It is absurd to say, that the conduct of God ought to be a mystery
       for man

  78.  Ought the unfortunate look for consolation, to the sole author
       of their misery

  79.  A God, who punishes the faults which he might have prevented,
       is a mad tyrant, who joins injustice to folly

  80.  What is called Free Will is an absurdity

  81.  But we must not conclude that Society has no right to punish

  82, 83.  Refutation of the arguments in favour of Free Will

  84.  God himself, if there were a God, would not be free: hence the
       inutility of all Religion

  85.  According to the principles of Theology, man is not free a
       single instant

  86.  There is no evil, no disorder, and no sin, but must be attributed
       to God: consequently God has no right either to punish or recompence

  87.  The prayers offered to God sufficiently prove dissatisfaction of
       the divine will

  88.  It is the height of absurdity to imagine, that the injuries and
       misfortunes, endured in this world, will be repaired in another world

  89.  Theology justifies the evil and the wickedness, permitted by its God,
       only by attributing to him the principle, that "Might makes Right,"
       which is the violation of all Right

  90.  The absurd doctrine of Redemption, and the frequent exterminations
       attributed to Jehovah, impress one with the idea of an unjust and
       barbarous God

  91.  Can a being, who has called us into existence merely to make us
       miserable, be a generous, equitable, and tender father?

  92.  Man's life, and all that occurs, deposes against the liberty of Man,
       and against the justice and goodness of a pretended God

  93.  It is not true, that we owe any gratitude to what is called
       _Providence_

  94.  It is folly to suppose that Man is the king of nature, the favourite
       of God, and unique object of his labours

  95.  A comparison between Man and brutes

  96.  There are no animals so detestable as Tyrants

  97.  A refutation of the excellence of Man

  98.  An oriental Tale

  99.  It is madness to see nothing but the goodness of God, or to think
       that this universe is only made for Man

  100.  What is the Soul?

  101.  The existence of a _Soul_ is an absurd supposition; and the existence
        of an _immortal_ Soul still more absurd

  102.  It is evident that Man dies _in toto_

  103.  Incontestible arguments against the Spirituality of the Soul

  104.  On the absurdity of the supernatural causes, to which Theologians
        are constantly having recourse

  105, 106.  It is false that Materialism degrades

  107.  The idea of a future life is only useful to those, who trade on
        public credulity

  108.  It is false that the idea of a future life is consoling

  109.  All religious principles are derived from the imagination.
        God is a chimera; and the qualities, attributed to him,
        reciprocally destroy one another

  110.  Religion is but a system imagined in order to reconcile
        contradictions by the aid of mysteries

  111, 112, 113.  Absurdity and inutility of all Mysteries, which were only
                  invented for the interests of Priests

  114.  An universal God ought to have revealed an universal Religion

  115.  What proves, that Religion is unnecessary, is, that it is
        unintelligible

  116.  All Religions are rendered ridiculous by the multitude of creeds,
        all opposite to one another, and all equally foolish

  117.  Opinion of a famous Theologian

  118.  The God of the Deists is not less contradictory, nor less chimerical
        than the God of the Christians

  119.  It by no means proves the existence of God to say, that, in every
        age, all nations have acknowledged some Deity or other

  120.  All Gods are of a savage origin: all Religions are monuments of
        the ignorance, superstition, and ferocity of former times: modern
        Religions are but ancient follies, re-edited with additions and
        corrections

  121.  All religious usages bear marks of stupidity and barbarism

  122.  The more a religious opinion is ancient and general, the more it
        ought to be suspected

  123.  Mere scepticism in religious matters, can only be the effect of
        a very superficial examination

  124.  Revelations examined

  125.  Where is the proof that God ever shewed himself to Men, or ever
        spoke to them?

  126.  There is nothing that proves miracles to have been ever performed

  127.  If God has spoken, is it not strange that he should have spoken
        so differently to the different religious sects?

  128.  Obscurity and suspicious origin of oracles

  129.  Absurdity of all miracles

  130.  Refutation of the reasoning of Pascal concerning the manner in which
        we must judge of miracles

  131.  Every new revelation is necessarily false

  132.  The blood of martyrs testifies _against_ the truth of miracles, and
        _against_ the divine origin attributed to Christianity

  133.  The fanaticism of martyrs, and the interested zeal of missionaries,
        by no means prove the truth of Religion

  134.  Theology makes its God an enemy to Reason and Common Sense

  135.  Faith is irreconcilable with Reason; and Reason is preferable
        to Faith

  136.  To what absurd and ridiculous sophisms every one is reduced, who
        would substitute Faith for Reason!

  137.  Ought a man to believe, on the assurance of another man, what is
        of the greatest importance to himself

  138.  Faith can take root only in feeble, ignorant, or slothful minds

  139.  To teach, that any one Religion has greater pretensions to truth
        than another, is an absurdity, and cause of tumult

  140.  Religion is unnecessary to Morality

  141.  Religion is the weakest barrier that can be opposed to the passions

  142.  Honour is a more salutary and powerful bond than Religion

  143.  Religion does not restrain the passions of kings

  144.  Origin of "the divine right of kings," the most absurd, ridiculous,
        and odious, of usurpations

  145.  Religion is fatal to political ameliorations: it makes despots
        licentious and wicked, and their subjects abject and miserable

  146.  Christianity has propagated itself by preaching implicit obedience
        to despotism

  147.  One object of religious principles is to eternize the tyranny
        of kings

  148.  How fatal it is to persuade kings that they are responsible for
        their actions to God alone

  149.  A devout king is the scourge of his kingdom

  150.  Tyranny sometimes finds the aegis of Religion a weak obstacle
        to the despair of the people

  151.  Religion favours the wickedness of princes by delivering them
        from fear and remorse

  152.  What is an enlightened Sovereign?

  153.  Of the prevailing passions and crimes of the priesthood

  154.  The quackery of priests

  155.  Religion has corrupted Morality, and produced innumerable evils

  156.  Every Religion is intolerant

  157.  The evils of a state Religion

  158.  Religion legitimates and authorizes crime

  159.  Refutation of the argument, that the evils attributed to Religion
        are but the bad effects of human passions

  160.  Religion is incompatible with Morality

  161.  The Morality of the Gospel is impracticable

  162.  A society of Saints would be impossible

  163.  Human nature is not depraved

  164.  Concerning the effects of Jesus Christ's mission

  165.  The dogma of the remission of sins was invented for the interest
        of priests

  166.  Who fear God?

  167.  Hell is an absurd invention

  168.  The bad foundation of religious morals

  169.  Christian Charity, as preached and practised by Theologians!!!

  170.  Confession, priestcraft's gold mine, and the destruction of the
        true principles of Morality

  171.  The supposition of the existence of a God is by no means necessary
        to Morality

  172.  Religion and its supernatural Morality are fatal to the
        public welfare

  173.  The union of Church and State is a calamity

  174.  National Religions are ruinous

  175.  Religion paralyses Morality

  176.  Fatal consequences of Devotion

  177.  The idea of a future life is not consoling to man

  178.  An Atheist is fully as conscientious as a religious man, and has
        better motives for doing good

  179.  An Atheistical king would be far preferable to a religious king

  180.  Philosophy produces Morality

  181.  Religious opinions have little influence upon conduct

  182.  Reason leads man to Atheism

  183.  Fear alone makes Theists

  184.  Can we, and ought we, to love God?

  185.  God and Religion are proved to be absurdities by the different
        ideas formed of them

  186.  The existence of God, which is the basis of Religion, has not yet
        been demonstrated

  187.  Priests are more actuated by self-interest, than unbelievers

  188.  Pride, presumption, and badness, are more often found in priests,
        than in Atheists

  189.  Prejudices last but for a time: no power is durable which is not
        founded upon truth

  190.  What an honourable power ministers of the Gods would obtain,
        if they became the apostles of reason and the defenders of liberty!

  191.  What a glorious and happy revolution it would be for the world,
        if Philosophy were substituted for Religion!

  192.  The recantation of an unbeliever at the point of death proves
        nothing against the reasonableness of unbelief

  193.  It is not true that Atheism breaks the bonds of society

  194.  Refutation of the often repeated opinion, that Religion is necessary
        for the vulgar

  195.  Logical and argumentative systems are not adapted to the capacity
        of the vulgar

  196.  On the futility and danger of Theology

  197, 198.  On the evils produced by implicit faith

  199.  History teaches us, that all Religions were established by
        impostors, in days of ignorance

  200.  All Religions, ancient or modern, have borrowed from one
        another ridiculous ceremonies

  201.  Theology has always diverted philosophy from its right path

  202.  Theology explains nothing

  203, 204.  Theology has always fettered Morality, and retarded progress

  205.  It cannot be too often repeated and proved, that Religion is an
        extravagance and a calamity

  206.  Religion prevents us from seeing the true causes of misfortunes



GOOD SENSE WITHOUT GOD



APOLOGUE



1.

There is a vast empire, governed by a monarch, whose strange conduct is
to confound the minds of his subjects. He wishes to be known, loved,
respected, obeyed; but never shows himself to his subjects, and everything
conspires to render uncertain the ideas formed of his character.

The people, subjected to his power, have, of the character and laws of
their invisible sovereign, such ideas only, as his ministers give them.
They, however, confess, that they have no idea of their master; that his
ways are impenetrable; his views and nature totally incomprehensible.
These ministers, likewise, disagree upon the commands which they pretend
have been issued by the sovereign, whose servants they call themselves.
They defame one another, and mutually treat each other as impostors and
false teachers. The decrees and ordinances, they take upon themselves
to promulgate, are obscure; they are enigmas, little calculated to be
understood, or even divined, by the subjects, for whose instruction they
were intended. The laws of the concealed monarch require interpreters;
but the interpreters are always disputing upon the true manner of
understanding them. Besides, they are not consistent with themselves; all
they relate of their concealed prince is only a string of contradictions.
They utter concerning him not a single word that does not immediately
confute itself. They call him supremely good; yet many complain of his
decrees. They suppose him infinitely wise; and under his administration
everything appears to contradict reason. They extol his justice; and the
best of his subjects are generally the least favoured. They assert, he
sees everything; yet his presence avails nothing. He is, say they, the
friend of order; yet throughout his dominions, all is in confusion and
disorder. He makes all for himself; and the events seldom answer
his designs. He foresees everything; but cannot prevent anything. He
impatiently suffers offence, yet gives everyone the power of offending
him. Men admire the wisdom and perfection of his works; yet his works,
full of imperfection, are of short duration. He is continually doing and
undoing; repairing what he has made; but is never pleased with his work.
In all his undertakings, he proposes only his own glory; yet is never
glorified. His only end is the happiness of his subjects; and his
subjects, for the most part want necessaries. Those, whom he seems to
favour are generally least satisfied with their fate; almost all appear
in perpetual revolt against a master, whose greatness they never cease to
admire, whose wisdom to extol, whose goodness to adore, whose justice to
fear, and whose laws to reverence, though never obeyed!

This EMPIRE is the WORLD; this MONARCH GOD; his MINISTERS are the PRIESTS;
his SUBJECTS MANKIND.



2.

There is a science that has for its object only things incomprehensible.
Contrary to all other sciences, it treats only of what cannot fall under
our senses. Hobbes calls it the _kingdom of darkness_. It is a country,
where every thing is governed by laws, contrary to those which mankind are
permitted to know in the world they inhabit. In this marvellous region,
light is only darkness; evidence is doubtful or false; impossibilities
are credible: reason is a deceitful guide; and good sense becomes madness.
This _science_ is called _theology_, and this theology is a continual
insult to the reason of man.



3.

By the magical power of "ifs," "buts," "perhaps's," "what do we know,"
etc., heaped together, a shapeless and unconnected system is formed,
perplexing mankind, by obliterating from their minds, the most clear ideas
and rendering uncertain truths most evident. By reason of this systematic
confusion, nature is an enigma; the visible world has disappeared, to give
place to regions invisible; reason is compelled to yield to imagination,
who leads to the country of her self-invented chimeras.



4.

The principles of every religion are founded upon the idea of a GOD. Now,
it is impossible to have true ideas of a being, who acts upon none of our
senses. All our ideas are representations of sensible objects. What then
can represent to us the idea of God, which is evidently an idea without an
object? Is not such an idea as impossible, as an effect without a cause?
Can an idea without an archetype be anything, but a chimera? There are,
however, divines, who assure us that the idea of God is innate; or that
we have this idea in our mother's womb. Every principle is the result of
reason; all reason is the effect of experience; experience is acquired
only by the exercise of our senses: therefore, religious principles are
not founded upon reason, and are not innate.



5.

Every system of religion can be founded only upon the nature of God and
man; and upon the relations, which subsist between them. But to judge
of the reality of those relations, we must have some idea of the divine
nature. Now, the world exclaims, the divine nature is incomprehensible to
man; yet ceases not to assign attributes to this incomprehensible God, and
to assure us, that it is our indispensable duty to find out that God, whom
it is impossible to comprehend.

The most important concern of man is what he can least comprehend. If God
is incomprehensible to man, it would seem reasonable never to think of
him; but religion maintains, man cannot with impunity cease a moment to
think (or rather dream) of his God.



6.

We are told, that divine qualities are not of a nature to be comprehended
by finite minds. The natural consequence must be, that divine qualities
are not made to occupy finite minds. But religion tells us, that the poor
finite mind of man ought never to lose sight of an inconceivable being,
whose qualities he can never comprehend. Thus, we see, religion is the
art of turning the attention of mankind upon subjects they can never
comprehend.



7.

Religion unites man with God, or forms a communication between them; yet
do they not say, God is infinite? If God be infinite, no finite being can
have communication or relation with him. Where there is no relation, there
can be no union, communication, or duties. If there be no duties between
man and his God, there is no religion for man. Thus, in saying God is
infinite, you annihilate religion for man, who is a finite being. The idea
of infinity is to us an idea without model, without archetype, without
object.



8.

If God be an infinite being, there cannot be, either in the present or
future world, any relative proportion between man and his God. Thus, the
idea of God can never enter the human mind. In supposition of a life, in
which man would be much more enlightened, than in this, the idea of the
infinity of God would ever remain the same distance from his finite mind.
Thus the idea of God will be no more clear in the future, than in the
present life. Thus, intelligences, superior to man, can have no more
complete ideas of God, than man, who has not the least conception of him
in his present life.



9.

How has it been possible to persuade reasonable beings, that the thing,
most impossible to comprehend, was most essential to them? It is because
they have been greatly terrified; because, when they fear, they cease
to reason; because, they have been taught to mistrust their own
understanding; because, when the brain is troubled, they believe every
thing, and examine nothing.



10.

Ignorance and fear are the two hinges of all religion. The uncertainty in
which man finds himself in relation to his God, is precisely the motive
that attaches him to his religion. Man is fearful in the dark--in moral,
as well as physical darkness. His fear becomes habitual, and habit makes
it natural; he would think that he wanted something, if he had nothing to
fear.



11.

He, who from infancy has habituated himself to tremble when he hears
pronounced certain words, requires those words and needs to tremble. He is
therefore more disposed to listen to one, who entertains him in his fears,
than to one, who dissuades him from them. The superstitious man wishes to
fear; his imagination demands it; one might say, that he fears nothing so
much, as to have nothing to fear.

Men are imaginary invalids, whose weakness empirics are interested to
encourage, in order to have sale for their drugs. They listen rather to
the physician, who prescribes a variety of remedies, than to him, who
recommends good regimen, and leaves nature to herself.



12.

If religion were more clear, it would have less charms for the ignorant,
who are pleased only with obscurity, terrors, fables, prodigies, and
things incredible. Romances, silly stories, and the tales of ghosts and
wizards, are more pleasing to vulgar minds than true histories.



13.

In point of religion, men are only great children. The more a religion is
absurd and filled with wonders, the greater ascendancy it acquires over
them. The devout man thinks himself obliged to place no bounds to his
credulity; the more things are inconceivable, they appear to him divine;
the more they are incredible, the greater merit, he imagines, there is in
believing them.



14.

The origin of religious opinions is generally dated from the time, when
savage nations were yet in infancy. It was to gross, ignorant, and
stupid people, that the founders of religion have in all ages addressed
themselves, when they wished to give them their Gods, their mode of
worship, their mythology, their marvellous and frightful fables. These
chimeras, adopted without examination by parents, are transmitted, with
more or less alteration, to their children, who seldom reason any more
than their parents.



15.

The object of the first legislators was to govern the people; and the
easiest method to effect it was to terrify their minds, and to prevent
the exercise of reason. They led them through winding bye-paths, lest they
might perceive the designs of their guides; they forced them to fix their
eyes in the air, for fear they should look at their feet; they amused them
on the way with idle stories; in a word, they treated them as nurses do
children, who sing lullabies, to put them to sleep, and scold, to make
them quiet.



16.

The existence of a God is the basis of all religion. Few appear to doubt
his existence; yet this fundamental article utterly embarrasses every mind
that reasons. The first question of every catechism has been, and ever
will be, the most difficult to resolve. (In the year 1701, the
holy fathers of the oratory of Vendome maintained in a thesis, this
proposition--that, according to St. Thomas, the existence of God is not,
and cannot be, a subject of faith.)



17.

Can we imagine ourselves sincerely convinced of the existence of a being,
whose nature we know not; who is inaccessible to all our senses; whose
attributes, we are assured, are incomprehensible to us? To persuade me
that a being exists or can exist, I must be first told what that being is.
To induce me to believe the existence or the possibility of such a
being, it is necessary to tell me things concerning him that are not
contradictory, and do not destroy one another. In short, to fully convince
me of the existence of that being, it is necessary to tell me things that
I can understand.



18.

A thing is impossible, when it includes two ideas that mutually destroy
one another, and which can neither be conceived nor united in thought.
Conviction can be founded only upon the constant testimony of our senses,
which alone give birth to our ideas, and enable us to judge of their
agreement or disagreement. That, which exists necessarily, is that, whose
non-existence implies a contradiction. These principles, universally
acknowledged, become erroneous, when applied to the existence of a
God. Whatever has been hitherto said upon the subject, is either
unintelligible, or perfect contradiction, and must therefore appear absurd
to every rational man.



19.

All human knowledge is more or less clear. By what strange fatality have
we never been able to elucidate the science of God? The most civilized
nations, and among them the most profound thinkers, are in this respect no
more enlightened than the most savage tribes and ignorant peasants; and,
examining the subject closely, we shall find, that, by the speculations
and subtle refinements of men, the divine science has been only more and
more obscured. Every religion has hitherto been founded only upon what is
called, in logic, _begging the question_; it takes things for granted, and
then proves, by suppositions, instead of principles.



20.

Metaphysics teach us, that God is a _pure spirit_. But, is modern theology
superior to that of the savages? The savages acknowledge a _great spirit_,
for the master of the world. The savages, like all ignorant people,
attribute to _spirits_ all the effects, of which their experience cannot
discover the true causes. Ask a savage, what works your watch? He will
answer, _it is a spirit_. Ask the divines, what moves the universe? They
answer, _it is a spirit_.



21.

The savage, when he speaks of a spirit, affixes, at least, some idea to
the word; he means thereby an agent, like the air, the breeze, the breath,
that invisibly produces discernible effects. By subtilizing every thing,
the modern theologian becomes as unintelligible to himself as to others.
Ask him, what he understands by a spirit? He will answer you, that it is
an unknown substance, perfectly simple, that has no extension, that has
nothing common with matter. Indeed, is there any one, who can form the
least idea of such a substance? What then is a spirit, to speak in the
language of modern theology, but the absence of an idea? The idea of
_spirituality_ is an idea without model.



22.

Is it not more natural and intelligible to draw universal existence from
the matter, whose existence is demonstrated by all the senses, and whose
effects we experience, which we see act, move, communicate motion, and
incessantly generate, than to attribute the formation of things to an
unknown power, to a spiritual being, who cannot derive from his nature
what he has not himself, and who, by his spiritual essence, can create
neither matter nor motion? Nothing is more evident, than that the idea
they endeavour to give us, of the action of mind upon matter, represents
no object. It is an idea without model.



23.

The material _Jupiter_ of the ancients could move, compose, destroy,
and create beings, similar to himself; but the God of modern theology is
sterile. He can neither occupy any place in space, nor move matter, nor
form a visible world, nor create men or gods. The metaphysical God is fit
only to produce confusion, reveries, follies, and disputes.



24.

Since a God was indispensably requisite to men, why did they not worship
the Sun, that visible God, adored by so many nations? What being had
greater claim to the homage of men, than the day-star, who enlightens,
warms, and vivifies all beings; whose presence enlivens and regenerates
nature, whose absence seems to cast her into gloom and languor? If any
being announced to mankind, power, activity, beneficence, and duration, it
was certainly the Sun, whom they ought to have regarded as the parent of
nature, as the divinity. At least, they could not, without folly, dispute
his existence, or refuse to acknowledge his influence.



25.

The theologian exclaims to us, that God wants neither hands nor arms to
act; that _he acts by his will_. But pray, who or what is that God, who
has a will, and what can be the subject of his divine will?

Are the stories of witches, ghosts, wizards, hobgoblins, etc., more absurd
and difficult to believe than the magical or impossible action of mind
upon matter? When we admit such a God, fables and reveries may claim
belief. Theologians treat men as children, whose simplicity makes them
believe all the stories they hear.



26.

To shake the existence of God, we need only to ask a theologian to
speak of him. As soon as he has said a word upon the subject, the
least reflection will convince us, that his observations are totally
incompatible with the essence he ascribes to his God. What then is God?
It is an abstract word, denoting the hidden power of nature; or it is a
mathematical point, that has neither length, breadth, nor thickness. David
Hume, speaking of theologians, has ingeniously observed, _that they have
discovered the solution of the famous problem of Archimedes--a point in
the heavens, whence they move the world_.



27.

Religion prostrates men before a being, who, without extension, is
infinite, and fills all with his immensity; a being, all-powerful, who
never executes his will; a being, sovereignly good, who creates only
disquietudes; a being, the friend of order, and in whose government all
is in confusion and disorder. What then, can we imagine, can be the God of
theology?



28.

To avoid all embarrassment, we are told, "that it is not necessary to know
what God is; that we must adore him; that we are not permitted to extend
our views to his attributes." But, before we know that we must adore a
God, must we not know certainly, that he exists? But, how can we assure
ourselves, that he exists, if we never examine whether the various
qualities, attributed to him, do really exist and agree in him? Indeed,
to adore God, is to adore only the fictions of one's own imagination, or
rather, it is to adore nothing.



29.

In view of confounding things the more, theologians have not declared what
their God is; they tell us only what he is not. By means of negations and
abstractions, they think they have composed a real and perfect being. Mind
is that, which is _not_ body. An infinite being is a being, who is _not_
finite. A perfect being is a being, who is _not_ imperfect. Indeed, is
there any one, who can form real ideas of such a mass of absence of ideas?
That, which excludes all idea, can it be any thing but nothing?

To pretend, that the divine attributes are beyond the reach of human
conception, is to grant, that God is not made for man. To assure us, that,
in God, all is infinite, is to own that there can be nothing common to him
and his creatures. If there be nothing common to God and his creatures,
God is annihilated for man, or, at least, rendered useless to him. "God,"
they say, "has made man intelligent, but he has not made him omniscient;"
hence it is inferred, that he has not been able to give him faculties
sufficiently enlarged to know his divine essence. In this case, it
is evident, that God has not been able nor willing to be known by his
creatures. By what right then would God be angry with beings, who were
naturally incapable of knowing the divine essence? God would be evidently
the most unjust and capricious of tyrants, if he should punish an Atheist
for not having known, what, by his nature, it was impossible he should
know.



30.

To the generality of men, nothing renders an argument more convincing
than fear. It is therefore, that theologians assure us, _we must take the
safest part_; that nothing is so criminal as incredulity; that God will
punish without pity every one who has the temerity to doubt his existence;
that his severity is just, since madness or perversity only can make
us deny the existence of an enraged monarch, who without mercy avenges
himself on Atheists. If we coolly examine these threatenings, we shall
find, they always suppose the thing in question. They must first prove the
existence of a God, before they assure us, it is safest to believe, and
horrible to doubt or deny his existence. They must then prove, that it is
possible and consistent, that a just God cruelly punishes men for having
been in a state of madness, that prevented their believing the existence
of a being, whom their perverted reason could not conceive. In a word,
they must prove, that an infinitely just God can infinitely punish the
invincible and natural ignorance of man with respect to the divine nature.
Do not theologians reason very strangely? They invent phantoms, they
compose them of contradictions; they then assure us, it is safest not
to doubt the existence of these phantoms they themselves have invented.
According to this mode of reasoning, there is no absurdity, which it would
not be more safe to believe, than not to believe.

All children are born Atheists; they have no idea of God. Are they then
criminal on account of their ignorance? At what age must they begin to
believe in God? It is, you say, at the age of reason. But at what time
should this age commence? Besides, if the profoundest theologians lose
themselves in the divine nature, which they do not presume to comprehend,
what ideas must man have of him?



31.

Men believe in God only upon the word of those, who have no more idea of
him than themselves. Our nurses are our first theologians. They talk
to children of God as if he were a scarecrow; they teach them from the
earliest age to join their hands mechanically. Have nurses then more true
ideas of God than the children whom they teach to pray?



32.

Religion, like a family estate, passes, with its incumbrances, from
parents to children. Few men in the world would have a God, had not
pains been taken in infancy to give them one. Each would receive from his
parents and teachers the God whom they received from theirs; but each,
agreeably to his disposition, would arrange, modify, and paint him in his
own manner.



33.

The brain of man, especially in infancy, is like soft wax, fit to receive
every impression that is made upon it. Education furnishes him with almost
all his ideas at a time, when he is incapable of judging for himself. We
believe we have received from nature, or have brought with us at birth,
the true or false ideas, which, in a tender age, had been instilled into
our minds; and this persuasion is one of the greatest sources of errors.



34.

Prejudice contributes to cement in us the opinions of those who have been
charged with our instruction. We believe them much more experienced than
ourselves; we suppose they are fully convinced of the things which they
teach us; we have the greatest confidence in them; by the care they have
taken of us in infancy, we judge them incapable of wishing to deceive us.
These are the motives that make us adopt a thousand errors, without other
foundation than the hazardous authority of those by whom we have been
brought up. The prohibition likewise of reasoning upon what they teach us,
by no means lessens our confidence; but often contributes to increase our
respect for their opinions.



35.

Divines act very wisely in teaching men their religious principles before
they are capable of distinguishing truth from falsehood, or their left
hand from their right. It would be as difficult to instill into the mind
of a man, forty years old, the extravagant notions that are given us of
the divinity, as to eradicate them from the mind of him who had imbibed
them from infancy.



36.

It is observed, that the wonders of nature are sufficient to lead us to
the existence of a God, and fully to convince us of this important truth.
But how many are there in the world who have the time, capacity, or
disposition, necessary to contemplate Nature and meditate her progress?
Men, for the most part, pay no regard to it. The peasant is not struck
with the beauty of the sun, which he sees every day. The sailor is not
surprised at the regular motion of the ocean; he will never draw from it
theological conclusions. The phenomena of nature prove the existence of a
God only to some prejudiced men, who have been early taught to behold the
finger of God in every thing whose mechanism could embarrass them. In the
wonders of nature, the unprejudiced philosopher sees nothing but the
power of nature, the permanent and various laws, the necessary effects of
different combinations of matter infinitely diversified.



37.

Is there any thing more surprising than the logic of these divines, who,
instead of confessing their ignorance of natural causes, seek beyond
nature, in imaginary regions, a cause much more unknown than that nature,
of which they can form at least some idea? To say, that God is the author
of the phenomena of nature, is it not to attribute them to an occult
cause? What is God? What is a spirit? They are causes of which we have no
idea. O wise divines! Study nature and her laws; and since you can
there discover the action of natural causes, go not to those that are
supernatural, which, far from enlightening, will only darken your ideas,
and make it utterly impossible that you should understand yourselves.



38.

Nature, you say, is totally inexplicable without a God. That is to say,
to explain what you understand very little, you have need of a cause which
you understand not at all. You think to elucidate what is obscure, by
doubling the obscurity; to solve difficulties, by multiplying them. O
enthusiastic philosophers! To prove the existence of a God, write complete
treatises of botany; enter into a minute detail of the parts of the human
body; launch forth into the sky, to contemplate the revolution of the
stars; then return to the earth to admire the course of waters; behold
with transport the butterflies, the insects, the polypi, and the organized
atoms, in which you think you discern the greatness of your God. All these
things will not prove the existence of God; they will prove only, that you
have not just ideas of the immense variety of matter, and of the effects,
producible by its infinitely diversified combinations, that constitute the
universe. They will prove only your ignorance of nature; that you have no
idea of her powers, when you judge her incapable of producing a multitude
of forms and beings, of which your eyes, even with the assistance of
microscopes, never discern but the smallest part. In a word, they will
prove, that, for want of knowing sensible agents, or those possible
to know, you find it shorter to have recourse to a word, expressing an
inconceivable agent.



39.

We are gravely and repeatedly told, that, _there is no effect without
a cause_; that, _the world did not make itself_. But the universe is
a cause, it is not an effect; it is not a work; it has not been made,
because it is impossible that it should have been made. The world has
always been; its existence is necessary; it is its own cause. Nature,
whose essence is visibly to act and produce, requires not, to discharge
her functions, an invisible mover, much more unknown than herself. Matter
moves by its own energy, by a necessary consequence of its heterogeneity.
The diversity of motion, or modes of mutual action, constitutes alone the
diversity of matter. We distinguish beings from one another only by the
different impressions or motions which they communicate to our organs.



40.

You see, that all is action in nature, and yet pretend that nature, by
itself, is dead and without power. You imagine, that this all, essentially
acting, needs a mover! What then is this mover? It is a spirit; a being
absolutely incomprehensible and contradictory. Acknowledge then, that
matter acts of itself, and cease to reason of your spiritual mover,
who has nothing that is requisite to put it in action. Return from
your useless excursions; enter again into a real world; keep to _second
causes_, and leave to divines their _first cause_, of which nature has no
need, to produce all the effects you observe in the world.



41.

It can be only by the diversity of impressions and effects, which bodies
make upon us, that we feel them; that we have perceptions and ideas
of them; that we distinguish one from another; that we assign them
properties. Now, to see or feel an object, the object must act upon our
organs; this object cannot act upon us, without exciting some motion in
us; it cannot excite motion in us, if it be not in motion itself. At
the instant I see an object, my eyes are struck by it; I can have no
conception of light and vision, without motion, communicated to my
eye, from the luminous, extended, coloured body. At the instant I smell
something, my sense is irritated, or put in motion, by the parts that
exhale from the odoriferous body. At the moment I hear a sound, the
tympanum of my ear is struck by the air, put in motion by a sonorous body,
which would not act if it were not in motion itself. Whence it evidently
follows, that, without motion, I can neither feel, see, distinguish,
compare, judge, nor occupy my thoughts upon any subject whatever.

We are taught, that _the essence of a thing is that from which all its
properties flow_. Now, it is evident, that all the properties of bodies,
of which we have ideas, are owing to motion, which alone informs us of
their existence, and gives us the first conceptions of them. I cannot be
informed of my own existence but by the motions I experience in myself. I
am therefore forced to conclude, that motion is as essential to matter as
extension, and that matter cannot be conceived without it.

Should any person deny, that motion is essential and necessary to matter;
they cannot, at least, help acknowledging that bodies, which seem dead and
inert, produce motion of themselves, when placed in a fit situation to
act upon one another. For instance; phosphorus, when exposed to the air,
immediately takes fire. Meal and water, when mixed, ferment. Thus dead
matter begets motion of itself. Matter has then the power of self-motion;
and nature, to act, has no need of a mover, whose pretended essence would
hinder him from acting.



