Freethought Archives > Baron d'Holbach > Christianity Unveiled
OF THE INSPIRED WRITINGS OF THE CHRISTIANS.
CHRISTIANS endeavour to prove the divine origin of their religion by certain writings, which they believe to be sacred, and to have been inspired by God himself. Let us them see if these writings do really exhibit marks of that wisdom, omniscience, and perfection which we attribute to the Divinity.
The Bible, every word of which, Christians believe to have been dictated by inspiration, is composed of an incongruous collection of the sacred writings of the Hebrews, called the Old Testament; to which are added, a number of works, more recent indeed, but of equal inspiration, known by the name of the New Testament. At the head of this collection are five books which are attributed to Moses, who was, it is said, in writing them, the secretary of God. He therein goes back to the origin of things. He attempts to initiate us into the mystery of the creation of the world, of which he has only the most vague and confused ideas. He betrays at every word a profound ignorance of the laws of Nature. God, according to Moses, created the sun, which, in our planetary system, is the source of light, several days after he had created the light. God, who can be represented by no image, created man in his own image. He creates him male and female; but, soon forgetting what he had done, he creates woman from one of the ribs of the man. In one word, we see, at the very entrance of the Bible, nothing but ignorance and contradiction. [51:1] It appears, at once, that the cosmogony of the Hebrews is only a tissue of fables and allegories, incapable of giving any true idea of things, and calculated to please only a savage and ignorant people, destitute of science, and unqualified for reasoning. In the rest of the writings of Moses, we see little but a string of marvellous and improbable stories, and a mass of ridiculous and arbitrary laws. The author concludes with giving an account of his own death. The books posterior to Moses exhibit equal ignorance. Joshua stops the sun, which did not move. Sampson, the Jewish Hercules, has strength to overthrow a temple.--But we should never finish the enumeration of the fables and falsehoods of these books, which are audaciously attributed to the Holy Ghost. The story of the Hebrews presents us only with a mass of tales, unworthy the gravity of history and the majesty of Divinity. Ridiculous to reason, it appears to have been invented only to amuse the credulity of a stupid and infant people.
This strange compilation is intermingled with obscure and unconnected oracles, with which different prophets have, from time to time, enriched Jewish superstition. Every thing in the Old Testament breathes enthusiasm, fanaticism, and delirium, often decorated with pompous language. There, every thing is to be found, except good sense, good logic, and reason, which seems to be absolutely excluded from the books which guide the conduct of the Hebrews and Christians.
We have already mentioned the abject, and often absurd ideas of God, which are exhibited in the Bible. In this book, all his conduct appears ridiculous. He blows hot and cold, and contradicts himself every moment. He acts imprudently, and then repents of what he had done. He supports with one hand, and destroys with the other. After having punished all the human race with death, for the sins of man, he declares, by Ezekiel, that he is just, and will not render children responsible for the iniquities of their fathers. He commands the Hebrews, by the mouth of Moses, to rob the Egyptians. In the decalogue, published by Moses, theft and murder are forbidden. In short, Jehovah, ever in contradiction with himself, varies with circumstances, preserves no uniformity of conduct, and is represented in the books, said to be inspired by his spirit, as a tyrant, which the most decided villain would blush to be.
When we cast our eyes over the New Testament, there, also, we see nothing characteristic of that spirit of truth which to said to have dictated this work. Four historians, or fabulists, have written the marvellous history of the Messiah. Seldom agreeing with respect to the circumstances of his life, they sometimes contradict each other in the most palpable manner. The genealogy of Christ, given us by Matthew, differs widely from that given us by Luke. One of the Evangelists says, that Christ was carried into Egypt; whilst, by another, this event is not even hinted at. One makes the duration of his mission three years, while another represents it as only as many months. We do not find them at all better accord, respecting the facts in general which they report. Mark says that Christ died at the third hour, that is to say, nine o'clock in the morning; John says, that he died at the sixth hour, that is, at noon. According to Matthew and Mark, the women who, after the death of Jesus, went to his sepulchre, saw only one angel; whereas, according to Luke and John, they saw two. These angels were, by some, said to be within the tomb; by others, without. Several of the miracles of Jesus are also differently reported by the Evangelists. This is likewise the case with his appearances after his resurrection. Ought not all these things to excite a doubt of the infallibility of the Evangelists, and the reality of their divine inspirations? What shall we say of the false and forged prophecies, applied to Christ in the gospel? Matthew pretends that Jeremy foretold that Christ should be betrayed for thirty pieces of silver; yet no such prophecy is to be found in Jeremiah. Nothing is more singular than the manner in which Christian divines evade these difficulties. Their solutions are calculated to satisfy only those who conceive it their duty to remain in blindness. [52:1] Every man of sense must feel, that all the industry and sophism on earth can never reconcile such palpable contradictions; and the efforts of interpreters serve only to show the weakness of their cause. Is it, then, by subterfuges, subtleties, and falsehoods, that we are to render service to God?
