CXCIX.—HISTORY TEACHES US THAT ALL RELIGIONS WERE ESTABLISHED BY THE AID OF IGNORANCE, AND BY MEN WHO HAD THU EFFRONTERY TO STYLE THEMSELVES THE ENVOYS OF DIVINITY.
If we take the trouble to follow the history of the human mind, we will discover that theology took care not to extend its limits. It began by repeating fables, which it claimed to be sacred truths; it gave birth to poesy, which filled the people's imagination with puerile fictions; it entertained them but with its Gods and their incredible feats; in a word, religion always treated men like children, whom they put to sleep with tales that their ministers would like still to pass as incontestable truths. If the ministers of the Gods sometimes made useful discoveries, they always took care to hide them in enigmas and to envelope them in shadows of mystery. The Pythagorases and the Platos, in order to acquire some futile attainments, were obliged to crawl to the feet of the priests, to become initiated into their mysteries, to submit to the tests which they desired to impose upon them; it is at this cost that they were permitted to draw from the fountain-head their exalted ideas, so seducing still to all those who admire what is unintelligible. It was among Egyptian, Indian, Chaldean priests; it was in the schools of these dreamers, interested by profession in dethroning human reason, that philosophy was obliged to borrow its first rudiments. Obscure or false in its principles, mingled with fictions and fables, solely made to seduce imagination, this philosophy progressed but waveringly, and instead of enlightening the mind, it blinded it, and turned it away from useful objects. The theological speculations and mystical reveries of the ancients have, even in our days, the making of the law in a great part of the philosophical world. Adopted by modern theology, we can scarcely deviate from them without heresy; they entertain us with aerial beings, with spirits, angels, demons, genii, and other phantoms, which are the object of the meditations of our most profound thinkers, and which serve as a basis to metaphysics, an abstract and futile science, upon which the greatest geniuses have vainly exercised themselves for thousands of years. Thus hypotheses, invented by a few visionists of Memphis and of Babylon, continue to be the basis of a science revered for the obscurity which makes it pass as marvelous and Divine. The first legislators of nations were priests; the first mythologists and poets were priests; the first philosophers were priests; the first physicians were priests. In their hands science became a sacred thing, prohibited to the profane; they spoke only by allegories, emblems, enigmas, and ambiguous oracles—means well-suited to excite curiosity, to put to work the imagination, and especially to inspire in the ignorant man a holy respect for those whom he believed instructed by Heaven, capable of reading the destinies of earth, and who boldly pretended to be the organs of Divinity.
CC.—ALL RELIGIONS, ANCIENT AND MODERN, HAVE MUTUALLY BORROWED THEIR ABSTRACT REVERIES AND THEIR RIDICULOUS PRACTICES.
The religions of these ancient priests have disappeared, or, rather, they have changed their form. Although our modern theologians regard the ancient priests as impostors, they have taken care to gather up the scattered fragments of their religious systems, the whole of which does not exist any longer for us; we will find in our modern religions, not only the metaphysical dogmas which theology has but dressed in another form, but we still find remarkable remains of their superstitious practices, of their theurgy, of their magic, of their enchantments.
Christians are still commanded to regard with respect the monuments of the legislators, the priests, and the prophets of the Hebrew religion, which, according to appearances, has borrowed from Egypt the fantastic notions with which we see it filled. Thus the extravagances invented by frauds or idolatrous visionists, are still regarded as sacred opinions by the Christians!
If we but look at history, we see striking resemblances in all religions. Everywhere on earth we find religious ideas periodically afflicting and rejoicing the people; everywhere we see rites, practices often abominable, and formidable mysteries occupying the mind, and becoming objects of meditation. We see the different superstitions borrowing from each other their abstract reveries and their ceremonies. Religions are generally unformed rhapsodies combined by new Doctors of Divinity, who, in composing them, have used the materials of their predecessors, reserving the right of adding or subtracting what suits or does not suit their present views. The religion of Egypt served evidently as a basis for the religion of Moses, who expunged from it the worship of idols. Moses was but an Egyptian schismatic, Christianity is but a reformed Judaism. Mohammedanism is composed of Judaism, of Christianity, and of the ancient religion of Arabia.
CCI.—THEOLOGY HAS ALWAYS TURNED PHILOSOPHY FROM ITS TRUE COURSE.
From the most remote period theology alone regulated the march of philosophy. What aid has it lent it? It changed it into an unintelligible jargon, which only had a tendency to render the clearest truth uncertain; it converted the art of reasoning into a science of words; it threw the human mind into the aerial regions of metaphysics, where it unsuccessfully occupied itself in sounding useless and dangerous abysses. For physical and simple causes, this philosophy substituted supernatural causes, or, rather, causes truly occult; it explained difficult phenomena by agents more inconceivable than these phenomena; it filled discourse with words void of sense, incapable of giving the reason of things, better suited to obscure than to enlighten, and which seem invented but to discourage man, to guard him against the powers of his own mind, to make him distrust the principles of reason and evidence, and to surround the truth with an insurmountable barrier.
CCII.—-THEOLOGY NEITHER EXPLAINS NOR ENLIGHTENS ANYTHING IN THE WORLD OR IN NATURE.
If we would believe the adherents of religion, nothing could be explicable in the world without it; nature would be a continual enigma; it would be impossible for man to comprehend himself. But, at the bottom, what does this religion explain to us? The more we examine it, the more we find that theological notions are fit but to perplex all our ideas; they change all into mysteries; they explain to us difficult things by impossible things. Is it, then, explaining things to attribute them to unknown agencies, to invisible powers, to immaterial causes? Is it really enlightening the human mind when, in its embarrassment, it is directed to the "depths of the treasures of Divine Wisdom," upon which they tell us it is in vain for us to turn our bold regards? Can the Divine Nature, which we know nothing about, make us understand man's nature, which we find so difficult to explain?
Ask a Christian philosopher what is the origin of the world. He will answer that God created the universe. What is God? We do not know anything about it. What is it to create? We have no idea of it! What is the cause of pestilences, famines, wars, sterility, inundations, earthquakes? It is God's wrath. What remedies can prevent these calamities? Prayers, sacrifices, processions, offerings, ceremonies, are, we are told, the true means to disarm Celestial fury. But why is Heaven angry? Because men are wicked. Why are men wicked? Because their nature is corrupt. What is the cause of this corruption? It is, a theologian of enlightened Europe will reply, because the first man was seduced by the first woman to eat of an apple which his God had forbidden him to touch. Who induced this woman to do such a folly? The Devil. Who created the Devil? God! Why did God create this Devil destined to pervert the human race? We know nothing about it; it is a mystery hidden in the bosom of the Deity.
Does the earth revolve around the sun? Two centuries ago a devout philosopher would have replied that such a thought was blasphemy, because such a system could not agree with the Holy Book, which every Christian reveres as inspired by the Deity Himself. What is the opinion to-day about it? Notwithstanding Divine Inspiration, the Christian philosophers finally concluded to rely upon evidence rather than upon the testimony of their inspired books.
What is the hidden principle of the actions and of the motions of the human body? It is the soul. What is a soul? It is a spirit. What is a spirit? It is a substance which has neither form, color, expansion, nor parts. How can we conceive of such a substance? How can it move a body? We know nothing about it. Have brutes souls? The Carthusian assures you that they are machines. But do we not see them act, feel, and think in a manner which resembles that of men? This is a pure illusion, you say. But why do you deprive the brutes of souls, which, without understanding it, you attribute to men? It is that the souls of the brutes would embarrass our theologians, who, content with the power of frightening and damning the immortal souls of men, do not take the same interest in damning those of the brutes. Such are the puerile solutions which philosophy, always guided by the leading-strings of theology, was obliged to bring forth to explain the problems of the physical and moral world.
CCIII.—HOW THEOLOGY HAS FETTERED HUMAN MORALS AND RETARDED THE PROGRESS OF ENLIGHTENMENT, OF REASON, AND OF TRUTH.
How many subterfuges and mental gymnastics all the ancient and modern thinkers have employed, in order to avoid falling out with the ministers of the Gods, who in all ages were the true tyrants of thought! How Descartes, Malebranche, Leibnitz, and many others have been compelled to invent hypotheses and evasions in order to reconcile their discoveries with the reveries and the blunders which religion had rendered sacred! With what prevarications have not the greatest philosophers guarded themselves even at the risk of being absurd, inconsistent, and unintelligible whenever their ideas did not correspond with the principles of theology! Vigilant priests were always ready to extinguish systems which could not be made to tally with their interests. Theology in every age has been the bed of Procrustes upon which this brigand extended his victims; he cut off the limbs when they were too long, or stretched them by horses when they were shorter than the bed upon which he placed them.