42.

Whence comes man? What is his origin? Did the first man spring, ready
formed, from the dust of the earth? Man appears, like all other beings, a
production of nature. Whence came the first stones, the first trees, the
first lions, the first elephants, the first ants, the first acorns? We
are incessantly told to acknowledge and revere the hand of God, of an
infinitely wise, intelligent and powerful maker, in so wonderful a work as
the human machine. I readily confess, that the human machine appears to me
surprising. But as man exists in nature, I am not authorized to say that
his formation, is above the power of nature. But I can much less conceive
of this formation, when to explain it, I am told, that a pure spirit, who
has neither eyes, feet, hands, head, lungs, mouth nor breath, made man by
taking a little clay, and breathing upon it.

We laugh at the savage inhabitants of Paraguay, for calling themselves
the descendants of the moon. The divines of Europe call themselves the
descendants, or the creation, of a pure spirit. Is this pretension any
more rational? Man is intelligent; thence it is inferred, that he can be
the work only of an intelligent being, and not of a nature, which is void
of intelligence. Although nothing is more rare, than to see man make use
of this intelligence, of which he seems so proud, I will grant that he is
intelligent, that his wants develop this faculty, that society especially
contributes to cultivate it. But I see nothing in the human machine, and
in the intelligence with which it is endued, that announces very precisely
the infinite intelligence of the maker to whom it is ascribed. I see that
this admirable machine is liable to be deranged; I see, that his wonderful
intelligence is then disordered, and sometimes totally disappears; I
infer, that human intelligence depends upon a certain disposition of the
material organs of the body, and that we cannot infer the intelligence of
God, any more from the intelligence of man, than from his materiality. All
that we can infer from it, is, that God is material. The intelligence of
man no more proves the intelligence of God, than the malice of man proves
the malice of that God, who is the pretended maker of man. In spite of all
the arguments of divines, God will always be a cause contradicted by its
effects, or of which it is impossible to judge by its works. We shall
always see evil, imperfection and folly result from such a cause, that is
said to be full of goodness, perfection and wisdom.



43.

"What?" you will say, "is intelligent man, is the universe, and all it
contains, the effect of _chance_?" No; I repeat it, _the universe is not
an effect_; it is the cause of all effects; every being it contains is
the necessary effect of this cause, which sometimes shews us its manner of
acting, but generally conceals its operations. Men use the word _chance_
to hide their ignorance of true causes, which, though not understood, act
not less according to certain laws. There is no effect without a cause.
Nature is a word, used to denote the immense assemblage of beings, various
matter, infinite combinations, and diversified motions, that we behold.
All bodies, organized or unorganized, are necessary effects of certain
causes. Nothing in nature can happen by chance. Every thing is subject
to fixed laws. These laws are only the necessary connection of certain
effects with their causes. One atom of matter cannot meet another _by
chance_; this meeting is the effect of permanent laws, which cause every
being necessarily to act as it does, and hinder it from acting otherwise,
in given circumstances. To talk of the _fortuitous concourse of atoms_, or
to attribute some effects to chance, is merely saying that we are ignorant
of the laws, by which bodies act, meet, combine, or separate.

Those, who are unacquainted with nature, the properties of beings, and
the effects which must necessarily result from the concurrence of certain
causes, think, that every thing takes place by chance. It is not chance,
that has placed the sun in the centre of our planetary system; it is by
its own essence, that the substance, of which it is composed, must occupy
that place, and thence be diffused.



44.

The worshippers of a God find, in the order of the universe, an invincible
proof of the existence of an intelligent and wise being, who governs it.
But this order is nothing but a series of movements necessarily produced
by causes or circumstances, which are sometimes favourable, and sometimes
hurtful to us: we approve of some, and complain of others.

Nature uniformly follows the same round; that is, the same causes produce
the same effects, as long as their action is not disturbed by other
causes, which force them to produce different effects. When the operation
of causes, whose effects we experience, is interrupted by causes, which,
though unknown, are not the less natural and necessary, we are confounded;
we cry out, _a miracle!_ and attribute it to a cause much more unknown,
than any of those acting before our eyes.

The universe is always in order. It cannot be in disorder. It is our
machine, that suffers, when we complain of disorder. The bodies, causes,
and beings, which this world contains, necessarily act in the manner in
which we see them act, whether we approve or disapprove of their effects.
Earthquakes, volcanoes, inundations, pestilences, and famines are effects
as necessary, or as much in the order of nature, as the fall of heavy
bodies, the courses of rivers, the periodical motions of the seas, the
blowing of the winds, the fruitful rains, and the favourable effects, for
which men praise God, and thank him for his goodness.

To be astonished that a certain order reigns in the world, is to be
surprised that the same causes constantly produce the same effects. To
be shocked at disorder, is to forget, that when things change, or are
interrupted in their actions, the effects can no longer be the same. To
wonder at the order of nature, is to wonder that any thing can exist; it
is to be surprised at any one's own existence. What is order to one being,
is disorder to another. All wicked beings find that every thing is in
order, when they can with impunity put every thing in disorder. They find,
on the contrary, that every thing is in disorder, when they are disturbed
in the exercise of their wickedness.



45.

Upon supposition that God is the author and mover of nature, there could
be no disorder with respect to him. Would not all the causes, that he
should have made, necessarily act according to the properties, essences,
and impulses given them? If God should change the ordinary course of
nature, he would not be immutable. If the order of the universe, in
which man thinks he sees the most convincing proof of the existence,
intelligence, power and goodness of God, should happen to contradict
itself, one might suspect his existence, or, at least, accuse him of
inconstancy, impotence, want of foresight and wisdom in the arrangement of
things; one would have a right to accuse him of an oversight in the choice
of the agents and instruments, which he makes, prepares, and puts in
action. In short, if the order of nature proves the power and intelligence
of the Deity, disorder must prove his weakness, instability, and
irrationality.

You say, that God is omnipresent, that he fills the universe with his
immensity, that nothing is done without him, that matter could not act
without his agency. But in this case, you admit, that your God is the
author of disorder, that it is he who deranges nature, that he is the
father of confusion, that he is in man, and moves him at the moment he
sins. If God is every where, he is in me, he acts with me, he is deceived
with me, he offends God with me, and combats with me the existence of God!
O theologians! you never understand yourselves, when you speak of God.



46.

In order to have what we call intelligence, it is necessary to have ideas,
thoughts, and wishes; to have ideas, thoughts, and wishes, it is necessary
to have organs; to have organs, it is necessary to have a body; to act
upon bodies, it is necessary to have a body; to experience disorder, it is
necessary to be capable of suffering. Whence it evidently follows, that a
pure spirit can neither be intelligent, nor affected by what passes in the
universe.

Divine intelligence, ideas, and views, have, you say, nothing common with
those of men. Very well. How then can men judge, right or wrong, of these
views; reason upon these ideas; or admire this intelligence? This would be
to judge, admire, and adore that, of which we can have no ideas. To adore
the profound views of divine wisdom, is it not to adore that, of which we
cannot possibly judge? To admire these views, is it not to admire without
knowing why? Admiration is always the daughter of ignorance. Men admire
and adore only what they do not comprehend.



47.

All those qualities, ascribed to God, are totally incompatible with a
being, who, by his very essence, is void of all analogy with human beings.
It is true, the divines imagine they extricate themselves from this
difficulty, by exaggerating the human qualities, attributed to the
Divinity; they enlarge them to infinity, where they cease to understand
themselves. What results from this combination of man with God? A mere
chimera, of which, if any thing be affirmed, the phantom, combined with so
much pains, instantly vanishes.

Dante, in his poem upon _Paradise_, relates, that the Deity appeared
to him under the figure of three circles, forming an iris, whose lively
colours generated each other; but that, looking steadily upon the dazzling
light, he saw only his own figure. While adoring God, it is himself, that
man adores.



48.

Ought not the least reflection suffice to prove, that God can have none
of the human qualities, all ties, virtues, or perfections? Our virtues and
perfections are consequences of the modifications of our passions. But
has God passions as we have? Again: our good qualities consist in our
dispositions towards the beings with whom we live in society. God,
according to you, is an insulated being. God has no equals--no
fellow-beings. God does not live in society. He wants the assistance of no
one. He enjoys an unchangeable felicity. Admit then, according to your own
principles, that God cannot have what we call virtues, and that man cannot
be virtuous with respect to him.



49.

Man, wrapped up in his own merit, imagines the human race to be the sole
object of God in creating the universe. Upon what does he found this
flattering opinion? We are told: that man is the only being endued with
intelligence, which enables him to know the Deity, and to render him
homage. We are assured, that God made the world only for his own glory,
and that it was necessary that the human species should come into this
plan, that there might be some one to admire his works, and glorify him
for them. But, according to these suppositions, has not God evidently
missed his object? 1st. Man, according to yourselves, will always labour
under the completest impossibility of knowing his God, and the most
invincible ignorance of his divine essence. 2ndly. A being, who has no
equal, cannot be susceptible of glory; for glory can result only from the
comparison of one's own excellence with that of others. 3rdly. If God be
infinitely happy, if he be self-sufficient, what need has he of the homage
of his feeble creatures? 4thly. God, notwithstanding all his endeavours,
is not glorified; but, on the contrary, all the religions in the world
represent him as perpetually offended; their sole object is to reconcile
sinful, ungrateful, rebellious man with his angry God.



50.

If God be infinite, he has much less relation with man, than man with
ants. Would the ants reason pertinently concerning the intentions,
desires, and projects of the gardener? Could they justly imagine, that a
park was planted for them alone, by an ostentatious monarch, and that the
sole object of his goodness was to furnish them with a superb residence?
But, according to theology, man is, with respect to God, far below what
the vilest insect is to man. Thus, by theology itself, which is wholly
devoted to the attributes and views of the Divinity, theology appears a
complete folly.



51.

We are told, that, in the formation of the universe, God's only object was
the happiness of man. But, in a world made purposely for him, and governed
by an omnipotent God, is man in reality very happy? Are his enjoyments
durable? Are not his pleasures mixed with pains? Are many persons
satisfied with their fate? Is not man continually the victim of physical
and moral evils? Is not the human machine, which is represented as a
master-piece of the Creator's skill, liable to derangement in a thousand
ways? Should we be surprised at the workmanship of a mechanic, who should
shew us a complex machine, ready to stop every moment, and which, in a
short time, would break in pieces of itself?



52.

The generous care, displayed by the Deity in providing for the wants,
and watching over the happiness of his beloved creatures, is called
_Providence_. But, when we open our eyes, we find that God provides
nothing. Providence sleeps over the greater part of the inhabitants of
this world. For a very small number of men who are supposed to be happy,
what an immense multitude groan under oppression, and languish in misery!
Are not nations forced to deprive themselves of bread, to administer to
the extravagances of a few gloomy tyrants, who are no happier than their
oppressed slaves?

At the same time that our divines emphatically expatiate upon the goodness
of Providence, while they exhort us to repose our confidence in her, do
we not hear them, at the sight of unforeseen catastrophes, exclaim, that
_Providence sports with the vain projects of man_, that she frustrates
their designs, that she laughs at their efforts, that profound wisdom
delights to bewilder the minds of mortals? But, shall we put confidence in
a malignant Providence, who laughs at, and sports with mankind? How will
one admire the unknown ways of a hidden wisdom, whose manner of acting is
inexplicable? Judge of it by effects, you will say. We do; and find, that
these effects are sometimes useful, and sometimes hurtful.

Men think they justify Providence, by saying, that, in this world, there
is much more good than evil to every individual of mankind. Supposing the
good, we enjoy from Providence, is to the evil, as a _hundred to ten_;
will it not still follow, that, for a hundred degrees of goodness,
Providence possesses ten of malignity; which is incompatible with the
supposed perfection of the divine nature.

Almost all books are filled with the most flattering praises of
Providence, whose attentive care is highly extolled. It would seem as
if man, to live happily here below, needed not his own exertions. Yet,
without his own labour, man could subsist hardly a day. To live, he is
obliged to sweat, toil, hunt, fish, and labour without intermission.
Without these second causes, the first cause, at least in most countries,
would provide for none of our wants. In all parts of the globe, we see
savage and civilized man in a perpetual struggle with Providence. He is
necessitated to ward off the strokes directed against him by Providence,
in hurricanes, tempests, frosts, hail-storms, inundations, droughts, and
the various accidents, which so often render useless all his labours. In a
word, we see man continually occupied in guarding against the ill offices
of that Providence, which is supposed to be attentive to his happiness.

A bigot admired divine Providence for wisely ordering rivers to pass
through those places, where men have built large cities. Is not this man's
reasoning as rational, as that of many learned men, who incessantly
talk of _final causes_, or who pretend that they clearly perceive the
beneficent views of God in the formation of all things?



53.

Do we see then, that Providence so very sensibly manifests herself in the
preservation of those admirable works, which we attribute to her? If it
is she, who governs the world, we find her as active in destroying, as
in forming; in exterminating, as in producing. Does she not every moment
destroy, by thousands, the very men, to whose preservation and welfare
we suppose her continually attentive? Every moment she loses sight of
her beloved creature. Sometimes she shakes his dwelling, sometimes she
annihilates his harvests, sometimes she inundates his fields, sometimes
she desolates them by a burning drought. She arms all nature against man.
She arms man himself against his own species, and commonly terminates his
existence in anguish. Is this then what is called preserving the universe?

If we could view, without prejudice, the equivocal conduct of Providence
towards the human race and all sensible beings, we should find, that far
from resembling a tender and careful mother, she resembles rather those
unnatural mothers, who instantly forgetting the unfortunates of their
licentious love, abandon their infants, as soon as they are born, and who,
content with having borne them, expose them, helpless, to the caprice of
fortune.

The Hottentots, in this respect are much wiser than other nations, who
treat them as barbarians, and refuse to worship God; because, they
say, _if he often does good, he often does evil_. Is not this manner of
reasoning more just and conformable to experience, than that of many men,
who are determined to see, in their God, nothing but goodness, wisdom, and
foresight, and who refuse to see that the innumerable evils, of which this
world is the theatre, must come from the same hand, which they kiss with
delight?



54.

Common sense teaches, that we cannot, and ought not, to judge of a cause,
but by its effects. A cause can be reputed constantly good, only when it
constantly produces good. A cause, which produces both good and evil, is
sometimes good, and sometimes evil. But the logic of theology destroys all
this. According to that, the phenomena of nature, or the effects we behold
in this world, prove to us the existence of a cause infinitely good; and
this cause is God. Although this world is full of evils; although disorder
often reigns in it; although men incessantly repine at their hard fate;
we must be convinced, that these effects are owing to a beneficent and
immutable cause; and many people believe it, or feign believe.

Every thing that passes in the world, proves to us, in the clearest
manner, that it is not governed by an intelligent being. We can judge of
the intelligence of a being only by the conformity of the means, which he
employs to attain his proposed object. The object of God, is the happiness
of a man. Yet, a like necessity governs the fate of all sensible beings,
who are born only to suffer much, enjoy little, and die. The cup of man
is filled with joy and bitterness; good is every where attended with evil;
order gives place to disorder; generation is followed by destruction.
If you say, that the designs of God are mysterious and that his ways are
impenetrable; I answer, that, in this case, it is impossible to judge
whether God be intelligent.



55.

You pretend, that God is immutable! What then produces a continual
instability in this world, which you make his empire? Is there a state,
subject to more frequent and cruel revolutions, than that of this unknown
monarch? How can we attribute to an immutable God, sufficiently powerful
to give solidity to his works, a government, in which every thing is in
continual vicissitude? If I imagine I see a God of uniform character in
all the effects favourable to my species, what kind of a God can I see in
their continual misfortunes? You tell me, it is our sins, which compel
him to punish. I answer, that God, according to yourselves, is then not
immutable, since the sins of men force him to change his conduct towards
them. Can a being, who is sometimes provoked, and sometimes appeased, be
constantly the same?



56.

The universe can be only what it is; all sensible beings in it enjoy and
suffer; that is, are moved sometimes in an agreeable, and sometimes in a
disagreeable manner. These effects are necessary; they result necessarily
from causes, which act only according to their properties. These effects
necessarily please, or displease, by a consequence of nature. This same
nature compels me to avoid, avert, and resist some things, and to seek,
desire, and procure others. In a world, where every thing is necessary,
a God, who remedies nothing, who leaves things to run in their necessary
course,--is he any thing but destiny, or necessity personified? It is a
deaf and useless God, who can effect no change in general laws, to which
he is himself subject. Of what importance is the infinite power of a
being, who will do but very little in my favour? Where is the infinite
goodness of a being, indifferent to happiness? Of what service is the
favour of a being, who, is able to do an infinite good, does not do even a
finite one?



57.

When we ask, why so many miserable objects appear under the government of
a good God, we are told, by way of consolation, that the present world
is only a passage, designed to conduct man to a happier one. The divines
assure us, that the earth we inhabit, is a state of trial. In short, they
shut our mouths, by saying, that God could communicate to his creatures
neither impossibility nor infinite happiness, which are reserved for
himself alone. Can such answers be satisfactory? 1st. The existence of
another life is guaranteed to us only by the imagination of man, who,
by supposing it, have only realized the desire they have of surviving
themselves, in order to enjoy hereafter a purer and more durable
happiness. 2ndly. How can we conceive that a God, who knows every thing,
and must be fully acquainted with the dispositions of his creatures,
should want so many experiments, in order to be sure of their
dispositions? 3rdly. According to the calculations of their chronologists,
our earth has existed six or seven thousand years. During that time,
nations have experienced calamities. History exhibits the human species
at all times tormented and ravaged by tyrants, conquerors, and heroes; by
wars, inundations, famines, plagues, etc. Are such long trials then likely
to inspire us with very great confidence in the secret views of the Deity?
Do such numerous and constant evils give a very exalted idea of the
future state, his goodness is preparing for us? 4thly. If God is so kindly
disposed, as he is asserted to be, without giving men infinite happiness,
could he not at least have communicated the degree of happiness, of which
finite beings are susceptible here below? To be happy, must we have an
_infinite_ or _divine_ happiness? 5thly. If God could not make men happier
than they are here below, what will become of the hope of a _paradise_,
where it is pretended, that the elect will for ever enjoy ineffable
bliss? If God neither could nor would avert evil from the earth, the only
residence we can know, what reason have we to presume, that he can or
will avert evil from another world, of which we have no idea? Epicurus
observed: "either God would remove evil out of this world, and cannot; or
he can, and will not; or he has neither the power nor will; or, lastly, he
has both the power and will. If he has the will, and not the power, this
shews weakness, which is contrary to the nature of God. If he has the
power, and not the will, it is malignity; and this is no less contrary
to his nature. If he is neither able nor willing, he is both impotent and
malignant, and consequently cannot be God. If he be both willing and able
(which alone is consonant to the nature of God) whence comes evil, or
why does he not prevent it?" Reflecting minds are still waiting for a
reasonable solution of these difficulties; and our divines tell us, that
they will be removed only in a future life.



58.

We are told of a pretended _scale of beings_. It is supposed, that God
has divided his creatures into different classes, in which each enjoys
the degree of happiness, of which it is susceptible. According to this
romantic arrangement, from the oyster to the celestial angels, all
beings enjoy a happiness, which is suitable to their nature. Experience
explicitly contradicts this sublime reverie. In this world, all sensible
beings suffer and live in the midst of dangers. Man cannot walk without
hurting, tormenting, or killing a multitude of sensible beings, which are
in his way; while he himself is exposed, at every step, to a multitude of
evils, foreseen or unforeseen, which may lead him to destruction. During
the whole course of his life, he is exposed to pains; he is not sure, a
moment, of his existence, to which he is so strongly attached, and which
he regards as the greatest gift of the Divinity.



59.

The world, it will be said, has all the perfection, of which it is
susceptible: since it is not God who made it, it must have great qualities
and great defects. But we answer, that, as the world must necessarily have
great defects, it would have been more conformable to the nature of a
good God, not to have created a world, which he could not make completely
happy. If God was supremely happy, before the creation of the world, and
could have continued to be supremely happy, without creating the world,
why did he not remain at rest? Why must man suffer? Why must man exist? Of
what importance is his existence to God? Nothing, or something? If man's
existence is not useful or necessary to God, why did God make man? If
man's existence is necessary to God's glory, he had need of man; he was
deficient in something before man existed. We can pardon an unskilful
workman for making an imperfect work; because he must work, well or ill,
upon penalty of starving. This workman is excusable, but God is not.
According to you, he is self-sufficient; if so, why does he make men? He
has, you say, every thing requisite to make man happy. Why then does he
not do it? Confess, that your God has more malice than goodness, unless
you admit, that God, was necessitated to do what he has done, without
being able to do it otherwise. Yet, you assure us, that God is free. You
say also, that he is immutable, although it was in _Time_ that he began
and ceased to exercise his power, like the inconstant beings of this
world. O theologians! Vain are your efforts to free your God from defects.
This perfect God has always some human imperfections.



60.

"Is not God master of his favours? Can he not give them? Can he not take
them away? It does not belong to his creatures to require reasons for
his conduct. He can dispose of the works of his own hands as he pleases.
Absolute sovereign of mortals, he distributes happiness or misery,
according to his good pleasure." Such are the solutions given by
theologians to console us for the evils which God inflicts upon us.
We reply, that a God, who is infinitely good, cannot be _master of his
favours_, but would by his nature be obliged to bestow them upon his
creatures; that a being, truly beneficent, cannot refrain from doing good;
that a being, truly generous, does not take back what he has given; and
that every man, who does so, dispenses with gratitude, and has no right to
complain of finding ungrateful men.

How can the odd and capricious conduct, which theologians ascribe to
God, be reconciled with religion, which supposes a covenant, or mutual
engagements between God and men? If God owes nothing to his creatures,
they, on their part, can owe nothing to their God. All religion is founded
upon the happiness that men think they have a right to expect from the
Deity, who is supposed to say to them: _Love me, adore me, obey me: and I
will make you happy_. Men, on their part, say to him: _Make us happy, be
faithful to your promises, and we will love you, we will adore you,
and obey your laws_. By neglecting the happiness of his creatures,
distributing his favours according to his caprice, and retracting his
gifts, does not God break the covenant, which serves as the basis of all
religion? Cicero has justly observed, that _if God is not agreeable to
man, he cannot be his God_. Goodness constitutes deity; this goodness can
be manifested to man only by the blessings he enjoys; as soon as he is
unhappy, this goodness disappears, and with it the divinity. An infinite
goodness can be neither limited, partial, nor exclusive. If God be
infinitely good, he owes happiness to all his creatures. The unhappiness
of a single being would suffice to annihilate unbounded goodness. Under an
infinitely good and powerful God, is it possible to conceive that a single
man should suffer? One animal, or mite, that suffers, furnishes invincible
arguments against divine providence and its infinite goodness.



61.

According to theology, the afflictions and evils of this life are
chastisements, which guilty men incur from the hand of God. But why are
men guilty? If God is omnipotent, does it cost him more to say: "Let every
thing in the world be in order; let all my subjects be good, innocent, and
fortunate," than to say: "Let every thing exist"? Was it more difficult
for this God to do his work well, than badly? Religion tells us of a
hell; that is, a frightful abode, where, notwithstanding his goodness,
God reserves infinite torments for the majority of men. Thus after having
rendered mortals very unhappy in this world, religion tells them, that God
can render them still more unhappy in another! The theologian gets over
this, by saying, that the goodness of God will then give place to his
justice. But a goodness, which gives place to the most terrible cruelty,
is not an infinite goodness. Besides, can a God, who, after having been
infinitely good, becomes infinitely bad, be regarded as an immutable
being? Can we discern the shadow of clemency or goodness, in a God filled
with implacable fury?



62.

Divine justice, as stated by our divines, is undoubtedly a quality very
proper to cherish in us the love of the Divinity. According to the ideas
of modern theology, it is evident, that God has created the majority of
men, with the sole view of putting them in a fair way to incur eternal
punishment. Would it not have been more conformable to goodness, reason,
and equity, to have created only stones or plants, and not to have created
sensible beings; than to have formed men, whose conduct in this world
might subject them to endless punishment in the other? A God perfidious
and malicious enough to create a single man, and then to abandon him to
the danger of being damned, cannot be regarded as a perfect being; but
as an unreasonable, unjust, and ill-natured. Very far from composing
a perfect God, theologians have formed the most imperfect of beings.
According to theological notions, God would resemble a tyrant, who, having
put out the eyes of the greater part of his slaves, should shut them up
in a dungeon, where, for his amusement, he would, incognito, observe their
conduct through a trap-door, in order to punish with rigour all those,
who, while walking about, should hit against each other; but who would
magnificently reward the few whom he had not deprived of sight, in
avoiding to run against their comrades. Such are the ideas, which the
dogma of gratuitous predestination gives us of the divinity!

Although men are continually repeating that their God is infinitely good;
yet it is evident, that in reality, they can believe nothing of the
kind. How can we love what we do not know? How can we love a being, whose
character is only fit to throw us into inquietude and trouble? How can we
love a being, of whom all that is said tends to render him an object of
utter detestation?



63.

Many people make a subtle distinction between true religion and
superstition. They say, that the latter is only a base and inordinate fear
of the Deity; but that the truly religious man has confidence in his God,
and loves him sincerely; whereas, the superstitious man sees in him only
an enemy, has no confidence in him, and represents him to himself as
a distrustful, cruel tyrant, sparing of his benefits, lavish of his
chastisements. But, in reality, does not all religion give us the same
ideas of God? At the same time that we are told, that God is infinitely
good, are we not also told, that he is very easily provoked, that he
grants his favours to a few people only, and that he furiously chastises
those, to whom he has not been pleased to grant favours?



64.

If we take our ideas of God from the nature of things, where we find a
mixture of good and evil, this God, just like the good and evil of which
we experience, must naturally appear capricious, inconstant, sometimes
good, and sometimes malevolent; and therefore, instead of exciting our
love, must generate distrust, fear, and uncertainty. There is then no
real difference between natural religion, and the most gloomy and servile
superstition. If the theist sees God only in a favourable light; the bigot
views him in the most hideous light. The folly of the one is cheerful,
that of the other is melancholy; but both are equally delirious.



65.

If I draw my ideas of God from theology, he appears to inspire aversion.
Devotees, who tell us, that they sincerely love their God, are either
liars or fools, who see their God only in profile. It is impossible to
love a being, the very idea of whom strikes us with terror, and whose
judgments make us tremble. How can we, without being alarmed, look upon
a God, who is reputed to be barbarous enough to damn us? Let not divines
talk to us of a filial, or respectful fear, mixed with love, which men
ought to have for their God. A son can by no means love his father, when
he knows him to be cruel enough to inflict upon him studied torments for
the least faults he may commit. No man upon earth can have the least spark
of love for a God, who reserves chastisements, infinite in duration and
violence, for ninety-nine hundredths of his children.



66.

The inventors of the dogma of eternal hell-torments have made of that God,
whom they call so good, the most detestable of beings. Cruelty in men is
the last act of wickedness. Every sensible mind must revolt at the bare
recital of the torments, inflicted on the greatest criminal; but cruelty
is much more apt to excite indignation, when void of motives. The most
sanguinary tyrants, the Caligulas, the Neros, the Domitians, had, at
least, some motives for tormenting their victims. These motives were,
either their own safety, or the fury of revenge, or the design of
frightening by terrible examples, or perhaps the vanity of making
a display of their power, and the desire of satisfying a barbarous
curiosity. Can a God have any of these motives? In tormenting the victims
of his wrath, he would punish beings, who could neither endanger his
immoveable power, nor disturb his unchangeable felicity. On the other
hand, the punishments of the other life would be useless to the living,
who cannot be witnesses of them. These punishments would be useless to the
damned, since in hell there is no longer room for conversion, and the
time of mercy is past. Whence it follows, that God, in the exercise of
his eternal vengeance, could have no other end than to amuse himself,
and insult the weakness of his creatures. I appeal to the whole human
race;--is there a man who feels cruel enough coolly to torment, I do
not say his fellow-creature, but any sensible being whatever, without
emolument, without profit, without curiosity, without having any thing
to fear? Confess then, O theologians, that, even according to your own
principles, your God is infinitely more malevolent than the worst of men.

Perhaps you will say, that infinite offences deserve infinite punishments.
I answer, that we cannot offend a God, whose happiness is infinite; that
the offences of finite beings cannot be infinite; that a God, who
is unwilling to be offended, cannot consent that the offences of his
creatures should be eternal; that a God, infinitely good, can neither be
infinitely cruel, nor grant his creatures an infinite duration, solely for
the pleasure of eternal torments.

Nothing but the most savage barbarity, the most egregious roguery, or the
blindest ambition could have imagined the doctrine of eternal punishments.
If there is a God, whom we can offend or blaspheme, there are not upon
earth greater blasphemers than those, who dare to say, that this same God
is a tyrant, perverse enough to delight, during eternity, in the useless
torments of his feeble creatures.



67.

To pretend, that God can be offended at the actions of men, is to
annihilate all the ideas, which divines endeavour to give us, in other
respects, of this being. To say, that man can trouble the order of the
universe; that he can kindle the thunder in the hands of his God; that
he can defeat his projects, is to say, that man is stronger than his God,
that he is the arbiter of his will, that it depends upon him to change
his goodness into cruelty. Theology continually pulls down, with one hand,
what it erects with the other. If all religion is founded upon a God,
who is provoked and appeased, all religion is founded on a palpable
contradiction.

All religions agree in exalting the wisdom and infinite power of the
Deity. But no sooner do they display his conduct, than we see nothing
but imprudence, want of foresight, weakness and folly. God, it is said,
created the world for himself; and yet, hitherto, he has never been able
to make himself suitably honoured by it. God created men in order to have,
in his dominions, subjects to render him their homage; and yet, we see men
in continual revolt against him.



68.

They incessantly extol the divine perfections; and when we demand
proofs of them, they point to his works, in which, they assure us, these
perfections are written in indelible characters. All these works are,
however, imperfect and perishable. Man, who is ever regarded as the
most marvellous work, as the master-piece of the Deity, is full of
imperfections, which render him disagreeable to the eyes of the almighty
Being, who formed him. This surprising work often becomes so revolting and
odious to its author, that he is obliged to throw it into the fire. But,
if the fairest of God's works is imperfect, how can we judge of the
divine perfections? Can a work, with which the author himself is so little
pleased, induce us to admire the ability of its Maker? Man, considered
in a physical sense, is subject to a thousand infirmities, to numberless
evils, and to death. Man, considered in a moral sense, is full of faults;
yet we are unceasingly told, that he is the most beautiful work of the
most perfect of beings.



69.

In creating beings more perfect than men, it appears, that heretofore God
has not better succeeded, nor given stronger proofs of his perfection.
Do we not see, in many religions, that angels, have even attempted to
dethrone him? God proposed the happiness of angels and men; yet, he has
never been able to render happy either angels or men;--the pride, malice,
sins, and imperfections of the creatures have always opposed the will of
the perfect Creator.



70.

All religion is obviously founded upon this principle, that _God does what
he can, and man what he will_. Every system of religion presents to us
an unequal combat between the Deity on one part, and his creatures on the
other, in which the former never comes off to his honour. Notwithstanding
his omnipotence, he cannot succeed in rendering the works of his hands
such as he would have them. To complete the absurdity, there is a
religion, which pretends, that God himself has died to redeem mankind; and
yet, men are not farther from any thing, than they are from what God would
have them.



71.

