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Paul Henri Thiry, Baron d'Holbach (1723-1789)
If we go back to the beginning we shall find that ignorance and fear created the gods; that fancy, enthusiasm, or deceit adorned or disfigured them; that weakness worships them; that credulity preserves them, and that custom, respect and tyranny support them in order to make the blindness of men serve its own interests.
If the ignorance of nature gave birth to gods, the knowledge of nature is calculated to destroy them.
All religions are ancient monuments to superstitions, ignorance, ferocity; and modern religions are only ancient follies rejuvenated.
All children are atheists -- they have no idea of God.
What has been said of [God] is either unintelligible or perfectly contradictory; and for this reason must appear impossible to every man of common sense.
Can theology give to the mind the ineffable boon of conceiving that which no man is in a capacity to comprehend? Can it procure to its agents the marvellous faculty of having precise ideas of a god composed of so many contradictory qualities?
The Jehovah of the Jews is a suspicious tyrant, who breathes nothing but blood, murder, and carnage, and who demands that they should nourish him with the vapours of animals. The Jupiter of the Pagans is a lascivious monster. The Moloch of the Phoenicians is a cannibal. The pure mind of the Christians resolved, in order to appease his fury, to crucify his own son. The savage god of the Mexicans cannot be satisfied without thousands of mortals which are immolated to his sanguinary appetite.
Many men without morals have attacked religion because it was contrary to their inclinations. Many wise men have despised it because it seemed to them ridiculous. Many persons have regarded it with indifference, because they have never felt its true disadvantages. But it is as a citizen that I attack it, because it seems to me harmful to the happiness of the state, hostile to the march of the mind of man, and contrary to sound morality, from which the interests of state policy can never be separated.
If the ministers of the Church have often permitted nations to revolt for Heaven's cause, they never allowed them to revolt against real evils or known violencess. It is from Heaven that the chains have come to fetter the minds of mortals.
Tolerance and freedom of thought are the veritable antidotes to religious fanaticism.
O Nature, sovereign of all beings, and your adorable daughters, virtue, reason, truth! be for ever our sole divinities; it is to you that the incense and homage of the earth are due. Show us, then, O Nature, what man must do to obtain the happiness which you have made him desire.... Inspire the intelligent being with courage; give him energy, that he can eventually love himself, esteem himself, feel his dignity; that he dares free himself, that he is happy and free, that he will never be a slave to your laws; that he perfects his fate; that he cherishes his fellow-beings; that he makes himself happy, that he makes others happy.
Religion has ever filled the mind of man with darkness, and kept him in ignorance of his real duties and true interest. It is only by dispelling the clouds and phantoms of Religion, that we shall discover Truth, Reason, and Morality. Religion diverts us from the causes of evils, and from the remedies which nature prescribes; far from curing, it only aggravates, multiplies, and perpetuates them. Let us observe with the celebrated Lord Bolingbroke, that 'theology is the box of Pandora; and if it is impossible to shut it, it is at least useful to inform men that this fatal box is open.'
The vulgar, it is repeatedly said, must have a Religion. If enlightened persons have no need of the restraint of opinions, it is at least necessary to rule men, whose reason is uncultivated by education....
Don't say anything about this to anybody. Any one would say that I am trying to play the good-natured philosopher. I am neither benefactor nor philosopher, but just a human being, and my charities are the pleasantest expense I have on these journeys.
I admit that the generation which produced Stalin, Auschwitz and Hiroshima will take some beating; but the radical and universal consciousness of the death of God is still ahead of us; perhaps we shall have to colonize the stars before it is finally borne in upon us that God is not out there.
Life is an end in itself, and the only question as to whether it is worth living is whether you have had enough of it.
The man who is always worrying about whether or not his soul would be damned generally has a soul that isn't worth a damn.
We are all tattooed in our cradles with the beliefs of our tribe; the record may seem superficial, but it is indelible. You cannot educate a man wholly out of the superstitious fears which were implanted in his imagination, no matter how utterly his reason may reject them.
Men are idolaters, and want something to look at and kiss, or throw themselves down before; they always did, they always will; and if you don't make it of wood, you must make it of words.
The truth is that the whole system of beliefs which comes in with the story of the fall of man ... is gently falling out of enlightened human intelligence.
Truth is tough. It will not break, like a bubble, at a touch; nay, you may kick it about all day like a football, and it will be round and full at evening.
I do not believe there is such a thing as a God.
Our National Church and general religious institutions cost us, upon accredited computation, about twenty million pounds annually. Worship thus being expensive, I appeal to your heads and your pockets whether we are not too poor to have a God. If poor men cost the State as much, they would be put like officers on half pay; and while our distress lasts, I think it would be wise to do the same thing with the deity. Thus far I object, as a matter of political economy, to build chapels in communities. If others want them, they have themselves to please; but I cannot propose them. Morality I regard, but I do not believe there is such a thing as God.
If I could have my way I would place the Deity on half-pay as the Government of this Country did the subaltern officers.
Anybody can see that the little money you get is half-wasted, because you cannot spend it to advantage. The worst food comes to the poor, which their poverty makes them buy and their necessity makes them eat. Their stomachs are the waste-basket of the State. It is their lot to swallow all the adulterations on the market.
Few intelligent Christians can still hold to the idea that the Bible is an infallible Book, that it contains no linguistic errors, no historical discrepancies, no antiquated scientific assumptions, not even bad ethical standards. Historical investigation and literary criticism have taken the magic out of the Bible and have made it a composite human book, written by many hands in different ages. The existence of thousands of variations of texts makes it impossible to hold the doctrine of a book verbally infallible. Some might claim for the original copies of the Bible an infallible character, but this view only begs the question and makes such Christian apologetics more ridiculous in the eyes of the sincere man.
Alas for the rarity
But evil is wrought by want of thought,
A certain portion of the human race
As a set of cognitive beliefs, religion is a speculative hypothesis of an extremely low order of probability.
Religious tolerance has developed more as a consequence of the impotence of religions to impose their dogmas on each other than as a consequence of spiritual humility in the quest for understanding first and last things.
To deny me the right to err is therefore to deny me the right to believe.
Religious freedom in an open society has the best prospects of flourishing to the extent that it expresses itself as freedom of religious inquiry.
Religious tolerance has developed more as a consequence of the impotence of religions to impose their dogmas on each other than as a consequence of spiritual humility.
I come of Quaker stock. My ancestors were persecuted for their beliefs. Here they sought and found religious freedom. By blood and conviction I stand for religious tolerance both in act and in spirit.
Religion is but a desperate attempt to find an escape from the truly dreadful situation in which we find ourselves. Here we are in this wholly fantastic universe with scarcely a clue as to whether our existence has any real significance. No wonder then that many people feel the need for some belief that gives them a sense of security, and no wonder that they become very angry with people like me who say that this is illusory.
Space isn't remote at all. It's only an hour's drive away if your car could go straight upwards.
When stars fall or a sacred tree groans the people of the whole state are afraid. We ask "Why is it?" I answer: there is no [special] reason ... For there is no age which has not experienced eclipses of the sun and moon, unseasonable rain or wind, or strange stars seen in groups. If the prince is illustrious and the government tranquil, although these events should all come together in one age it would do no harm ... but when human ominous signs come, then we should really be afraid. Using poor ploughs ... spoiling a crop by inadequate hoeing and weeding ... these are what I mean by ominous human signs.
The Subtle Fulmination of the Encircled Sea
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