What sensible man who has a love for science, and is interested in the welfare of humanity, can reflect without sorrow and pain upon the loss of so many profound, laborious, and subtle heads, who, for many centuries, have foolishly exhausted themselves upon idle fancies that proved to be injurious to our race? What light could have been thrown into the minds of many famous thinkers, if, instead of occupying themselves with a useless theology, and its impertinent disputes, they had turned their attention upon intelligible and truly important objects. Half of the efforts that it cost the genius that was able to forge their religious opinions, half of the expense which their frivolous worship cost the nations, would have sufficed to enlighten them perfectly upon morality, politics, philosophy, medicine, agriculture, etc. Superstition nearly always absorbs the attention, the admiration, and the treasures of the people; they have a very expensive religion; but they have for their money, neither light, virtue, nor happiness.
Some ancient and modern philosophers have had the courage to accept experience and reason as their guides, and to shake off the chains of superstition. Lucippe, Democritus, Epicurus, Straton, and some other Greeks, dared to tear away the thick veil of prejudice, and to deliver philosophy from theological fetters. But their systems, too simple, too sensible, and too stripped of wonders for the lovers of fancy, were obliged to surrender to the fabulous conjectures of Plato, Socrates, and Zeno. Among the moderns, Hobbes, Spinoza, Bayle, and others have followed the path of Epicurus, but their doctrine found but few votaries in a world still too much infatuated with fables to listen to reason.
In all ages one could not, without imminent danger, lay aside the prejudices which opinion had rendered sacred. No one was permitted to make discoveries of any kind; all that the most enlightened men could do was to speak and write with hidden meaning; and often, by a cowardly complaisance, to shamefully ally falsehood with truth. A few of them had a double doctrine—one public and the other secret. The key of this last having been lost, their true sentiments often became unintelligible and, consequently, useless to us. How could modern philosophers who, being threatened with the most cruel persecution, were called upon to renounce reason and to submit to faith—that is to say, to priestly authority—I say, how could men thus fettered give free flight to their genius, perfect reason, or hasten human progress? It was but in fear and trembling that the greatest men obtained glimpses of truth; they rarely had the courage to announce it; those who dared to do it have generally been punished for their temerity. Thanks to religion, it was never permitted to think aloud or to combat the prejudices of which man is everywhere the victim or the dupe.
CCV.—WE COULD NOT REPEAT TOO OFTEN HOW EXTRAVAGANT AND FATAL RELIGION IS.
Every man who has the boldness to announce truths to the world, is sure to receive the hatred of the priests; the latter loudly call upon the powers that be, for assistance; they need the assistance of kings to sustain their arguments and their Gods. These clamors show the weakness of their cause.
"They are in embarrassment when they cry for help."
It is not permitted to err in the matter of religion; on every other subject we can be deceived with impunity; we pity those who go astray, and we have some liking for the persons who discover truths new to us. But as soon as theology supposes itself concerned, be it in errors or discoveries, a holy zeal is kindled; the sovereigns exterminate; the people fly into frenzy; and the nations are all stirred up without knowing why. Is there anything more afflicting than to see public and individual welfare depend upon a futile science, which is void of principles, which has no standing ground but imagination, and which presents to the mind but words void of sense? What good is a religion which no one understands; which continually torments those who trouble themselves about it; which is incapable of rendering men better; and which often gives them the credit of being unjust and wicked? Is there a more deplorable folly, and one that ought more to be abated, than that which, far from doing any good to the human race, does but blind it, cause transports, and render it miserable, depriving it of truth, which alone can soften the rigor of fate?
CCVI.—RELIGION IS PANDORA'S BOX, AND THIS FATAL BOX IS OPEN.
Religion has in every age kept the human mind in darkness and held it in ignorance of its true relations, of its real duties and its true interests. It is but in removing its clouds and phantoms that we may find the sources of truth, reason, morality, and the actual motives which inspire virtue. This religion puts us on the wrong track for the causes of our evils, and the natural remedies which we can apply. Far from curing them, it can but multiply them and render them more durable.
Let us, then, say, with the celebrated Lord Bolingbroke, in his posthumous works: "Theology is the Box of Pandora; and if it is impossible to close it, it is at least useful to give warning that this fatal box is open."
I believe, my dear friends, that I have given you a sufficient preventative against all these follies. Your reason will do more than my discourses, and I sincerely wish that we had only to complain of being deceived! But human blood has flowed since the time of Constantine for the establishment of these horrible impositions. The Roman, the Greek, and the Protestant churches by vain, ambitious, and hypocritical disputes have ravaged Europe, Asia, and Africa. Add to these men, whom these quarrels murdered, the multitudes of monks and of nuns, who became sterile by their profession, and you will perceive that the Christian religion has destroyed half of the human race.
I conclude with the desire that we may return to Nature, whose declared enemy the Christian religion is, and which necessarily instructs us to do unto others as we would wish them to do unto us. Then the universe will be composed of good citizens, just fathers, obedient children, tender friends. Nature has given us this Religion, in giving us Reason. May fanaticism pervert it no more! I die filled with these desires more than with hope.
ETREPIGNY, March 15, 1732
ABSTRACT OF THE TESTAMENT OF JOHN MESLIER
OR, SENTIMENTS OF THE CURATE OF ETREPIGNY ADDRESSED TO HIS PARISHIONERS.
As there is no one religious denomination which does not pretend to be truly founded upon the authority of God, and entirely exempt from all the errors and impositions which are found in the others, it is for those who purpose to establish the truth of the faith of their sect, to show, by clear and convincing proofs, that it is of Divine origin; as this is lacking, we must conclude that it is but of human invention, and full of errors and deceptions; for it is incredible that an Omnipotent and Infinitely good God would have desired to give laws and ordinances to men, and not have wished them to bear better authenticated marks of truth, than those of the numerous impostors. Moreover, there is not one of our Christ-worshipers, of whatever sect he may be, who can make us see, by convincing proofs, that his religion is exclusively of Divine origin; and for want of such proof they have been for many centuries contesting this subject among themselves, even to persecuting each other by fire and sword to maintain their opinions; there is, however, not one sect of them all which could convince and persuade the others by such witnesses of truth; this certainly would not be, if they had, on one side or the other, convincing proofs of Divine origin. For, as no one of any religious sect, enlightened and of good faith, pretends to hold and to favor error and falsehood; and as, on the contrary, each, on his side, pretends to sustain truth, the true means of banishing all errors, and of uniting all men in peace in the same sentiments and in the same form of religion, would be to produce convincing proofs and testimonies of the truth; and thus show that such religion is of Divine origin, and not any of the others; then each one would accept this truth; and no person would dare to question these testimonies, or sustain the side of error and imposition, lest he should be, at the same time, confounded by contrary proofs: but, as these proofs are not found in any religion, it gives to impostors occasion to invent and boldly sustain all kinds of falsehoods.
Here are still other proofs, which will not be less evident, of the falsity of human religions, and especially of the falsity of our own. Every religion which relies upon mysteries as its foundation, and which takes, as a rule of its doctrine and its morals, a principle of errors, and which is at the same time a source of trouble and eternal divisions among men, can not be a true religion, nor a Divine Institution. Now, human religions, especially the Catholic, establish as the basis of their doctrine and of their morals, a principle of errors; then, it follows that these religions can not be true, or of Divine origin. I do not see that we can deny the first proposition of this argument; it is too clear and too evident to admit of a doubt. I pass to the proof of the second proposition, which is, that the Christian religion takes for the rule of its doctrine and its morals what they call faith, a blind trust, but yet firm, and secured by some laws or revelations of some Deity. We must necessarily suppose that it is thus, because it is this belief in some Deity and in some Divine Revelations, which gives all the credit and all the authority that it has in the world, and without which we could make no use of what it prescribes. This is why there is no religion which does not expressly recommend its votaries to be firm in their faith. ["Estate fortes in fide!"] This is the reason that all Christians accept as a maxim, that faith is the commencement and the basis of salvation, that it is the root of all justice and of all sanctification, as it is expressed at the Council of Trent.—Sess. 6, Ch. VIII.
Now it is evident that a blind faith in all which is proposed in the name and authority of God, is a principle of errors and falsehoods. As a proof, we see that there is no impostor in the matter of religion, who does not pretend to be clothed with the name and the authority of God, and who does not claim to be especially inspired and sent by God. Not only is this faith and blind belief which they accept as a basis of their doctrine, a principle of errors, etc., but it is also a source of trouble and division among men for the maintenance of their religion. There is no cruelty which they do not practice upon each other under this specious pretext.
Now then, it is not credible that an Almighty, All-Kind, and All-Wise God desired to use such means or such a deceitful way to inform men of His wishes; for this would be manifestly desiring to lead them into error and to lay snares in their way, in order to make them accept the side of falsehood. It is impossible to believe that a God who loved unity and peace, the welfare and the happiness of men, would ever have established as the basis of His religion, such a fatal source of trouble and of eternal divisions among them. Such religions can not be true, neither could they have been instituted by God. But I see that our Christ-worshipers will not fail to have recourse to their pretended motives for credulity, and that they will say, that although their faith and belief may be blind in one sense, they are nevertheless supported by such clear and convincing testimonies of truth, that it would be not only imprudence, but temerity and folly not to surrender one's self. They generally reduce these pretended motives to three or four leading features. The first, they draw from the pretended holiness of their religion, which condemns vice, and which recommends the practice of virtue. Its doctrine is so pure, so simple, according to what they say, that it is evident it could spring but from the sanctity of an infinitely good and wise God.