Nothing is more extravagant, than the part, theology makes the Divinity
act in every country. Did he really exist, we should see in him the most
capricious, and senseless being. We should be compelled to believe, that
God made the world only to be the theatre of his disgraceful wars with
his creatures; that he created angels, men, and demons, only to make
adversaries, against whom he might exercise his power. He renders men free
to offend him, malicious enough to defeat his projects, too obstinate to
submit; and all this merely for the pleasure of being angry, appeased,
reconciled, and of repairing the disorder they have made. Had the Deity at
once formed his creatures such as he would have them, what pains would he
not have spared himself, or, at least, from what embarrassments would he
not have relieved his theologians!

Every religion represents God as busy only in doing himself evil. He
resembles those empirics, who inflict upon themselves wounds, to have an
opportunity of exhibiting to the public the efficacy of their ointment.
But we see not, that the Deity has hitherto been able radically to cure
himself of the evil, which he suffers from man.



72.

God is the author of all; and yet, we are assured that evil does not come
from God. Whence then does it come? From man. But, who made man? God. Evil
then comes from God. If he had not made man as he is, moral evil or sin
would not have existed in the world. The perversity of man is therefore
chargeable to God. If man has power to do evil, or to offend God, we are
forced to infer, that God chooses to be offended; that God, who made man,
has resolved that man shall do evil; otherwise man would be an effect
contrary to the cause, from which he derives his being.



73.

Man ascribes to God the faculty of foreseeing, or knowing beforehand
whatever will happen; but this prescience seldom turns to his glory,
nor protects him from the lawful reproaches of man. If God foreknows
the future, must he not have foreseen the fall of his creatures? If he
resolved in his decrees to permit this fall, it is undoubtedly because it
was his will that this fall should take place, otherwise it could not have
happened. If God's foreknowledge of the sins of his creatures had been
necessary or forced, one might suppose, that he has been constrained by
his justice to punish the guilty; but, enjoying the faculty of foreseeing,
and the power of predetermining every thing, did it not depend upon God
not to impose upon himself cruel laws, or, at least, could he not dispense
with creating beings, whom he might be under the necessity of punishing,
and rendering unhappy by a subsequent decree? Of what consequence is it,
whether God has destined men to happiness or misery by an anterior decree,
an effect of his prescience, or by a posterior decree, an effect of
his justice? Does the arrangement of his decrees alter the fate of the
unhappy? Would they not have the same right to complain of a God, who,
being able to omit their creation, has notwithstanding created them,
although he plainly foresaw that his justice would oblige him, sooner or
later, to punish them?



74.

"Man," you say, "when he came from the hand of God, was pure, innocent,
and good; but his nature has been corrupted, as a punishment for sin."
If man, when just out of the hands of his God, could sin, his nature was
imperfect. Why did God suffer him to sin, and his nature to be corrupted?
Why did God permit him to be seduced, well knowing that he was too feeble
to resist temptation? Why did God create _satan_, an evil spirit, a
tempter? Why did not God, who wishes so much good to the human race,
annihilate once for all so many evil genii, who are naturally enemies of
our happiness; or rather, why did God create evil spirits, whose victories
and fatal influence over mankind, he must have foreseen? In fine, by what
strange fatality in all religions of the world, has the evil principle
such a decided advantage over the good principle, or the divinity?



75.

There is related an instance of simplicity, which does honour to the heart
of an Italian monk. One day, while preaching, this pious man thought
he must announce to his audience, that he had, thank heaven, at last
discovered, by dint of meditation, a sure way of rendering all men happy.
"The devil," said he, "tempts men only to have in hell companions of his
misery. Let us therefore apply to the Pope, who has the keys of heaven
and hell; let us prevail upon him to pray to God, at the head of the whole
church, to consent to a reconciliation with the devil, to restore him to
favour, to reinstate him in his former rank, which cannot fail to put an
end to his malicious projects against mankind." Perhaps the honest monk
did not see, that the devil is at least as useful as God to the ministers
of religion. They have too much interest in their dissensions, to be
instrumental in an accommodation between two enemies, upon whose combats
their own existence and revenues depend. Let men cease to be tempted
and to sin, and the ministry of priests will be useless. Manicheism is
evidently the hinge of every religion; but unhappily, the devil, invented
to clear the deity from the suspicion of malice, proves to us, every
moment, the impotence or unskilfulness of his celestial adversary.



76.

The nature of man, it is said, was necessarily liable to corruption. God
could not communicate to him _impeccability_, which is an inalienable
attribute of his divine perfection. But if God could not make man
impeccable, why did he give himself the pains to make man, whose nature
must necessarily be corrupted, and who must consequently offend God? On
the other hand, if God himself could not make human nature impeccable, by
what right does he punish men for not being impeccable? It can be only
by the right of the strongest; but the right of the strongest is called
violence, and violence cannot be compatible with the justest of beings.
God would be supremely unjust, should he punish men for not sharing with
him his divine perfections, or for not being able to be gods like him.

Could not God, at least, have communicated to all men that kind of
perfection, of which their nature is susceptible? If some men are good,
or render themselves agreeable to their God, why has not that God done the
same favour, or given the same dispositions to all beings of our species?
Why does the number of the wicked so much exceed the number of the good?
Why, for one friend, has God ten thousand enemies, in a world, which it
depended entirely upon him to people with honest men? If it be true, that,
in heaven, God designs to form a court of saints, of elect, or of men who
shall have lived upon earth conformably to his views, would he not have
had a more numerous, brilliant, and honourable assembly, had he composed
it of all men, to whom, in creating them, he could grant the degree of
goodness, necessary to attain eternal happiness? Finally, would it not
have been shorter not to have made man, than to have created him a being
full of faults, rebellious to his creator, perpetually exposed to cause
his own destruction by a fatal abuse of his liberty?

Instead of creating men, a perfect God ought to have created only angels
very docile and submissive. Angels, it is said, are free; some have
sinned; but, at any rate, all have not abused their liberty by revolting
against their master. Could not God have created only angels of the good
kind? If God has created angels, who have not sinned, could he not have
created impeccable men, or men who should never abuse their liberty? If
the elect are incapable of sinning in heaven, could not God have made
impeccable men upon earth?



77.

Divines never fail to persuade us, that the enormous distance which
separates God and man, necessarily renders the conduct of God a mystery
to us, and that we have no right to interrogate our master. Is this answer
satisfactory? Since my eternal happiness is at stake, have I not a right
to examine the conduct of God himself? It is only in hope of happiness
that men submit to the authority of a God. A despot, to whom men submit
only through fear, a master, whom they cannot interrogate, a sovereign
totally inaccessible, can never merit the homage of intelligent beings.
If the conduct of God is a mystery, it is not made for us. Man can neither
adore, admire, respect, nor imitate conduct, in which every thing is
inconceivable, or, of which he can often form only revolting ideas; unless
it is pretended, that we ought to adore every thing of which we are forced
to be ignorant, and that every thing, which we do not know, becomes for
that reason an object of admiration. Divines! You never cease telling us,
that the designs of God are impenetrable; that _his ways are not our
ways, nor his thoughts our thoughts_; that it is absurd to complain of
his administration, of the motives and springs of which we are totally
ignorant; that it is presumption to tax his judgments with injustice,
because we cannot comprehend them. But when you speak in this strain, do
you not perceive, that you destroy with your own hands all your profound
systems, whose only end is to explain to us the ways of the divinity,
which, you say, are impenetrable? Have you penetrated his judgments, his
ways, his designs? You dare not assert it, and though you reason about
them without end, you do not comprehend them any more than we do. If, by
chance, you know the plan of God, which you wish us to admire, while
most people find it so little worthy of a just, good, intelligent, and
reasonable being, no longer say, this plan is impenetrable. If you are as
ignorant of it as we are, have some indulgence for those who ingenuously
confess, they comprehend nothing in it, or that they see in it nothing
divine. Cease to persecute for opinions, of which you understand nothing
yourselves; cease to defame each other for dreams and conjectures, which
every thing seems to contradict. Talk to us of things intelligible and
really useful to men; and no longer talk to us of the impenetrable ways of
God, about which you only stammer and contradict yourselves.

By continually speaking of the immense depths of divine wisdom, forbidding
us to sound them, saying it is insolence to cite God before the tribunal
of our feeble reason, making it a crime to judge our master, divines
teach us nothing but the embarrassment they are in, when it is required to
account for the conduct of a God, whose conduct they think marvellous only
because they are utterly incapable of comprehending it themselves.



78.

Physical evil is commonly regarded as a punishment for sin. Diseases,
famines, wars, earthquakes, are means which God uses to chastise wicked
men. Thus, they make no scruple of attributing these evils to the severity
of a just and good God. But, do not these scourges fall indiscriminately
upon the good and bad, upon the impious and devout, upon the innocent and
guilty? How, in this proceeding, would they have us admire the justice
and goodness of a being, the idea of whom seems comforting to so many
wretches, whose brain must undoubtedly be disordered by their misfortunes,
since they forget, that their God is the arbiter, the sole disposer of the
events of this world. This being the case, ought they not to impute their
sufferings to him, into whose arms they fly for comfort? Unfortunate
father! Thou consolest thyself in the bosom of Providence, for the loss of
a dear child, or beloved wife, who made thy happiness. Alas! Dost thou not
see, that thy God has killed them? Thy God has rendered thee miserable,
and thou desirest thy God to comfort thee for the dreadful afflictions he
has sent thee!

The chimerical or supernatural notions of theology have so succeeded in
destroying, in the minds of men, the most simple, dear, and natural ideas,
that the devout, unable to accuse God of malice, accustom themselves to
regard the several strokes of fate as indubitable proofs of celestial
goodness. When in affliction, they are ordered to believe that God loves
them, that God visits them, that God wishes to try them. Thus religion has
attained the art of converting evil into good! A profane person said with
reason--_If God Almighty thus treats those whom he loves, I earnestly
beseech him never to think of me_.

Men must have received very gloomy and cruel ideas of their God, who is
called so good, to believe that the most dreadful calamities and piercing
afflictions are marks of his favour! Would an evil genius, a demon,
be more ingenious in tormenting his enemies, than the God of goodness
sometimes is, who so often exercises his severity upon his dearest
friends?



79.

What shall we say of a father, who, we are assured, watches without
intermission over the preservation and happiness of his weak and
short-sighted children, and who yet leaves them at liberty to wander at
random among rocks, precipices, and waters; who rarely hinders them from
following their inordinate appetites; who permits them to handle, without
precaution, murderous arms, at the risk of their life? What should we
think of the same father, if, instead of imputing to himself the evil that
happens to his poor children, he should punish them for their wanderings
in the most cruel manner? We should say, with reason, that this father is
a madman, who unites injustice to folly. A God, who punishes faults, which
he could have prevented, is a being deficient in wisdom, goodness, and
equity. A foreseeing God would prevent evil, and thereby avoid having to
punish it. A good God would not punish weaknesses, which he knew to be
inherent in human nature. A just God, if he made man, would not punish
him for not being made strong enough to resist his desires. _To punish
weakness is the most unjust tyranny._ Is it not calumniating a just God,
to say, that he punishes men for their faults, even in the present life?
How could he punish beings, whom it belonged to him alone to reform, and
who, while they have not _grace_, cannot act otherwise than they do?

According to the principles of theologians themselves, man, in his present
state of corruption, can do nothing but evil, since, without divine grace,
he is never able to do good. Now, if the nature of man, left to itself,
or destitute of divine aid, necessarily determines him to evil, or renders
him incapable of good, what becomes of the free-will of man? According to
such principles, man can neither merit nor demerit. By rewarding man for
the good he does, God would only reward himself; by punishing man for the
evil he does, God would punish him for not giving him grace, without which
he could not possibly do better.



80.

Theologians repeatedly tell us, that man is free, while all their
principles conspire to destroy his liberty. By endeavouring to justify
the Divinity, they in reality accuse him of the blackest injustice. They
suppose, that without grace, man is necessitated to do evil. They affirm,
that God will punish him, because God has not given him grace to do good!

Little reflection will suffice to convince us, that man is necessitated
in all his actions, that his free will is a chimera, even in the system of
theologians. Does it depend upon man to be born of such or such parents?
Does it depend upon man to imbibe or not to imbibe the opinions of his
parents or instructors? If I had been born of idolatrous or Mahometan
parents, would it have depended upon me to become a Christian? Yet,
divines gravely assure us, that a just God will damn without pity all
those, to whom he has not given grace to know the Christian religion!

Man's birth is wholly independent of his choice. He is not asked whether
he is willing, or not, to come into the world. Nature does not consult
him upon the country and parents she gives him. His acquired ideas, his
opinions, his notions true or false, are necessary fruits of the education
which he has received, and of which he has not been the director. His
passions and desires are necessary consequences of the temperament given
him by nature. During his whole life, his volitions and actions are
determined by his connections, habits, occupations, pleasures, and
conversations; by the thoughts, that are involuntarily presented to his
mind; in a word, by a multitude of events and accidents, which it is out
of his power to foresee or prevent. Incapable of looking into futurity,
he knows not what he will do. From the instant of his birth to that of
his death, he is never free. You will say, that he wills, deliberates,
chooses, determines; and you will hence conclude, that his actions are
free. It is true, that man wills, but he is not master of his will or
his desires; he can desire and will only what he judges advantageous to
himself; he can neither love pain, nor detest pleasure. It will be
said, that he sometimes prefers pain to pleasure; but then he prefers
a momentary pain with a view of procuring a greater and more durable
pleasure. In this case, the prospect of a greater good necessarily
determines him to forego a less considerable good.

The lover does not give his mistress the features which captivate him; he
is not then master of loving, or not loving the object of his tenderness;
he is not master of his imagination or temperament. Whence it evidently
follows, that man is not master of his volitions and desires. "But man,"
you will say, "can resist his desires; therefore he is free." Man resists
his desires, when the motives, which divert him from an object, are
stronger than those, which incline him towards it; but then his resistance
is necessary. A man, whose fear of dishonour or punishment is greater than
his love of money, necessarily resists the desire of stealing.

"Are we not free, when we deliberate?" But, are we masters of knowing or
not knowing, of being in doubt or certainty? Deliberation is a necessary
effect of our uncertainty respecting the consequences of our actions. When
we are sure, or think we are sure, of these consequences, we necessarily
decide, and we then act necessarily according to our true or false
judgment. Our judgments, true or false, are not free; they are necessarily
determined by the ideas, we have received, or which our minds have formed.

Man is not free in his choice; he is evidently necessitated to choose what
he judges most useful and agreeable. Neither is he free, when he suspends
his choice; he is forced to suspend it until he knows, or thinks he knows,
the qualities of the objects presented to him, or, until he has weighed
the consequences of his actions. "Man," you will say, "often decides in
favour of actions, which he knows must be detrimental to himself; man
sometimes kills himself; therefore he is free." I deny it. Is man master
of reasoning well or ill? Do not his reason and wisdom depend upon the
opinions he has formed, or upon the conformation of his machine? As
neither one nor the other depends upon his will, they are no proof of
liberty. "If I lay a wager, that I shall do, or not do a thing, am I
not free? Does it not depend upon me to do it or not?" No, I answer; the
desire of winning the wager will necessarily determine you to do, or not
to do the thing in question. "But, supposing I consent to lose the wager?"
Then the desire of proving to me, that you are free, will have become a
stronger motive than the desire of winning the wager; and this motive
will have necessarily determined you to do, or not to do, the thing in
question.

"But," you will say, "I feel free." This is an illusion, that may be
compared to that of the fly in the fable, who, lighting upon the pole of
a heavy carriage, applauded himself for directing its course. Man, who
thinks himself free, is a fly, who imagines he has power to move the
universe, while he is himself unknowingly carried along by it.

The inward persuasion that we are free to do, or not to do a thing, is but
a mere illusion. If we trace the true principle of our actions, we shall
find, that they are always necessary consequences of our volitions and
desires, which are never in our power. You think yourself free, because
you do what you will; but are you free to will, or not to will; to desire,
or not to desire? Are not your volitions and desires necessarily excited
by objects or qualities totally independent of you?



81.

"If the actions of men are necessary, if men are not free, by what right
does society punish criminals? Is it not very unjust to chastise beings,
who could not act otherwise than they have done?" If the wicked act
necessarily according to the impulses of their evil nature, society,
in punishing them, acts necessarily by the desire of self-preservation.
Certain objects necessarily produce in us the sensation of pain; our
nature then forces us against them, and avert them from us. A tiger,
pressed by hunger, springs upon the man, whom he wishes to devour; but
this man is not master of his fear, and necessarily seeks means to destroy
the tiger.



82.

"If every thing be necessary, the errors, opinions, and ideas of men
are fatal; and, if so, how or why should we attempt to reform them?" The
errors of men are necessary consequences of ignorance. Their ignorance,
prejudice, and credulity are necessary consequences of their inexperience,
negligence, and want of reflection, in the same manner as delirium or
lethargy are necessary effects of certain diseases. Truth, experience,
reflection, and reason, are remedies calculated to cure ignorance,
fanaticism and follies. But, you will ask, why does not truth produce this
effect upon many disordered minds? It is because some diseases resist all
remedies; because it is impossible to cure obstinate patients, who refuse
the remedies presented to them; because the interest of some men, and the
folly of others, necessarily oppose the admission of truth.

A cause produces its effect only when its action is not interrupted by
stronger causes, which then weakens or render useless, the action of the
former. It is impossible that the best arguments should be adopted by men,
who are interested in error, prejudiced in its favour, and who decline all
reflection; but truth must necessarily undeceive honest minds, who seek
her sincerely. Truth is a cause; it necessarily produces its effects, when
its impulse is not intercepted by causes, which suspend its effects.



83.

"To deprive man of his free will," it is said, "makes him a mere machine,
an automaton. Without liberty, he will no longer have either merit or
virtue." What is merit in man? It is a manner of acting, which renders
him estimable in the eyes of his fellow-beings. What is virtue? It is a
disposition, which inclines us to do good to others. What can there be
contemptible in machines, or automatons, capable of producing effects so
desirable? Marcus Aurelius was useful to the vast Roman Empire. By what
right would a machine despise a machine, whose springs facilitate its
action? Good men are springs, which second society in its tendency to
happiness; the wicked are ill-formed springs, which disturb the order,
progress, and harmony of society. If, for its own utility, society
cherishes and rewards the good, it also harasses and destroys the wicked,
as useless or hurtful.



84.

The world is a necessary agent. All the beings, that compose it, are
united to each other, and cannot act otherwise than they do, so long as
they are moved by the same causes, and endued with the same properties.
When they lose properties, they will necessarily act in a different way.
God himself, admitting his existence, cannot be considered a free
agent. If there existed a God, his manner of acting would necessarily
be determined by the properties inherent in his nature; nothing would be
capable of arresting or altering his will. This being granted, neither our
actions, prayers, nor sacrifices could suspend, or change his invariable
conduct and immutable designs; whence we are forced to infer, that all
religion would be useless.



85.

Were not divines in perpetual contradiction with themselves, they would
see, that, according to their hypothesis, man cannot be reputed free an
instant. Do they not suppose man continually dependent on his God? Are we
free, when we cannot exist and be preserved without God, and when we cease
to exist at the pleasure of his supreme will? If God has made man out of
nothing; if his preservation is a continued creation; if God cannot, an
instant, lose sight of his creature; if whatever happens to him, is an
effect of the divine will; if man can do nothing of himself; if all the
events, which he experiences, are effects of the divine decrees; if he
does no good without grace from on high, how can they maintain, that a man
enjoys a moment's liberty? If God did not preserve him in the moment
of sin, how could man sin? If God then preserves him, God forces him to
exist, that he may sin.



86.

The Divinity is frequently compared to a king, whose revolted subjects are
the greater part of mankind; and it is said, he has a right to reward the
subjects who remain faithful to him, and to punish the rebellious. This
comparison is not just in any of its parts. God presides over a machine,
every spring of which he has created. These springs act agreeable to the
manner, in which God has formed them; he ought to impute it to his own
unskilfulness, if these springs do not contribute to the harmony of the
machine, into which it was his will to insert them. God is a created king,
who has created to himself subjects of every description; who has formed
them according to his own pleasure whose will can never find resistance.
If God has rebellious subjects in his empire, it is because God has
resolved to have rebellious subjects. If the sins of men disturb the order
of the world, it is because it is the will of God that this order should
be disturbed.

Nobody dares to call in question the divine justice; yet, under the
government of a just God, we see nothing but acts of injustice and
violence. Force decides the fate of nations, equity seems banished from
the earth; a few men sport, unpunished, with the peace, property, liberty,
and life of others. All is disorder in a world governed by a God who is
said to be infinitely displeased with disorder.



87.

Although men are for ever admiring the wisdom, goodness, justice, and
beautiful order of Providence, they are, in reality, never satisfied with
it. Do not the prayers, continually addressed to heaven, shew, that men
are by no means satisfied with the divine dispensations? To pray to God
for a favour, shews diffidence of his watchful care; to pray to him to
avert or put an end to an evil, is to endeavour to obstruct the course
of his justice; to implore the assistance of God in our calamities, is to
address the author himself of these calamities, to represent to him, that
he ought, for our sake, to rectify his plan, which does not accord with
our interest.

The Optimist, or he who maintains that _all is well_, and who incessantly
cries that we live in _the best world possible_, to be consistent, should
never pray; neither ought he to expect another world, where man will be
happier. Can there be a better world than _the best world possible_? Some
theologians have treated the Optimists as impious, for having intimated
that God could not produce a better world, than that in which we live.
According to these doctors, it is to limit the power of God, and to
offer him insult. But do not these divines see, that it shews much less
indignity to God, to assert that he has done his best in producing this
world, than to say, that, being able to produce a better, he has had
malice enough to produce a very bad one? If the Optimist, by his system,
detracts from the divine power, the theologian, who treats him as a
blasphemer, is himself a blasphemer, who offends the goodness of God in
espousing the cause of his omnipotence.



88.

When we complain of the evils, of which our world is the theatre, we are
referred to the other world, where it is said, God will make reparation
for all the iniquity and misery, which, for a time, he permits here below.
But if God, suffering his eternal justice to remain at rest for a long
time, could consent to evil during the whole continuance of our present
world, what assurance have we, that, during the continuance of another
world, divine justice will not, in like manner, sleep over the misery of
its inhabitants?

The divines console us for our sufferings by saying, that God is patient,
and that his justice, though often slow, is not the less sure. But do
they not see, that patience is incompatible with a just, immutable, and
omnipotent being? Can God then permit injustice, even for an instant? To
temporize with a known evil, announces either weakness, uncertainty,
or collusion. To tolerate evil, when one has power to prevent it, is to
consent to the commission of evil.



89.

Divines every where exclaim, that God is infinitely just; but that _his
justice is not the justice of man_. Of what kind or nature then is
this divine justice? What idea can I form of a justice, which so often
resembles injustice? Is it not to confound all ideas of just and unjust,
to say, that what is equitable in God is iniquitous in his creatures?
How can we receive for our model a being, whose divine perfections are
precisely the reverse of human?

"God," it is said, "is sovereign arbiter of our destinies. His supreme
power, which nothing can limit, justly permits him to do with the works
of his own hands according to his good pleasure. A worm, like man, has no
right even to complain." This arrogant style is evidently borrowed from
the language, used by the ministers of tyrants, when they stop the mouths
of those who suffer from their violences. It cannot then be the language
of the ministers of a God, whose equity is highly extolled; it is not made
to be imposed upon a being, who reasons. Ministers of a just God! I will
inform you then, that the greatest power cannot confer upon your God
himself the right of being unjust even to the vilest of his creatures. A
despot is not a God. A God, who arrogates to himself the right of doing
evil, is a tyrant; a tyrant is not a model for men; he must be an object
execrable to their eyes.

Is it not indeed strange, that in order to justify the Divinity, they make
him every moment the most unjust of beings! As soon as we complain of his
conduct, they think to silence us by alleging, that _God is master_; which
signifies, that God, being the strongest, is not bound by ordinary rules.
But the right of the strongest is the violation of all rights. It seems
right only to the eyes of a savage conqueror, who in the heat of his fury
imagines, that he may do whatever he pleases with the unfortunate victims,
whom he has conquered. This barbarous right can appear legitimate only to
slaves blind enough to believe that everything is lawful to tyrants whom
they feel too weak to resist.

In the greatest calamities, do not devout persons, through a ridiculous
simplicity, or rather a sensible contradiction in terms, exclaim, that
_the Almighty is master_. Thus, inconsistent reasoners, believe, that the
_Almighty_ (a Being, one of whose first attributes is goodness,) sends you
pestilence, war, and famine! You believe that the _Almighty_, this good
being, has the will and right to inflict the greatest evils, you can bear!
Cease, at least, to call your God _good_, when he does you evil; say not,
that he is just, say that he is the strongest, and that it is impossible
for you to ward off the blows of his caprice.

_God_, say you, _chastises only for our good_. But what real good can
result to a people from being exterminated by the plague, ravaged by wars,
corrupted by the examples of perverse rulers, continually crushed under
the iron sceptre of a succession of merciless tyrants, annihilated by the
scourges of a bad government, whose destructive effects are often felt for
ages? If chastisements are good, then they cannot have too much of a good
thing! _The eyes of faith_ must be strange eyes, if with them they see
advantages in the most dreadful calamities, in the vices and follies with
which our species are afflicted.



90.

What strange ideas of divine justice must Christians have, who are taught
to believe, that their God, in view of reconciling to himself the human
race, guilty, though unconscious, of the sin of their fathers, has put to
death his own son, who was innocent and incapable of sinning? What should
we say of a king, whose subjects should revolt, and who, to appease
himself, should find no other expedient than to put to death the heir of
his crown, who had not participated in the general rebellion? "It is,"
the Christian will say, "through goodness to his subjects, unable of
themselves to satisfy divine justice, that God has consented to the cruel
death of his son." But the goodness of a father to strangers does not
give him the right of being unjust and barbarous to his own son. All
the qualities, which theology ascribes to God, reciprocally destroy one
another. The exercise of one of his perfections is always at the expense
of the exercise of another.

Has the Jew more rational ideas of divine justice than the Christian?
The pride of a king kindles the anger of heaven; _Jehovah_ causes the
pestilence to descend upon his innocent people; seventy thousand subjects
are exterminated to expiate the fault of a monarch, whom the goodness of
God resolved to spare.



91.

Notwithstanding the various acts of injustice, with which all religions
delight to blacken the Divinity, men cannot consent to accuse him of
iniquity. They fear, that, like the tyrants of this world, truth will
offend him, and redouble upon them the weight of his malice and tyranny.
They hearken therefore to their priests, who tell them, that their God
is a tender father; that this God is an equitable monarch whose object in
this world is to assure himself of the love, obedience and respect of
his subjects; who gives them liberty of acting only to afford them
an opportunity of meriting his favours, and of acquiring an eternal
happiness, which he does not owe them. By what signs can men discover
the tenderness of a father, who has given life to the greater part of his
children merely to drag out upon the earth a painful, restless, bitter
existence? Is there a more unfortunate present, than that pretended
liberty, which, we are told, men are very liable to abuse, and thereby to
incur eternal misery?



92.

By calling mortals to life, what a cruel and dangerous part has not the
Deity forced them to act? Thrown into the world without their consent,
provided with a temperament of which they are not masters, animated by
passions and desires inherent in their nature, exposed to snares which
they have not power to escape, hurried away by events which they could not
foresee or prevent, unhappy mortals are compelled to run a career, which
may lead them to punishments horrible in duration and violence.

Travellers inform us, that, in Asia, a Sultan reigned, full of fantastical
ideas, and very absolute in his whims. By a strange madness, this prince
spent his time seated at a table, upon which were placed three dice and a
dice-box. One end of the table was covered with pieces of silver, designed
to excite the avarice of his courtiers and people. He, knowing the
foible of his subjects, addresses them as follows: _Slaves, I wish your
happiness. My goodness proposes to enrich you, and make you all happy. Do
you see these treasures? Well, they are for you; strive to gain them; let
each, in his turn, take the box and dice; whoever has the fortune to throw
sixes, shall be master of the treasure. But, I forewarn you, that he who
has not the happiness to throw the number required, shall be precipitated
for ever into a dark dungeon, where my justice demands that he be burned
with a slow fire._ Upon this discourse of the monarch, the company look at
each other affrighted. No one wishes to expose himself to so dangerous
a chance. _What!_ says the enraged Sultan, _does no one offer to play? I
tell you then you must; My glory requires that you should play. Play then;
obey without replying._ It is well to observe, that the dice of the despot
are so prepared, that out of a hundred thousand throws, there is but one,
which can gain the number required. Thus the generous monarch has the
pleasure of seeing his prison well filled, and his riches seldom ravished
from him. Mortals! this SULTAN is your GOD; his TREASURE IS HEAVEN; his
DUNGEON IS HELL, and it is you who hold the DICE!



93.

Divines repeatedly assure us, that we owe Providence infinite gratitude
for the numberless blessings it bestows. They loudly extol the happiness
of existence. But, alas! how many mortals are truly satisfied with their
mode of existence? If life has sweets, with how much bitterness is it not
mixed? Does not a single chagrin often suffice suddenly to poison the most
peaceable and fortunate life? Are there many, who, if it were in their
power would begin again, at the same price, the painful career, in which,
without their consent, destiny has placed them?

They say, that existence is a great blessing. But is not this existence
continually troubled with fears, and maladies, often cruel and little
deserved? May not this existence, threatened on so many sides, be torn
from us any moment? Where is the man, who has not been deprived of a dear
wife, beloved child, or consoling friend, whose loss every moment intrudes
upon his thoughts? There are few, who have not been forced to drink of the
cup of misfortune; there are few, who have not desired their end. Finally,
it did not depend upon us to exist or not to exist. Should the bird then
be very grateful to the fowler for taking him in his net and confining him
in his cage for his diversion?



94.

Notwithstanding the infirmities and misery which man is forced to undergo,
he has, nevertheless, the folly to think himself the favourite of his God,
the object of all his cares, the sole end of all his works. He imagines,
that the whole universe is made for him; he arrogantly calls himself the
_king of nature_, and values himself far above other animals. Mortal! upon
what canst thou found thy haughty pretensions? It is, sayest thou, upon
thy soul, upon thy reason, upon the sublime faculties, which enable thee
to exercise an absolute empire over the beings, which surround thee. But,
weak sovereign of the world; art thou sure, one moment, of the continuance
of thy reign? Do not the smallest atoms of matter, which thou despisest,
suffice to tear thee from thy throne, and deprive thee of life? Finally,
does not the king of animals at last become the food of worms? Thou
speakest of thy soul! But dost thou know what a soul is? Dost thou not
see, that this soul is only the assemblage of thy organs, from which
results life? Wouldst thou then refuse a soul to other animals, who live,
think, judge, and compare, like thee; who seek pleasure, and avoid pain,
like thee; and who often have organs, which serve them better than thine?
Thou boastest of thy intellectual faculties; but do these faculties, of
which thou art so proud, make thee happier than other animals? Dost
thou often make use of that reason, in which thou gloriest, and to
which religion commands thee not to listen? Are those brutes, which thou
disdainest, because they are less strong or less cunning than thou art,
subject to mental pains, to a thousand frivolous passions, to a thousand
imaginary wants, to which thou art a continual prey? Are they, like thee,
tormented by the past, alarmed at the future? Confined solely to the
present, does not what you call their _instinct_, and what I call their
_intelligence_, suffice to preserve and defend them, and to supply them
with all they want? Does not this instinct, of which thou speakest with
contempt, often serve them better than thy wonderful faculties? Is not
their peaceful ignorance more advantageous to them, than those extravagant
meditations and worthless researches, which render thee unhappy, and
for which thy zeal urges thee even to massacre the beings of thy noble
species? Finally, have these beasts, like so many mortals, a troubled
imagination, which makes them fear, not only death, but likewise eternal
torments?

