Freethought Archives > Baron d'Holbach > Christianity Unveiled
OF THE CHRISTIAN MYTHOLOGY, OR THE IDEAS OF GOD,
AND HIS CONDUCT, GIVEN US BY THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION.
GOD, by an inconceivable act of his omnipotence, created the universe out of nothing. [22:1] He made the earth for the residence of man, whom he created in his own image. Scarcely had this man, the prime object of the labours of his God, seem the light, when his Creator set a snare for him, into which he undoubtedly knew that he must fall. A serpent, who speaks, seduces a woman, who is not at all surprised at the phenomenon. She, being persuaded by the serpent, solicits her husband to eat of a fruit forbidden by God himself. Adam, the father of the human race, by this light fault, draws upon himself and his innocent posterity innumerable evils, which are followed, but not terminated by death. By the offence of only one man, the whole human race incurs the wrath of God, and they are at length punished for involuntary faults with an universal deluge. God repents having peopled the earth, and he finds it easier to drown and destroy the human race, than to change their hearts.
A small number of the just, however, escaped this destructive flood; but the deluged earth, and the destruction of mankind, did not satiate the implacable vengeance of their Creator. A new generation appeared. These, although descended from the friends of God, whom he had preserved in the general shipwreck of the world, incense him by new crimes. The almighty is represented as having been incapable of rendering his creature such as he desired him. A new torrent of corruption carries away mankind; and wrath is again excited in the bosom of Jehovah.
Partial in his affections and his preferences, he, at length, casts his eyes on an idolatrous Assyrian. He enters into an alliance with this man, and covenants that his posterity shall be multiplied to the number of the stars of heaven, or the sands of the sea, and that they shall for ever enjoy the favour of God. To this chosen race he reveals his will; for them, unmindful of his justice, he destroys whole nations. Nevertheless, this favoured race is not the more happy or the more attached to their God. They fly to strange gods, from whom they seek succours, which are refused to them by their own. They frequently insult the God who is able to exterminate them. Sometimes he punishes, sometimes consoles them; one while he hates them without cause, and another caresses them with as little reason. At last, finding it impossible to reclaim this perverse people, for whom he continues to feel the warmest tenderness, he sends amongst them his own son. To this son they will not listen. What do I say? This beloved son, equal to God his father, is put to an ignominious death by his favourite nation. His father, at the same time, finds it impossible to save the human race, without the sacrifice of his own son. Thus an innocent God becomes the victim of a just God, by whom he is beloved. Both consent to this strange sacrifice, judged necessary by a God, who knows that it will be useless to an hardened nation, which nothing can reclaim. We should expect that the death of this God, being useless to Israel, must serve, at least, to expiate the sins of the rest of the human race. Notwithstanding the eternal alliance with the Hebrews, solemnly sworn to by the Most High, and so many times renewed, that favourite nation find themselves at last deserted by their God, who could not reduce them to obedience. The merits of the sufferings and death of his Son, are applied to the nations before excluded from his bounty. These are reconciled to heaven, now become more just in regard to them, and return to grace. Yet, in spite of all the efforts of God, his favours are lavished in vain. Mankind continue to sin, enkindle the divine wrath, and render themselves worthy of the eternal punishments, previously prepared and destined for the greater part of the human race.
Such is the faithful history of the God, on whom the foundation of the Christian religion is laid. His conduct being so strange, cruel, and opposite to all reason, is it surprising to see the worshippers of this God ignorant of their duties, destitute of humanity and justice, and striving to assimilate themselves to the model of that barbarous divinity which they adore? What indulgence have mankind a right to expect from a God, who spared not even his own son? What indulgence can the Christian, who believes this fable, show to his fellow-creature? Ought he not to imagine that the surest means of pleasing his God, is to imitate his ferocity and cruelty? [24:1]
It is at least evident, that the sectaries of such a God must have a precarious morality, founded on principles destitute of all firmness. This God, in fact, is not always unjust and cruel; his conduct varies. Sometimes he appears to have created all nature for man alone; at others, he seems to have created man only as an object, whereon to exercise his arbitrary rage. Sometimes they are cherished by him, notwithstanding all their faults; at others, the whole species is condemned to eternal misery for an apple. This unchangeable God is alternately agitated by anger and love, revenge and pity, benevolence and fury. His conduct is continually destitute of that uniformity which characterises wisdom. Partial in his affections, he makes it the duty of his favourite people to commit deliberately the most atrocious crimes. He commands them to violate good faith, and contemn the rights of nations. He enjoins upon them the commission of robbery and murder. On other occasions, we see him forbidding the same crimes, ordaining justice and prescribing to mankind abstinence from whatever disturbs the good order of society. This God, who is in turn styled the God of Vengeance, the God of Mercies, the God of Arms, and the God of Peace, is ever at variance with himself. His subjects are consequently each one at liberty to copy that part of his conduct which he finds most congenial to his humour. Hence their morality becomes arbitrary. It is surprising, that Christians have never yet been able to agree amongst themselves, whether it would be most pleasing to their God to tolerate the various opinions of mankind, or to exterminate all who differ from themselves. It is, in fact, a problem with them, whether it be most expedient to prosecute and assassinate those who think not as they do, or to treat them with humanity, and suffer them to live in peace.
Christians, however, do not fail to justify the strange and often iniquitous conduct attributed to their God in the Scriptures. This God, say they, being of right the absolute master of his creatures, can dispose of them at his pleasure. and for this no one can accuse him of injustice, or demand an account of his conduct. His justice is not the justice of mankind, and they have no right to censure any of his actions. It is easy to perceive the insufficiency of this answer. Mankind in making justice an attribute of their God, can have no idea of this virtue, but by supposing that it resembles the justice of their fellow-creatures. If God have a justice, which in its essence differs from that of man, we know not what it is, and we attribute to him a quality of which we have no idea. If it be said, that God owes nothing to his creatures, he is supposed to be a tyrant, whose conduct has no rule but his own caprice, and who cannot continue to be a model for us, seeing all relations must be reciprocal. If nothing be due from God to his creatures, how can any thing be due from them to him? If, as we are continually told. men are to God, as the clay in the hands of the potter, no moral relation can exist between them. It is, nevertheless, upon those relations that all religion is founded. Therefore, to say that God has no duty towards his creatures, and that his justice is different from that of mankind, is to sap the foundations of all religion and justice, which necessarily suppose that God ought to reward mankind for doing good, and punish them for doing evil.
In fine, how can the followers of the Christian system reconcile that barbarous conduct, and those sanguinary commands, attributed to him in the Scriptures, with his goodness or his wisdom? And how can goodness be an attribute of a God, who has created most of the human race only to damn them eternally?
Here we shall be told that the conduct of God is, to us, an impenetrable mystery, that we have no right to scrutinize it, and that our feeble reason must be lost whenever it attempts to sound the depth of divine wisdom. We are informed that we must adore in silence, and tremblingly submit to the oracles of a God, who has himself sufficiently made known his will in his holy Scriptures. This is what they call revelation, to which we proceed in the next chapter.
[22:1] Ex nihilo nihil fit, was considered as an axiom by ancient philosophers. The creation, as admitted by the Christians of the present day, that is to say, the eduction of all things from nothing, is a theological invention, not indeed, of very remote date. The word Barah, which is used in Genesis, signifies to compose, arrange, to dispose matter already existing.
sacrifice of the Son of God is mentioned as a proof of his
benevolence. Is it not rather a proof of his ferocity, cruelty, and
implacable vengeance? A good Christian, on his death-bed said, "he
had never been able to conceive how a good God could put ant
innocent God to death, to appease a just God."
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