The second motive for credulity, they draw from the innocence and the holiness of life in those who embraced it with love, and defended it by suffering death and the most cruel torments, rather than forsake it: it not being credible that such great personages would allow themselves to be deceived in their belief, that they would renounce all the advantages of life, and expose themselves to such cruel torments and persecutions, in order to maintain errors and impositions. Their third motive for credulity, they draw from the oracles and prophecies which have so long been rendered in their favor, and which they pretend have been accomplished in a manner which permits no doubt. Finally, their fourth motive for credulity, which is the most important of all, is drawn from the grandeur and the multitude of the miracles performed, in all ages, and in every place, in favor of their religion.
But it is easy to refute all these useless reasonings and to show the falsity of all these evidences. For, firstly, the arguments which our Christ-worshipers draw from their pretended motives for credulity can serve to establish and confirm falsehood as well as truth; for we see that there is no religion, no matter how false it may be, which does not pretend to have a sound and true doctrine, and which, in its way, does not condemn all vices and recommend the practice of all virtues; there is not one which has not had firm and zealous defenders who have suffered persecution in order to maintain their religion; and, finally, there is none which does not pretend to have wonders and miracles that have been performed in their favor. The Mohammedans, the Indians, the heathen, as well as the Christians, claim miracles in their religions. If our Christ-worshipers make use of their miracles and their prophecies, they are found no less in the Pagan religions than in theirs. Thus the advantage we might draw from all these motives for credulity, is found about the same in all sorts of religions. This being established, as the history and practice of all religions demonstrate, it evidently follows that all these pretended motives for credulity, upon which our Christ-worshipers place so much value, are found equally in all religions; and, consequently, can not serve as reliable evidences of the truth of their religion more than of the truth of any other. The result is clear.
Secondly. In order to give an idea of the resemblance of the miracles of Paganism to those of Christianity, could we not say, for example, that there would be more reason to believe Philostratus in what he recites of the life of Apollonius than to believe all the evangelists in what they say of the miracles of Jesus Christ; because we know, at least that Philostratus was a man of intelligence, eloquence, and fluency; that he was the secretary of the Empress Julia, wife of the Emperor Severus, and that he was requested by this empress to write the life and the wonderful acts of Apollonius? It is evident that Apollonius rendered himself famous by great and extraordinary deeds, since an empress was sufficiently interested in them to desire a history of his life. This is what can not be said of Jesus Christ, nor of those who have furnished us His biography, for they were but ignorant men of the common people, poor workmen, fishermen, who had not even the sense to relate consistently the facts which they speak of, and which they mutually contradict very often. In regard to the One whose life and actions they describe, if He had really performed the miracles attributed to Him, He would have rendered Himself notable by His beautiful acts; every one would have admired Him, and there would be statues erected to Him as was done for the Gods; but instead of that, He was regarded as a man of no consequence, as a fanatic, etc. Josephus, the historian, after having spoken of the great miracles performed in favor of his nation and his religion, immediately diminishes their credibility and renders it suspicious by saying that he leaves to each one the liberty of believing what he chooses; this evidently shows that he had not much faith in them. It also gives occasion to the more judicious to regard the histories which speak of this kind of things as fabulous narrations. [See Montaigne, and the author of the "Apology for Great Men."] All that can be said upon this subject shows us clearly that pretended miracles can be invented to favor vice and falsehood as well as justice and truth.
I prove it by the evidence of what even our Christ-worshipers call the Word of God, and by the evidence of the One they adore; for their books, which they claim contain the Word of God, and Christ Himself, whom they adore as a God-made man, show us explicitly that there are not only false prophets—that is to say, impostors—who claim to be sent by God, and who speak in His name, but which show as explicitly that these false prophets can perform such great and prodigious miracles as shall deceive the very elect. [See Matthew, chapter xxiv., verses 5, 21-27.] More than this, all these pretended performers of miracles wish us to put faith only in them, and not in those who belong to an opposite party.
On one occasion one of these pretended prophets, named Sedecias, being contradicted by another, named Michea, the former struck the latter and said to him, pleasantly, "By what way did the Spirit of God pass from me to you?"
But how can these pretended miracles be the evidences of truth? for it is clear that they were not performed. For it would be necessary to know: Firstly, If those who are said to be the first authors of these narrations truly are such. Secondly, If they were honest men, worthy of confidence, wise and enlightened; and to know if they were not prejudiced in favor of those of whom they speak so favorably. Thirdly, If they have examined all the circumstances of the facts which they relate; if they know them well; and if they make a faithful report of them. Fourthly, If the books or the ancient histories which relate all these great miracles have not been falsified and changed in course of time, as many others have been?
If we consult Tacitus and many other celebrated historians, in regard to Moses and his nation, we shall see that they are considered as a horde of thieves and bandits. Magic and astrology were in those days the only fashionable sciences; and as Moses was, it is said, instructed in the wisdom of the Egyptians, it was not difficult for him to inspire veneration and attachment for himself in the rustic and ignorant children of Jacob, and to induce them to accept, in their misery, the discipline he wished to give them. That is very different from what the Jews and our Christ-worshipers wish to make us believe. By what certain rule can we know that we should put faith in these rather than in the others? There is no sound reason for it. There is as little of certainty and even of probability in the miracles of the New Testament as in those of the Old.
It will serve no purpose to say that the histories which relate the facts contained in the Gospels have been regarded as true and sacred; that they have always been faithfully preserved without any alteration of the truths which they contain; since this is perhaps the very reason why they should be the more suspected, having been corrupted by those who drew profit from them, or who feared that they were not sufficiently favorable to them.
Generally, authors who transcribe this kind of histories, take the right to enlarge or to retrench all they please, in order to serve their own interests. This is what even our Christ-worshipers can not deny; for, without mentioning several other important personages who recognized the additions, the retrenchments, and the falsifications which have been made at different times in their Holy Scriptures, their saint Jerome, a famous philosopher among them, formally said in several passages of his "Prologues," that they had been corrupted and falsified; being, even in his day, in the hands of all kinds of persons, who added and suppressed whatever they pleased; so, "Thus there were," said he, "as many different models as different copies of the Gospels."
In regard to the books of the Old Testament, Esdras, a priest of the law, testifies himself to having corrected and completed wholly the pretended sacred books of his law, which had partly been lost and partly corrupted. He divided them into twenty-two books, according to the number of the Hebraic letters, and wrote several other books, whose doctrine was to be revealed to the learned men alone. If these books have been partly lost and partly corrupted, as Esdras and St. Jerome testify in so many passages, there is then no certainty in regard to what they contain; and as for Esdras saying he had corrected and compiled them by the inspiration of God Himself there is no certainty of that, since there is no impostor who would not make the same claim. All the books of the law of Moses and of the prophets which could be found, were burned in the days of Antiochus. The Talmud, considered by the Jews as a holy and sacred book, and which contains all the Divine laws, with the sentences and notable sayings of the Rabbins, of their interpretation of the Divine and of the human laws, and a prodigious number of other secrets and mysteries in the Hebraic language, is considered by the Christians as a book made up of reveries, fables, impositions, and ungodliness. In the year 1559 they burned in Rome, according to the command of the inquisitors of the faith, twelve hundred of these Talmuds, which were found in a library in the city of Cremona. The Pharisees, a famous sect among the Jews, accepted but the five books of Moses, and rejected all the prophets. Among the Christians, Marcion and his votaries rejected the books of Moses and the prophets, and introduced other fashionable Scriptures. Carpocrates and his followers did the same, and rejected the whole of the Old Testament, and contended that Jesus Christ was but a man like all others. The Marcionites repudiated as bad, the whole of the Old Testament, and rejected the greater part of the four Gospels and the Epistles of St. Paul. The Ebionites accepted but the Gospel of St. Matthew, rejecting the three others, and the Epistles of St. Paul. The Marcionites published a Gospel under the name of St. Matthias, in order to confirm their doctrine. The apostles introduced other Scriptures in order to maintain their errors; and to carry out this, they made use of certain Acts, which they attributed to St. Andrew and to St. Thomas.