Augustus, hearing that Herod, king of Judea, had put his sons to death,
exclaimed: _It is much better to be Herod's hog, than his son_. As much
may be said of man. This dear child of Providence runs far greater risks
than all other animals; having suffered much in this world, does he not
imagine, that he is in danger of suffering eternally in another?



95.

Where is the precise line of distinction between man and the animals whom
he calls brutes? In what does he differ essentially from beasts? It is,
we are told, by his intelligence, by the faculties of his mind, and by his
reason, that man appears superior to all other animals, who, in all their
actions, move only by physical impulses, in which reason has no share.
But finally, brutes, having fewer wants than man, easily do without his
intellectual faculties, which would be perfectly useless in their mode of
existence. Their instinct is sufficient; while all the faculties of man
scarcely suffice to render his existence supportable, and to satisfy the
wants, which his imagination and his prejudices multiply to his torment.

Brutes are not influenced by the same objects, as man; they have not the
same wants, desires, nor fancies; and they very soon arrive to maturity,
while the mind of man seldom attains to the full enjoyment and free
exercise of its faculties and to such a use of them, as is conducive to
his happiness.



96.

We are assured, that the human soul is a simple substance. It should
then be the same in every individual, each having the same intellectual
faculties; yet this is not the case. Men differ as much in the qualities
of the mind, as in the features of the face. There are human beings
as different from one another, as man is from a horse or a dog. What
conformity or resemblance do we find between some men? What an infinite
distance is there between the genius of a Locke or a Newton, and that of a
peasant, Hottentot, or Laplander?

Man differs from other animals only in his organization, which enables
him to produce effects, of which animals are not capable. The variety,
observable in the organs of individuals of the human species suffices to
explain the differences in what is called their intellectual faculties.
More or less delicacy in these organs, warmth in the blood, mobility
in the fluids, flexibility or stiffness in the fibres and nerves, must
necessarily produce the infinite diversity, which we observe in the minds
of men. It is by exercise, habit and education, that the mind is
unfolded and becomes superior to that of others. Man, without culture and
experience, is as void of reason and industry, as the brute. A stupid man
is one, whose organs move with difficulty, whose brain does not easily
vibrate, whose blood circulates slowly. A man of genius is he, whose
organs are flexible, whose sensations are quick, whose brain vibrates
with celerity. A learned man is he, whose organs and brain have been long
exercised upon objects to which he is devoted.

Without culture, experience, or reason, is not man more contemptible and
worthy of hatred, than the vilest insects or most ferocious beasts? Is
there in nature a more detestable being, than a Tiberius, a Nero, or a
Caligula? Have those destroyers of the human race, known by the name of
conquerors, more estimable souls than bears, lions, or panthers? Are there
animals in the world more detestable than tyrants?



97.

The superiority which man so gratuitously arrogates to himself over other
animals, soon vanishes in the light of reason, when we reflect on human
extravagances. How many animals shew more mildness, reflection, and
reason, than the animal, who calls himself reasonable above all others?
Are there among men, so often enslaved and oppressed, societies as
well constituted as those of the ants, bees, or beavers? Do we ever
see ferocious beasts of the same species mangle and destroy one another
without profit? Do we ever see religious wars among them? The cruelty
of beasts towards other species arises from hunger, the necessity of
nourishment; the cruelty of man towards man arises only from the vanity of
his masters and the folly of his impertinent prejudices. Speculative men,
who endeavour to make us believe, that all in the universe was made for
man, are much embarrassed, when we ask, how so many hurtful animals can
contribute to the happiness of man? What known advantage results to
the friend of the gods, from being bitten by a viper, stung by a gnat,
devoured by vermin, torn in pieces by a tiger, etc.? Would not all these
animals reason as justly as our theologians, should they pretend that man
was made for them?



98.

AN EASTERN TALE.

At some distance from Bagdad, a hermit, renowned for his sanctity, passed
his days in an agreeable solitude. The neighbouring inhabitants, to obtain
an interest in his prayers, daily flocked to his hermitage, to carry him
provisions and presents. The holy man, without ceasing, gave thanks to God
for the blessings, with which providence loaded him. "O Allah!" said he,
"how ineffable is thy love to thy servants. What have I done to merit the
favours, that I receive from thy bounty? O Monarch of the skies! O Father
of nature! what praises could worthily celebrate thy munificence, and thy
paternal care! O Allah! how great is thy goodness to the children of men!"
Penetrated with gratitude, the hermit made a vow to undertake, for the
seventh time, a pilgrimage to Mecca. The war which then raged between the
Persians and Turks, could not induce him to defer his pious enterprise.
Full of confidence in God, he sets out under the inviolable safeguard of
a religious habit. He passes through the hostile troops without any
obstacle; far from being molested, he receives, at every step, marks of
veneration from the soldiers of the two parties. At length, borne down
with fatigue, he is obliged to seek refuge against the rays of a scorching
sun; he rests under the cool shade of a group of palm-trees. In this
solitary place, the man of God finds not only an enchanting retreat, but
a delicious repast. He has only to put forth his hand to gather dates
and other pleasant fruits; a brook affords him the means of quenching his
thirst. A green turf invites him to sleep; upon waking he performs the
sacred ablution, and exclaims in a transport of joy: "O Allah! how great
is thy goodness to the children of men!" After this perfect refreshment,
the saint, full of strength and gaiety, pursues his way; it leads him
across a smiling country, which presents to his eyes flowery hillocks,
enamelled meadows, and trees loaded with fruit. Affected by this sight, he
ceases not to adore the rich and liberal hand of providence, which appears
every where providing for the happiness of the human race. Going a little
farther, the mountains are pretty difficult to pass; but having once
arrived at the summit, a hideous spectacle suddenly appears to his view.
His soul is filled with horror. He discovers a vast plain laid waste
with fire and sword; he beholds it covered with hundreds of carcases,
the deplorable remains of a bloody battle, lately fought upon this field.
Eagles, vultures, ravens and wolves were greedily devouring the dead
bodies with which the ground was covered. This sight plunges our pilgrim
into a gloomy meditation. Heaven, by special favour, had enabled him to
understand the language of beasts. He heard a wolf, gorged with human
flesh, cry out in the excess of his joy: "O Allah! how great is thy
goodness to the children of wolves. Thy provident wisdom takes care to
craze the minds of these detestable men, who are so dangerous to our
species. By an effect of thy Providence, which watches over thy creatures,
these destroyers cut one another's throats, and furnish us with sumptuous
meals. O Allah! how great is thy goodness to the children of wolves!"



99.

A heated imagination sees in the universe only the blessings of heaven;
a calmer mind finds in it both good and evil. "I exist," say you; but is
this existence always a good? "Behold," you say, "that sun, which lights;
this earth, which for you is covered with crops and verdure; these
flowers, which bloom to regale your senses; these trees, which bend under
the weight of delicious fruits; these pure waters, which run only to
quench your thirst; those seas, which embrace the universe to facilitate
your commerce; these animals, which a foreseeing nature provides for your
use." Yes; I see all these things, and I enjoy them. But in many climates,
this beautiful sun is almost always hidden; in others, its excessive heat
torments, creates storms, produces frightful diseases, and parches the
fields; the pastures are without verdure, the trees without fruit, the
crops are scorched, the springs are dried up; I can only with difficulty
subsist, and now complain of the cruelties of nature, which to you
always appears so beneficent. If these seas bring me spices, and useless
commodities, do they not destroy numberless mortals, who are foolish
enough to seek them? The vanity of man persuades him, that he is the
sole center of the universe; he creates for himself a world and a God;
he thinks himself of sufficient consequence to derange nature at his
pleasure. But, concerning other animals, he reasons like an atheist. Does
he not imagine, that the individuals different from his own are automatons
unworthy of the blessings of universal providence, and that brutes cannot
be objects of his justice or goodness? Mortals regard the happy or unhappy
events, health or sickness, life or death, plenty or want, as rewards or
punishments for the right use or abuse of the liberty, with which they
erroneously imagine themselves endowed. Do they reason in the same manner
concerning the brutes? No. Although they see them, under a just God, enjoy
and suffer, equally subject to health and sickness, live and die, like
themselves, it never occurs to them to ask by what crime, these beasts
could have incurred the displeasure of their Creator? Have not men,
blinded by their religious prejudices, in order to free themselves from
embarrassment, carried their folly so far as to pretend that beasts have
no feeling?

Will men never renounce their foolish pretensions? Will they never
acknowledge that nature is not made for them? Will they never see that
nature has placed equality among all beings she has produced? Will they
never perceive that all organized beings are equally made to be born and
die, enjoy and suffer? Finally, far from having any cause to be puffed
up with their mental faculties, are they not forced to grant, that these
faculties often make them more unhappy than beasts, in which we find
neither opinions, prejudices, vanities, nor follies, which every moment
decide the welfare of man?



100.

The superiority which men arrogate over other animals, is chiefly founded
upon their opinion, that they have the exclusive possession of an immortal
soul. But ask them what this soul is, and they are puzzled. They will say,
it is an unknown substance--a secret power distinct from their bodies--a
spirit, of which they have no idea. Ask them how this spirit, which they
suppose to be like their God wholly void of extension, could combine
itself with their material bodies, and they will tell you, they know
nothing about it; that it is to them a mystery; that this combination is
an effect of the omnipotence of God. These are the ideas that men form of
the hidden, or rather imaginary substance, which they consider as the main
spring of all their actions!

If the soul is a substance essentially different from the body, and
can have no relation to it, their union would be, not a mystery, but an
impossibility. Besides, this soul being of a nature different from the
body, must necessarily act in a different manner; yet we see that this
pretended soul is sensible of the motions experienced by the body, and
that these two substances, essentially different, always acts in concert.
You will say that this harmony is also a mystery. But I will tell you,
that I see not my soul, that I know and am sensible of my body only, that
it is this body which feels, thinks, judges, suffers, and enjoys; and
that all these faculties are necessary results of its own mechanism, or
organization.



101.

Although it is impossible for men to form the least idea of the soul, or
the pretended spirit, which animates them; yet they persuade themselves
that this unknown soul is exempt from death. Every thing proves to them,
that they feel, that they think, that they acquire ideas, that they enjoy
and suffer, only by means of the senses, or material organs of the body.
Admitting even the existence of this soul, they cannot help acknowledging,
that it depends entirely upon the body, and undergoes, all its
vicissitudes; and yet it is imagined, that this soul has nothing, in
its nature, similar to the body; that it can act and feel without the
assistance of the body; in a word, that this soul, freed from the body,
and disengaged from its senses, can live, enjoy, suffer, experience
happiness, or feel excruciating torments. Upon such a tissue of
absurdities is built the marvellous opinion of the _immortality of the
soul_. If I ask, what are the motives for believing the soul immortal,
they immediately answer, that it is because man naturally desires to be
immortal: but, because you desire a thing ardently, can you infer that
your desire will be fulfilled? By what strange logic can we dare affirm,
that a thing cannot fail to happen, because we ardently desire it? Are
desires, begotten by the imagination, the measure of reality? The impious,
you say, deprived of the flattering hope of another life, wish to be
annihilated. Very well: may they not then as justly conclude, from _their_
desire, that they shall be annihilated, as you may conclude from _your_
desire, that you shall exist for ever.



102.

Man dies, and the human body after death is no longer anything but a mass
incapable of producing those motions, of which the sum total constituted
life. We see, that it has no longer circulation, respiration, digestion,
speech, or thought. It is pretended, that the soul is then separated from
the body; but to say, that this soul, with which we are unacquainted, is
the principle of life, is to say nothing, unless that an unknown power is
the hidden principle of imperceptible movements. Nothing is more natural
and simple, than to believe, that the dead man no longer lives: nothing
is more extravagant, than to believe, that the dead man is still alive. We
laugh at the simplicity of some nations, whose custom is to bury provision
with the dead, under an idea that it will be useful and necessary to them
in the other life. Is it then more ridiculous or absurd to suppose, that
men will eat after death, than to imagine, that they will think, that they
will be actuated by agreeable or disagreeable ideas, that they will enjoy
or suffer, and that they will experience repentance or delight, after the
organs, adapted to produce sensations or ideas, are once dissolved. To say
that the souls of men will be happy or unhappy after death, is in other
words to say, that men will see without eyes, hear without ears, taste
without palates, smell without noses, and touch without hands. And
persons, who consider themselves very reasonable, adopt these ideas!



103.

The dogma of the immortality of the soul supposes the soul to be a simple
substance; in a word, a spirit. But I ask again, what is a spirit? "It
is," say you, "a substance void of extension, incorruptible, having
nothing common with matter." If so, how is your soul born, and how does it
grow, how does it strengthen or weaken itself, how does it get disordered
and grow old, in the same progression as your body?

To all these questions you answer, that these are mysteries. If so, you
cannot understand them. If you cannot understand them, why do you decide
about a thing, of which you are unable to form the least idea? To believe
or affirm any thing, it is necessary, at least, to know in what it
consists. To believe in the existence of your immaterial soul, is to
say, that you are persuaded of the existence of a thing, of which it is
impossible for you to form any true notion; it is to believe in words
without meaning. To affirm that the thing is as you say, is the height of
folly or vanity.



104.

Are not theologians strange reasoners? Whenever they cannot divine the
_natural_ causes of things, they invent what they call _supernatural_;
such as spirits, occult causes, inexplicable agents, or rather _words_,
much more obscure than the _things_ they endeavour to explain. Let us
remain in nature, when we wish to account for the phenomena of nature; let
us be content to remain ignorant of causes too delicate for our organs;
and let us be persuaded, that, by going beyond nature, we shall never
solve the problems which nature presents.

Even upon the hypothesis of theology, (that is, supposing an all-powerful
mover of matter,) by what right would theologians deny, that their God
has power to give this matter the faculty of thought? Was it then more
difficult for him to create combinations of matter, from which thought
might result, than spirits who could think? At least, by supposing matter,
which thinks, we should have some notions of the subject of thought, or of
what thinks in us; whereas, by attributing thought to an immaterial being,
it is impossible to form the least idea of it.



105.

It is objected against us, that materialism makes man a mere machine,
which is said to be very dishonourable. But, will it be much more
honourable for man, if we should say, that he acts by the secret impulses
of a spirit, or by a certain _I know not what_, that animates him in a
manner totally inexplicable.

It is easy to perceive, that the supposed superiority of _spirit_ over
matter, or of the soul over the body, has no other foundation than men's
ignorance of this soul, while they are more familiarized with _matter_,
with which they imagine they are acquainted, and of which they think they
can discern the origin. But the most simple movements of our bodies are to
every man, who studies them, as inexplicable as thought.



106.

The high value, which so many people set upon spiritual substance, has no
other motive than their absolute inability to define it intelligibly. The
contempt shewn for _matter_ by our metaphysicians, arises only from the
circumstance, that familiarity begets contempt. When they tell us, that
_the soul is more excellent and noble than the body_, they say what they
know not.



107.

The dogma of another life is incessantly extolled, as useful. It
is maintained, that even though it should be only a fiction, it is
advantageous, because it deceives men, and conducts them to virtue. But
is it true, that this dogma makes men wiser and more virtuous? Are the
nations, who believe this fiction, remarkable for purity of morals? Has
not the visible world ever the advantage over the invisible? If those, who
are trusted with the instruction and government of men, had knowledge and
virtue themselves, they would govern them much better by realities, than
by fictions. But crafty, ambitious and corrupt legislators, have every
where found it better to amuse with fables, than to teach them truths,
to unfold their reason, to excite them to virtue by sensible and real
motives, in fine, to govern them in a rational manner. Priests undoubtedly
had reasons for making the soul immaterial; they wanted souls to people
the imaginary regions, which they have discovered in the other life.
Material souls would, like all bodies, have been subject to dissolution.
Now, if men should believe, that all must perish with the body, the
geographers of the other world would evidently lose the right of guiding
men's souls towards that unknown abode; they would reap no profits from
the hope with which they feed them, and the terrors with which they
oppress them. If futurity is of no real utility to mankind, it is, at
least, of the greatest utility to those, who have assumed the office of
conducting them thither.



108.

"But," it will be said, "is not the dogma of the immortality of the soul
comforting to beings, who are often very unhappy here below? Though it
should be an error, is it not pleasing? Is it not a blessing to man to
believe, that he shall be able to enjoy hereafter a happiness, which
is denied him upon earth?" Thus, poor mortals! you make your wishes the
measure of truth; because you desire to live for ever, and to be happier,
you at once conclude, that you shall live for ever, and that you shall be
more fortunate in an unknown world, than in this known world, where you
often find nothing but affliction! Consent therefore to leave, without
regret, this world which gives the greater part of you much more torment
than pleasure. Submit to the order of nature, which demands that you, as
well as all other beings, should not endure for ever.

We are incessantly told, that religion has infinite consolations for the
unfortunate, that the idea of the soul's immortality, and of a happier
life, is very proper to elevate man, and to support him under adversity,
which awaits him upon earth. It is said, on the contrary, that materialism
is an afflicting system, calculated to degrade man; then it puts him
upon a level with the brutes, breaks his courage, and shows him no other
prospect than frightful annihilation, capable of driving him to despair
and suicide, whenever he is unhappy. The great art of theologians is to
blow hot and cold, to afflict and console, to frighten and encourage.

It appears by theological fictions, that the regions of the other life are
happy and unhappy. Nothing is more difficult than to become worthy of the
abode of felicity; nothing more easy than to obtain a place in the abode
of torment, which God is preparing for the unfortunate victims of
eternal fury. Have those then, who think the other life so pleasant and
flattering, forgotten, that according to them, that life is to be attended
with torments to the greater part of mortals? Is not the idea of total
annihilation infinitely preferable to the idea of an eternal existence,
attended with anguish and _gnashing of teeth_? Is the fear of an end more
afflicting, than that of having had a beginning! The fear of ceasing to
exist is a real evil only to the imagination, which alone begat the dogma
of another life.

Christian ministers say that the idea of a happier life is joyous.
Admitted. Every person would desire a more agreeable existence than that
he enjoys here. But, if paradise is inviting, you will grant, that hell is
frightful. Heaven is very difficult, and hell very easy to be merited. Do
you not say, that a _narrow_ way leads to the happy regions, and a _broad_
way to the regions of misery? Do you not often say, that _the number of
the elect is very small, and that of the reprobate very large_? Is not
Grace, which your God grants but to a very few, necessary to salvation?
Now, I assure you, that these ideas are by no means consoling; that I had
rather be annihilated, once for all, than to burn for ever; that the
fate of beasts is to me more desirable than that of the damned; that the
opinion which relieves me from afflicting fears in this world, appears to
me more joyous, than the uncertainty arising from the opinion of a God,
who, master of his grace, grants it to none but his favourites, and
permits all others to become worthy of eternal torment. Nothing but
enthusiasm or folly can induce a man to prefer improbable conjectures,
attended with uncertainty and insupportable fears.



109.

All religious principles are the work of pure imagination, in which
experience and reason have no share. It is extremely difficult to combat
them, because the imagination, once prepossessed by chimeras, which
astonish or disturb it, is incapable of reasoning. To combat religion and
its phantoms with the arms of reason, is like using a sword to kill gnats;
as soon as the blow is struck, the gnats and chimeras come hovering round
again, and resume in the mind the place, from which they were thought to
have been for ever banished.

When we reject, as too weak, the proofs given of the existence of a God,
they instantly oppose to the arguments, which destroy that existence,
an _inward sense_, a deep persuasion, an invincible inclination, born in
every man, which holds up to his mind, in spite of himself, the idea of an
almighty being, whom he cannot entirely expel from his mind, and whom he
is compelled to acknowledge, in spite of the strongest reasons that can
be urged. But whoever will analyse this _inward sense_, upon which such
stress is laid, will perceive, that it is only the effect of a rooted
habit, which, shutting their eyes against the most demonstrative proofs,
subjects the greater part of men, and often even the most enlightened, to
the prejudices of childhood. What avails this inward sense, or this deep
persuasion, against the evidence, which demonstrates, that _whatever
implies a contradiction cannot exist_?

We are gravely assured, that the non-existence of God is not demonstrated.
Yet, by all that men have hitherto said of him, nothing is better
demonstrated, than that this God is a chimera, whose existence is totally
impossible; since nothing is more evident, than that a being cannot
possess qualities so unlike, so contradictory, so irreconcilable, as
those, which every religion upon earth attributes to the Divinity. Is not
the theologian's God, as well as that of the deist, a cause incompatible
with the effects attributed to it? Let them do what they will, it is
necessary either to invent another God, or to grant, that he, who, for so
many ages, has been held up to the terror of mortals, is at the same time
very good and very bad, very powerful and very weak, unchangeable and
fickle, perfectly intelligent and perfectly void of reason, of order
and permitting disorder, very just and most unjust, very skilful and
unskilful. In short, are we not forced to confess, that it is impossible
to reconcile the discordant attributes, heaped upon a being, of whom
we cannot speak without the most palpable contradictions? Let any
one attribute a single quality to the Divinity, and it is universally
contradicted by the effects, ascribed to this cause.



110.

Theology might justly be defined the _science of contradictions_. Every
religion is only a system, invented to reconcile irreconcilable notions.
By the aid of habit and terror, man becomes obstinate in the greatest
absurdities, even after they are exposed in the clearest manner. All
religions are easily combated, but with difficulty extirpated. Reason
avails nothing against custom, which becomes, says the proverb, _a second
nature_. Many persons, in other respects sensible, even after having
examined the rotten foundation of their belief, adhere to it in contempt
of the most striking arguments. Whenever we complain of religion, its
shocking absurdities, and impossibilities, we are told that we are not
made to understand the truths of religion; that reason goes astray, and is
capable of leading us to perdition; and moreover, that _what is folly
in the eyes of man, is wisdom in the eyes of God_, to whom nothing
is impossible. In short, to surmount, by a single word, the most
insurmountable difficulties, presented on all sides by theology, they get
rid of them by saying, these are _mysteries_!



111.

What is a mystery? By examining the thing closely, I soon perceive, that
a mystery is nothing but a contradiction, a palpable absurdity, a manifest
impossibility, over which theologians would oblige men humbly to shut
their eyes. In a word, a mystery is whatever our spiritual guides cannot
explain.

It is profitable to the ministers of religion, that people understand
nothing of what they teach. It is impossible to examine what we do not
comprehend; when we do not see, we must suffer ourselves to be led. If
religion were clear, priests would find less business.

Without mysteries there can be no religion; mystery is essential to it;
a religion void of mysteries, would be a contradiction in terms. The God,
who serves as the foundation of _natural religion_, or _deism_, is himself
the greatest of mysteries.



112.

Every revealed religion is filled with mysterious dogmas, unintelligible
principles, incredible wonders, astonishing recitals, which appear to have
been invented solely to confound reason. Every religion announces a hidden
God, whose essence is a mystery; consequently, the conduct, ascribed to
him, is no less inconceivable than his essence. The Deity has never spoken
only in an enigmatical and mysterious manner, in the various religions,
which have been founded in different regions of our globe; he has
everywhere revealed himself only to announce mysteries; that is, to
inform mortals, that he intended they should believe contradictions,
impossibilities, and things to which they were incapable of affixing any
clear ideas.

The more mysterious and incredible a religion is, the more power it has
to please the imagination of men. The darker a religion is, the more it
appears divine, that is, conformable to the nature of a hidden being, of
whom they have no ideas. Ignorance prefers the unknown, the hidden, the
fabulous, the marvellous, the incredible, or even the terrible, to what is
clear, simple, and true. Truth does not operate upon the imagination in so
lively a manner as fiction, which, in other respects, everyone is able to
arrange in his own way. The vulgar like to listen to fables. Priests and
legislators, by inventing religions and forging mysteries have served the
vulgar people well. They have thereby gained enthusiasts, women and fools.
Beings of this stamp are easily satisfied with things, which they are
incapable of examining. The love of simplicity and truth is to be
found only among the few, whose imagination is regulated by study and
reflection.

The inhabitants of a village are never better pleased with their parson,
than when he introduces Latin into his sermon. The ignorant always
imagine, that he, who speaks to them of things they do not understand, is
a learned man. Such is the true principle of the credulity of the people,
and of the authority of those, who pretend to guide nations.



113.

To announce mysteries to men, is to give and withhold; it is to talk in
order not to be understood. He, who speaks only obscurely, either seeks to
amuse himself by the embarrassment, which he causes, or finds his interest
in not explaining himself too clearly. All secrecy indicates distrust,
impotence, and fear. Princes and their ministers make a mystery of their
projects, for fear their enemies should discover and render them abortive.
Can a good God amuse himself by perplexing his creatures? What interest
then could he have in commanding his ministers to announce riddles and
mysteries?

It is said, that man, by the weakness of his nature, is totally incapable
of understanding the divine dispensations, which can be to him only a
series of mysteries; God cannot disclose to him secrets, necessarily above
his reach. If so, I answer again, that man is not made to attend to the
divine dispensations; that these dispensations are to him by no means
interesting; that he has no need of mysteries, which he cannot understand;
and consequently, that a mysterious religion is no more fit for him, than
an eloquent discourse is for a flock of sheep.



114.

The Deity has revealed himself with so little uniformity in the different
countries of our globe, that in point of religion, men regard one another
with hatred and contempt. The partisans of the different sects think
each other very ridiculous and foolish. Mysteries, most revered in one
religion, are objects of derision to another. God, in revealing himself
to mankind, ought at least, to have spoken the same language to all, and
saved their feeble minds the perplexity of inquiring which religion really
emanated from him, or what form of worship is most acceptable in his
sight.

A universal God ought to have revealed a universal religion. By what
fatality then are there so many different religions upon earth? Which is
really right, among the great number of those, each of which exclusively
pretends to be the true one? There is great reason to believe, that no
religion enjoys this advantage. Division and disputes upon opinions are
indubitable signs of the uncertainty and obscurity of the principles, upon
which they build.



115.

If religion were necessary at all, it ought to be intelligible to all. If
this religion were the most important concern of men, the goodness of God
would seem to demand, that it should be to them of all things the most
clear, evident, and demonstrative. Is it not then astonishing, that this
thing so essential to the happiness of mortals, is precisely that, which
they understand least, and about which, for so many ages, their teachers
have most disputed? Priests have never agreed upon the manner of
understanding the will of a God, who has revealed himself.

The world, may be compared to a public fair, in which are several
empirics, each of whom endeavours to attract the passengers by decrying
the remedies sold by his brothers. Each shop has its customers, who
are persuaded, that their quacks possess the only true remedies; and
notwithstanding a continual use of them, they perceive not the inefficacy
of these remedies, or that they are as infirm as those, who run after the
quacks of a different shop.

Devotion is a disorder of the imagination contracted in infancy. The
devout man is a hypochondriac, who only augments his malady by the
application of remedies. The wise man abstains from them entirely; he pays
attention to his diet, and in other respects leaves nature to her course.



116.

To a man of sense, nothing appears more ridiculous, than the opinions,
which the partisans of the different religions with equal folly entertain
of each other. A Christian regards the _Koran_, that is, the divine
revelation announced by Mahomet, as nothing but a tissue of impertinent
reveries, and impostures insulting to the divinity. The Mahometan, on the
other hand, treats the Christian as an _idolater_ and a _dog_. He sees
nothing but absurdities in his religion. He imagines he has a right to
subdue the Christian, and to force him, sword in hand, to receive the
religion of his divine prophet. Finally, he believes, that nothing is
more impious and unreasonable, than to worship a man, or to believe in the
Trinity. The _protestant_ Christian who without scruple worships a man,
and firmly believes the inconceivable mystery of the _trinity_,
ridicules the _catholic_ Christian for believing in the mystery of
_transubstantiation_; he considers him mad, impious, and idolatrous,
because he kneels to worship some bread, in which he thinks he sees God.
Christians of every sect regard, as silly stories, the incarnations
of _Vishnu_, the God of the Indies; they maintain, that the only true
_incarnation_ is that of _Jesus_, son of a carpenter. The deist, who
calls himself the follower of a religion, which he supposes to be that of
nature, content with admitting a God, of whom he has no idea, makes a jest
of all the mysteries, taught by the various religions in the world.



117.

Is there any thing more contradictory, impossible, or mysterious, than the
creation of matter by an immaterial being, who, though immutable, operates
continual changes in the world? Is any thing more incompatible with every
notion of common sense, than to believe, that a supremely good, wise,
equitable and powerful being presides over nature, and by himself directs
the movements of a world, full of folly, misery, crimes and disorders,
which by a single word, he could have prevented or removed? In fine,
whenever we admit a being as contradictory as the God of theology, how can
we reject the most improbable fables, astonishing miracles, and profound
mysteries.



118.

The Deist exclaims: "Abstain from worshipping the cruel and capricious God
of theology; mine is a being infinitely wise and good; he is the father of
men, the mildest of sovereigns; it is he who fills the universe with his
benefits." But do you not see that every thing in this world contradicts
the good qualities, which you ascribe to your God? In the numerous family
of this tender father, almost all are unhappy. Under the government of
this just sovereign, vice is triumphant, and virtue in distress. Among
those blessings you extol, and which only enthusiasm can see, I behold a
multitude of evils, against which you obstinately shut your eyes. Forced
to acknowledge, that your beneficent God, in contradiction with himself,
distributes good and evil with the same hand, for his justification you
must, like the priest, refer me to the regions of another life. Invent,
therefore, another God; for yours is no less contradictory than that of
theologians.

A good God, who does evil, or consents to the commission of evil; a
God full of equity, and in whose empire innocence is often oppressed; a
perfect God, who produces none but imperfect and miserable works; are not
such a God and his conduct as great mysteries, as that of the incarnation?

You blush for your fellow-citizens, who allow themselves to be persuaded,
that the God of the universe could change himself into a man, and die upon
a cross in a corner of Asia. The mystery of the incarnation appears to you
very absurd. You think nothing more ridiculous, than a God, who transforms
himself into bread, and causes himself daily to be eaten in a thousand
different places. But are all these mysteries more contradictory to
reason than a God, the avenger and rewarder of the actions of men? Is man,
according to you, free, or not free? In either case, your God, if he has
the shadow of equity, can neither punish nor reward him. If man is free,
it is God, who has made him free; therefore God is the primitive cause of
all his actions; in punishing him for his faults, he would punish him for
having executed what he had given him liberty to do. If man is not free to
act otherwise than he does, would not God be most unjust, in punishing man
for faults, which he could not help committing.

The minor, or secondary, absurdities, with which all religions abound, are
to many people truly striking; but they have not the courage to trace
the source of these absurdities. They see not, that a God full of
contradictions, caprices and inconsistent qualities, has only served
to disorder men's imaginations, and to produce an endless succession of
chimeras.



119.

The theologian would shut the mouths of those who deny the existence of
God, by saying, that all men, in all ages and countries, have acknowledged
some divinity or other; that every people have believed in an invisible
and powerful being, who has been the object of their worship and
veneration; in short, that there is no nation, however savage, who are not
persuaded of the existence of some intelligence superior to human nature.
But, can an error be changed into truth by the belief of all men? The
great philosopher Bayle has justly observed, that "general tradition, or
the unanimous consent of mankind, is no criterion of truth."

There was a time, when all men believed that the sun moved round the
earth, but this error was detected. There was a time, when nobody believed
the existence of the antipodes, and when every one was persecuted, who
had temerity enough to maintain it. At present, every informed man firmly
believes it. All nations, with the exception of a few men who are less
credulous than the rest, still believe in ghosts and spirits. No sensible
man now adopts such nonsense. But the most sensible people consider it
their duty to believe in a universal spirit!