We find equal errors and contradictions in the pompous gasconade and declamatory bombast of St. Paul. The epistles and harangues of this man, inspired by the Spirit of God, appear to be the enthusiastic ravings of a madman. The most laboured commentaries have, in vain, endeavoured to reconcile the contradictions with which his work are filled, and the inconsistency of his conduct, which sometimes favoured and sometimes opposed Judaism. [53:1] We do not find ourselves more enlightened by the works attributed to the other Apostles. It seems as if these persons, inspired by the Holy Ghost, came on the earth only to prevent their disciples from comprehending what they had been sent to teach them.
At the foot of the collection, which forms the New Testament, we find the mystic work known by the name of the Revelation of St. John. This is an unintelligible thing, in which the author has endeavoured to collect and concentrate all the gloomy and dreadful ideas contained in the rest of the Bible. It exhibits to the wretched race of Man the awful and approaching end of a perishing world. It is filled with horrid pictures, by gazing on which, the trembling Christian becomes petrified with fear and wonder, indifferent to life, and useless, or an incumbrance to society. Thus, in a manner not unworthy of itself, terminates this compilation, so inestimable and adorable to Christians, so ridiculous and contemptible to the man of reason, so unworthy of a good and bounteous God; so detestable to him who contemplates the unparalleled evils it has occasioned on the earth.
Having taken for the rule of their conduct and opinions a Book so full of blasphemous fables and striking contradictions concerning God, Christians have never agreed in the interpretation of his will, or precisely known what he exacted from them. Thus they have made this obscure work a bone of contention, an inexhaustible source of quarrels, a common arsenal, where all contending parties have supplied themselves with arms for mutual destruction. Geometricians dispute not concerning the fundamental principles of their science. By what fatality does it happen that Christian revelation, the foundation of a religion on which depends the eternal felicity of man, should be unintelligible, subject to disputes, and often deluge the earth with blood? To judge by effects, such a revelation ought rather to he thought the work of a malign spirit, a genius of darkness and falsehood, than of a God desirous to preserve, enlighten, and beautify mankind.
[51:1] St. Augustin confesses that there is no way of preserving the true sense of the three first chapters of Genesis without wronging religion and attributing things to God which are unworthy of him; and declares, that recourse must be had to Allegory. Aug. de Genesi, contra Machineos. Origen, also, grants, if we take the history of the Bible literally, it is absurd and contradictory. Philos. p. 12.
[52:1] Jerome himself says, that the quotations of Matthew do not agree with the Greek version of the Bible. Erasmus is obliged to confess, that the Holy Spirit permitted the Apostles to go astray.
[53:1] St. Paul himself informs us, that he was ravished up to the third heaven. Why was he transported thither, and what did he learn by his journey? Things unspeakable which no man could comprehend. What advantage are mankind to derive from all this? St. Paul, in the Acts of the Apostles, is guilty of a falsehood, in saying before the high priest, that he is persecuted, because he is a Pharisee, and on account of the resurrection. Here are two untruths. First, because Paul was, at that time, the most zealous apostle of the Christian religion, and consequently a Christian. Secondly, because the accusations brought against him did not refer to his opinion on resurrection. If we know that the Apostles sometimes wandered from the truth, how shall we believe them at others? Further, we see this great Apostle continually changing his counsels and conduct. At Jerusalem, he point blank opposes Peter, who favoured Judaism; whereas he himself afterwards complied with Jewish rites. In fine, he always accommodates himself to the circumstances of the time, and becomes all things to all men. He seems to have set an example to the Jesuits, of their conduct in the Indies, with which they are reproached, where they unite the worship of the Pagans to that of Christ.
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