The Manicheans wrote a gospel of their own style, and rejected the Scriptures of the prophets and the apostles. The Etzaites sold a certain book which they claimed to have come from Heaven; they cut up the other Scriptures according to their fancy. Origen himself, with all his great mind, corrupted the Scriptures and forged changes in the allegories which did not suit him, thus corrupting the sense of the prophets and apostles, and even some of the principal points of doctrine. His books are now mutilated and falsified; they are but fragments collected by others who have appeared since. The Ellogians attributed to the heretic Corinthus the Gospel and the Apocalypse of St. John; this is why they reject them. The heretics of our last centuries reject as apocryphal several books which the Roman Catholics consider as true and sacred—such as the books of Tobias, Judith, Esther, Baruch, the Song of the Three Children in the Furnace, the History of Susannah, and that of the Idol Bel, the Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus, the first and second book of Maccabees; to which uncertain and doubtful books we could add several others that have been attributed to the other apostles; as, for example, the Acts of St. Thomas, his Circuits, his Gospel, and his Apocalypse; the Gospel of St. Bartholomew, that of St. Matthias, of St. Jacques, of St. Peter and of the Apostles, as also the Deeds of St. Peter, his book on Preaching, and that of his Apocalypse; that of the Judgment, that of the Childhood of the Saviour, and several others of the same kind, which are all rejected as apocryphal by the Roman Catholics, even by the Pope Gelasee, and by the S. S. F. F. of the Romish Communion. That which most confirms that there is no foundation of truth in regard to the authority given to these books, is that those who maintain their Divinity are compelled to acknowledge that they have no certainty as a basis, if their faith did not assure them and oblige them to believe it. Now, as faith is but a principle of error and imposture, how can faith, that is to say, a blind belief, render the books reliable which are themselves the foundation of this blind belief? What a pity and what insanity! But let us see if these books have of themselves any feature of truth; as, for example, of erudition, of wisdom, and of holiness, or some other perfections which are suited only to a God; and if the miracles which are cited agree with what we ought to think of the grandeur, goodness, justice, and infinite wisdom of an Omnipotent God.
There is no erudition, no sublime thought, nor any production which surpasses the ordinary capacities of the human mind. On the contrary, we shall see on one side fabulous tales similar to that of a woman formed of a man's rib; of the pretended terrestrial Paradise; of a serpent which spoke, which reasoned, and which was more cunning than man; of an ass which spoke, and reprimanded its master for ill-treating it; of a universal deluge, and of an ark where animals of all kinds were inclosed; of the confusion of languages and of the division of the nations, without speaking of numerous other useless narrations upon low and frivolous subjects which important authors would scorn to relate. All these narrations appear to be fables, as much as those invented about the industry of Prometheus, the box of Pandora, the war of the Giants against the Gods, and similar others which the poets have invented to amuse the men of their time.
On the other hand we will see a mixture of laws and ordinances, or superstitious practices concerning sacrifices, the purifications of the old law, the senseless distinctions in regard to animals, of which it supposes some to be pure and others to be impure. These laws are no more respectable than those of the most idolatrous nations. We shall see but simple stories, true or false, of several kings, princes, or individuals, who lived right or wrong, or who performed noble or mean actions, with other low and frivolous things also related.
From all this, it is evident that no great genius was required, nor Divine Revelations to produce these things. It would not be creditable to a God.
Finally, we see in these books but the discourses, the conduct, and the actions of those renowned prophets who proclaimed themselves especially inspired by God. We will see their way of acting and speaking, their dreams, their illusions, their reveries; and it will be easy to judge whether they do not resemble visionaries and fanatics much more than wise and enlightened persons.
There are, however, in a few of these books, several good teachings and beautiful maxims of morals, as in the Proverbs attributed to Solomon, in the book of Wisdom and of Ecclesiastes; but this same Solomon, the wisest of their writers, is also the most incredulous; he doubts even the immortality of the soul, and concludes his works by saying that there is nothing good but to enjoy in peace the fruits of one's labor, and to live with those whom we love.
How superior are the authors who are called profane, such as Xenophon, Plato, Cicero, the Emperor Antoninus, the Emperor Julian, Virgil, etc., to the books which we are told are inspired of God. I can truly say that the fables of Aesop, for example, are certainly more ingenious and more instructive than all these rough and poor parables which are related in the Gospels.
But what shows us that this kind of books is not of Divine Inspiration, is, that aside from the low order, coarseness of style, and the lack of system in the narrations of the different facts, which are very badly arranged, we do not see that the authors agree; they contradict each other in several things; they had not even sufficient enlightenment or natural talents to write a history.
Here are some examples of the contradictions which are found among them. The Evangelist Matthew claims that Jesus Christ descended from king David by his son Solomon through Joseph, reputed to be His father; and Luke claims that He is descended from the same David by his son Nathan through Joseph.
Matthew says, in speaking of Jesus, that, it being reported in Jerusalem that a new king of the Jews was born, and that the wise men had come to adore Him, the king Herod, fearing that this pretended new king would rob him of his crown some day, caused the murder of all the new-born children under two years, in all the neighborhood of Bethlehem, where he had been told that this new king was born; and that Joseph and the mother of Jesus, having been warned in a dream by an angel, of this wicked intention, took flight immediately to Egypt, where they stayed until the death of Herod, which happened many years afterward.
On the contrary, Luke asserts that Joseph and the mother of Jesus lived peaceably during six weeks in the place where their child Jesus was born; that He was circumcised according to the law of the Jews, eight days after His birth; and when the time prescribed by the law for the purification of His mother had arrived, she and Joseph, her husband, carried Him to Jerusalem in order to present Him to God in His temple, and to offer at the same time a sacrifice which was ordained by God's law; after which they returned to Galilee, into their town of Nazareth, where their child Jesus grew every day in grace and in wisdom. Luke goes on to say that His father and His mother went every year to Jerusalem on the solemn days of their Easter feast, but makes no mention of their flight into Egypt, nor of the cruelty of Herod toward the children of the province of Bethlehem. In regard to the cruelty of Herod, as neither the historians of that time speak of it, nor Josephus, the historian who wrote the life of this Herod, and as the other Evangelists do not mention it, it is evident that the journey of those wise men, guided by a star, this massacre of little children, and this flight to Egypt, were but absurd falsehoods. For it is not credible that Josephus, who blamed the vices of this king, could have been silent on such a dark and detestable action, if what the Evangelist said had been true.
In regard to the duration of the public life of Jesus Christ, according to what the first three Evangelists say, there could be scarcely more than three months from the time of His baptism until His death, supposing He was thirty years old when He was baptized by John, according to Luke, and that He was born on the 25th of December. For, from this baptism, which was in the year 15 of Tiberius Caesar, and in the year when Anne and Caiaphas were high-priests, to the first Easter following, which was in the month of March, there was but about three months; according to what the first three Evangelists say, He was crucified on the eve of the first Easter following His baptism, and the first time He went to Jerusalem with His disciples; because all that they say of His baptism, of His travels, of His miracles, of His preaching, of His death and passion, must have taken place in the same year of His baptism, for the Evangelists speak of no other year following, and it appears even by the narration of His acts that He performed them consecutively immediately after His baptism, and in a very short time, during which we see but an interval of six days before his Transfiguration; during these six days we do not see that He did anything. We see by this that He lived but about three months after His baptism, from which, if we subtract the forty days and forty nights which He passed in the desert immediately after His baptism, it would follow that the length of His public life from His first preaching till His death, would have lasted but about six weeks; and according to what John says, it would have lasted at least three years and three months, because it appears by the Gospel of this apostle, that, during the course of His public life He might have been three or four times at Jerusalem at the Easter feast which happened but once a year.
Now if it is true that He had been there three or four times after His baptism, as John testifies, it is false that He lived but three months after His baptism, and that He was crucified the first time He went to Jerusalem.
If it is said that these first three Evangelists really mean but one year, but that they do not indicate distinctly the others which elapsed since His baptism; or that John understood that there was but one Easter, although he speaks of several, and that he only anticipated the time when he repeatedly tells us that the Easter feast of the Jews was near at hand, and that Jesus went to Jerusalem, and, consequently, that there is but an apparent contradiction upon this subject between the Evangelists, I am willing to accept this; but it is certain that this apparent contradiction springs from the fact, that they do not explain themselves in all the circumstances that are noted in the narration which they make. Be that as it may, there will always be this inference made, that they were not inspired by God when they wrote their biographies of Christ.
Here is another contradiction in regard to the first thing which Jesus
Christ did immediately after His baptism; for the first three Evangelists state, that He was transported immediately by the Spirit into the desert, where He fasted forty days and forty nights, and where He was several times tempted by the Devil; and, according to what John says, He departed two days after His baptism to go into Galilee, where He performed His first miracle by changing water into wine at the wedding of Cana, where He found Himself three days after His arrival in Galilee, more than thirty leagues from the place in which He had been.
In regard to the place of His first retreat after His departure from the desert, Matthew says that He returned to Galilee, and that leaving the city of Nazareth, He went to live at Capernaum, a maritime city; and Luke says, that He came at first to Nazareth, and afterward went to Capernaum.
They contradict each other in regard to the time and manner in which the apostles followed Him; for the first three say that Jesus, passing on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, saw Simon and Andrew his brother, and that He saw at a little distance James and his brother John with their father, Zebedee. John, on the contrary, says that it was Andrew, brother of Simon Peter, who first followed Jesus with another disciple of John the Baptist, having seen Him pass before them, when they were with their Master on the shores of the Jordan.
