Freethought Archives > Baron d'Holbach > Good Sense (§1-50)

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.
 


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