120.

All the gods, adored by men, are of savage origin. They have evidently
been imagined by stupid people, or presented, by ambitious and crafty
legislators, to ignorant and uncivilized nations, who had neither capacity
nor courage to examine the objects, which through terror they were made to
worship.

By closely examining God, we are forced to acknowledge, that he evidently
bears marks of a savage nature. To be savage is to acknowledge no right
but force; it is to be cruel beyond measure; to follow only one's own
caprice; to want foresight, prudence, and reason. Ye nations, who call
yourselves civilized! Do you not discern, in this hideous character, the
God, on whom you lavish your incense? Are not the descriptions given
you of the divinity, visibly borrowed from the implacable, jealous,
revengeful, sanguinary, capricious inconsiderate humour of man, who has
not cultivated his reason? O men! You adore only a great savage, whom
you regard, however, as a model to imitate, as an amiable master, as a
sovereign full of perfection.

Religious opinions are ancient monuments of ignorance, credulity,
cowardice, and barbarism of their ancestors. Every savage is a child
fond of the marvellous, who believes every thing, and examines nothing.
Ignorant of nature, he attributes to spirits, enchantments, and to
magic, whatever appears to him extraordinary. His priests appear to him
sorcerers, in whom he supposes a power purely divine, before whom his
confounded reason humbles itself, whose oracles are to him infallible
decrees which it would be dangerous to contradict.

In religion, men have, for the most part, remained in their primitive
barbarity. Modern religions are only ancient follies revived, or presented
under some new form. If the savages of antiquity adored mountains, rivers,
serpents, trees, and idols of every kind; if the EGYPTIANS paid homage to
crocodiles, rats, and onions, do we not see nations, who think themselves
wiser than they, worship bread, into which they imagine, that through
the enchantments of their priests, the divinity has descended. Is not the
Bread-God the idol of many Christian nations, who, in this respect, are as
irrational, as the most savage?



121.

The ferocity, stupidity, and folly of uncivilized man have ever disclosed
themselves in religious practices, either cruel or extravagant. A spirit
of barbarity still survives, and penetrates the religions even of the
most polished nations. Do we not still see human victims offered to
the divinity? To appease the anger of a God, who is always supposed as
ferocious, jealous and vindictive, as a savage, do not those, whose manner
of thinking is supposed to displease him, expire under studied torments,
by the command of sanguinary laws? Modern nations, at the instigation of
their priests, have perhaps improved upon the atrocious folly of barbarous
nations; at least, we find, that it has ever entered the heads of savages
to torment for opinions, to search the thoughts, to molest men for the
invisible movements of their brains?

When we see learned nations, such as the English, French, German, etc.,
continue, notwithstanding their knowledge, to kneel before the barbarous
God of the Jews; when we see these enlightened nations divide into
sects, defame, hate, and despise one another for their equally ridiculous
opinions concerning the conduct and intentions of this unreasonable God;
when we see men of ability foolishly devote their time to meditate the
will of this God, who is full of caprice and folly, we are tempted to cry
out: O men, you are still savage!!!



122.

Whoever has formed true ideas of the ignorance, credulity, negligence, and
stupidity of the vulgar, will suspect opinions the more, as he finds
them generally established. Men, for the most part, examine nothing: they
blindly submit to custom and authority. Their religious opinions, above
all others, are those which they have the least courage and capacity to
examine: as they comprehend nothing about them, they are forced to be
silent, or at least are soon destitute of arguments. Ask any man, whether
he believes in a God? He will be much surprised that you can doubt it. Ask
him again, what he understands by the word _God_. You throw him into
the greatest embarrassment; you will perceive immediately, that he is
incapable of affixing any real idea to this word, he incessantly repeats.
He will tell you, that God is God. He knows neither what he thinks of it,
nor his motives for believing in it.

All nations speak of a God; but do they agree upon this God? By no means.
But division upon an opinion proves not its evidence; it is rather a sign
of uncertainty and obscurity. Does the same man always agree with himself
in the notions he forms of his God? No. His idea varies with the changes,
which he experiences;--another sign of uncertainty. Men always agree in
demonstrative truths. In any situation, except that of insanity, every one
knows that two and two make four, that the sun shines, that the whole
is greater than its part; that benevolence is necessary to merit the
affection of men; that injustice and cruelty are incompatible with
goodness. Are they thus agreed when they speak of God? Whatever they
think, or say of him, is immediately destroyed by the effects they
attribute to him.

Ask several painters to represent a chimera, and each will paint it in a
different manner. You will find no resemblance between the features, each
has given it a portrait, that has no original. All theologians, in giving
us a picture of God, give us one of a great chimera, in whose features
they never agree, whom each arranges in his own way, and who exists only
in their imaginations. There are not two individuals, who have, or can
have, the same ideas of their God.



123.

It might be said with more truth, that men are either skeptics or
atheists, than that they are convinced of the existence of God. How can we
be assured of the existence of a being, whom we could never examine,
and of whom it is impossible to conceive any permanent idea? How can
we convince ourselves of the existence of a being, to whom we are
every moment forced to attribute conduct, opposed to the ideas, we had
endeavoured to form of him? Is it then possible to believe what we cannot
conceive? Is not such a belief the opinions of others without having
any of our own? Priests govern by faith; but do not priests themselves
acknowledge that God is to them incomprehensible? Confess then, that a
full and entire conviction of the existence of God is not so general, as
is imagined.

Scepticism arises from a want of motives sufficient to form a judgment.
Upon examining the proofs which seem to establish, and the arguments which
combat, the existence of God, some persons have doubted and withheld their
assent. But this uncertainty arises from not having sufficiently examined.
Is it possible to doubt any thing evident? Sensible people ridicule an
absolute scepticism, and think it even impossible. A man, who doubted his
own existence, or that of the sun, would appear ridiculous. Is this more
extravagant than to doubt the non-existence of an evidently impossible
being? Is it more absurd to doubt one's own existence, than to hesitate
upon the impossibility of a being, whose qualities reciprocally destroy
one another? Do we find greater probability for believing the existence of
a spiritual being, than the existence of a stick without two ends? Is the
notion of an infinitely good and powerful being, who causes or permits
an infinity of evils, less absurd or impossible, than that of a square
triangle? Let us conclude then, that religious scepticism can result only
from a superficial examination of theological principles, which are in
perpetual contradiction with the most clear and demonstrative principles.

To doubt, is to deliberate. Scepticism is only a state of indetermination,
resulting from an insufficient examination of things. Is it possible for
any one to be sceptical in matters of religion, who will deign to revert
to its principles, and closely examine the notion of God, who serves
as its basis? Doubt generally arises either from indolence, weakness,
indifference, or incapacity. With many people, to doubt is to fear the
trouble of examining things, which are thought uninteresting. But religion
being presented to men as their most important concern in this and the
future world, skepticism and doubt on this subject must occasion perpetual
anxiety and must really constitute a bed of thorns. Every man who has not
courage to contemplate, without prejudice, the God upon whom all religion
is founded, can never know for what religion to decide: he knows not what
he should believe or not believe, admit or reject, hope or fear.

Indifference upon religion must not be confounded with scepticism. This
indifference is founded upon the absolute assurance, or at any rate upon
the probable belief, that religion is not interesting. A persuasion that
a thing which is pretended to be important is not so, or is only
indifferent, supposes a sufficient examination of the thing, without which
it would be impossible to have this persuasion. Those who call themselves
sceptics in the fundamental points of religion, are commonly either
indolent or incapable of examining.



124.

In every country, we are assured, that a God has revealed himself. What
has he taught men? Has he proved evidently that he exists? Has he informed
them where he resides? Has he taught them what he is, or in what his
essence consists? Has he clearly explained to them his intentions and
plan? Does what he says of this plan correspond with the effects, which
we see? No. He informs them solely, that _he is what he is_; that he is
a _hidden God_; that his ways are unspeakable; that he is exasperated
against all who have the temerity to fathom his decrees, or to consult
reason in judging him or his works.

Does the revealed conduct of God answer the magnificent ideas which
theologians would give us of his wisdom, goodness, justice, and
omnipotence? By no means. In every revelation, this conduct announces a
partial and capricious being, the protector of favourite people, and the
enemy of all others. If he deigns to appear to some men, he takes care to
keep all others in an invincible ignorance of his divine intentions. Every
private revelation evidently announces in God, injustice, partiality and
malignity.

Do the commands, revealed by any God, astonish us by their sublime reason
or wisdom? Do they evidently tend to promote the happiness of the people,
to whom the Divinity discloses them? Upon examining the divine commands,
one sees in every country, nothing but strange ordinances, ridiculous
precepts, impertinent ceremonies, puerile customs, oblations, sacrifices,
and expiations, useful indeed to the ministers of God, but very
burthensome to the rest of the citizens. I see likewise, that these laws
often tend to make men unsociable, disdainful, intolerant, quarrelsome,
unjust, and inhuman, to those who have not received the same revelations,
the same ordinances, or the same favours from heaven.



125.

Are the precepts of morality, announced by the Deity, really divine,
or superior to those which every reasonable man might imagine? They are
divine solely because it is impossible for the human mind to discover
their utility. They make virtue consist in a total renunciation of nature,
in a voluntary forgetfulness of reason, a holy hatred of ourselves.
Finally, these sublime precepts often exhibit perfection in a conduct,
cruel to ourselves, and perfectly useless to others.

Has a God appeared? Has he himself promulgated his laws? Has he spoken to
men with his own mouth? I am told, that God has not appeared to a whole
people; but that he has always manifested himself through the medium
of some favourite personages, who have been intrusted with the care of
announcing and explaining his intentions. The people have never been
permitted to enter the sanctuary; the ministers of the gods have alone had
the right to relate what passes there.



126.

If in every system of divine revelation, I complain of not seeing either
the wisdom, goodness, or equity of God; if I suspect knavery, ambition, or
interest; it is replied, that God has confirmed by miracles the mission of
those, who speak in his name. But was it not more simple for him to appear
in person, to explain his nature and will? Again, if I have the curiosity
to examine these miracles, I find, that they are improbable tales, related
by suspected people, who had the greatest interest in giving out that they
were the messengers of the Most High.

What witnesses are appealed to in order to induce us to believe incredible
miracles? Weak people, who existed thousands of years ago, and who, even
though they could attest these miracles, may be suspected of being duped
by their own imagination, and imposed upon by the tricks of dexterous
impostors. But, you will say, these miracles are written in books,
which by tradition have been transmitted to us. By whom were these books
written? Who are the men who have transmitted them? They are either the
founders of religions themselves, or their adherents and assigns. Thus,
in religion, the evidence of interested parties becomes irrefragable and
incontestable.



127.

God has spoken differently to every people. The Indian believes not a word
of what He has revealed to the Chinese; the Mahometan considers as fables
what He has said to the Christian; the Jew regards both the Mahometan and
Christian as sacrilegious corrupters of the sacred law, which his God had
given to his fathers. The Christian, proud of his more modern revelation,
indiscriminately damns the Indian, Chinese, Mahometan, and even the
Jew, from whom he receives his sacred books. Who is wrong or right? Each
exclaims, _I am in the right!_ Each adduces the same proofs: each mentions
his miracles, diviners, prophets, and martyrs. The man of sense tells
them, they are all delirious; that God has not spoken, if it is true
that he is a spirit, and can have neither mouth nor tongue; that without
borrowing the organ of mortals, God could inspire his creatures with what
he would have them learn; and that, as they are all equally ignorant what
to think of God, it is evident that it has not been the will of God to
inform them on the subject.

The followers of different forms of worship which are established, accuse
one another of superstition and impiety. Christians look with abhorrence
upon the Pagan, Chinese, and Mahometan superstition. Roman Catholics
treat, as impious, Protestant Christians; and the latter incessantly
declaim against the superstition of the Catholics. They are all right.
To be impious, is to have opinions offensive to the God adored; to be
superstitious, is to have of him false ideas. In accusing one another of
superstition, the different religionists resemble humpbacks, who reproach
one another with their deformity.



128.

Are the oracles, which the Divinity has revealed by his different
messengers, remarkable for clearness? Alas! no two men interpret them
alike. Those who explain them to others are not agreed among themselves.
To elucidate them, they have recourse to interpretations, to commentaries,
to allegories, to explanations: they discover _mystical sense_ very
different from the _literal sense_. Men are every where wanted to explain
the commands of a God, who could not, or would not, announce himself
clearly to those, whom he wished to enlighten.



129.

The founders of religion, have generally proved their missions by
miracles. But what is a miracle? It is an operation directly opposite to
the laws of nature. But who, according to you, made those laws? God. Thus,
your God, who, according to you, foresaw every thing, counteracts
the laws, which his wisdom prescribed to nature! These laws were then
defective, or at least in certain circumstances they did not accord with
the views of the same God, since you inform us that he judged it necessary
to suspend or counteract them.

It is said, that a few men, favoured by the Most High, have received power
to perform miracles. But to perform a miracle, it is necessary to have
ability to create new causes capable of producing effects contrary to
those of common causes. Is it easy to conceive, that God can give men the
inconceivable power of creating causes out of nothing? Is it credible,
that an immutable God can communicate to men power to change or rectify
his plan, a power, which by his essence an immutable being cannot save
himself? Miracles, far from doing much honour to God, far from proving
the divinity of a religion, evidently annihilate the God idea. How can
a theologian tell us, that God, who must have embraced the whole of his
plan, who could have made none but perfect laws, and who cannot alter
them, is forced to employ miracles to accomplish his projects, or can
grant his creatures the power of working prodigies to execute his divine
will? An omnipotent being, whose will is always fulfilled, who holds in
his hand his creatures, has only to _will_, to make them believe whatever
he desires.



130.

What shall we say of religions that prove their divinity by miracles? How
can we credit miracles recorded in the sacred books of the Christians,
where God boasts of hardening the hearts and blinding those whom he wishes
to destroy; where he permits malicious spirits and magicians to work
miracles as great as those of his servants; where it is predicted, that
_Antichrist_ shall have power to perform prodigies capable of shaking the
faith even of the elect? In this case, by what signs shall we know whether
God means to instruct or ensnare us? How shall we distinguish whether
the wonders, we behold, come from God or devil? To remove our perplexity,
Pascal gravely tells us, that _it is necessary to judge the doctrine by
the miracles, and the miracles by the doctrine; that the doctrine proves
the miracles, and the miracles the doctrine_. If there exist a vicious and
ridiculous circle, it is undoubtedly in this splendid reasoning of one of
the greatest defenders of Christianity. Where is the religion, that does
not boast of the most admirable doctrine, and which does not produce
numerous miracles for its support?

Is a miracle capable of annihilating the evidence of a demonstrated truth?
Although a man should have the secret of healing all the sick, of making
all the lame to walk, of raising in all the dead of a city, of ascending
into the air, of stopping the course of the sun and moon, can he thereby
convince me, that two and two do not make four, that one makes three, and
that three make only one; that a God, whose immensity fills the universe,
could have been contained in the body of a Jew; that the ETERNAL can
die like a man; that a God, who is said to be immutable, provident, and
sensible, could have changed his mind upon his religion, and reformed his
own work by a new revelation?



131.

According to the very principles either of natural or revealed theology,
every new revelation should be regarded as false; every change in
a religion emanated from the Deity should be reputed an impiety and
blasphemy. Does not all reform suppose, that, in his first effort, God
could not give his religion the solidity and perfection required? To say,
that God, in giving a first law, conformed to the rude ideas of the people
whom he wished to enlighten, is to pretend that God was neither able nor
willing to render the people, whom he was enlightening, so reasonable as
was necessary in order to please him.

Christianity is an impiety, if it is true that Judaism is a religion which
has really emanated from a holy, immutable, omnipotent, and foreseeing
God. The religion of Christ supposes either defects in the law which God
himself had given by Moses, or impotence or malice in the same God, who
was either unable or unwilling to render the Jews such as they ought to
have been in order to please him. Every new religion, or reform of
ancient religions, is evidently founded upon the impotence, inconstancy,
imprudence, or malice of the Divinity.



132.

If history informs me, that the first apostles, the founders or reformers
of religions, wrought great miracles; history also informs me, that these
reformers and their adherents were commonly buffeted, persecuted, and put
to death, as disturbers of the peace of nations. I am therefore tempted to
believe, that they did not perform the miracles ascribed to them;
indeed, such miracles must have gained them numerous partisans among the
eye-witnesses, who ought to have protected the operators from abuse. My
incredulity redoubles, when I am told, that the workers of miracles
were cruelly tormented, or ignominiously executed. How is it possible to
believe, that missionaries, protected by God, invested with his divine
power, and enjoying the gift of miracles, could not have wrought such a
simple miracle, as to escape the cruelty of their persecutors?

Priests have the art of drawing from the persecutions themselves, a
convincing proof in favour of the religion of the persecuted. But a
religion, which boasts of having cost the lives of many martyrs, and
informs us, that its founders, in order to extend it, have suffered
punishments, cannot be the religion of a beneficent, equitable and
omnipotent God. A good God would not permit men, intrusted with announcing
his commands, to be ill-treated. An all-powerful God, wishing to found a
religion, would proceed in a manner more simple and less fatal to the most
faithful of his servants. To say that God would have his religion sealed
with blood, is to say that he is weak, unjust, ungrateful, and sanguinary;
and that he is cruel enough to sacrifice his messengers to the views of
his ambition.



133.

To die for religion proves not that the religion is true, or divine; it
proves, at most, that it is supposed to be such. An enthusiast proves
nothing by his death, unless that religious fanaticism is often stronger
than the love of life. An impostor may sometimes die with courage; he then
makes, in the language of the proverb, _a virtue of necessity_.

People are often surprised and affected at sight of the generous courage
and disinterested zeal, which has prompted missionaries to preach their
doctrine, even at the risk of suffering the most rigorous treatment. From
this ardour for the salvation of men, are drawn inferences favourable to
the religion they have announced. But in reality, this disinterestedness
is only apparent. He, who ventures nothing should gain nothing. A
missionary seeks to make his fortune by his doctrine. He knows that, if he
is fortunate enough to sell his commodity, he will become absolute master
of those who receive him for their guide; he is sure of becoming the
object of their attention, respect, and veneration. Such are the true
motives, which kindle the zeal and charity of so many preachers and
missionaries.

To die for an opinion, proves the truth or goodness of that opinion
no more than to die in battle proves the justice of a cause, in which
thousands have the folly to devote their lives. The courage of a martyr,
elated with the idea of paradise, is not more supernatural, than the
courage of a soldier, intoxicated with the idea of glory, or impelled
by the fear of disgrace. What is the difference between an Iroquois, who
sings while he is burning by inches, and the martyr ST. LAURENCE, who upon
the gridiron insults his tyrant?

The preachers of a new doctrine fail, because they are the weakest;
apostles generally practise a perilous trade. Their courageous death
proves neither the truth of their principles nor their own sincerity,
any more than the violent death of the ambitious man, or of the robber,
proves, that they were right in disturbing society, or that they thought
themselves authorised in so doing. The trade of a missionary was always
flattering to ambition, and formed a convenient method of living at the
expense of the vulgar. These advantages have often been enough to efface
every idea of danger.



134.

You tell us, theologians! that _what is folly in the eyes of men, is
wisdom before God, who delights to confound the wisdom of the wise_. But
do you not say, that human wisdom is a gift of heaven? In saying this
wisdom displeases God, is but folly in his sight, and that he is pleased
to confound it, you declare that your God is the friend only of ignorant
people, and that he makes sensible people a fatal present for which this
perfidious tyrant promises to punish them cruelly at some future day. Is
it not strange, that one can be the friend of your God, only by declaring
one's self the enemy of reason and good sense?



135.

According to the divines, _faith is an assent without evidence_. Whence it
follows, that religion requires us firmly to believe inevident things, and
propositions often improbable or contrary to reason. But when we reject
reason as a judge of faith, do we not confess, that reason is incompatible
with faith? As the ministers of religion have resolved to banish reason,
they must have felt the impossibility of reconciling it with faith, which
is visibly only a blind submission to priests, whose authority seems to
many persons more weighty than evidence itself, and preferable to the
testimony of the senses.

"Sacrifice your reason; renounce experience; mistrust the testimony of
your senses; submit without enquiry to what we announce to you in the name
of heaven." Such is the uniform language of priests throughout the world;
they agree upon no point, except upon the necessity of never reasoning
upon the principles which they present to us as most important to our
felicity!

I will _not_ sacrifice my reason; because this reason alone enables me
to distinguish good from evil, truth from falsehood. If, as you say, my
reason comes from God, I shall never believe that a God, whom you call
good, has given me reason, as a snare, to lead me to perdition. Priests!
do you not see, that, by decrying reason, you calumniate your God, from
whom you declare it to be a gift.

I will _not_ renounce experience; because it is a guide much more sure
than the imagination or authority of spiritual guides. Experience
teaches me, that enthusiasm and interest may blind and lead them astray
themselves; and that the authority of experience ought to have much more
influence upon my mind, than the suspicious testimony of many men, who I
know are either very liable to be deceived themselves, or otherwise are
very much interested in deceiving others.

I _will_ mistrust my senses; because I am sensible they sometimes mislead
me. But, on the other hand, I know that they will not always deceive me.
I well know, that the eye shews me the sun much smaller than it really
is; but experience, which is only the repeated application of the senses,
informs me, that objects always appear to diminish, as their distance
increases; thus I attain to a certainty, that the sun is much larger than
the earth; thus my senses suffice to rectify the hasty judgments, which
they themselves had caused.

In warning us to mistrust the testimony of our senses, the priests
annihilate the proofs of all religion. If men may be dupes of their
imagination; if their senses are deceitful, how shall we believe the
miracles, which struck the treacherous senses of our ancestors? If my
senses are unfaithful guides, I ought not to credit even the miracles
wrought before my eyes.



136.

You incessantly repeat that _the truths of religion are above reason_. If
so, do you not perceive, that these truths are not adapted to reasonable
beings? To pretend that reason can deceive us, is to say, that truth
can be false; that the useful can be hurtful. Is reason any thing but a
knowledge of the useful and true? Besides, as our reason and senses are
our only guides in this life, to say they are unfaithful, is to say, that
our errors are necessary, our ignorance invincible, and that, without the
extreme of injustice, God cannot punish us for following the only guides
it was his supreme will to give.

To say, we are obliged to believe things above our reason, is ridiculous.
To assure us, that upon some objects we are not allowed to consult reason,
is to say, that, in the most interesting matter, we must consult only
imagination, or act only at random. Our divines say, we must sacrifice our
reason to God. But what motives can we have to sacrifice our reason to a
being, who makes us only useless presents, which he does not intend us to
use? What confidence can we put in a God, who, according to our divines
themselves, is malicious enough to harden the heart, to strike with
blindness, to lay snares for us, to _lead us into temptation?_ In fine,
what confidence can we put in the ministers of this God, who, to guide us
more conveniently, commands us to shut our eyes?



137.

Men are persuaded, that religion is to them of all things the most
serious, while it is precisely what they least examine for themselves. In
pursuit of an office, a piece of land, a house, a place of profit; in any
transaction or contract whatever, every one carefully examines all,
takes the greatest precaution, weighs every word of a writing, is guarded
against every surprise. Not so in religion; every one receives it at a
venture, and believes it upon the word of others, without ever taking the
trouble to examine.

Two causes concur to foster the negligence and carelessness of men, with
regard to their religious opinions. The first is the despair of overcoming
the obscurity, in which all religion is necessarily enveloped. Their first
principles are only adapted to disgust lazy minds, who regard them as a
chaos impossible to be understood. The second cause is, that every one
is averse to being too much bound by severe precepts, which all admire in
theory, but very few care to practice with rigour. The religion of many
people is like old family ties, which they have never taken pains to
examine, but which they deposit in their archives to have recourse to them
occasionally.



138.

The disciples of Pythagoras paid implicit faith to the doctrine of their
master; _he has said it_, was to them the solution of every problem. The
generality of men are not more rational. In matters of religion, a curate,
a priest, an ignorant monk becomes master of the thoughts. Faith relieves
the weakness of the human mind, to which application is commonly painful;
it is much more convenient to depend upon others, than to examine for
one's self. Inquiry, being slow and difficult, equally, displeases the
stupidity of the ignorant, and the ardour of the enlightened. Such is
undoubtedly the reason why Faith has so many partisans.

The more men are deficient in knowledge and reason, the more zealous they
are in religion. In theological quarrels, the populace, like ferocious
beasts, fall upon all those, against whom their priest is desirous of
exciting them. A profound ignorance, boundless credulity, weak intellect,
and warm imagination, are the materials, of which are made bigots,
zealots, fanatics, and saints. How can the voice of reason be heard by
them who make it a principle never to examine for themselves, but to
submit blindly to the guidance of others? The saints and the populace are,
in the hands of their directors, automatons, moved at pleasure.



139.

Religion is an affair of custom and fashion. _We must do as others do._
But, among the numerous religions in the world, which should men choose?
This inquiry would be too painful and long. They must therefore adhere
to the religion of their fathers, to that of their country, which, having
force on its side, must be the best.

If we judge of the intentions of Providence by the events and revolutions
of this world, we are compelled to believe, that He is very indifferent
about the various religions upon earth. For thousands of years, paganism,
polytheism, idolatry, were the prevailing religions. We are now assured,
that the most flourishing nations had not the least idea of God; an idea,
regarded as so essential to the happiness of man. Christians say, all
mankind lived in the grossest ignorance of their duties towards God, and
had no notions of him, but what were insulting to his Divine Majesty.
Christianity, growing out of Judaism, very humble in its obscure origin,
became powerful and cruel under the Christian emperors, who, prompted by
holy zeal, rapidly spread it in their empire by means of fire and sword,
and established it upon the ruins of paganism. Mahomet and his successors,
seconded by Providence or their victorious arms, in a short time banished
the Christian religion from a part of Asia, Africa, and even Europe; and
the _gospel_ was then forced to yield to the _Koran_.

In all the factions or sects, which, for many ages have distracted
Christianity, _the best argument has been always that of the strongest
party_; arms have decided which doctrine is most conducive to the
happiness of nations. May we not hence infer, either that the Deity feels
little interested in the religion of men, or that he always declares in
favour of the opinions, which best suit the interest of earthly powers; in
fine, that he changes his plan to accommodate their fancy?

Rulers infallibly decide the religion of the people. The true religion
is always the religion of the prince; the true God is the God, whom the
prince desires his people to adore; the will of the priests, who govern
the prince, always becomes the will of God. A wit justly observed, that
_the true religion is always that, on whose side are the prince and the
hangman._ Emperors and hangmen long supported the gods of Rome against the
God of Christians; the latter, having gained to his interest the emperors,
their soldiers, and their hangmen, succeeded in destroying the worship of
the Roman gods. The God of Mahomet has dispossessed the God of Christians
of a great part of the dominions, which he formerly occupied.

In the eastern part of Asia, is a vast, flourishing, fertile, populous
country, governed by such wise laws, that the fiercest conquerors have
adopted them with respect. I mean China. Excepting Christianity, which was
banished as dangerous, the people there follow such superstitions as
they please, while the _mandarins_, or magistrates, having long known the
errors of the popular religion, are vigilant to prevent the _bonzes_ or
priests from using it as an instrument of discord. Yet we see not,
that Providence refuses his blessing to a nation, whose chiefs are so
indifferent about the worship that is rendered to him. On the contrary,
the Chinese enjoy a happiness and repose worthy to be envied, by the many
nations whom religion divides, and often devastates.

We cannot reasonably propose to divest the people of their follies; but we
may perhaps cure the follies of those who govern the people, and who
will then prevent the follies of the people from becoming dangerous.
Superstition is to be feared only when princes and soldiers rally round
her standard; then she becomes cruel and sanguinary. Every sovereign, who
is the protector of one sect or religious faction, is commonly the tyrant
of others, and becomes himself the most cruel disturber of the peace of
his dominions.



140.

It is incessantly repeated, and many sensible persons are induced to
believe, that religion is a restraint necessary to men; that without
it, there would no longer exist the least check for the vulgar; and that
morality and religion are intimately connected with it. "The fear of
the Lord," cries the priest, "is the beginning of wisdom. The terrors of
another life are _salutary_, and are proper to curb the passions of men."

To perceive the inutility of religious notions, we have only to open our
eyes and contemplate the morals of those nations, who are the most
under the dominion of religion. We there find proud tyrants, oppressive
ministers, perfidious courtiers, shameless extortioners, corrupt
magistrates, knaves, adulterers, debauchees, prostitutes, thieves, and
rogues of every kind, who have never doubted either the existence of an
avenging and rewarding God, the torments of hell, or the joys of paradise.
Without the least utility to the greater part of mankind, the ministers
of religion have studied to render death terrible to the eyes of their
followers. If devout Christians could but be consistent, they would pass
their whole life in tears, and die under the most dreadful apprehensions.
What can be more terrible than death, to the unfortunate who are told,
_that it is horrible to fall into the hands of the living God; that we
must work out our salvation with fear and trembling!_ Yet we are assured,
that the death of the Christian is attended with infinite consolations, of
which the unbeliever is deprived. The good Christian, it is said, dies in
the firm hope of an eternal happiness which he has strived to merit. But
is not this firm assurance itself a presumption punishable in the eyes of
a severe God? Ought not the greatest saints to be ignorant whether they
are _worthy of love or hatred?_ Ye Priests! while consoling us with the
hope of the joys of paradise; have you then had the advantage to see your
names and ours inscribed _in the book of life?_



141.

To oppose the passions and present interests of men the obscure notions of
a metaphysical, inconceivable God,--the incredible punishments of another
life,--or the pleasures of the heaven, of which nobody has the least
idea,--is not this combating realities with fictions? Men have never any
but confused ideas of their God: they see him only in clouds. They
never think of him when they are desirous to do evil: whenever ambition,
fortune, or pleasure allures them, God's threatenings and promises are
forgotten. In the things of this life, there is a degree of certainty,
which the most lively faith cannot give to the things of another life.

Every religion was originally a curb invented by legislators, who wished
to establish their authority over the minds of rude nations. Like nurses
who frighten children to oblige them to be quiet, the ambitious used the
name of the gods to frighten savages; and had recourse to terror in order
to make them support quietly the yoke they wished to impose. Are then the
bugbears of infancy made for riper age? At the age of maturity, no man
longer believes them, or if he does, they excite little emotion in him,
and never alter his conduct.



142.

Almost every man fears what he sees much more than what he does not see;
he fears the judgments of men of which he feels the effects, more than
the judgments of God of whom he has only fluctuating ideas. The desire
of pleasing the world, the force of custom, the fear of ridicule, and
of censure, have more force than all religious opinions. Does not the
soldier, through fear of disgrace, daily expose his life in battle, even
at the risk of incurring eternal damnation?

The most religious persons have often more respect for a varlet, than for
God. A man who firmly believes, that God sees every thing, and that he is
omniscient and omnipresent, will be guilty, when alone, of actions,
which he would never do in presence of the meanest of mortals. Those,
who pretend to be the most fully convinced of the existence of God, every
moment act as if they believed the contrary.



143.

"Let us, at least," it will be said, "cherish the idea of a God, which
alone may serve as a barrier to the passions of kings." But, can we
sincerely admire the wonderful effects, which the fear of this God
generally produces upon the minds of princes, who are called his images?
What idea shall we form of the original, if we judge of it by the copies!

