Freethought Archives > Baron d'Holbach > Christianity Unveiled
OF THE MYSTERIES OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION.
TO reveal any thing to a man, is to discover to him secrets of which he was before ignorant. If we ask Christians what the secrets were, the importance of which rendered it necessary that they should he revealed by God himself, we shall be told that the greatest of those secrets, and the one most necessary to mankind, is the Unity of the Godhead; a secret which, say they, human wisdom could never have discovered of itself. But are we not at liberty to doubt the truth of this assertion? Moses, undoubtedly, declared an only God to the Hebrews, and did all in his power to render them enemies to the idolatry and polytheism of other surrounding nations, whose belief and whose modes of worship he represented as abominable in the eyes of the celestial Monarch, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. But have not many wise men among the heathens discovered, without the assistance of the Jewish revelation, one supreme God, superior to all others? Moreover, was not Fate, to which all the other gods of the heathens were subordinate, an only God, to whose sovereign law all nature was subject? As to the colours in which Moses paints his Godhead, neither Jews nor Christians have a right to pride themselves therein. He is represented as a capricious and irascible despot, full of cruelty, injustice, partiality, and malignity. What kind of being shall we contemplate, when we add to this the ineffable attributes ascribed to him in the Christian Theology? Is the Godhead described when it is said that it is a spirit, an immaterial being, which resembles nothing presented to us by our senses? Is not human understanding confounded with the negative attributes of infinity, immensity, eternity, omnipotence, and omniscience, with which he has been decorated, only to render him still more incomprehensible? How can the wisdom, the goodness, justice, and other moral qualities of this God, be reconciled with that strange and often atrocious conduct, which are attributed to him in almost every page of the Old and New Testament? Would it not have been better to have left mankind in entire ignorance of the Godhead, than to reveal to him a God made up of contradictions, which lead to eternal dispute, and serve only to trouble his repose? To reveal such a God to mankind, is only to discover to them the means to embarrass and render themselves wretched, and quarrel with and injure one another.
But, be this at it may, is it true that Christianity admits but one God, the same which was revealed by Moses? Do we not see Christians adore a threefold divinity, under the name of the Trinity? The supreme God begat from all eternity a son equal to himself; from these two proceeds a third equal to the two first; these three Gods, equal in perfection, divinity, and power, form, nevertheless, only one God. To overturn this system, it seems sufficient only to show its absurdity. Is it but to reveal such mysteries as these that the Godhead has taken pains to instruct mankind? Have opinions more absurd and contrary to reason ever existed among the most ignorant and savage nations? [41:1] In the mean time, however, the writings of Moses contain nothing that could authorise the construction of a system so wild. It is only by having recourse to the most forced explanations, that the doctrine of the Trinity is pretended to be found in the Bible. As to the Jews, contented with the only God which their legislator has declared to them, they have never attempted to create a threefold one.
The second of these Gods, or, according to the Christians, the second person of the Trinity, having clad himself with human nature, and become incarnate in the womb of a virgin, he submitted himself to the infirmities of our species, and even suffered an ignominious death to expiate the sins of the earth. This is what Christians call the mystery of Incarnation. He must be indeed blind, who cannot see these absurd notions are borrowed from the Egyptians, Indians, and Grecians, whose ridiculous mythologies describe gods as possessing human forms, and subject to infirmities, like mankind. [41:2]
Thus, we are commanded by Christianity to believe that a God having become man without doing injury to his divine nature, has suffered, died, and offered himself a sacrifice to himself; and all this was absolutely and indispensibly necessary to appease his own wrath. This is what Christians denominate the mystery of the redemption of the human race.
This dead God, however, was resuscitated. Thus the Adonis of the Phenicians, the Osiris of the Egyptians, and the Atys of the Phrygians, are represented as periodically resigning and re-assuming life. The God of the Christians rises again, reanimated, and bursts the tomb, triumphant.
Such are the wondrous secrets, or sublime mysteries, that the Christian religion unfolds to its disciples. So great, so abject, and so ever incomprehensible are the ideas it gives us of the divine Being. Such is the illumination our minds receive from revelation! A revelation which only serves to render still more impenetrable the clouds which veil the divine essence from human eyes. God, we are told, is willing to render himself inconsistent and ridiculous, to confound the curiosity of those whom, we are at the same time informed, he desires to enlighten by his special grace. What must we think of a revelation which, far from teaching us any things, is calculated to darken and puzzle the clearest ideas?