In regard to the Lord's Supper, the first three Evangelists note that Jesus Christ instituted the Sacrament of His body and His blood, in the form of bread and wine, the same as our Roman Christ-worshipers say; and John does not mention this mysterious sacrament. John says that after this supper, Jesus washed His apostles' feet, and commanded them to do the same thing to each other, and relates a long discourse which He delivered then. But the other Evangelists do not speak of the washing of the feet, nor of the long discourse He gave them then. On the contrary, they testify that immediately after this supper, He went with His apostles upon the Mount of Olives, where He gave up His Spirit to sadness, and was in anguish while His apostles slept, at a short distance. They contradict each other upon the day on which they say the Lord's Supper took place; because on one side, they note that it took place Easter-eve, that is, the evening of the first day of Azymes, or of the feast of unleavened bread; as it is noted (1) in Exodus, (2) in Leviticus, and (3) in Numbers; and, on the other hand, they say that He was crucified the day following the Lord's Supper, about midday after the Jews had His trial during the whole night and morning. Now, according to what they say, the day after this supper took place, ought not to be Easter-eve. Therefore, if He died on the eve of Easter, toward midday, it was not on the eve of this feast that this supper took place. There is consequently a manifest error.
They contradict each other, also, in regard to the women who followed Jesus from Galilee, for the first three Evangelists say that these women, and those who knew Him, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary, mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee's children, were looking on at a distance when He was hanged and nailed upon the cross. John says, on the contrary, that the mother of Jesus and His mother's sister, and Mary Magdalene were standing near His cross with John, His apostle. The contradiction is manifest, for, if these women and this disciple were near Him, they were not at a distance, as the others say they were.
They contradict each other upon the pretended apparitions which they relate that Jesus made after His pretended resurrection; for Matthew speaks of but two apparitions: the one when He appeared to Mary Magdalene and to another woman, also named Mary, and when He appeared to His eleven disciples who had returned to Galilee upon the mountain where He had appointed to meet them. Mark speaks of three apparitions: The first, when He appeared to Mary Magdalene; the second, when He appeared to His two disciples, who went to Emmaus; and the third, when He appeared to His eleven disciples, whom He reproaches for their incredulity. Luke speaks of but two apparitions the same as Matthew; and John the Evangelist speaks of four apparitions, and adds to Mark's three, the one which He made to seven or eight of His disciples who were fishing upon the shores of the Tiberian Sea.
They contradict each other, also, in regard to the place of these apparitions; for Matthew says that it was in Galilee, upon a mountain; Mark says that it was when they were at table; Luke says that He brought them out of Jerusalem as far as Bethany, where He left them by rising to Heaven; and John says that it was in the city of Jerusalem, in a house of which they had closed the doors, and another time upon the borders of the Tiberian Sea.
Thus is much contradiction in the report of these pretended apparitions. They contradict each other in regard to His pretended ascension to heaven; for Luke and Mark say positively that He went to heaven in presence of the eleven apostles, but neither Matthew nor John mentions at all this pretended ascension. More than this, Matthew testifies sufficiently that He did not ascend to heaven; for he said positively that Jesus Christ assured His apostles that He would be and remain always with them until the end of the world. "Go ye," He said to them, in this pretended apparition, "and teach all nations, and be assured that I am with you always, even unto the end of the world." Luke contradicts himself upon the subject; for in his Gospel he says that it was in Bethany where He ascended to heaven in the presence of His apostles, and in his Acts of the Apostles (supposing him to have been the author) he says that it was upon the Mount of Olives. He contradicts himself again about this ascension; for he notes in his Gospel that it was the very day of His resurrection, or the first night following, that He ascended to heaven; and in the Acts of the Apostles he says that it was forty days after His resurrection; this certainly does not correspond. If all the apostles had really seen their Master gloriously rise to heaven, how could it be possible that Matthew and John, who would have seen it as well as the others, passed in silence such a glorious mystery, and which was so advantageous to their Master, considering that they relate many other circumstances of His life and of His actions which are much less important than this one? How is it that Matthew does not mention this ascension? And why does Christ not explain clearly how He would live with them always, although He left them visibly to ascend to heaven? It is not easy to comprehend by what secret He could live with those whom He left.
I pass in silence many other contradictions; what I have said is sufficient to show that these books are not of Divine Inspiration, nor even of human wisdom, and, consequently, do not deserve that we should put any faith in them.
But by what privilege do these four Gospels, and some other similar books, pass for Holy and Divine more than several others, which bear no less the title of Gospels, and which have been published under the name of some other apostles? If it is said that the reputed Gospels are falsely attributed to the apostles, we can say the same of the first ones; if we suppose the first ones to be falsified and changed, we can think the same of the others. Thus there is no positive proof to make us discern the one from the other; in spite of the Church, which assumes to deride the matter, it is not credible.
In regard to the pretended miracles related in the Old Testament, they could have been performed but to indicate on the part of God an unjust and odious discrimination between nations and between individuals; purposely injuring the one in order to especially favor the other. The vocation and the choice which God made of the Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in order to make for Himself of their posterity a people which He would sanctify and bless above all other peoples of the earth, is a proof of it. But it will be said God is the absolute master of His favors and of His benefits; He can grant them to whomsoever He pleases, without any one having the right to complain or to accuse Him of injustice. This reason is useless; for God, the Author of nature, the Father of all men, ought to love them all alike as His own work, and, consequently, He ought to be equally their protector and their benefactor; giving them life, He ought to give all that is necessary for the well-being of His creatures.
If all these pretended miracles of the Old and of the New Testament were true, we could say that God would have had more care in providing for the least good of men than for their greatest and principal good; that He would have punished more severely trifling faults in certain persons than He would have punished great crimes in others; and, finally, that He would not have desired to show Himself as beneficent in the most pressing needs as in the least. This is easy enough to show as much by the miracles which it is pretended that He performed, as by those which He did not perform, and which He would have performed rather than any other, if it is true that He performed any at all. For example, it is claimed that God had the kindness to send an angel to console and to assist a simple maid, while He left, and still leaves every day, a countless number of innocents to languish and starve to death; it is claimed that He miraculously preserved during forty years the clothes and the shoes of a few people, while He will not watch over the natural preservation of the vast quantities of goods which are useful and necessary for the subsistence of great nations, and that are lost every day by different accidents. It is claimed that He sent to the first beings of the human race, Adam and Eve, a devil, or a simple serpent, to seduce them, and by this means ruin all men. This is not credible! It is claimed, that by a special providence, He prevented the King of Gerais, a Pagan, from committing sin with a strange woman, although there would be no results to follow; and yet He did not prevent Adam and Eve from offending Him and falling into the sin of disobedience—a sin which, according to our Christ-worshipers was to be fatal, and cause the destruction of the human race. This is not credible!
Let us come to the pretended miracles of the New Testament. They consist, as is pretended, in this: that Jesus Christ and His apostles cured, through the Deity, all kinds of diseases and infirmities, giving sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, speech to the dumb, making the lame to walk, curing the paralytics, driving the devils from those who were possessed, and bringing the dead to life.
We find several of these miracles in the Gospels, but we see a good many more of them in the books that our Christ-worshipers have written of the admirable lives of their saints; for in these lives we nearly everywhere read that these pretended blessed ones cured diseases and infirmities, expelled the devils wherever they encountered them, solely in the name of Jesus or by the sign of the cross; that they controlled the elements; that God favored them so much that He even preserved to them His Divine power after their death, and that this Divine power could be communicated even to the least of their clothing, even to their shadows, and even to the infamous instruments of their death. It is said that the shoe of St. Honorius raised a dead man on the sixth of January; that the staff of St. Peter, that of St. James, and that of St. Bernard performed miracles. The same is said of the cord of St. Francis, of the staff of St. John of God, and of the girdle of St. Melanie. It is said that St. Gracilien was divinely instructed as to what he ought to believe and to teach, and that he, by the influence of his prayer, removed a mountain which prevented him from building a church; that from the sepulchre of St. Andrew flowed incessantly a liquor which cured all sorts of diseases; that the soul of St. Benedict was seen ascending to Heaven clothed with a precious cloak and surrounded by burning lamps; that St. Dominic said that God never refused him anything he asked; that St. Francis commanded the swallows, swans, and other birds to obey him, and that often the fishes, rabbits, and the hares came and placed themselves on his hands and on his lap; that St. Paul and St. Pantaleon, having been beheaded, there flowed milk instead of blood; that the blessed Peter of Luxembourg, in the first two years after his death (1388 and 1389), performed two thousand four hundred miracles, among which forty-two dead were brought to life, not including more than three thousand other miracles which he has performed since; that the fifty philosophers whom St. Catherine converted, having all been thrown into a great fire, their whole bodies were afterward found and not a single hair was scorched; that the body of St. Catherine was carried off by angels after her death, and buried by them upon Mount Sinai; that the day of the canonization of St. Antoine de Padua, all the bells of the city of Lisbon rang of themselves, without any one knowing how it was done; that this saint being once near the sea-shore, and calling the fishes, they came to him in a great multitude, and raised their heads out of the water and listened to him attentively. We should never come to an end if we had to report all this idle talk; there is no subject, however vain, frivolous, and even ridiculous, on which the authors of these "LIVES OF THE SAINTS" do not take pleasure in heaping miracles upon miracles, for they are skillful in forging absurd falsehoods.