Sovereigns, it is true, call themselves the representatives of God, his
vicegerents upon earth. But does the fear of a master, more powerful than
they are, incline them seriously to study the welfare of the nations, whom
Providence has intrusted to their care? Does the pretended terror, which
ought to be inspired into them by the idea of an invisible judge, to whom
alone they acknowledge themselves accountable for their actions, render
them more equitable, more compassionate, more sparing of blood and
treasure of their subjects, more temperate in their pleasures, more
attentive to their duties? In fine, does this God, by whose authority
kings reign, deter them from inflicting a thousand evils upon the people
to whom they ought to act as guides, protectors, and fathers? Alas! If we
survey the whole earth, we shall see men almost every where governed by
tyrants, who use religion merely as an instrument to render more stupid
the slaves, whom they overwhelm under the weight of their vices, or whom
they sacrifice without mercy to their extravagancies.

Far from being a check upon the passions of kings, Religion, by its
very principles, frees them from all restraint. It transforms them into
divinities, whose caprice the people are never permitted to resist. While
it gives up the reins to princes, and on their part breaks the bonds of
the social compact, it endeavours to chain the minds and hands of their
oppressed subjects. Is it then surprising, that the gods of the earth
imagine every thing lawful for them, and regard their subjects only as
instruments of their caprice or ambition?

In every country, Religion has represented the Monarch of nature as a
cruel, fantastical, partial tyrant, whose caprice is law; the Monarch God,
is but too faithfully imitated by his representatives upon earth. Religion
seems every where invented solely to lull the people in the lap of
slavery, in order that their masters may easily oppress them, or render
them wretched with impunity.



144.

To guard against the enterprises of a haughty pontiff who wished to
reign over kings, to shelter their persons from the attempts of credulous
nations excited by the priests, several European princes have pretended to
hold their crowns and rights from God alone, and to be accountable only
to him for their actions. After a long contest between the civil and
spiritual power, the former at length triumphed; and the priests, forced
to yield, acknowledged the divine right of kings and preached them to the
people, reserving the liberty of changing their minds and of preaching
revolt, whenever the divine rights of kings clashed with the divine rights
of the clergy. It was always at the expense of nations, that peace was
concluded between kings and priests; but the latter, in spite of treaties,
always preserved their pretensions.

Tyrants and wicked princes, whose consciences continually reproach them
with negligence or perversity, far from fearing their God, had rather deal
with this invisible judge who never opposes any thing, or with his priests
who are always condescending to the rulers of the earth, than with their
own subjects. The people, reduced to despair, might probably _appeal_ from
the divine right of their chiefs. Men when oppressed to the last degree,
sometimes become turbulent; and the divine rights of the tyrant are then
forced to yield to the natural rights of the subjects.

It is cheaper dealing with gods than men. Kings are accountable for their
actions to God alone; priests are accountable only to themselves. There is
much reason to believe, that both are more confident of the indulgence of
heaven, than of that of earth. It is much easier to escape the vengeance
of gods who may be cheaply appeased, than the vengeance of men whose
patience is exhausted.

"If you remove the fear of an invisible power, what restraint will you
impose upon the passions of sovereigns?" Let them learn to reign; let them
learn to be just; to respect the rights if the people; and to acknowledge
the kindness of the nations, from whom they hold their greatness and
power. Let them learn to fear men, and to submit to the laws of equity.
Let nobody transgress these laws with impunity; and let them be equally
binding upon the powerful and the weak, the great and the small, the
sovereign and the subjects.

The fear of gods, Religion, and the terrors of another life, are the
metaphysical and supernatural bulwarks, opposed to the impetuous passions
of princes! Are these bulwarks effectual? Let experience resolve the
question. To oppose Religion to the wickedness of tyrants, is to wish,
that vague, uncertain, unintelligible speculations may be stronger than
propensities which every thing conspires daily to strengthen.



145.

The immense service of religion to politics is incessantly boasted; but, a
little reflection will convince us, that religious opinions equally blind
both sovereigns and people, and never enlighten them upon their true
duties or interests. Religion but too often forms licentious, immoral
despots, obeyed by slaves, whom every thing obliges to conform to their
views.

For want of having studied or known the true principles of administration,
the objects and rights of social life, the real interests of men and
their reciprocal duties, princes, in almost every country, have become
licentious, absolute, and perverse; and their subjects abject, wicked, and
unhappy. It was to avoid the trouble of studying these important objects,
that recourse was had to chimeras, which, far from remedying any thing,
have hitherto only multiplied the evils of mankind, and diverted them from
whatever is most essential to their happiness.

Does not the unjust and cruel manner in which so many nations are
governed, manifestly furnish one of the strongest proofs, not only of
the small effect produced by the fear of another life, but also of the
non-existence of a Providence, busied with the fate of the human race? If
there existed a good God, should we not be forced to admit, that in this
life he strangely neglects the greater part of mankind? It would seem,
that this God has created nations only to be the sport of the passions and
follies of his representatives upon earth.



146.

By reading history with attention, we shall perceive that Christianity,
at first weak and servile, established itself among the savage and free
nations of Europe only intimating to their chiefs, that its religious
principles favoured despotism and rendered them absolute. Consequently,
we see barbarous princes suddenly converted; that is, we see them adopt,
without examination, a system so favourable to their ambition, and use
every art to induce their subjects to embrace it. If the ministers of this
religion have since often derogated from their favourite principles, it
is because the theory influences the conduct of the ministers of the Lord,
only when it suits their temporal interests.

Christianity boasts of procuring men a happiness unknown to preceding
ages. It is true, the Greeks knew not the _divine rights_ of tyrants or
of the usurpers of the rights of their country. Under paganism, it never
entered the head of any man to suppose, that it was against the will of
heaven for a nation to defend themselves against a ferocious beast, who
had the audacity to lay waste their possessions. The religion of the
Christians was the first that screened tyrants from danger, by laying down
as a principle that the people must renounce the legitimate defence
of themselves. Thus Christian nations are deprived of the first law
of nature, which orders man to resist evil, and to disarm whoever is
preparing to destroy him! If the ministers of the church have often
permitted the people to revolt for the interest of heaven, they have never
permitted them to revolt for their own deliverance from real evils or
known violences.

From heaven came the chains, that were used for fettering the minds of
mortals. Why is the Mahometan every where a slave? Because his prophet
enslaved him in the name of the Deity, as Moses had before subdued the
Jews. In all parts of the earth, we see, that the first legislators were
the first sovereigns and the first priests of the savages, to whom they
gave laws.

Religion seems invented solely to exalt princes above their nations, and
rivet the fetters of slavery. As soon as the people are too unhappy here
below, priests are ready to silence them by threatening them with the
anger of God. They are made to fix their eyes upon heaven, lest they
should perceive the true causes of their misfortunes, and apply the
remedies which nature presents.



147.

By dint of repeating to men, that the earth is not their true country;
that the present life is only a passage; that they are not made to be
happy in this world; that their sovereigns hold their authority from God
alone, and are accountable only to him for the abuse of it; that it is not
lawful to resist them, etc., priests have eternized the misgovernment of
kings and the misery of the people; the interests of nations have been
basely sacrificed to their chiefs. The more we consider the dogmas and
principles of religion, the more we shall be convinced, that their sole
object is the advantage of tyrants and priests, without regard to that of
societies.

To mask the impotence of its deaf gods, religion has persuaded mortals,
that iniquities always kindle the wrath of heaven. People impute to
themselves alone the disasters that daily befal them. If nations sometimes
feel the strokes of convulsed nature, their bad governments are but
too often the immediate and permanent causes, from whence proceed
the continual calamities which they are forced to endure. Are not
the ambition, negligence, vices, and oppressions of kings and nobles,
generally the causes of scarcity, beggary, wars, pestilences, corrupt
morals, and all the multiplied scourges which desolate the earth?

In fixing men's eyes continually upon heaven; in persuading them, that
all their misfortunes are effects of divine anger; in providing none but
ineffectual and futile means to put an end to their sufferings, we might
justly conclude, that the only object of priests was to divert nations
from thinking about the true sources of their misery, and thus to render
it eternal. The ministers of religion conduct themselves almost like those
indigent mothers, who, for want of bread, sing their starved children to
sleep, or give them playthings to divert their thoughts from afflicting
hunger.

Blinded by error from their very infancy, restrained by the invisible
bonds of opinion, overcome by panic terrors, their faculties blunted
by ignorance, how should the people know the true causes of their
wretchedness? They imagine that they can avert it by invoking the gods.
Alas! do they not see, that it is, in the name of these gods, that they
are ordered to present their throats to the sword of their merciless
tyrants, in whom they might find the obvious cause of the evils under
which they groan, and for whom they cease not to implore, in vain, the
assistance of heaven?

Ye credulous people! In your misfortunes, redouble your prayers,
offerings, and sacrifices; throng to your temples; fast in sack-cloth and
ashes; bathe yourselves in your own tears; and above all, completely ruin
yourselves to enrich your gods! You will only enrich their priests. The
gods of heaven will be propitious, only when the gods of the earth shall
acknowledge themselves, men, like you, and shall devote to your welfare
the attention you deserve.



148.

Negligent, ambitious, and perverse Princes are the real causes of public
misfortunes. Useless, unjust Wars depopulate the earth. Encroaching and
despotic Governments absorb the benefits of nature. The rapacity of Courts
discourages agriculture, extinguishes industry, produces want, pestilence
and misery. Heaven is neither cruel nor propitious to the prayers of the
people; it is their proud chiefs, who have almost always hearts of stone.

It is destructive to the morals of princes, to persuade them that they
have God alone to fear, when they injure their subjects, or neglect their
happiness. Sovereigns! It is not the gods, but your people, that you
offend, when you do evil. It is your people and yourselves that you
injure, when you govern unjustly.

In history, nothing is more common than to see Religious Tyrants; nothing
more rare than to find equitable, vigilant, enlightened princes. A
monarch may be pious, punctual in a servile discharge of the duties of his
religion, very submissive and liberal to his priests, and yet at the same
time be destitute of every virtue and talent necessary for governing. To
princes, Religion is only an instrument destined to keep the people
more completely under the yoke. By the excellent principles of religious
morality, a tyrant who, during a long reign, has done nothing but oppress
his subjects, wresting, from them the fruits of their labour, sacrificing
them without mercy to his insatiable ambition,--a conqueror, who has
usurped the provinces of others, slaughtered whole nations, and who,
during his whole life, has been a scourge to mankind,--imagines his
conscience may rest, when, to expiate so many crimes, he has wept at the
feet of a priest, who generally has the base complaisance to console and
encourage a robber, whom the most hideous despair would too lightly punish
for the misery he has caused upon earth.



149.

A sovereign, sincerely devout, is commonly dangerous to the state.
Credulity always supposes a contracted mind; devotion generally absorbs
the attention, which a prince should pay to the government of his people.
Obsequious to the suggestions of his priests, he becomes the sport of
their caprices, the favourer of their quarrels, and the instrument and
accomplice of their follies, which he imagines to be of the greatest
importance. Among the most fatal presents, which religion has made the
world, ought to be reckoned those devout and zealous monarchs, who, under
an idea of working for the welfare of their subjects, have made it
a sacred duty to torment, persecute, and destroy those, who thought
differently from themselves. A bigot, at the head of an empire, is one of
the greatest scourges. A single fanatical or knavish priest, listened to
by a credulous and powerful prince, suffices to put a state in disorder.

In almost all countries, priests and pious persons are intrusted with
forming the minds and hearts of young princes, destined to govern nations.
What qualifications have instructors of this stamp! By what interests can
they be animated? Full of prejudices themselves, they will teach their
pupil to regard superstition, as most important and sacred; its chimerical
duties, as most indispensable, intolerance and persecution, as the true
foundation of his future authority. They will endeavour to make him a
party leader, a turbulent fanatic, a tyrant; they will early stifle his
reason, and forewarn him against the use of it; they will prevent truth
from reaching his ears; they will exasperate him against true talents, and
prejudice him in favour of contemptible ones; in short, they will make him
a weak devotee, who will have no idea either of justice or injustice, nor
of true glory, nor of true greatness, and who will be destitute of the
knowledge and virtues necessary to the government of a great nation. Such
is the plan of the education of a child, destined one day to create the
happiness or misery of millions of men!



150.

Priests have ever shewn themselves the friends of despotism, and the
enemies of public liberty: their trade requires abject and submissive
slaves, who have never the audacity to reason. In an absolute government,
who ever gains an ascendancy over the mind of a weak and stupid prince,
becomes master of the state. Instead of conducting the people to
salvation, priests have always conducted them to servitude.

In consideration of the supernatural titles, which religion has forged for
the worst of princes, the latter have commonly united with priests, who,
sure of governing by opinion the sovereign himself, have undertaken to
bind the hands of the people and to hold them under the yoke. But the
tyrant, covered with the shield of religion, in vain flatters himself that
he is secure from every stroke of fate; opinion is a weak rampart against
the despair of the people. Besides, the priest is a friend of the tyrant
only while he finds his account in tyranny; he preaches sedition, and
demolishes the idol he has made, when he finds it no longer sufficiently
conformable to the interest of God, whom he makes to speak at his will,
and who never speaks except according to his interests.

It will no doubt be said, that sovereigns, knowing all the advantages
which religion procures them, are truly interested in supporting it with
all their strength. If religious opinions are useful to tyrants, it is
very evident, that they are useful to those, who govern by the laws of
reason and equity. Is there then any advantage in exercising tyranny? Are
princes truly interested in being tyrants? Does not tyranny deprive them
of true power, of the love of the people, and of all safety? Ought not
every reasonable prince to perceive, that the despot is a madman, and
an enemy to himself? Should not every enlightened prince beware of
flatterers, whose object is to lull him to sleep upon the brink of the
precipice which they form beneath him?



151.

If sacerdotal flatteries succeed in perverting princes and making them
tyrants; tyrants, on their part, necessarily corrupt both the great and
the humble. Under an unjust ruler, void of goodness and virtue, who knows
no law but his caprice, a nation must necessarily be depraved. Will this
ruler wish to have, about his person, honest, enlightened, and virtuous
men? No. He wants none but flatterers, approvers, imitators, slaves, base
and servile souls, who conform themselves to his inclinations. His court
will propagate the contagion of vice among the lower ranks. All will
gradually become corrupted in a state, whose chief is corrupt. It was long
since said, that "Princes seem to command others to do whatever they do
themselves."

Religion, far from being a restraint upon sovereigns, enables them to
indulge without fear or remorse, in acts of licentiousness as injurious to
themselves, as to the nations whom they govern. It is never with impunity,
that men are deceived. Tell a sovereign, that he is a god; he will very
soon believe that he owes nothing to any one. Provided he is feared, he
will care very little about being loved: he will observe neither rules,
nor relations with his subjects, nor duties towards them. Tell this
prince, that he is _accountable for his actions to God alone_, and he will
soon act as if he were accountable to no one.



152.

An enlightened sovereign is he, who knows his true interests; who knows,
that they are connected with the interests of his nation; that a prince
cannot be great, powerful, beloved, or respected, while he commands only
unhappy slaves; that equity, beneficence, and vigilance will give him
more real authority over his people, than the fabulous titles, said to be
derived from heaven. He will see, that Religion is useful only to priests,
that it is useless to society and often troubles it, and that it ought to
be restrained in order to be prevented from doing injury. Finally, he will
perceive, that, to reign with glory, he must have good laws and inculcate
virtue, and not found his power upon impostures and fallacies.



153.

The ministers of religion have taken great care to make of their God, a
formidable, capricious, and fickle tyrant. Such a God was necessary to
their variable interests. A God, who should be just and good, without
mixture of caprice or perversity; a God, who had constantly the qualities
of an honest man, or of a kind sovereign, would by no means suit his
ministers. It is useful to priests, that men should tremble before their
God, in order that they may apply to them to obtain relief from their
fears. "No man is a hero before his valet de chambre." It is not
surprising, that a God, dressed up by his priests so as to be terrible
to others, should rarely impose upon them, or should have but very little
influence upon their conduct. Hence, in every country, their conduct is
very much the same. Under pretext of the glory of their God, they every
where prey upon ignorance, degrade the mind, discourage industry, and sow
discord. Ambition and avarice have at all times been the ruling passions
of the priesthood. The priest every where rises superior to sovereigns and
laws; we see him every where occupied with the interests of his pride,
of his cupidity, and of his despotic, revengeful humour. In the room
of useful and social virtues, he everywhere substitutes expiations,
sacrifices, ceremonies, mysterious practices, in a word, inventions
lucrative to himself and ruinous to others.

The mind is confounded and the reason is amazed upon viewing the
ridiculous customs and pitiful means, which the ministers of the gods have
invented in every country to purify souls, and render heaven favourable.
Here they cut off part of a child's prepuce, to secure for him divine
benevolence; there, they pour water upon his head, to cleanse him of
crimes, which he could not as yet have committed. In one place, they
command him to plunge into a river, whose waters have the power of washing
away all stains; in another, he is forbidden to eat certain food, the use
of which will not fail to excite the celestial wrath; in other countries,
they enjoin upon sinful man to come periodically and confess his faults to
a priest, who is often a greater sinner than himself, etc., etc., etc.



154.

What should we say of a set of empirics, who, resorting every day to a
public place, should extol the goodness of their remedies, and vend them
as infallible, while they themselves were full of the infirmities, which
they pretend to cure? Should we have much confidence in the recipes of
these quacks, though they stun us with crying, "take our remedies, their
effects are infallible; they cure every body; except us." What should we
afterwards think, should those quacks spend their lives in complaining,
that their remedies never produced the desired effect upon the sick,
who take them? In fine, what idea should we form of the stupidity of the
vulgar, who, notwithstanding these confessions, should not cease to pay
dearly for remedies, the inefficacy of which every thing tends to prove?
Priests resemble these alchymists, who boldly tell us, they have the
secret of making gold, while they have scarcely clothes to cover their
nakedness.

The ministers of religion incessantly declaim against the corruption of
the age, and loudly complain of the little effect of their lessons, while
at the same time they assure us, that religion is the _universal remedy_,
the true _panacea_ against the wickedness of mankind. These priests are
very sick themselves, yet men continue to frequent their shops, and to
have faith in their divine antidotes, which, by their own confession,
never effect a cure!



155.

Religion, especially with the moderns, has tried to identify itself with
Morality, the principles of which it has thereby totally obscured. It has
rendered men unsociable by duty, and forced them to be inhuman to everyone
who thought differently from themselves. Theological disputes, equally
unintelligible to each of the enraged parties, have shaken empires, caused
revolutions, been fatal to sovereigns, and desolated all Europe. These
contemptible quarrels have not been extinguished even in rivers of blood.
Since the extinction of paganism, the people have made it a religious
principle to become outrageous, whenever any opinion is advanced which
their priests think contrary to _sound doctrine_. The sectaries of a
religion, which preaches, in appearance, nothing but charity, concord, and
peace, have proved themselves more ferocious than cannibals or savages,
whenever their divines excited them to destroy their brethren. There is
no crime, which men have not committed under the idea of pleasing the
Divinity, or appeasing his wrath.

The idea of a terrible God, whom we paint to ourselves as a despot, must
necessarily render his subjects wicked. Fear makes only slaves, and slaves
are cowardly, base, cruel, and think every thing lawful, in order to
gain the favour or escape the chastisements of the master whom they fear.
Liberty of thinking alone can give men humanity and greatness of soul.
The notion of a tyrant-god tends only to make them abject, morose,
quarrelsome, intolerant slaves.

Every religion, which supposes a God easily provoked, jealous, revengeful,
punctilious about his rights or the etiquette with which he is treated;--a
God little enough to be hurt by the opinions which men can form of him;--a
God unjust enough to require that we have uniform notions of his conduct;
a religion which supposes such a God necessarily becomes restless,
unsociable, and sanguinary; the worshippers of such a God would never
think, that they could, without offence, forbear hating and even
destroying every one, who is pointed out to them, as an adversary of
this God; they would think, that it would be to betray the cause of
their celestial Monarch, to live in friendly intercourse with rebellious
fellow-citizens. If we love what God hates, do we not expose ourselves to
his implacable hatred?

Infamous persecutors, and devout men-haters! Will you never discern the
folly and injustice of your intolerant disposition? Do you not see, that
man is no more master of his religious opinions, his belief or unbelief,
than of the language, which he learns from infancy? To punish a man for
his errors, is it not to punish him for having been educated differently
from you? If I am an unbeliever, is it possible for me to banish from my
mind the reasons that have shaken my faith? If your God gives men leave
to be damned, what have you to meddle with? Are you more prudent and wise,
than this God, whose rights you would avenge?



156.

There is no devotee, who does not, according to his temperament, hate,
despise, or pity the adherents of a sect, different from his own.
The _established_ religion, which is never any other than that of the
sovereign and the armies, always makes its superiority felt in a very
cruel and injurious manner by the weaker sects. As yet there is no true
toleration upon earth; men every where adore a jealous God, of whom each
nation believes itself the friend, to the exclusion of all others.

Every sect boasts of adoring alone the true God, the universal God, the
Sovereign of all nature. But when we come to examine this Monarch of the
world, we find that every society, sect, party, or religious cabal, makes
of this powerful God only a pitiful sovereign, whose care and goodness
extend only to a small number of his subjects, who pretend that they
alone have the happiness to enjoy his favours, and that he is not at all
concerned about the others.

The founders of religions, and the priests who support them, evidently
proposed to separate the nations, whom they taught, from the other
nations; they wished to separate their own flock by distinguishing marks;
they gave their followers gods, who were hostile to the other gods; they
taught them modes of worship, dogmas and ceremonies apart; and above
all, they persuaded them, that the religion of others was impious and
abominable. By this unworthy artifice, the ambitious knaves established,
their usurpation over the minds of their followers, rendered them
unsociable, and made them regard with an evil eye all persons who had not
the same mode of worship and the same ideas as they had. Thus it is, that
Religion has shut up the heart and for ever banished from it the affection
that man ought to have for his fellow-creature. Sociability, indulgence,
humanity, those first virtues of all morality, are totally incompatible
with religious prejudices.



157.

Every national religion is calculated to make man vain, unsociable, and
wicked; the first step towards humanity is to permit every one peaceably
to embrace the mode of worship and opinions, which he judges to be right.
But this conduct cannot be pleasing to the ministers of religion, who wish
to have the right of tyrannizing over men even in their thoughts.

Blind and bigoted princes! You hate and persecute heretics, and order them
to execution, because you are told, that these wretches displease God. But
do you not say, that your God is full of goodness? How then can you expect
to please him by acts of barbarity, which he must necessarily disapprove?
Besides, who has informed you, that their opinions displease your God?
Your priests? But, who assures you, that your priests are not themselves
deceived or wish to deceive you? The same priests? Princes! It is
then upon the hazardous word of your priests, that you commit the most
atrocious crimes, under the idea of pleasing the Divinity!



158.

Pascal says, "that man never does evil so fully and cheerfully, as when he
acts from a false principle of conscience." Nothing is more dangerous than
a religion, which lets loose the ferocity of the multitude, and justifies
their blackest crimes. They will set no bounds to their wickedness, when
they think it authorized by their God, whose interests, they are told, can
make every action legitimate. Is religion in danger?--the most civilized
people immediately becomes true savages, and think nothing forbidden. The
more cruel they are, the more agreeable they suppose they are to their
God, whose cause they imagine cannot be supported with too much warmth.

All religions have authorized innumerable crimes. The Jews, intoxicated
with the promises of their God, arrogated the rights of exterminating
whole nations. Relying on the oracles of their God, the Romans conquered
and ravaged the world. The Arabians, encouraged by their divine prophet,
carried fire and sword among the Christians and the idolaters. The
CHRISTIANS, under pretext of extending their holy religion, have often
deluged both hemispheres in blood.

In all events favourable to their own interest, which they always call
_the cause of God_, priests show us the _finger of God_. According to
these principles, the devout have the happiness to see the _finger of
God_ in revolts, revolutions, massacres, regicides, crimes, prostitutions,
horrors; and, if these things contribute ever so little to the triumph
of religion, we are told, that "God uses all sorts of means to attain his
ends." Is any thing more capable of effacing every idea of morality from
the minds of men, than to inform them, that their God, so powerful and
perfect, is often forced to make use of criminal actions in order to
accomplish his designs?



159.

No sooner do we complain of the extravagancies and evils, which Religion
has so often caused upon the earth, than we are reminded, that these
excesses are not owing to Religion; but "that they are the sad effects of
the passions of men." But I would ask, what has let loose these passions?
It is evidently Religion; it is zeal, that renders men inhuman, and serves
to conceal the greatest atrocities. Do not these disorders then prove,
that religion, far from restraining the passions of men, only covers them
with a veil, which sanctifies them, and that nothing would be more useful,
than to tear away this sacred veil of which men often make such a terrible
use? What horrors would be banished from society, if the wicked were
deprived of so plausible a pretext for disturbing it!

Instead of being angels of peace among men, priests have been demons of
discord. They have pretended to receive from heaven the right of being
quarrelsome, turbulent, and rebellious. Do not the ministers of the
Lord think themselves aggrieved, and pretend that the divine Majesty is
offended, whenever sovereigns have the temerity to prevent them from
doing evil? Priests are like the spiteful woman who cried _fire! murder!
assassination!_ while her husband held her hands to prevent her from
striking him.



160.

Notwithstanding the bloody tragedies, which Religion often acts, it is
insisted, that, without Religion, there can be no Morality. If we judge
theological opinions by their effects, we may confidently assert, that all
Morality is perfectly incompatible with men's religious opinions.

"Imitate God," exclaim the pious. But, what would be our Morality, should
we imitate this God! and what God ought we to imitate? The God of the
Deist? But even this God cannot serve us as a very constant model of
goodness. If he is the author of all things, he is the author both of good
and evil. If he is the author of order, he is also the author of disorder,
which could not take place without his permission. If he produces, he
destroys; if he gives life, he takes it away; if he grants abundance,
riches, prosperity, and peace, he permits or sends scarcity, poverty,
calamities, and wars. How then can we receive as a model of permanent
beneficence, the God of Deism or natural religion, whose favourable
dispositions are every instant contradicted by all the effects we behold?
Morality must have a basis less tottering than the example of a God, whose
conduct varies, and who cannot be called good, unless we obstinately shut
our eyes against the evil which he causes or permits in this world.

Shall we imitate the _beneficent, mighty Jupiter_ of heathen antiquity? To
imitate such a god, is to admit as a model, a rebellious son, who ravishes
the throne from his father. It is to imitate a debauchee, an adulterer,
one guilty of incest and of base passions, at whose conduct every
reasonable mortal would blush. What would have been the condition of men
under paganism, had they imagined, like Plato, that virtue consisted in
imitating the gods!

Must we imitate the God of the Jews! Shall we find in _Jehovah_ a model
for our conduct? This is a truly savage god, made for a stupid, cruel,
and immoral people; he is always furious, breathes nothing but vengeance,
commands carnage, theft, and unsociability. The conduct of this god cannot
serve as a model to that of an honest man, and can be imitated only by a
chief of robbers.

Shall we then imitate the _Jesus_ of the Christians? Does this God, who
died to appease the implacable fury of his father, furnish us an example
which men ought to follow? Alas! we shall see in him only a God, or
rather a fanatic, a misanthrope, who, himself plunged in wretchedness and
preaching to wretches, will advise them to be poor, to combat with and
stifle nature, to hate pleasure, seek grief, and detest themselves. He
will tell them to leave father, mother, relations, friends, etc., to
follow him. "Fine morality!" you say. It is, undoubtedly, admirable: it
must be divine, for it is impracticable to men. But is not such sublime
morality calculated to render virtue odious? According to the so much
boasted morality of the _man_-God of the Christians, a disciple of his in
this world must be like _Tantalus_, tormented with a burning thirst, which
he is not allowed to quench. Does not such morality give us a wonderful
idea of the author of nature? If, as we are assured, he has created all
things for his creatures, by what strange whim does he forbid them the
use of the goods he has created for them? Is pleasure then, which man
continually desires, only a snare, which God has maliciously laid to
surprise his weakness?



161.

The followers of Christ would have us regard, as a miracle, the
establishment of their Religion, which is totally repugnant to nature,
opposite to all the propensities of the heart, and inimical to sensual
pleasures. But the austerity of a doctrine renders it the more marvellous
in the eyes of the vulgar. The same disposition, which respects
inconceivable mysteries as divine and supernatural, admires, as divine and
supernatural, a Morality, that is impracticable, and beyond the powers of
man.

To admire a system of Morality, and to put it in practice, are two very
different things. All Christians admire and extol the Morality of the
gospel; which they do not practise.

The whole world is more or less infected with a Religious morality,
founded upon the opinion, that to please the Divinity, it is absolutely
necessary to render ourselves unhappy upon earth. In all parts of our
globe, we see penitents, fakirs, and fanatics, who seem to have profoundly
studied the means of tormenting themselves, in honour of a being whose
goodness all agree in celebrating. Religion, by its essence, is an enemy
to the joy and happiness of men. "Blessed are the poor, blessed are
they, who weep; blessed are they, who suffer; misery to those, who are
in abundance and joy." Such are the rare discoveries, announced by
Christianity!



162.

What is a Saint in every religion? A man, who prays, and fasts, who
torments himself, and shuns the world; who like an owl, delights only
in solitude, abstains from all pleasure, and seems frightened of every
object, which may divert him from his fanatical meditations. Is this
virtue? Is a being of this type, kind to himself, or useful to others?
Would not society be dissolved, and man return to a savage state, if every
one were fool enough to be a Saint?

It is evident, that the literal and rigorous practice of the divine
Morality of the Christians would prove the infallible ruin of nations. A
Christian, aiming at perfection, ought to free his mind from whatever can
divert it from heaven, his true country. Upon earth, he sees nothing but
temptations, snares, and rocks of perdition. He must fear science, as
hurtful to faith; he must avoid industry, as a means of obtaining riches,
too fatal to salvation; he must renounce offices and honours, as capable
of exciting his pride, and calling off his attention from the care of
his soul. In a word, the sublime Morality of Christ, were it practicable,
would break all the bonds of society.

A Saint in society is as useless, as a Saint in the desert; his humour is
morose, discontented, and often turbulent; his zeal sometimes obliges him
in conscience to trouble society by opinions or dreams, which his vanity
makes him consider as inspirations from on high. The annals of every
religion are full of restless Saints, intractable Saints, and seditious
Saints, who have become famous by the ravages, with which, _for the
greater glory of God_, they have desolated the universe. If Saints, who
live in retirement, are useless, those who live in the world, are often
very dangerous.

The vanity of acting, the desire of appearing illustrious and peculiar in
conduct, commonly constitute the distinguishing character of Saints. Pride
persuades them, that they are extraordinary men far above human nature,
beings much more perfect than others, favourites whom God regards with
much more complaisance than the rest of mortals. Humility, in a Saint,
is commonly only a more refined pride than that of the generality of men.
Nothing but the most ridiculous vanity can induce man to wage continual
war against his own nature.



163.

A morality, which contradicts the nature of man, is not made for man.
"But," say you, "the nature of man is depraved." In what consists this
pretended depravity? In having passions? But, are not passions essential
to man? Is he not obliged to seek, desire, and love what is, or what he
thinks is, conducive to his happiness? Is he not forced to fear and avoid
what he judges disagreeable or fatal? Kindle his passions for useful
objects; connect his welfare with those objects; divert him, by sensible
and known motives, from what may injure either him or others, and you will
make him a reasonable and virtuous being. A man without passions would be
equally indifferent to vice and to virtue.