Thus, notwithstanding the boasted revelation of the Christians, they know nothing of that Being whom they make the basis of their religion. On the contrary, it only serves to obscure all the notions which might otherwise be formed of him. In holy writ he is called an hidden God. David tells us, that he places his dwelling in darkness, that clouds and troubled waters form the pavilion with which he is covered. In fine, Christians, although enlightened, as they say, by God himself, have only ridiculous and inconsistent ideas of him, which render his existence doubtful, or even impossible, in the eyes of every man who consults his reason.
What notions, indeed, can we form of a God, who, after having
created the world solely for the happiness of mankind, nevertheless
buffers the greater part of the human race to be miserable both in
this world and that which is to come? How can a God, who enjoys a
Supreme felicity, be offended with the actions of his creatures?
This God is then susceptible of grief; his happiness can be
disturbed; he is then dependant on man, who can, at pleasure,
delight or afflict him! How can a benevolent God bestow on his
creatures a fatal liberty by the abuse of which they may incur his
anger, and their own destruction? How can that Being, who is
himself the author of life and nature, suffer
death? How can an only God become triple without injuring his
unity? We shall be answered, that all these matters are mysteries;
but such mysteries destroy even the existence of God. It would be
more reasonable to admit, with Zoroaster, or Manes, two principles
or opposite powers in nature, than to believe, with Christians,
that there is an omnipotent God, who cannot prevent
the existence of evil; a God who is just, and yet partial; a
God all merciful, and yet so implacable, that he will punish
through an eternity the crimes of a moment; an only God, who
is threefold; a God, the chief of beings, who consents to
die, being unable to satisfy by any other means his divine justice.
If, in the same subject, contraries cannot subsist at the same
time, either the existence of the God of the Jews, or that of the
Christians, must undoubtedly be impossible. Whence we are forced to
conclude, that the teachers of Christianity, by means of the
attributes with which they have decorated or rather disfigured
their Godhead, have, in fact, annihilated the God of the Jews, or
at least so transformed him, that he is no longer the same. Thus,
revelation, with all its fables and mysteries, has only embarrassed
the reason of mankind, and rendered uncertain the simple notions
which they might form to themselves of that necessary Being,
who governs the universe with immutable laws. Though the existence
of a God cannot be denied, it is yet certain that reason cannot
admit the existence of the one which the Christians adore, and
whose conduct, commands, and qualities, their religion pretends to
reveal. If they are Atheists, who have no ideas of the Supreme
Being, the Christian theology must be looked upon as a project
invented to destroy his existence. [43:1]
[41:1] The dogma of the Trinity is evidently borrowed from the reveries of Plato, or from the allegories under which that romantic Philosopher chose to conceal his doctrine. It appears that to him the Christian religion is indebted for the greater part of its dogmas. Plato admitted three Hypostases, or modes of being in the Divinity. The first constituted the supreme God; the second the Logos, Word, or divine intelligence proceeding from the first; the third is the Spirit, or Soul of the World. The early teachers of the Christian religion appear to have been Platonics; their enthusiasm probably found in Plato a doctrine analogous to their feelings; had they been grateful, they would have recorded him as a prophet, or at least as one of the fathers of the church. The Jesuitical missionaries found a Divinity, nearly similar to that of the Christians, at Thibet. Among the Tartars, God is called Kon-cio-cik, the only God, and Kon-cio-sum, the threefold God. They also give him the titles Om, Ha, Hum, intelligence, might, power or words, heart, love. The number three was always revered among the ancients; because Salom, which in the oriental languages signifies three, signifies also health, safety, salvation.
[41:2] The Egyptians appear to have been the first, who pretended that their gods had assumed material bodies. Foe, the god of the Chinese, was born of a virgin, who was fecundated by a ray of the sun. In Indostan nobody doubts the incarnations of Vishnou. It seems that theologists of all nations, despairing to exalt themselves to a level with God, have endeavoured to debase him to level with themselves.
[43:1] Divines have always disagreed among themselves respecting the proofs of the existence of a God. They mutually style each other Atheists, because their demonstrations have never been the same. Few Christians have written on the existence of God, without drawing upon themselves an accusation of Atheism. Descartes, Clarke, Pascal, Arnauld, and Nicole, have been considered as Atheists. The reason is plain. It is impossible to prove the existence of a Being so inconsistent as the God of the Christians. We shall be told that men have no means for judging of the Divinity, and that our understandings are too narrow to form any idea of him. Why then do they dispute incessantly concerning him? Why assign to him qualities which destroy each other? Why recount fables concerning him? Why quarrel and cut each others throats, because they are differently interpreted by different persons?
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