It is certainly not without reason that we consider these things as lies; for it is easy to see that all these pretended miracles have been invented but by imitating the fables of the Pagan poets. This is sufficiently obvious by the resemblance which they bear one to another.
III.—SIMILARITY BETWEEN ANCIENT AND MODERN MIRACLES.
If our Christ-worshipers claim that God endowed their saints with power to perform the miracles related in their lives, some of the Pagans claim also that the daughters of Anius, high-priest of Apollo, had really received from the god Bacchus the power to change all they desired into wheat, into wine, or into oil, etc.; that Jupiter gave to the nymphs who took care of his education, a horn of the goat which nursed him in his infancy, with this virtue, that it could give them an abundance of all they wished for.
If our Christ-worshipers assert that their saints had the power of raising the dead, and that they had Divine revelations, the Pagans had said before them that Athalide, son of Mercury, had obtained from his father the gift of living, dying, and coming to life whenever he wished, and that he had also the knowledge of all that transpired in this world as well as in the other; and that Esculapius, son of Apollo, had raised the dead, and, among others, he brought to life Hyppolites, son of Theseus, by Diana's request; and that Hercules, also, raised from the dead Alceste, wife of Admetus, King of Thessalia, to return her to her husband.
If our Christ-worshipers say that Christ was miraculously born of a virgin, the Pagans had said before them that Remus and Romulus, the founders of Rome, were miraculously born of a vestal virgin named Ilia, or Silvia, or Rhea Silvia; they had already said that Mars, Argus, Vulcan, and others were born of the goddess Juno without sexual union; and, also, that Minerva, goddess of the sciences, sprang from Jupiter's brain, and that she came out of it, all armed, by means of a blow which this god gave to his own head.
If our Christ-worshipers claim that their saints made water gush from rocks, the Pagans pretend also that Minerva made a fountain of oil spring forth from a rock as a recompense for a temple which had been dedicated to her.
If our Christ-worshipers boast of having received images from Heaven miraculously, as, for example, those of Notre-Dame de Loretto, and of Liesse and several other gifts from Heaven, as the pretended Holy Vial of Rheims, as the white Chasuble which St. Ildefonse received from the Virgin Mary, and other similar things: the Pagans boasted before them of having received a sacred shield as a mark of the preservation of their city of Rome, and the Trojans boasted before them of having received miraculously from Heaven their Palladium, or their Idol of Pallas, which came, they said, to takes its place in the temple which they had erected in honor of this Goddess.
If our Christ-worshipers pretend that Jesus Christ was seen by His apostles ascending to Heaven, and that several of their pretended saints were transported to Heaven by angels, the Roman Pagans had said before them, that Romulus, their founder, was seen after his death; that Ganymede, son of Troas, king of Troy, was transported to Heaven by Jupiter to serve him as cup-bearer that the hair of Berenice, being consecrated to the temple of Venus, was afterward carried to Heaven; they say the same thing of Cassiope and Andromedes, and even of the ass of Silenus.
If our Christ-worshipers pretend that several of their saints' bodies were miraculously saved from decomposition after death, and that they were found by Divine Revelations, after having been lost for a long time, the Pagans say the same of the holy of Orestes, which they pretend to have found through an oracle, etc.
If our Christ-worshipers say that the seven sleeping brothers slept during one hundred and seventy-seven years, while they were shut up in a cave, the Pagans claim that Epimenides, the philosopher, slept during fifty-seven years in a cave where he fell asleep.
If our Christ-worshipers claim that several of their saints continued to speak after losing the head, or having the tongue cut out, the Pagans claim that the head of Gambienus recited a long poem after separation from his body.
If our Christ-worshipers glorify themselves that their temples and churches are ornamented with several pictures and rich gifts which show miraculous cures performed by the intercession of their saints, we also see, or at least we formerly saw in the temple of Esculapius at Epidaurus, many paintings of miraculous cures which he had performed.
If our Christ-worshipers claim that several of their saints have been miraculously preserved in the flames without having received any injury to their bodies or their clothing, the Pagans claim that the Holy women of the temple of Diana walked upon burning coals barefooted without burning or hurting their feet, and that the priests of the Goddess Feronie and of Hirpicus walked in the same way upon burning coals in the fires which were made in honor of Apollo.
If the angels built a chapel for St. Clement at the bottom of the sea, the little house of Baucis and of Philemon was miraculously changed into a superb temple as a reward of their piety. If several of their saints, as St. James and St. Maurice, appeared several times in their armies, mounted and equipped in ancient style, and fought for them, Castor and Pollux appeared several times in battles and fought for the Romans against their enemies; if a ram was miraculously found to be offered as a sacrifice in the place of Isaac, whom his father Abraham was about to sacrifice, the Goddess Vesta also sent a heifer to be sacrificed in the place of Metella, daughter of Metellus: the Goddess Diana sent a hind in the place of Iphigenie when she was at the stake to be sacrificed to her, and by this means Iphigenie was saved.
If St. Joseph went into Egypt by the warning of an angel, Simonides, the poet, avoided several great dangers by miraculous warnings which had been given to him.
If Moses forced a stream of water to flow from a rock by striking it with his staff, the horse Pegasus did the same: by striking a rock with his foot a fountain issued.
If St. Vincent Ferrier brought to life a dead man hacked into pieces, whose body was already half roasted and half broiled, Pelops, son of Tantalus king of Phrygia, having been torn to pieces by his father to be sacrificed to the Gods, they gathered all the pieces, joined them, and brought them to life.
If several crucifixes and other images have miraculously spoken and answered, the Pagans say that their oracles have spoken and given answers to those who consulted them, and that the head of Orpheus and that of Policrates gave oracles after their death.
If God revealed by a voice from Heaven that Jesus Christ was His Son, as the Evangelists say, Vulcan showed by the apparition of a miraculous flame, that Coceculus was really his son.
If God has miraculously nourished some of His saints, the Pagan poets pretend that Triptolemus was miraculously nourished with Divine milk by Ceres, who gave him also a chariot drawn by two dragons, and that Phineus, son of Mars, being born after his mother's death, was nevertheless miraculously nourished by her milk.
If several saints miraculously tamed the ferocity of the most cruel beasts, it is said that Orpheus attracted to him, by the sweetness of his voice and by the harmony of his instruments, lions, bears, and tigers, and softened the ferocity of their nature; that he attracted rocks and trees, and that even the rivers stopped their course to listen to his song.
Finally, to abbreviate, because we could report many others, if our Christ-worshipers pretend that the walls of the city of Jericho fell by the sound of their trumpets, the Pagans say that the walls of the city of Thebes were built by the sound of the musical instruments of Amphion; the stones, as the poets say, arranging themselves to the sweetness of his harmony; this would be much more miraculous and more admirable than to see the walls demolished.
There is certainly a great similarity between the Pagan miracles and our own. As it would be great folly to give credence to these pretended miracles of Paganism, it is not any the less so to have faith in those of Christianity, because they all come from the same source of error. It was for this that the Manicheans and the Arians, who existed at the commencement of the Christian Era, derided these pretended miracles performed by the invocation of saints, and blamed those who invoked them after death and honored their relics.
Let us return at present to the principal end which God proposed to Himself, in sending His Son into the world to become man; it must have been, as they say, to redeem the world from sin and to destroy entirely the works of the pretended Devil, etc. This is what our Christ-worshipers claim also, that Jesus Christ died for them according to His Father's intention, which is plainly stated in all the pretended Holy Books. What! an Almighty God, who was willing to become a mortal man for the love of men, and to shed His blood to the last drop, to save them all, would yet have limited His power to only curing a few diseases and physical infirmities of a few individuals who were brought to Him; and would not have employed His Divine goodness in curing the infirmities of the soul! that is to say, in curing all men of their vices and their depravities, which are worse than the diseases of their bodies! This is not credible. What! such a good God would desire to preserve dead corpses from decay and corruption; and would not keep from the contagion and corruption of vice and sin the souls of a countless number of persons whom He sought to redeem at the price of His blood, and to sanctify by His grace! What a pitiful contradiction!
IV.—OF THE FALSITY OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION.
Let us proceed to the pretended visions and Divine Revelations, upon which our Christ-worshipers establish the truth and the certainty of their religion.
In order to give a just idea of it, I believe it is best to say in general, that they are such, that if any one should dare now to boast of similar ones, or wish to make them valued, he would certainly be regarded as a fool or a fanatic.
Here is what the pretended Visions and Divine Revelations are:
God, as these pretended Holy Books claim, having appeared for the first time to Abraham, said to him: "Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred and from thy father's house, into a land that I will show thee." Abraham, having gone there, God, says the Bible, appeared the second time to him, and said, "Unto thy seed will I give this land," and there builded he an altar unto the Lord, who appeared unto him. After the death of Isaac, his son, Jacob going one day to Mesopotamia to look for a wife that would suit him, having walked all the day, and being tired from the long distance, desired to rest toward evening; lying upon the ground, with his head resting upon a few stones, he fell asleep, and during his sleep he saw a ladder set upon the earth, and the top of it reached to Heaven; and beheld the angels of God ascending and descending on it. And behold, the Lord stood above it, and said: "I am the Lord, God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac; the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed. And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west and to the east, and to the north and to the south and in thee and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed. And behold, I am with thee and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land: for I will not leave thee until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of." And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said: "Surely the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not." And he was afraid, and said: "How dreadful is this place! this is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of Heaven." And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillow, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil on the top of it, and made at the same time a vow to God, that if he should return safe and sound, he would give Him a tithe of all he might possess.