Holy Doctors! you are always repeating to us that the nature of man is
perverted; you exclaim, "that _all flesh has corrupted its way_, that
all the propensities of nature have become inordinate." In this case, you
accuse your God; who was either unable, or unwilling, that this nature
should preserve its primitive perfection. If this nature is corrupted, why
has not God repaired it? The Christian immediately assures me, "that human
nature is repaired; that the death of his God has restored its integrity."
How then, I would ask, do you pretend that human nature, notwithstanding
the death of a God, is still depraved? Is then the death of your God
wholly fruitless? What becomes of his omnipotence and of his victory over
the Devil, if it is true that the Devil still preserves the empire, which,
according to you, he has always exercised in the world?

According to Christian theology, Death is the _wages of sin_. This opinion
is conformable to that of some negro and savage nations, who imagine that
the Death of a man is always the supernatural effect of the anger of the
Gods. Christians firmly believe, that Christ has delivered them from sin;
though they see, that, in their Religion, as in others, man is subject to
Death. To say that Jesus Christ has delivered us from sin, is it not to
say, that a judge has pardoned a criminal, while we see that he leaves him
for execution?



164.

If shutting our eyes upon whatever passes in the world, we would credit
the partisans of the Christian Religion, we should believe, that the
coming of their divine Saviour produced the most wonderful and complete
reform in the morals of nations.

If we examine the Morals of Christian nations, and listen to the clamours
of their priests, we shall be forced to conclude, that Jesus Christ, their
God, preached and died, in vain; his omnipotent will still finds in men,
a resistance, over which he cannot, or will not triumph. The Morality
of this divine Teacher, which his disciples so much admire and so little
practise, is followed, in a whole century only by half a dozen obscure
saints, and fanatics, and unknown monks, who alone will have the glory
of shining in the celestial court, while all the rest of mortals, though
redeemed by the blood of this God, will be the prey of eternal flames.



165.

When a man is strongly inclined to sin, he thinks very little about
his God. Nay more, whatever crimes he has committed, he always flatters
himself, that this God will soften, in his favour, the rigour of his
decrees. No mortal seriously believes, that his conduct can damn him.
Though he fears a terrible God, who often makes him tremble, yet, whenever
he is strongly tempted, he yields; and he afterwards sees only the God
of _mercies_, the idea of whom calms his apprehensions. If a man commits
evil, he hopes, he shall have time to reform, and promises to repent at a
future day.

In religious pharmacy, there are infallible prescriptions to quiet
consciences: priests, in every country, possess sovereign secrets to
disarm the anger of heaven. Yet, if it be true that the Deity is appeased
by prayers, offerings, sacrifices, and penances, it can no longer be said,
that Religion is a check to the irregularities of men; they will first
sin, and then seek the means to appease God. Every Religion, which
expiates crime and promises a remission of them, if it restrain some
persons, encourages the majority to commit evil. Notwithstanding his
immutability, God, in every Religion, is a true _Proteus_. His priests
represent him at one time armed with severity, at another full of clemency
and mildness; sometimes cruel and unmerciful, and sometimes easily melted
by the sorrow and tears of sinners. Consequently, men see the Divinity
only on the side most conformable to their present interests. A God always
angry would discourage his worshippers, or throw them into despair.
Men must have a God, who is both irritable, and placable. If his anger
frightens some timorous souls, his clemency encourages the resolutely
wicked, who depend upon recurring, sooner or later, to the means of
accommodation. If the judgments of God terrify some faint-hearted pious
persons, who by constitution and habit are not prone to evil, _the
treasures of divine mercy_ encourage the greatest criminals, who have
reason to hope they participate therein equally with the others.



166.

Most men seldom think of God, or, at least, bestow on him serious
attention. The only ideas we can form of him are so devoid of object, and
are at the same time so afflicting, that the only imaginations they can
arrest are those of melancholy hypochondriacs, who do not constitute the
majority of the inhabitants of this world. The vulgar have no conception
of God; their weak brains are confused, whenever they think of him.
The man of business thinks only of his business; the courtier of his
intrigues; men of fashion, women, and young people of their pleasures;
dissipation soon effaces in them all the fatiguing notions of Religion.
The ambitious man, the miser and the debauchee carefully avoid
speculations too feeble to counterbalance their various passions.

Who is awed by the idea of a God? A few enfeebled men, morose and
disgusted with the world; a few, in whom the passions are already deadened
by age, by infirmity, or by the strokes of fortune. Religion is a check,
to those alone who by their state of mind and body, or by fortuitous
circumstances, have been already brought to reason. The fear of God
hinders from sin only those, who are not much inclined to it, or else
those who are no longer able to commit it. To tell men, that the
Deity punishes crimes in this world, is to advance an assertion, which
experience every moment contradicts. The worst of men are commonly the
arbiters of the world, and are those whom fortune loads with her favours.
To refer us to another life, in order to convince us of the judgments
of God, is to refer us to conjectures, in order to destroy facts, which
cannot be doubted.



167.

Nobody thinks of the life to come, when he is strongly smitten with
the objects he finds here below. In the eyes of a passionate lover, the
presence of his mistress extinguishes the flames of hell, and her charms
efface all the pleasures of paradise. Woman! you leave, say you, your
lover for your God. This is either because your lover is no longer the
same in your eyes, or because he leaves you.

Nothing is more common, than to see ambitious, perverse, corrupt, and
immoral men, who have some ideas of Religion, and sometimes appear even
zealous for its interest. If they do not practise it at present, they hope
to in the future. They lay it up, as a remedy, which will be necessary
to salve the conscience for the evil they intend to commit. Besides, the
party of devotees and priests being very numerous, active, and powerful,
is it not astonishing, that rogues and knaves seek its support to attain
their ends? It will undoubtedly be said, that many honest people are
sincerely religious, and that without profit; but is uprightness of heart
always accompanied with knowledge?

It is urged, that many learned men, many men of genius have been strongly
attached to Religion. This proves, that men of genius may have prejudices,
be pusillanimous, and have an imagination, which misleads them and
prevents them from examining subjects coolly. Pascal proves nothing in
favour of Religion, unless that a man of genius may be foolish on some
subjects, and is but a child, when he is weak enough to listen to his
prejudices. Pascal himself tells us, that _the mind may be strong and
contracted, enlarged and weak_. He previously observes, that _a man may
have a sound mind, and not understand every subject equally well; for
there are some, who, having a sound judgment in a certain order of things,
are bewildered in others_.



168.

What is virtue according to theology? _It is_, we are told, _the
conformity of the actions of man to the will of God_. But, what is God?
A being, of whom nobody has the least conception, and whom every one
consequently modifies in his own way. What is the will of God? It is what
men, who have seen God, or whom God has inspired, have declared to be the
will of God. Who are those, who have seen God? They are either fanatics,
or rogues, or ambitious men, whom we cannot believe.

To found Morality upon a God, whom every man paints to himself
differently, composes in his way, and arranges according to his own
temperament and interest, is evidently to found Morality upon the caprice
and imagination of men; it is to found it upon the whims of a sect, a
faction, a party, who believe they have the advantage to adore a true God
to the exclusion of all others.

To establish Morality or the duties of man upon the divine will, is to
found it upon the will, the reveries and the interests of those, who make
God speak, without ever fearing that he will contradict them. In every
Religion, priests alone have a right to decide what is pleasing or
displeasing to their God, and we are certain they will always decide, that
it is what pleases or displeases themselves. The dogmas, the ceremonies,
the morals, and the virtues, prescribed by every Religion, are visibly
calculated only to extend the power or augment the emoluments of the
founders and ministers of these Religions. The dogmas are obscure,
inconceivable, frightful, and are therefore well calculated to bewilder
the imagination and to render the vulgar more obsequious to the will of
those who wish to domineer over them. The ceremonies and practices procure
the priests, riches or respect. Religion consists in a submissive faith,
which prohibits the exercise of reason; in a devout humility, which
insures priests the submission of their slaves; in an ardent zeal, when
Religion, that is, when the interest of these priests, is in danger. The
only object of all religions is evidently the advantage of its ministers.



169.

When we reproach theologians with the barrenness of their divine virtues,
they emphatically extol _charity_, that tender love of one's neighbour,
which Christianity makes an essential duty of its disciples. But, alas!
what becomes of this pretended charity, when we examine the conduct of the
ministers of the Lord? Ask them, whether we must love or do good to our
neighbour, if he be an impious man, a heretic, or an infidel, that is,
if he do not think like them? Ask them, whether we must tolerate opinions
contrary to those of the religion, they profess? Ask them, whether the
sovereign can show indulgence to those who are in error? Their charity
instantly disappears, and the established clergy will tell you, that _the
prince bears the sword only to support the cause of the Most High_: they
will tell you that, through love for our neighbour, we must prosecute,
imprison, exile, and burn him. You will find no toleration except among a
few priests, persecuted themselves, who will lay aside Christian charity
the instant they have power to persecute in their turn.

The Christian religion, in its origin preached by beggars and miserable
men, under the name of _charity_, strongly recommends alms. The religion
of Mahomet also enjoins it as an indispensable duty. Nothing undoubtedly
is more conformable to humanity, than to succour the unfortunate, to
clothe the naked, to extend the hand of beneficence to every one in
distress. But would it not be more humane and charitable to prevent the
source of misery and poverty? If Religion, instead of deifying princes,
had taught them to respect the property of their subjects, to be just, to
exercise only their lawful rights, we should not be shocked by the sight
of such a multitude of beggars. A rapacious, unjust, tyrannical government
multiplies misery; heavy taxes produce discouragement, sloth, and poverty,
which in their turn beget robberies, assassinations, and crimes of every
description. Had sovereigns more humanity, charity, and equity, their
dominions would not be peopled by so many wretches, whose misery it
becomes impossible to alleviate.

Christian and Mahometan states are full of large hospitals, richly
endowed, in which we admire the pious charity of the kings and sultans,
who erected them. But would it not have been more humane to govern the
people justly, to render them happy, to excite and favour industry and
commerce, and to let men enjoy in safety the fruit of their labours, than
to crush them under a despotic yoke, to impoverish them by foolish wars,
to reduce them to beggary, in order that luxury may be satisfied, and then
to erect splendid buildings, which can contain but a very small portion
of those, who have been rendered miserable? Religion has only deluded men;
instead of preventing evils, it always applies ineffectual remedies.

The ministers of heaven have always known how to profit by the calamities
of others. Public misery is their element. They have every where become
administrators of the property of the poor, distributors of alms,
depositaries of charitable donations; and thereby they have at all times
extended and supported their power over the unhappy, who generally compose
the most numerous, restless, and seditious part of society. Thus the
greatest evils turn to the profit of the ministers of the Lord. Christian
priests tell us, that the property they possess is the property of the
poor, and that it is therefore sacred. Consequently they have eagerly
accumulated lands, revenues, and treasures. Under colour of charity,
spiritual guides have become extremely opulent, and in the face of
impoverished nations enjoy wealth, which was destined solely for the
unfortunate; while the latter, far from murmuring, applaud a pious
generosity, which enriches the church, but rarely contributes to the
relief of the poor.

According to the principles of Christianity, poverty itself is a virtue;
indeed, it is the virtue, which sovereigns and priests oblige their slaves
to observe most rigorously. With this idea, many pious Christians have of
their own accord renounced riches, distributed their patrimony among the
poor, and retired into deserts, there to live in voluntary indigence. But
this enthusiasm, this supernatural taste for misery, has been soon forced
to yield to nature. The successors of these volunteers in poverty sold to
the devout people their prayers, and their intercessions with the Deity.
They became rich and powerful. Thus monks and hermits lived in indolence,
and under colour of charity, impudently devoured the substance of the
poor.

The species of poverty, most esteemed by Religion, is _poverty of mind_.
The fundamental virtue of every Religion, most useful to its ministers,
is _faith_. It consists in unbounded credulity, which admits, without
enquiry, whatever the interpreters of the Deity are interested in making
men believe. By the aid of this wonderful virtue, priests became the
arbiters of right and wrong, of good and evil: they could easily cause the
commission of crimes to advance their interest. Implicit faith has been
the source of the greatest outrages that have been committed.



170.

He, who first taught nations, that, when we wrong Man, we must ask pardon
of God, appease _him_ by presents, and offer _him_ sacrifices, evidently
destroyed the true principles of Morality. According to such ideas, many
persons imagine that they may obtain of the king of heaven, as of kings
of the earth, permission to be unjust and wicked, or may at least obtain
pardon for the evil they may commit.

Morality is founded upon the relations, wants, and constant interests
of mankind; the relations, which subsist between God and Men, are either
perfectly unknown, or imaginary. Religion, by associating God with Man,
has wisely weakened, or destroyed, the bonds, which unite them. Mortals
imagine, they may injure one another with impunity, by making suitable
satisfaction to the almighty being, who is supposed to have the right of
remitting all offences committed against his creatures.

Is any thing better calculated to encourage the wicked or harden them in
crimes, than to persuade them that there exists an invisible being, who
has a right to forgive acts of injustice, rapine, and outrage committed
against society? By these destructive ideas, perverse men perpetrate the
most horrid crimes, and believe they make reparation by imploring divine
mercy; their conscience is at rest, when a priest assures them that heaven
is disarmed by a repentance, which, though sincere, is very useless to the
world.

In the mind of a devout man, God must be regarded more than his creatures;
it is better to obey him, than men. The interests of the celestial monarch
must prevail over those of weak mortals. But the interests of heaven are
obviously those of its ministers; whence it evidently follows, that in
every religion, priests, under pretext of the interests of heaven or the
glory of God, can dispense with the duties of human Morality, when they
clash with the duties, which God has a right to impose. Besides, must
not he, who has power to pardon crimes, have a right to encourage the
commission of crimes?



171.

We are perpetually told, that, without a God there would be no _moral
obligation_; that the people and even the sovereigns require a legislator
powerful enough to constrain them. Moral constraint supposes a law; but
this law arises from the eternal and necessary relations of things with
one another; relations, which have nothing common with the existence of a
God. The rules of Man's conduct are derived from his own nature which he
is capable of knowing, and not from the Divine nature of which he has no
idea. These rules constrain or oblige us; that is, we render ourselves
estimable or contemptible, amiable or detestable, worthy of reward or of
punishment, happy or unhappy, accordingly as we conform to, or deviate
from these rules. The law, which obliges man not to hurt himself, is
founded upon the nature of a sensible being, who, in whatever way he came
into this world, is forced by his actual essence to seek good and shun
evil, to love pleasure and fear pain. The law, which obliges man not
to injure, and even to do good to others, is founded upon the nature of
sensible beings, living in society, whose essence compels them to despise
those who are useless, and to detest those who oppose their felicity.

Whether there exists a God or not, whether this God has spoken or not, the
moral duties of men will be always the same, so long as they are sensible
beings. Have men then need of a God whom they know not, of an invisible
legislator, of a mysterious religion and of chimerical fears, in order to
learn that every excess evidently tends to destroy them, that to preserve
health they must be temperate; that to gain the love of others it is
necessary to do them good, that to do them evil is a sure means to incur
their vengeance and hatred? "Before the law there was no sin." Nothing is
more false than this maxim. It suffices that man is what he is, or that
he is a sensible being, in order to distinguish what gives him pleasure or
displeasure. It suffices that one man knows that another man is a sensible
being like himself, to perceive what is useful or hurtful to him. It
suffices that man needs his fellow-creature, in order to know that he must
fear to excite sentiments unfavourable to himself. Thus the feeling and
thinking being has only to feel and think, in order to discover what he
must do for himself and others. I feel, and another feels like me; this is
the foundation of all morals.



172.

We can judge of the goodness of a system of Morals, only by its conformity
to the nature of man. By this comparison, we have a right to reject it,
if contrary to the welfare of our species. Whoever has seriously meditated
Religion; whoever has carefully weighed its advantages and disadvantages,
will be fully convinced, that both are injurious to the interests of Man,
or directly opposite to his nature.

"To arms! the cause of your God is at stake! Heaven is outraged! The faith
is in danger! Impiety! blasphemy! heresy!" The magical power of these
formidable words, the real value of which the people never understand,
have at all times enabled priests to excite revolts, to dethrone kings, to
kindle civil wars, and to lay waste. If we examine the important objects,
which have produced so many ravages upon earth, it appears, that either
the foolish reveries and whimsical conjectures of some theologian who did
not understand himself, or else the pretensions of the clergy, have broken
every social bond and deluged mankind with blood and tears.



173.

The sovereigns of this world, by associating the Divinity in the
government of their dominions, by proclaiming themselves his vicegerents
and representatives upon earth, and by acknowledging they hold their power
from him, have necessarily constituted his ministers their own rivals or
masters. Is it then astonishing, that priests have often made kings feel
the superiority of the Celestial Monarch? Have they not more than once
convinced temporal princes, that even the greatest power is compelled to
yield to the spiritual power of opinion? Nothing is more difficult than
to serve two masters, especially when they are not agreed upon what they
require.

The association of Religion with Politics necessarily introduced double
legislation. The law of God, interpreted by his priests, was often
repugnant to the law of the sovereign, or the interest of the state. When
princes have firmness and are confident of the love of their subjects,
the law of God is sometimes forced to yield to the wise intentions of the
temporal sovereign; but generally the _sovereign_ authority is obliged
to give way to the _divine_ authority, that is, to the interests of the
clergy. Nothing is more dangerous to a prince, than to _encroach upon the
authority of the Church_, that is, to attempt to reform abuses consecrated
by religion. God is never more angry than when we touch the divine rights,
privileges, possessions, or immunities of his priests.

The metaphysical speculations or religious opinions of men influence their
conduct, only when they judge them conformable to their interest. Nothing
proves this truth more clearly, than the conduct of many princes with
respect to the spiritual power, which they often resist. Ought not a
sovereign, persuaded of the importance and rights of Religion, to believe
himself in conscience bound to receive respectfully the orders of its
priests, and to regard them as the orders of the Divinity? There was
a time, when kings and people, more consistent in their conduct, were
convinced of the rights of spiritual power, and becoming its slaves,
yielded to it upon every occasion, and were but docile instruments in
its hands. That happy time is passed. By a strange inconsistency the most
devout monarchs are sometimes seen to oppose the enterprises of those,
whom they yet regard as the ministers of God. A sovereign, deeply
religious, ought to remain prostrate at the feet of his ministers, and
regard them as true sovereigns. Is there upon earth a power which has a
right to put itself in competition with that of the Most High?



174.

Have princes then, who imagine themselves interested in cherishing the
prejudices of their subjects, seriously reflected upon the effects, which
have been, and may be again produced by certain privileged demagogues, who
have a right to speak at pleasure, and in the name of heaven to inflame
the passions of millions of subjects? What ravages would not these sacred
haranguers cause, if they should conspire, as they have so often done, to
disturb the tranquillity of a state!

To most nations, nothing is more burthensome and ruinous than the worship
of their gods. Not only do the ministers of these gods every where
constitute the first order in the state, but they also enjoy the largest
portion of the goods of society, and have a right to levy permanent taxes
upon their fellow-citizens. What real advantages then do these organs of
the Most High procure the people, for the immense profits extorted from
their industry? In exchange for their riches and benefits, what do they
give them but mysteries, hypotheses, ceremonies, subtle questions, and
endless quarrels, which states are again compelled to pay with blood?



175.

Religion, though said to be the firmest prop of Morality, evidently
destroys its true springs, in order to substitute imaginary ones,
inconceivable chimeras, which, being obviously contrary to reason, nobody
firmly believes. All nations declare that they firmly believe in a God,
who rewards and punishes; all say they are persuaded of the existence of
hell and paradise; yet, do these ideas render men better or counteract
the most trifling interests? Every one assures us, that he trembles at
the judgments of God; yet every one follows his passions, when he thinks
himself sure of escaping the judgments of Man. The fear of invisible
powers is seldom so strong as the fear of visible ones. Unknown or remote
punishments strike the multitude far less forcibly than the sight of
the gallows. Few courtiers fear the anger of their God so much as the
displeasure of their master. A pension, a title, or a riband suffices to
efface the remembrance both of the torments of hell, and of the pleasures
of the celestial court. The caresses of a woman repeatedly prevail over
the menaces of the Most High. A jest, a stroke of ridicule, a witticism,
make more impression upon the man of the world, than all the grave notions
of his Religion.

Are we not assured that _a true repentance_ is enough to appease the
Deity? Yet we do not see that this _true repentance_ is very sincere;
at least, it is rare to see noted thieves, even at the point of death,
restore goods, which they have unjustly acquired. Men are undoubtedly
persuaded, that they shall fit themselves for eternal fire, if they cannot
insure themselves against it. But, "Some useful compacts may be made with
heaven." By giving the church a part of his fortune, almost every devout
rogue may die in peace, without concerning himself in what he gained his
riches.



176.

By the confession of the warmest defenders of Religion and of its utility,
nothing is more rare than sincere conversions, and, we might add, nothing
more unprofitable to society. Men are not disgusted with the world, until
the world is disgusted with them.

If the devout have the talent of pleasing God and his priests, they
have seldom that of being agreeable or useful to society. To a devotee,
Religion is a veil, which covers all passions; pride, ill-humour,
anger, revenge, impatience, and rancour. Devotion arrogates a tyrannical
superiority, which banishes gentleness, indulgence, and gaiety; it
authorizes people to censure their neighbours, to reprove and revile the
profane for the greater glory of God. It is very common to be devout, and
at the same time destitute of every virtue and quality necessary to social
life.



177.

It is asserted, that the dogma of another life is of the utmost importance
to peace and happiness; that without it, men would be destitute of motives
to do good. What need is there of terrors and fables to make man sensible
how he ought to conduct himself? Does not every one see, that he has the
greatest interest, in meriting the approbation, esteem, and benevolence of
the beings who surround him, and in abstaining from every thing, by which
he may incur the censure, contempt, and resentment of society? However
short an entertainment, a conversation, or visit, does not each desire to
act his part decently, and agreeably to himself and others? If life is but
a passage, let us strive to make it easy; which we cannot effect, if we
fail in regard for those who travel with us. Religion, occupied with
its gloomy reveries, considers man merely as a pilgrim upon earth; and
therefore supposes that, in order to travel the more securely, he must
forsake company, and deprive himself of pleasure and amusements, which
might console him for the tediousness and fatigue of the journey. A
stoical and morose philosopher sometimes gives us advice as irrational
as that of Religion. But a more rational philosophy invites us to spread
flowers upon the way of life, to dispel melancholy and banish terrors, to
connect our interest with that of our fellow-travellers, and by gaiety and
lawful pleasures, to divert our attention from difficulties and accidents,
to which we are often exposed; it teaches us, that, to travel agreeably,
we should abstain from what might be injurious to ourselves, and carefully
shun what might render us odious to our associates.



178.

It is asked, _what motives an Atheist can have to do good?_ The motive to
please himself and his fellow-creatures; to live happily and peaceably;
to gain the affection and esteem of men. "Can he, who fears not the gods,
fear any thing?" He can fear men; he can fear contempt, dishonour, the
punishment of the laws; in short, he can fear himself, and the remorse
felt by all those who are conscious of having incurred or merited the
hatred of their fellow-creatures.

Conscience is the internal testimony, which we bear to ourselves, of
having acted so as to merit the esteem or blame of the beings, with whom
we live; and it is founded upon the clear knowledge we have of men, and of
the sentiments which our actions must produce in them. The Conscience of
the religious man consists in imagining that he has pleased or displeased
his God, of whom he has no idea, and whose obscure and doubtful intentions
are explained to him only by men of doubtful veracity, who, like him, are
utterly unacquainted with the essence of the Deity, and are little agreed
upon what can please or displease him. In a word, the conscience of the
credulous is directed by men, who have themselves an erroneous conscience,
or whose interest stifles knowledge.

"Can an Atheist have a Conscience? What are his motives to abstain from
hidden vices and secret crimes of which other men are ignorant, and which
are beyond the reach of laws?" He may be assured by constant experience,
that there is no vice, which, by the nature of things, does not punish
itself. Would he preserve this life? he will avoid every excess, that
may impair his health; he will not wish to lead a languishing life, which
would render him a burden to himself and others. As for secret crimes, he
will abstain from them, for fear he shall be forced to blush at himself,
from whom he cannot flee. If he has any reason, he will know the value
of the esteem which an honest man ought to have for himself. He will
see, that unforeseen circumstances may unveil the conduct, which he feels
interested in concealing from others. The other world furnishes no motives
for doing good, to him, who finds none on earth.



179.

"The speculative Atheist," says the Theist, "may be an honest man, but his
writings will make political Atheists. Princes and ministers, no longer
restrained by the fear of God, will abandon themselves, without scruple,
to the most horrid excesses." But, however great the depravity of an
Atheist upon the throne, can it be stronger and more destructive, than
that of the many conquerors, tyrants, persecutors, ambitious men, and
perverse courtiers, who, though not Atheists, but often very religious and
devout, have notwithstanding made humanity groan under the weight of their
crimes? Can an atheistical prince do more harm to the world, than a
Louis XI., a Philip II., a Richelieu, who all united Religion with crime?
Nothing is more rare, than atheistical princes; nothing more common, than
tyrants and ministers, who are very wicked and very religious.



180.

A man of reflection cannot be incapable of his duties, of discovering
the relations subsisting between men, of meditating his own nature, of
discerning his own wants, propensities, and desires, and of perceiving
what he owes to beings, who are necessary to his happiness. These
reflections naturally lead him to a knowledge of the Morality most
essential to social beings. Dangerous passions seldom fall to the lot of
a man who loves to commune with himself, to study, and to investigate the
principles of things. The strongest passion of such a man will be to know
truth, and his ambition to teach it to others. Philosophy cultivates the
mind. On the score of morals and honesty, has not he who reflects and
reasons, evidently an advantage over him, who makes it a principle never
to reason?

If ignorance is useful to priests, and to the oppressors of mankind, it is
fatal to society. Man, void of knowledge, does not enjoy reason; without
reason and knowledge, he is a savage, liable to commit crimes. Morality,
or the science of duties, is acquired only by the study of Man, and of
what is relative to Man. He, who does not reflect, is unacquainted with
true Morality, and walks with precarious steps, in the path of virtue. The
less men reason, the more wicked they are. Savages, princes, nobles,
and the dregs of the people, are commonly the worst of men, because they
reason the least. The devout man seldom reflects, and rarely reasons. He
fears all enquiry, scrupulously follows authority, and often, through an
error of conscience, makes it a sacred duty to commit evil. The Atheist
reasons: he consults experience, which he prefers to prejudice. If he
reasons justly, his conscience is enlightened; he finds more real motives
to do good than the bigot whose only motives are his fallacies, and who
never listens to reason. Are not the motives of the Atheist sufficiently
powerful to counteract his passions? Is he blind enough to be unmindful
of his true interest, which ought to restrain him? But he will be neither
worse nor better, than the numerous believers, who, notwithstanding
Religion and its sublime precepts, follow a conduct which Religion
condemns. Is a credulous assassin less to be feared, than an assassin who
believes nothing? Is a very devout tyrant less tyrannical than an undevout
tyrant?



181.

Nothing is more uncommon, than to see men consistent. Their opinions never
influence their conduct except when conformable to their temperaments,
passions, and interests. Daily experience shows, that religious opinions
produce much evil and little good. They are hurtful, because they often
favour the passions of tyrants, of ambitious men, of fanatics, and of
priests; they are of no effect, because incapable of counter-balancing the
present interests of the greater part of mankind. Religious principles
are of no avail, when they act in opposition to ardent desires; though not
unbelievers, men then conduct themselves as if they believed nothing.

We shall always be liable to err, when we judge of the opinions of men
by their conduct, or of their conduct by their opinions. A religious man,
notwithstanding the unsociable principles of a sanguinary religion, will
sometimes by a happy inconsistency, be humane, tolerant, and moderate; the
principles of his religion do not then agree with the gentleness of his
character. Libertines, debauchees, hypocrites, adulterers, and rogues,
often appear to have the best ideas upon morals. Why do they not reduce
them to practice? Because their temperament, their interest, and their
habits do not accord with their sublime theories. The rigid principles of
Christian morality, which many people regard as divine, have but little
influence upon the conduct of those, who preach them to others. Do they
not daily tell us, _to do what they preach, and not what they practise?_

The partisans of Religion often denote an infidel by the word _libertine_.
It is possible that many unbelievers may have loose morals, which is
owing to their temperament, and not to their opinions. But how does
their conduct affect their opinions? Cannot then an immoral man be a good
physician, architect, geometrician, logician, or metaphysician? A man of
irreproachable conduct may be extremely deficient in knowledge and reason.
In quest of truth, it little concerns us from whom it comes. Let us not
judge men by their opinions, nor opinions by men; let us judge men by
their conduct, and their opinions by their conformity with experience and
reason and by their utility to mankind.



182.

Every man, who reasons, soon becomes an unbeliever; for reason shows, that
theology is nothing but a tissue of chimeras; that religion is contrary to
every principle of good sense, that it tinctures all human knowledge with
falsity. The sensible man is an unbeliever, because he sees, that, far
from making men happier, religion is the chief source of the greatest
disorders, and the permanent calamities, with which man is afflicted. The
man, who seeks his own welfare and tranquillity, examines and throws aside
religion, because he thinks it no less troublesome than useless, to spend
his life in trembling before phantoms, fit to impose only upon silly women
or children.

If licentiousness, which reasons but little, sometimes leads to
irreligion, the man of pure morals may have very good motives for
examining his religion, and banishing it from his mind. Religious terrors,
too weak to impose upon the wicked in whom vice is deeply rooted, afflict,
torment and overwhelm restless imaginations. Courageous and vigorous
minds soon shake off the insupportable yoke. But those, who are weak and
timorous, languish under it during life; and as they grow old their fears
increase.

Priests have represented God as so malicious, austere, and terrible a
being, that most men would cordially wish, that there was no God. It is
impossible to be happy, while always trembling. Ye devout! you adore a
terrible God! But you hate him; you would be glad, if he did not exist.
Can we refrain from desiring the absence or destruction of a master, the
idea of whom destroys our happiness? The black colours, in which priests
paint the Divinity, are truly shocking, and force us to hate and reject
him.



183.

If fear created the gods, fear supports their empire over the minds of
mortals. So early are men accustomed to shudder at the mere name of the
Deity, that they regard him as a spectre, a hobgoblin, a bugbear, which
torments and deprives them of courage even to wish relief from their
fears. They apprehend, that the invisible spectre, will strike them the
moment they cease to be afraid. Bigots are too much in fear of their God
to love him sincerely. They serve him like slaves, who, unable to escape
his power, resolve to flatter their master, and who, by dint of lying, at
length persuade themselves, that they in some measure love him. They make
a virtue of necessity. The love of devotees for their God, and of slaves
for their despots, is only a feigned homage.



184.

Christian divines have represented their God so terrible and so little
worthy of love, that several of them have thought they must dispense
with loving him; a blasphemy, shocking to other divines, who were less
ingenuous. St. Thomas having maintained, that we are obliged to love God
as soon as we attain the use of reason, the Jesuit Sirmond answered him,
_that is very soon_. The Jesuit Vasquez assures us, that _it is enough to
love God at the point of death_. Hurtado, more rigid, says, _we must
love God very year_. Henriquez is contented that we love him _every five
years_; Sotus, _every Sunday_. Upon what are these opinions grounded? asks
father Sirmond; who adds, that Suarez requires us to _love God sometimes_.
But when? He leaves that to us; he knows nothing about it himself. _Now_,
says he, _who will be able to know that, of which such a learned divine is
ignorant?_ The same Jesuit Sirmond further observes, that _God_ "does not
command us to love him with an affectionate love, nor does he promise us
salvation upon condition that we give him our hearts; it is enough to obey
and love him with an effective love by executing his orders; this is the
only love we owe him; and he has not so much commanded us to love him, as
not to hate him." This doctrine appears heretical, impious, and abominable
to the Jansenists, who, by the revolting severity they attribute to their
God, make him far less amiable, than the Jesuits, their adversaries. The
latter, to gain adherents, paint God in colours capable of encouraging
the most perverse of mortals. Thus nothing is more undecided with the
Christians, than the important question, whether they can, ought, or
ought not to love God. Some of their spiritual guides maintain, that it
is necessary to love him with all one's heart, notwithstanding all his
severity; others, like father Daniel, think that, _an act of pure love
to God is the most heroic act of Christian virtue, and almost beyond the
reach of human weakness_. The Jesuit Pintereau goes farther; he says, _a
deliverance from the grievous yoke of loving God is a privilege of the new
covenant_.



185.

The character of the Man always decides that of his God; every body
makes one for himself and like himself. The man of gaiety, involved in
dissipation and pleasure, does not imagine, that, God can be stern and
cross; he wants a good-natured God, with whom he can find reconciliation.
The man of a rigid, morose, bilious, sour disposition, must have a God
like himself, a God of terror; and he regards, as perverse, those, who
admit a placable, indulgent God. As men are constituted, organized, and
modified in a manner, which cannot be precisely the same, how can they
agree about a chimera, which exists only in their brains?

The cruel and endless disputes between the ministers of the Lord, are not
such as to attract the confidence of those, who impartially consider them.
How can we avoid complete infidelity, upon viewing principles, about which
those who teach them to others are never agreed? How can we help doubting
the existence of a God, of whom it is evident that even his ministers
can only form very fluctuating ideas? How can we in short avoid totally
rejecting a God, who is nothing but a shapeless heap of contradictions?
How can we refer the matter to the decision of priests, who are
perpetually at war, treating each other as impious and heretical, defaming
and persecuting each other without mercy, for differing in the manner of
understanding what they announce to the world?



186.

The existence of a God is the basis of all Religion. Nevertheless, this
important truth has not as yet been demonstrated, I do not say so as
to convince unbelievers, but in a manner satisfactory to theologians
themselves. Profound thinkers have at all times been occupied in inventing
new proofs. What are the fruits of their meditations and arguments?
They have left the subject in a worse condition; they have demonstrated
nothing; they have almost always excited the clamours of their brethren,
who have accused them of having poorly defended the best of causes.



187.

The apologists of religion daily repeat, that the passions alone make
unbelievers. "Pride," say they, "and the desire of signalizing themselves,
make men Atheists. They endeavour to efface from their minds the idea
of God, only because they have reason to fear his terrible judgments."
Whatever may be the motives, which incline men to Atheism, it is our
business to examine, whether their sentiments are founded in truth. No man
acts without motives. Let us first examine the arguments and afterwards
the motives. We shall see whether these motives are not legitimate, and
more rational than those of many credulous bigots, who suffer themselves
to be guided by masters little worthy of the confidence of men.

You say then, Priests of the Lord! that the passions make unbelievers;
that they renounce Religion only through interest, or because it
contradicts their inordinate propensities; you assert, that they attack
your gods only because they fear their severity. But, are you yourselves,
in defending Religion and its chimeras, truly exempt from passions and
interests? Who reap advantages from this Religion, for which priests
display so much zeal? Priests. To whom does Religion procure power,
influence, riches, and honours? To Priests. Who wage war, in every
country, against reason, science, truth, and philosophy, and render them
odious to sovereigns and people? Priests. Who profit by the ignorance and
vain prejudices of men? Priests.--Priests! you are rewarded, honoured
and paid for deceiving mortals, and you cause those to be punished who
undeceive them. The follies of men procure you benefices, offerings, and
expiations; while those, who announce the most useful truths, are rewarded
only with chains, gibbets and funeral-piles. Let the world judge between
us.



188.

Pride and vanity have been, and ever will be, inherent in the priesthood.
Is any thing more capable of rendering men haughty and vain, than the
pretence of exercising a power derived from heaven, of bearing a sacred
character, of being the messengers and ministers of the Most High? Are not
these dispositions perpetually nourished by the credulity of the people,
the deference and respect of sovereigns, the immunities, privileges, and
distinctions enjoyed by the clergy? In every country, the vulgar are much
more devoted to their spiritual guides, whom they regard as divine, than
to their temporal superiors, whom they consider as no more than ordinary
men. The parson of a village acts a much more conspicuous part, than the
lord of the manor or the justice of the peace. Among the Christians, a
priest thinks himself far above a king or an emperor. A Spanish grandee
having spoken rather haughtily to a monk, the latter arrogantly said,
"Learn to respect a man, who daily has your God in his hands, and your
Queen at his feet." Have priests then a right to accuse unbelievers of
pride? Are they themselves remarkable for uncommon modesty or profound
humility? Is it not evident, that the desire of domineering over men is
essential to their trade? If the ministers of the Lord were truly modest,
should we see them so greedy of respect, so impatient of contradiction, so
positive in their decisions, and so unmercifully revengeful to those
whose opinions offend them? Has not Science the modesty to acknowledge
how difficult it is to discover truth? What other passion but ungovernable
pride can make men so savage, revengeful, and void of indulgence and
gentleness? What can be more presumptuous, than to arm nations and deluge
the world in blood, in order to establish or defend futile conjectures?

You say, that presumption alone makes Atheists. Inform them then what your
God is; teach them his essence; speak of him intelligibly; say something
about him, which is reasonable, and not contradictory or impossible. If
you are unable to satisfy them, if hitherto none of you have been able to
demonstrate the existence of a God in a clear and convincing manner; if
by your own confession, his essence is completely veiled from you, as from
the rest of mortals, forgive those, who cannot admit what they can neither
understand nor make consistent with itself; do not tax with presumption
and vanity those who are sincere enough to confess their ignorance; do
not accuse of folly those who find themselves incapable of believing
contradictions; and for once, blush at exciting the hatred and fury of
sovereigns and people against men, who think not like you concerning a
being, of whom you have no idea. Is any thing more rash and extravagant,
than to reason concerning an object, known to be inconceivable? You say,
that the corruption of the heart produces Atheism, that men shake off the
yoke of the Deity only because they fear his formidable judgments.
But, why do you paint your God in colours so shocking, that he becomes
insupportable? Why does so powerful a God permit men to be so corrupt? How
can we help endeavouring to shake off the yoke of a tyrant, who, able to
do as he pleases with men, consents to their perversion, who hardens, and
blinds them, and refuses them his grace, that he may have the satisfaction
to punish them eternally, for having been hardened, and blinded, and for
not having the grace which he refused? Theologians and priests must be
very confident of the grace of heaven and a happy futurity, to refrain
from detesting a master so capricious as the God they announce. A God,
who damns eternally, is the most odious of beings that the human mind can
invent.



189.

No man upon earth is truly interested in the support of error, which is
forced sooner or later to yield to truth. The general good must at length
open the eyes of mortals: the passions themselves sometimes contribute
to break the chains of prejudices. Did not the passions of sovereigns,
centuries ago, annihilate in some countries of Europe the tyrannical
power, which a too haughty pontiff once exercised over all princes of his
sect? In consequence of the progress of political science, the clergy
were then stripped of immense riches, which credulity had accumulated
upon them. Ought not this memorable example to convince priests, that
prejudices triumph but for a time, and that truth alone can insure solid
happiness?

By caressing sovereigns, by fabricating divine rights for them, by
deifying them, and by abandoning the people, bound hand and foot, to their
will, the ministers of the Most High must see, that they are labouring to
make them tyrants. Have they not reason to apprehend, that the gigantic
idols, which they raised to the clouds, will one day crush them by
their enormous weight? Do not a thousand examples remind them that these
tyrants, after preying upon the people, may prey upon them in their turn.

We will respect priests, when they become sensible men. Let them, if they
please, use the authority of heaven to frighten those princes who are
continually desolating the earth; but let them no more adjudge to them the
horrid right of being unjust with impunity. Let them acknowledge, that no
man is interested in living under tyranny; and let them teach sovereigns,
that they themselves are not interested in exercising a despotism, which,
by rendering them odious, exposes them to danger, and detracts from
their power and greatness. Finally, let priests and kings become so
far enlightened as to acknowledge, that no power is secure which is not
founded upon truth, reason, and equity.



190.

By waging war against Reason, which they ought to have protected and
developed, the ministers of the gods evidently act against their own
interest. What power, influence, and respect might they not have gained
among the wisest of men, what gratitude would they not have excited in the
people, if, instead of wasting their time about their vain disputes, they
had applied themselves to really useful science, and investigated the
true principles of philosophy, government, and morals! Who would dare to
reproach a body with its opulence or influence, if the members dedicating
themselves to the public good, employed their leisure in study, and
exercised their authority in enlightening the minds both of sovereigns and
subjects?

Priests! Forsake your chimeras, your unintelligible dogmas, your
contemptible quarrels! Banish those phantoms which could be useful only in
the infancy of nations. Assume, at length, the language of reason. Instead
of exciting persecution; instead of entertaining the people with silly
disputes; instead of preaching useless and fanatical dogmas, preach human
and social morality; preach virtues really useful to the world; become the
apostles of reason, the defenders of liberty, and the reformers of abuses.



191.

Philosophers have every where taken upon themselves a part, which seemed
destined to the ministers of Religion. The hatred of the latter for
philosophy was only a jealousy of trade. But, instead of endeavouring
to injure and decry each other, all men of good sense should unite their
efforts to combat error, seek truth, and especially to put to flight the
prejudices, that are equally injurious to sovereigns and subjects, and of
which the abettors themselves sooner or later become the victims.

In the hands of an enlightened government, the priests would become the
most useful of the citizens. Already richly paid by the state, and free
from the care of providing for their own subsistence, how could they
be better employed than in qualifying themselves for the instruction
of others? Would not their minds be better satisfied with discovering
luminous truths, than in wandering through the thick darkness of error?
Would it be more difficult to discern the clear principles of Morality,
than the imaginary principles of a divine and theological Morality? Would
men of ordinary capacities find it as difficult to fix in their heads the
simple notions of their duties, as to load their memories with mysteries,
unintelligible words and obscure definitions, of which they can never
form a clear idea? What time and pains are lost in learning and teaching
things, which are not of the least real utility! What resources for the
encouragement of the sciences, the advancement of knowledge, and the
education of youth, well disposed sovereigns might find in the many
monasteries, which in several countries live upon the people without in
the slightest degree profiting them! But superstition, jealous of its
exclusive empire, seems resolved to form only useless beings. To what
advantage might we not turn a multitude of cenobites of both sexes,
who, in many countries, are amply endowed for doing nothing? Instead
of overwhelming them with fasting and austerities; instead of barren
contemplations, mechanical prayers, and trifling ceremonies; why should
we not excite in them a salutary emulation, which may incline them to seek
the means, not of being _dead_ to the world, but of being _useful_ to it?
Instead of filling the youthful minds of their pupils with fables, sterile
dogmas, and puerilities, why are not priests obliged, or invited to teach
them truths, and to render them useful citizens of their country? Under
the present system, men are only useful to the clergy who blind them, and
to the tyrants who fleece them.



192.

The partisans of credulity often accuse unbelievers of insincerity,
because they sometimes waver in their principles, alter their minds in
sickness, and retract at death. When the body is disordered, the faculty
of reasoning is commonly disordered with it. At the approach of death,
man, weak and decayed, is sometimes himself sensible that Reason abandons
him, and that Prejudice returns. There are some diseases, which tend to
weaken the brain; to create despondency and pusillanimity; and there are
others, which destroy the body, but do not disturb the reason. At any
rate, an unbeliever who recants in sickness is not more extraordinary,
than a devotee who neglects in health the duties which his religion
explicitly enjoins.

Ministers of Religion openly contradict in their daily conduct the
rigorous principles, they teach to others; in consequence of which,
unbelievers, in their turn, may justly accuse them of insincerity. Is it
easy to find many prelates humble, generous, void of ambition, enemies
of pomp and grandeur, and friends of poverty? In short, is the conduct of
Christian ministers conformable to the austere morality of Christ, their
God, and their model?



193.

_Atheism_, it is said, _breaks all the ties of society. Without the belief
of a God, what will become of the sacredness of oaths? How shall we oblige
a man to speak the truth, who cannot seriously call the Deity to witness
what he says?_ But, does an oath strengthen our obligation to fulfil the
engagements contracted? Will he, who is not fearful of lying, be less
fearful of perjury? He, who is base enough to break his word, or unjust
enough to violate his engagements, in contempt of the esteem of men, will
not be more faithful therein for having called all the gods to witness his
oaths. Those, who disregard the judgments of men, will soon disregard the
judgments of God. Are not princes, of all men, the most ready to swear,
and the most ready to violate their oaths?



194.

_The vulgar_, it is repeatedly said, _must have a Religion. If enlightened
persons have no need of the restraint of opinion, it is at least necessary
to rude men, whose reason is uncultivated by education_. But, is it indeed
a fact, that religion is a restraint upon the vulgar? Do we see, that
this religion preserves them from intemperance, drunkenness, brutality,
violence, fraud, and every kind of excess? Could a people who have no idea
of the Deity conduct themselves in a more detestable manner, than these
believing people, among whom we find dissipation and vices, the most
unworthy of reasonable beings? Upon going out of the churches, do not the
working classes, and the populace, plunge without fear into their ordinary
irregularities, under the idea, that the periodical homage, which they
render to their God, authorizes them to follow, without remorse, their
vicious habits and pernicious propensities? Finally, if the people are
so low-minded and unreasonable, is not their stupidity chargeable to
the negligence of their princes, who are wholly regardless of public
education, or who even oppose the instruction of their subjects? Is not
the want of reason in the people evidently the work of the priests, who,
instead of instructing men in a rational morality, entertain them with
fables, reveries, ceremonies, fallacies, and false virtues which they
think of the greatest importance?

To the people, Religion is but a vain display of ceremonies, to which
they are attached by habit, which entertains their eyes, and produces
a transient emotion in their torpid understandings, without influencing
their conduct or reforming their morals. Even by the confession of the
ministers of the altars, nothing is more rare than that _internal_ and
_spiritual_ Religion, which alone is capable of regulating the life of
man and of triumphing over his evil propensities. In the most numerous
and devout nation, are there many persons, who are really capable of
understanding the principles of their religious system, and who find them
powerful enough to stifle their perverse inclinations?

Many persons will say, that _any restraint whatever is better than none._
They will maintain, that _if religion awes not the greater part, it serves
at least to restrain some individuals, who would otherwise without remorse
abandon themselves to crime_. Men ought undoubtedly to have a restraint,
but not an imaginary one. Religion only frightens those whose imbecility
of character has already prevented them from being formidable to their
fellow-citizens. An equitable government, severe laws, and sound morality
have an equal power over all; at least, every person must believe in them,
and perceive the danger of not conforming to them.



195.

Perhaps it will be asked, _whether Atheism can be proper for the
multitude?_ I answer, that any system, which requires discussion, is
not made for the multitude. _What purpose then can it serve to preach
Atheism?_ It may at least serve to convince all those who reason, that
nothing is more extravagant than to fret one's self, and nothing more
unjust than to vex others, for mere groundless conjectures. As for the
vulgar who never reason, the arguments of an Atheist are no more fit for
them than the systems of a natural philosopher, the observations of
an astronomer, the experiments of a chemist, the calculations of a
geometrician, the researches of a physician, the plans of an architect,
or the pleadings of a lawyer, who all labour for the people without their
knowledge.

Are the metaphysical reasonings and religious disputes, which have so
long engrossed the time and attention of so many profound thinkers, better
adapted to the generality of men than the reasoning of an Atheist? Nay,
as the principles of Atheism are founded upon plain common sense, are they
not more intelligible, than those of a theology, beset with difficulties,
which even the persons of the greatest genius cannot explain? In every
country, the people have a religion, the principles of which they
are totally ignorant, and which they follow from habit without any
examination: their priests alone are engaged in theology, which is too
dense for vulgar heads. If the people should chance to lose this unknown
theology, they mighty easily console themselves for the loss of a thing,
not only perfectly useless, but also productive of dangerous commotions.

It would be madness to write for the vulgar, or to attempt to cure their
prejudices all at once. We write for those only, who read and reason;
the multitude read but little, and reason still less. Calm and rational
persons will require new ideas, and knowledge will be gradually diffused.



196.

If theology is a branch of commerce profitable to theologians, it is
evidently not only superfluous, but injurious to the rest of society.
Self-interest will sooner or later open the eyes of men. Sovereigns
and subjects will one day adopt the profound indifference and contempt,
merited by a futile system, which serves only to make men miserable.
All persons will be sensible of the inutility of the many expensive
ceremonies, which contribute nothing to public felicity. Contemptible
quarrels will cease to disturb the tranquility of states, when we blush at
having considered them important.

Instead of Parliament meddling with the senseless combats of your clergy;
instead of foolishly espousing their impertinent quarrels, and attempting
to make your subjects adopt uniform opinions--strive to make them happy
in this world. Respect their liberty and property, watch over their
education, encourage them in their labours, reward their talents and
virtues, repress licentiousness; and do not concern yourselves with their
manner of thinking. Theological fables are useful only to tyrants and the
ignorant.



197.

Does it then require an extraordinary effort of genius to comprehend,
that what is above the capacity of man, is not made for him; that things
supernatural are not made for natural beings; that impenetrable mysteries
are not made for limited minds? If theologians are foolish enough to
dispute upon objects, which they acknowledge to be unintelligible even to
themselves, ought society to take any part in their silly quarrels? Must
the blood of nations flow to enhance the conjectures of a few infatuated
dreamers? If it is difficult to cure theologians of their madness and
the people of their prejudices, it is at least easy to prevent the
extravagancies of one party, and the silliness of the other from producing
pernicious effects. Let every one be permitted to think as he pleases; but
never let him be permitted to injure others for their manner of thinking.
Were the rulers of nations more just and rational, theological opinions
would not affect the public tranquillity, more than the disputes of
natural philosophers, physicians, grammarians, and critics. It is
tyranny which causes theological quarrels to be attended with serious
consequences.

Those, who extol the importance and utility of Religion, ought to shew
us its happy effects, the advantages for instance, which the disputes
and abstract speculations of theology can be to porters, artisans, and
labourers, and to the multitude of unfortunate women and corrupt servants
with which great cities abound. All these beings are religious; they have
what is called _an implicit faith_. Their parsons believe for them; and
they stupidly adhere to the unknown belief of their guides. They go to
hear sermons, and would think it a great crime to transgress any of the
ordinances, to which, in childhood, they are taught to conform. But of
what service to morals is all this? None at all. They have not the least
idea of Morality, and are even guilty of all the roguery, fraud, rapine,
and excess, that is out of the reach of law.

The populace have no idea of their Religion; what they call Religion
is nothing but a blind attachment to unknown opinions and mysterious
practices. In fact, to deprive people of Religion is to deprive them
of nothing. By overthrowing their prejudices, we should only lessen or
annihilate the dangerous confidence they put in interested guides, and
should teach them to mistrust those, who, under the pretext of Religion,
often lead them into fatal excesses.



198.

While pretending to instruct and enlighten men, Religion in reality keeps
them in ignorance, and stifles the desire of knowing the most interesting
objects. The people have no other rule of conduct, than what their priests
are pleased to prescribe. Religion supplies the place of every thing else:
but being in itself essentially obscure, it is more proper to lead mortals
astray than to guide them in the path of science and happiness. Religion
renders enigmatical all Natural Philosophy, Morality, Legislation and
Politics. A man blinded by religious prejudices, fears truth, whenever
it clashes with his opinions: he cannot know his own nature he cannot
cultivate his reason, he cannot perform experiments.

Everything concurs to render the people devout; but every thing tends to
prevent them from being humane, reasonable and virtuous. Religion seems to
have no other object, than to stupefy the mind.

Priests have been ever at war with genius and talent, because
well-informed men perceive, that superstition shackles the human mind, and
would keep it in eternal infancy, occupied solely by fables and
frightened by phantoms. Incapable of improvement itself, Theology opposed
insurmountable barriers to the progress of true knowledge; its sole object
is to keep nations and their rulers in the most profound ignorance of
their duties, and of the real motives, that should incline them to do
good. It obscures Morality, renders its principles arbitrary, and subjects
it to the caprice of the gods or of their ministers. It converts the
art of governing men into a mysterious tyranny, which is the scourge
of nations. It changes princes into unjust, licentious despots, and the
people into ignorant slaves, who become corrupt in order to merit the
favour of their masters.



199.

By tracing the history of the human mind, we shall be easily convinced,
that Theology has cautiously guarded against its progress. It began by
giving out fables as sacred truth: it produced poetry, which filled the
imagination of men with its puerile fictions: it entertained them with its
gods and their incredible deeds. In a word, Religion has always treated
men, like children, whom it lulled to sleep with tales, which its
ministers would have us still regard as incontestable truths.

If the ministers of the gods have sometimes made useful discoveries, they
have always been careful to give them a dogmatical tone, and envelope them
in the shades of mystery. Pythagoras and Plato, in order to acquire some
trifling knowledge, were obliged to court the favour of priests, to be
initiated in their mysteries, and to undergo whatever trials they were
pleased to impose. At this price, they were permitted to imbibe those
exalted notions, still so bewitching to all those who admire only what
is perfectly unintelligible. It was from Egyptian, Indian, and Chaldean
priests, from the schools of these visionaries, professionally interested
in bewildering human reason, that philosophy was obliged to borrow its
first rudiments. Obscure and false in its principles, mixed with fictions
and fables, and made only to dazzle the imagination, the progress of this
philosophy was precarious, and its theories unintelligible; instead of
enlightening, it blighted the mind, and diverted it from objects truly
useful.

The theological speculations and mystical reveries of the ancients are
still law in a great part of the philosophic world; and being adopted by
modern theology, it is heresy to abandon them. They tell us "of aerial
beings, of spirits, angels, demons, genii," and other phantoms, which are
the object of their meditations, and serve as the basis of _metaphysics_,
an abstract and futile science, which for thousands of years the greatest
geniuses have vainly studied. Hypothesis, imagined by a few visionaries
of Memphis and Babylon, constitute even now the foundations of a science,
whose obscurity makes it revered as marvellous and divine.

The first legislators were priests; the first mythologists, poets, learned
men, and physicians were priests. In their hands science became sacred
and was withheld from the profane. They spoke only in allegories, emblems,
enigmas, and ambiguous oracles--means well calculated to excite curiosity,
and above all to inspire the astonished vulgar with a holy respect for
men, who when they were thought to be instructed by the gods, and capable
of reading in the heavens the fate of the earth, boldly proclaimed
themselves the oracles of the Deity.



200.

The religions of ancient priests have only changed form. Although our
modern theologians regard their predecessors as impostors, yet they have
collected many scattered fragments of their religious systems. In modern
Religions we find, not only their metaphysical dogmas, which theology has
merely clothed in a new dress, but also some remarkable remains of their
superstitious practices, their magic, and their enchantments. Christians
are still commanded to respect the remaining monuments of the legislators,
priests, and prophets of the Hebrew Religion, which had borrowed its
strange practices from Egypt. Thus extravagancies, imagined by knaves or
idolatrous visionaries, are still sacred among Christians!

If we examine history, we shall find a striking resemblance among all
Religions. In all parts of the earth, we see, that religious notions,
periodically depress and elevate the people. The attention of man is
every where engrossed, by rites often abominable, and by mysteries always
formidable, which become the sole objects of meditation. The different
superstitions borrow, from one another, their abstract reveries and
ceremonies. Religions are in general mere unintelligible rhapsodies,
combined by new teachers, who use the materials of their predecessors,
reserving the right of adding or retrenching whatever is not conformable
to the present age. The religion of Egypt was evidently the basis of the
religion of Moses, who banished the worship of idols: Moses was merely a
schismatic Egyptian. Christianism is only reformed Judaism. Mahometanism
is composed of Judaism, Christianity, and the ancient religion of Arabia,
etc.



201.

Theology, from the remotest antiquity to the present time, has had the
exclusive privilege of directing philosophy. What assistance has been
derived from its labours? It changed philosophy into an unintelligible
jargon, calculated to render uncertain the clearest truths; it has
converted the art of reasoning into a jargon of words; it has carried the
human mind into the airy regions of metaphysics, and there employed it in
vainly fathoming an obscure abyss. Instead of physical and simple causes,
this transformed philosophy has substituted supernatural, or rather,
_occult_ causes; it has explained phenomena difficult to be conceived by
agents still more inconceivable. It has filled language with words, void
of sense, incapable of accounting for things, better calculated to obscure
than enlighten, and which seems invented expressly to discourage man,
to guard him against the powers of his mind, to make him mistrust the
principles of reason and evidence, and to raise an insurmountable barrier
between him and truth.



202.

Were we to believe the partisans of Religion, nothing could be explained
without it; nature would be a perpetual enigma, and man would be incapable
of understanding himself. But, what does this Religion in reality explain?
The more we examine it, the more we are convinced that its theological
notions are fit only to confuse our ideas; they change every thing into
mystery: they explain difficult things by things that are impossible. Is
it a satisfactory explanation of phenomena, to attribute them to unknown
agents, to invisible powers, to immaterial causes? Does the human mind
receive much light by being referred to _the depths of the treasures of
divine wisdom_, to which, we are repeatedly told, it is vain to extend
our rash enquiries? Can the divine nature, of which we have no conception,
enable us to conceive the nature of man?

Ask a Christian, what is the origin of the world? He will answer, that God
created it. What is God? He cannot tell. What is it to create? He knows
not. What is the cause of pestilence, famine, wars, droughts, inundations
and earthquakes? The anger of God. What remedies can be applied to these
calamities? Prayers, sacrifices, processions, offerings, and ceremonies
are, it is said, the true means of disarming celestial fury. But why is
heaven enraged? Because men are wicked. Why are men wicked? Because their
nature is corrupt. What is the cause of this corruption? It is, says the
theologian, because the first man, beguiled by the first woman, ate an
apple, which God had forbidden him to touch. Who beguiled this woman into
such folly? The devil. Who made the devil? God. But, why did God make this
devil, destined to pervert mankind? This is unknown; it is a mystery which
the Deity alone is acquainted with.

It is now universally acknowledged, that the earth turns round the sun.
Centuries ago, this opinion was blasphemy, as being irreconcileable with
the sacred books which every Christian reveres as inspired by the Deity
himself. Notwithstanding divine revelation, astronomers now depend rather
upon evidence, than upon the testimony of their inspired books.

What is the hidden principle of the motions of the human body? The soul.
What is a soul? A spirit. What is a spirit? A substance, which has neither
form, nor colour, nor extension, nor parts. How can we form any idea
of such a substance? How can it move a body? That is not known; it is a
mystery. Have beasts souls? But, do they not act, feel, and think, in a
manner very similar to man? Mere illusion! By what right do you deprive
beasts of a soul, which you attribute to man, though you know nothing at
all about it? Because the souls of beasts would embarrass our theologians,
who are satisfied with the power of terrifying and damning the immaterial
souls of men, and are not so much interested in damning those of beasts.
Such are the puerile solutions, which philosophy, always in the leading
strings of theology, was obliged to invent, in order to explain the
problems of the physical and moral world?



203.

How many evasions have been used, both in ancient and modern times, in
order to avoid an engagement with the ministers of the gods, who have ever
been the tyrants of thought? How many hypotheses and shifts were such men
as Descartes, Mallebranche, and Leibnitz, forced to invent, in order to
reconcile their discoveries with the fables and mistakes which Religion
had consecrated! In what guarded phrases have the greatest philosophers
expressed themselves, even at the risk of being absurd, inconsistent, or
unintelligible, whenever their ideas did not accord with the principles of
theology! Priests have been always attentive to extinguish systems which
opposed their interest. Theology was ever the bed of Procrustes, to be
adapted to which, the limbs of travellers, if too long were cut off, and
if too short were lengthened.

Can any sensible man, delighted with the sciences and attached to the
welfare of his fellow-creatures, reflect, without vexation and anguish,
how many profound, laborious, and subtle brains have been for ages
foolishly occupied in the study of absurdities? What a treasure of
knowledge might have been diffused by many celebrated thinkers, if instead
of engaging in the impertinent disputes of vain theology, they had devoted
their attention to intelligible objects really important to mankind? Half
the efforts which religious opinions have cost genius, and half the wealth
which frivolous forms of worship have cost nations would have sufficed
to instruct them perfectly in morality, politics, natural philosophy,
medicine, agriculture, etc. Superstition generally absorbs the attention,
admiration, and treasures of the people; their Religion costs them very
dear; but they have neither knowledge, virtue, nor happiness, for their
money.



204.

Some ancient and modern philosophers have been bold enough to assume
experience and reason for their guides, and to shake off the chains of
superstition. Democritus, Epicurus, and other Greeks presumed to tear
away the veil of prejudice, and to deliver philosophy from theological
shackles. But their systems, too simple, too sensible, and too free from
the marvellous, for imaginations enamoured with chimeras, were obliged to
yield to the fabulous conjectures of such men as Plato and Socrates. Among
the moderns, Hobbes, Spinosa, Bayle, etc., have followed the steps of
Epicurus; but their doctrine has found very few followers, in a world,
still intoxicated with fables, to listen to reason.

In every age, it has been dangerous to depart from prejudices. Discoveries
of every kind have been prohibited. All that enlightened men could do, was
to speak ambiguously, hence they often confounded falsehood with truth.
Several had a _double doctrine_, one public and the other secret; the
key of the latter being lost, their true sentiments, have often become
unintelligible and consequently useless.

How could modern philosophers, who, under pain of cruel persecution, were
commanded to renounce reason, and to subject it to faith, that is, to the
authority of priests; how, I say, could men, thus bound, give free scope
to their genius, improve reason, and accelerate the progress of the human
mind? It was with fear and trembling that even the greatest men obtained
a glimpse of truth; rarely had they the courage to announce it; and those,
who did, were terribly punished. With Religion, it has ever been unlawful
to think, or to combat the prejudices of which man is every where the
victim and the dupe.



205.

Every man, sufficiently intrepid to announce truths to the world, is sure
of incurring the hatred of the ministers of Religion, who loudly call to
their aid secular powers; and want the assistance of laws to support both
their arguments and their gods. Their clamours expose too evidently the
weakness of their cause.

     "None call for aid but those who feel distressed."

In Religion, man is not permitted to err. In general, those who err are
pitied, and some kindness is shewn to persons who discover new truths;
but, when Religion is thought to be interested either in the errors or
the discoveries, a holy zeal is kindled, the populace become frantic, and
nations are in an uproar.

Can any thing be more afflicting, than to see public and private felicity
depending upon a futile system, which is destitute if principles, founded
only on a distempered imagination, and incapable of presenting any thing
but words void of sense? In what consists the so much boasted utility of
a Religion, which nobody can comprehend, which continually torments those
who are weak enough to meddle with it, which is incapable of rendering men
better, and which often makes them consider it meritorious to be unjust
and wicked? Is there a folly more deplorable, and more justly to be
combated, than that, which far from doing any service to the human race,
only makes them blind, delirious, and miserable, by depriving them of
Truth, the sole cure for their wretchedness.



206.

Religion has ever filled the mind of man with darkness, and kept him in
ignorance of his real duties and true interests. It is only by dispelling
the clouds and phantoms of Religion, that we shall discover Truth, Reason,
and Morality. Religion diverts us from the causes of evils, and from the
remedies which nature prescribes; far from curing, it only aggravates,
multiplies, and perpetuates them. Let us observe with the celebrated
Lord Bolingbroke, that "_theology is the box of Pandora; and if it is
impossible to shut it, it is at least useful to inform men, that this
fatal box is open_."


THE END.





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