Here is yet another vision. Watching the flocks of his father-in-law, Laban, who had promised him that all the speckled lambs produced by his sheep should be his recompense, he dreamed one night that he saw all the males leap upon the females, and all the lambs they brought forth were speckled. In this beautiful dream, God appeared to him, and said: "Lift up now thine eyes and see that the rams which leap upon the cattle are ring-streaked, speckled, and grizzled; for I have seen all that Laban does unto thee. Now arise, get thee out from this land, and return unto the land of thy kindred." As he was returning with his whole family, and with all he obtained from his father-in-law, he had, says the Bible, a wrestle with an unknown man during the whole night, until the breaking of the day, and as this man had not been able to subdue him, He asked him who he was. Jacob told Him his name; and He said: "Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel; for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed."
This is a specimen of the first of these pretended Visions and Divine Revelations. We can judge of the others by these. Now, what appearance of Divinity is there in dreams so gross and illusions so vain? As if some foreigners, Germans, for instance, should come into our France, and, after seeing all the beautiful provinces of our kingdom, should claim that God had appeared to them in their country, that He had told them to go into France, and that He would give to them and to their posterity all the beautiful lands, domains, and provinces of this kingdom which extend from the rivers Rhine and Rhone, even to the sea; that He would make an everlasting alliance with them, that He would multiply their race, that He would make their posterity as numerous as the stars of Heaven and as the sands of the sea, etc., who would not laugh at such folly, and consider these strangers as insane fools!
Now there is no reason to think otherwise of all that has been said by these pretended Holy Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in regard to the Divine Revelations which they claim to have had. As to the institution of bloody sacrifices, the Holy Scriptures attribute it to God. As it would be too wearisome to go into the disgusting details of this kind of sacrifices, I refer the reader to Exodus. [See chapters xxv., xxvii., xxyiii., and xxix.]
Were not men insane and blind to believe they were honoring God by tearing into pieces, butchering, and burning His own creatures, under the pretext of offering them as sacrifices to Him? And even now, how is it that our Christ-worshipers are so extravagant as to expect to please God the Father, by offering up to Him the sacrifice of His Divine Son, in remembrance of His being shamefully nailed to a cross upon which He died? Certainly this can spring only from an obstinate blindness of mind.
In regard to the detail of the sacrifices of animals, it consists but in colored clothing, blood, plucks, livers, birds' crops, kidneys, claws, skins, in the dung, smoke, cakes, certain measures of oil and wine, the whole being offered and infected by dirty ceremonies as filthy and contemptible as the most extravagant performances of magic. What is most horrible of all this is, that the law of this detestable Jewish people commanded that even men should be offered up as sacrifices. The barbarians, whoever they were, who introduced this horrible law, commanded to put to death any man who had been consecrated to the God of the Jews, whom they called Adonai: and it is according to this execrable precept that Jephthah sacrificed his daughter, and that Saul wanted to sacrifice his son.
But here is yet another proof of the falsity of these revelations of which we have spoken. It is the lack of the fulfillment of the great and magnificent promises by which they were accompanied, for it is evident that these promises never have been fulfilled.
The proof of this consists in three principal points:
Firstly. Their posterity was to be more numerous than all the other nations of the world.
Secondly. The people who should spring from their race were to be the happiest, the holiest, and the most victorious of all the people of the earth.
Thirdly. His covenant was to be everlasting, and they should possess forever the country He should give them. Now it is plain that these promises-never were fulfilled.
Firstly. It is certain that the Jewish people, or the people of Israel—which is the only one that can be regarded as having descended from the Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the only ones to whom these promises should have been fulfilled—have never been so numerous that it could be compared with the other nations of the earth, much less with the sands of the sea, etc., for we see that in the very time when it was the most numerous and the most flourishing, it never occupied more than the little sterile provinces of Palestine and its environs, which are almost nothing in comparison with the vast extent of a multitude of flourishing kingdoms which are on all sides of the earth.
Secondly. They have never been fulfilled concerning the great blessings with which they were to be favored; for, although they won a few small victories over some poor nations whom they plundered, this did not prevent them from being conquered and reduced to servitude; their kingdom destroyed as well as their nation, by the Roman army; and even now the remainder of this unfortunate nation is looked upon as the vilest and most contemptible of all the earth, having no country, no dominion, no superiority.
Finally, these promises have not been fulfilled in respect to this everlasting covenant, which God ought to have fulfilled to them; because we do not see now, and we have never seen, any evidence of this covenant; and, on the contrary, they have been for many centuries excluded from the possession of the small country they pretended God had promised that they should enjoy forever. Thus, since these pretended promises were never fulfilled, it is certain evidence of their falsity; which proves, plainly, that these pretended Holy Books which contain them were not of Divine inspiration. Therefore it is useless for our Christ-worshipers to pretend to make use of them as infallible testimony to prove the truth of their religion.
THE HOLY SCRIPTURES.
V.—(1) OF THE OLD TESTAMENT.
Our Christ-worshipers add to their reasons for credulity and to the proofs of the truth of their testimony, the prophecies which are, as they pretend, sure evidences of the truth of the revelations or inspirations of God, there being no one but God who could predict future events so long before they came to pass, as those which have been predicted by the prophets.
Let us see, then, who these pretended prophets are, and if we ought to consider them as important as our Christ-worshipers pretend they are. These men were but visionaries and fanatics, who acted and spoke according to the impulsions of their ruling passions, and who imagined that it was the Spirit of God by which they spoke and acted; or they were impostors who feigned to be prophets, and who, in order to more easily deceive the ignorant and simple-minded, boasted of acting and speaking by the Spirit of God. I would like to know how an Ezekiel would be received who should say that God made him eat for his breakfast a roll of parchment; commanded him to be tied like an insane man, and lie three hundred and ninety days upon his right side, and forty days upon his left, and commanded him to eat man's dung upon his bread, and afterward, as an accommodation, cow's dung? I ask how such a filthy statement would be received by the most stupid people of our provinces?
What can be yet a greater proof of the falsity of these pretended prophecies, than the violence with which these prophets reproach each other for speaking falsely in the name of God, reproaches which they claim to make in behalf of God. All of them say, "Beware of the false prophets!" as the quacks say, "Beware of the counterfeit pills!" How could these insane impostors tell the future? No prophecy in favor of their Jewish nation was ever fulfilled. The number of prophecies which predict the prosperity and the greatness of Jerusalem is almost innumerable; in explanation of this, it will be said that it is very natural that a subdued and captive people should comfort themselves in their real afflictions by imaginary hopes—as a year after King James was deposed, the Irish people of his party forged several prophecies in regard to him.
But if these promises made to the Jews had been really true, the Jewish nation long ago would have been, and would still be, the most numerous, the most powerful, the most blessed, and the most victorious of all nations.
VI.—(2) THE NEW TESTAMENT.
Let us examine the pretended prophecies which are contained in the Gospels.
Firstly. An angel having appeared in a dream to a man named Joseph, father, or at least so reputed, of Jesus, son of Mary, said unto him:
"Joseph, thou son of David fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a Son, and thou shalt call His name JESUS; for He shall save His people from their sins." This angel said also to Mary:
"Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found favor with God. And behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb and bring forth a Son, and shalt call His name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David. And He shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end!" Jesus began to preach and to say:
"Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand. Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, nor yet for your body what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment, for your Heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you."
Now, let every man who has not lost common sense, examine if this Jesus ever was a king, or if His disciples had abundance of all things. This Jesus promised to deliver the world from sin. Is there any prophecy which is more false? Is not our age a striking proof of it? It is said that Jesus came to save His people. In what way did He save it? It is the greatest number which rules any party. For example, one dozen or two of Spaniards or Frenchmen do not constitute the French or Spanish people; and if an army of a hundred and twenty thousand men were taken prisoners of war by an army of enemies which was stronger, and if the chief of this army should redeem only a few men, as ten or twelve soldiers or officers, by paying their ransom, it could not be claimed that he had delivered or redeemed his army. Then, who is this God who has been sacrificed, who died to save the world, and leaves so many nations damned? What a pity! and what horror!
Jesus Christ says that we have but to ask and we shall receive, and to seek and we shall find. He assures us that all we ask of God in His name shall be granted, and that if we have faith as a grain of mustard-seed, we could by one word remove mountains. If this promise is true, nothing appears impossible to our Christ-worshipers who have faith in Jesus. However, the contrary happens. If Mohammed had made the promises to his votaries that Christ made to His, without success, what would not be said about it. They would cry out, "Ah, the cheat! ah, the impostor!" These Christ-worshipers are in the same condition: they have been blind, and have not even yet recovered from their blindness; on the contrary, they are so ingenious in deceiving themselves, that they pretend that these promises have been fulfilled from the beginning of Christianity; that at that time it was necessary to have miracles, in order to convince the incredulous of the truth of religion; but that this religion being sufficiently established, the miracles were no longer necessary. Where, then, is their proof of all this?
Besides, He who made these promises did not limit them to a certain time, or to certain places, or to certain persons; but He made them generally to everybody. The faith of those who believe, says He, shall be followed by these miracles; "They shall cast out devils in My name, they shall speak in divers tongues, they shall handle serpents," etc.
In regard to the removal of mountains, He positively says that "whoever shall say to a mountain: 'Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea;' it shall be done;" provided that he does not doubt in his heart, but believes all he commands will be done. Are not all these promises given in a general way, without restriction as to time, place, or persons?
It is said that all the sects which are founded in errors and imposture will come to a shameful end. But if Jesus Christ intends to say that He has established a society of followers who will not fall either into vice or error, these words are absolutely false, as there is in Christendom no sect, no society, and no church which is not full of errors and vices, especially the Roman Church, although it claims to be the purest and the holiest of all. It was born into error, or rather it was conceived and formed in error; and even now it is full of delusions which are contrary to the intentions, the sentiments, or the doctrine of its Founder, because it has, contrary to His intention, abolished the laws of the Jews, which He approved, and which He came Himself, as He said, to fulfill and not to destroy. It has fallen into the errors and idolatry of Paganism, as is seen by the idolatrous worship which is offered to its God of dough, to its saints, to their images, and to their relics.
I know well that our Christ-worshipers consider it a lack of intelligence to accept literally the promises and prophecies as they are expressed; they reject the literal and natural sense of the words, to give them a mystical and spiritual sense which they call allegorical and figurative; claiming, for example, that the people of Israel and Judea, to whom these promises were made, were not understood as the Israelites after the body, but the Israelites in spirit: that is to say, the Christians which are the Israel of God, the true chosen people that by the promise made to this enslaved people, to deliver it from captivity, it is understood to be not the corporal deliverance of a single captive people, but the spiritual deliverance of all men from the servitude of the Devil, which was to be accomplished by their Divine Saviour; that by the abundance of riches, and all the temporal blessings promised to this people, is meant the abundance of spiritual graces; and finally, that by the city of Jerusalem, is meant not the terrestrial Jerusalem, but the spiritual Jerusalem, which is the Christian Church.
But it is easy to see that these spiritual and allegorical meanings having only a strange, imaginary sense, being a subterfuge of the interpreters, can not serve to show the truth or the falsehood of a proposition, or of any promises whatever. It is ridiculous to forge such allegorical meanings, since it is only by the relations of the natural and true sense that we can judge of their truth or falsehood. A proposition, a promise, for example, which is considered true in the proper and natural sense of the terms in which it is expressed, will not become false in itself under cover of a strange sense, one which does not belong to it. By the same reasoning, that which is manifestly false in its proper and natural sense, will not become true in itself, although we give it a strange sense, one foreign to the true.
We can say that the prophecies of the Old Testament adjusted to the New, would be very absurd and puerile things. For example, Abraham had two wives, of which the one, who was but a servant, represented the synagogue, and the other one, his lawful wife, represented the Christian Church; and that this Abraham had two sons, of which the one born of Hagar, the servant, represented the Old Testament; and the other, born of Sarah, the wife, represented the New Testament. Who would not laugh at such a ridiculous doctrine?
Is it not amusing that a piece of red cloth, exhibited by a prostitute as a signal to spies, in the Old Testament is made to represent the blood of Jesus Christ shed in the New? If—according to this manner of interpreting allegorically all that is said, done, and practiced in the ancient law of the Jews—we should interpret in the same allegorical way all the discourses, the actions, and the adventures of the famous Don Quixote de la Mancha, we would find the same sort of mysteries and ridiculous figures.
It is nevertheless upon this absurd foundation that the whole Christian religion rests. Thus it is that there is scarcely anything in this ancient law that the Christ-worshiping doctors do not try to explain in a mystical way to build up their system. The most false and the most ridiculous prophecy ever made is that of Jesus, in Luke, where it is pretended that there will be signs in the sun and in the moon, and that the Son of Man will appear in a cloud to judge men; and this is predicted for the generation living at that time. Has it come to pass? Did the Son of Man appear in a cloud?
VII.—ERRORS OF DOCTRINE AND OF MORALITY.
The Christian Apostolical Roman Religion teaches, and compels belief, that there is but one God, and, at the same time, that there are three Divine persons, each one being God. This is absurd; for if there are three who are truly God, then there are three Gods. It is false, then, to say that there is but one God; or if this is true, it is false to say that there are really three who are God, for one and three can not be claimed to be one and the same number. It is also said that the first of these pretended Divine persons, called the Father, has brought forth the second person, which is called the Son, and that these first two persons together have produced the third, which is called the Holy Ghost, and, nevertheless, these three pretended Divine persons do not depend the one upon the other, and even that one is not older than the other. This, too, is manifestly absurd; because one thing can not receive its existence from another thing without some dependence on this other; and a thing must necessarily exist in order to give birth to another. If, then, the Second and the Third persons of Divinity have received their existence from the First person, they must necessarily depend for their existence on this First person, who gave them birth, or who begot them, and it is necessary also that the First person of the Divinity, who gave birth to the two other persons, should have existed before them; because that which does not exist can not beget anything. Nevertheless, it is repugnant as well as absurd to claim that anything could be begotten or born without having had a beginning. Now, according to our Christ-worshipers, the Second and Third persons of Divinity were begotten and born; then they had a beginning, and the First person had none, not being begotten by another; it therefore follows necessarily that one existed before the other.
Our Christ-worshipers, who feel these absurdities and can not avoid them by any good reasoning, have no other resource than to say that we must ignore human reason and humbly adore these sublime mysteries without wishing to understand them; but that which they call faith is refuted when they tell us that we must submit; it is telling us that we must blindly believe that which we do not believe. Our Christ-worshipers condemn the blindness of the ancient Pagans, who worshiped several Gods; they deride the genealogy of those Gods, their birth, their marriages, and the generating of their children; yet they do not observe that they themselves say things which are much more ridiculous and absurd.
If the Pagans believed that there were Goddesses as well as Gods, that these Gods and Goddesses married and begat children, they thought of nothing, then, but what is natural; for they did not believe yet that the Gods were without body or feeling; they believed they were similar to men. Why should there not be females as well as males? It is not more reasonable to deny or to recognize the one than the other; and supposing there were Gods and Goddesses, why should they not beget children in the ordinary way? There would be certainly nothing ridiculous or absurd in this doc trine, if it were true that their Gods existed. But in the doctrine of our Christ-worshipers there is something absolutely ridiculous and absurd; for besides claiming that one God forms Three, and that these Three form but One, they pretend that this Triple and Unique God has neither body, form, nor face; that the First person of this Triple and Unique God, whom they call the Father, begot of Himself a Second person, which they call the Son, and which is the same as His Father, being, like Him, without body, form, or face. If this is true, why is it that the First one is called Father rather than mother, or the Second called Son rather than daughter? For if the First one is really father instead of mother, and if the Second is son instead of daughter, there must be something in both of these two persons which causes the one to be father rather than mother, and the other to be son rather than daughter. Now who can assert that they are males and not females? But how should they be rather males than females, as they have neither body, form, nor face? That is not an imaginable thing, and destroys itself. No matter, they claim chat these two Persons, without body, form, or face, and, consequently, without difference of sex, are nevertheless Father and Son, and that they produced by their mutual love a third person, whom they called the Holy Ghost, who has, like the other two, no body, no form, and no face. What abominable nonsense!
As our Christ-worshipers limit the power of God the Father to begetting but one Son, why do they not desire that this Second person, and the Third, should have the same power to beget a Son like themselves? If this power to beget a son is perfection in the First person, it is, then, a perfection and a power which does not exist in the Second and in the Third person. Thus these two Persons, lacking a perfection and a power which is found in the First one, they are consequently not equal with Him. If, on the contrary, they say that this power to beget a son is no perfection, they should not attribute it, then, to the First person any more than to the other two; for we should attribute perfections only to an absolutely perfect being. Besides, they would not dare to say that the power to beget a Divine person is not a perfection; and if they claim that this First person could have begotten several sons and daughters, but that He desired but this only Son, and that the two other persons did not desire to beget any others, we could ask them, firstly, from whence they know this, for we do not see in their pretended Holy Scriptures that any One of these Divine personages reveals any such assertions; how, then, can our Christ-worshipers know anything about it? They speak but according to their ideas and to their hollow imaginations. Secondly, We could not avoid saying, that if these pretended Divine personages had the power of begetting several children, and did not wish to make use of it, the consequence would be that this Divine power was ineffectual. It would be entirely without effect in the Third person, who did not beget or produce any, and would be almost without effect in the two others, because they limited it. Then this power of begetting or producing an unlimited number of children would remain idle and useless; it would be inconsistent to suppose this of Divine Personages, One of whom had already produced a Son.