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was known on earth, virtues flourished which were far more real than those he came to teach.'
Was a supernatural revelation necessary to inform mankind that society cannot exist without virtue, and that, by the admission of vice, societies consent to their own destruction ? Was it necessary that a God should speak, to shew, that they have ne, d of mutual aid and mutual love? Was assistance from on Fligh necessary to discover that revenge is an evil, and an outrage upon the laws, which, when they are just, assume to themselves the right of retribution ? Is not the forgiveness of injuries connected with this principle? And is not hatred eternalized, where im. placable revenge is exercised? Is not the pardoning of our enemies a greatness of soul, which gives us an advantage over those who offend us? Wheu we do good to our enemies, does it not give us a superiority over them? Is not such conduct calculated to multiply our friends? Does not every man, who is desirous to live, perceive that vice, in. temperance, and voluptuousness must shorten the period of life? Has not experience demonstrated to every thinking being, that vice is injurious and detestable even to those who are not free from its empire, and that the practice of virtue is the only means of acquiring real esteem and love? However little mankind may retlect on what they themselves, their true interests, and the ends of society are, they must feel what they ought to be to each other. Good laws will render them good; and where these exist, there is no need of flying to II.aven for rules for the preservation and happiness of society. Reason is sufficient to teach 'us our duties to our fellow creatures. What assistance can it receive from a religion by which it is continually contradicted and degraded ?
It is said that Christianity, far from counteracting mo. rality, is its chief support, and renders its obligations more sacred, -by giving them the sanction of God. In my opinion, however, the Christian religion, instead of supporting morality, renders it weak and precarious. It cannot possibly have any solid foundation on the commands of a God, who is changing, partial, and capricious, and ordains with
the same mouth, justice and injustice, concord and carnage, toleration and persecution. It is impossible to follow the precepts of a rational morality, under the empire of a religion which makes a merit of the most destructive zeal, enthusiasm, and fanaticism. A religion which commands us to imitate the conduct of a despot who delights to ensnare his creatures, who is implacable in his vengeance, and devotes to flaming destruction all who have the misfortune to displease him, is incompatible with all morality. The innumerable crimes with which the Christian, more than any other religion, has stained itself, have always been committed under the pretence of pleasing the ferocious God whom the Christians have inherited from the Jews. The moral character of this God, must of necessity, govern the moral conduct of those who adore him.
Morality should be founded upon invariable rules * A God who destroys these rules, destroys his own work. If God be the creator of man, if he intends their happiness and preservation, he would have them to be just, humane, and benevolent, and averse to injustice, fanaticism, and cruelty.
We may thus see what we ought to think of those divines who pretend, that without the Christian religion there could be neither morality nor virtue among mankind. The converse of this proposition would much nigher approach the
• " It cannot be too often repeated,” says Mirabaud, “ that there is no morality without consulting the nature of man, and his true relations, with the beings of his species; no fixed principles for man's conduct in regulating it upon unjust, capricious, and wicked gods; no sound politics without consulting the nature of man living in society, and the way to satisfy his wants and ensure his happiness; no good government can found itself upon a despotic God he will always make tyrants of his representatives ; no laws will be.good without consulting the nature and the end of society; no jurisprudence can be advantageous for nations, if it is regulated upon the caprice and passions of deificd tyrants. No education will be rational unless it be founded upon Reason, and not upon chimeras and prejudices. In short, there is no virtue, no probity, no talents under corrupt masters under the conduct of those priests who render men the enemies of themselves and of others, and who constantly and eagerly seek to stifle the seeds of reason, of science, and of courage.-System of Nature, vol. IV. p.642.
truth; and it might be maintained, that every Christian who imitates his God and practises all his commands, must necessarily be an immoral person. If it be said that those commands are not always unjust, and that the Scriptures often breathe benevolence, harmony, and equity, I answer, Christians must have an inconstant morality, sometimes good and sometimes bad, according to interest and indivi. duals. It appears that they must either be wholly destitute of true morality, or vibrate continually from virtue to vice, and from vice to virtue.
The Christian religion is but a rotten prop to inorality. It will not bear examination, and every man who discovers its defects will be ready to believe that the morality founded on such a basis can be only a chimera.
Thus we often behold men, who have couched the neck beneath the yoke of religion, break loose at once and abandon themselves to debauchery, intemperance, and every kind of vice. Escaping from the slavery of superstition, they fly to com. plete anarchy, and disbelieve the existence of all moral du. tits, because they have found religion to be only a fable. Henc:', among Christians, the words infidel and libertine have become synonymous.
All these inconveniences would be avoided, if mankind, instead of being taught a theological, were taught a natural morality. Instead of interdicting intemperance and vice, because they are offensive to God and religion, they should be prevented by convincing man that they are destructive to his existence, and render him contemptible in society; that they are disapproved and forbid. den by reason and nature, who aim at his preservation, and direct him to take the path that leads to permanent felicity. Whatever may be the will of God, and independently of the future rewards and punishments announced by religion, it is easy
to prove to every man that it is in this world his interest to preserve his health, to respect virtue, acquire the esteem of his fellow-creatures, and, in fine, to be chaste, temperate, and virtuous. Those whose passions will not suffer them to attend to principles so clear and reasonable, will not be more docile to the voice of religion, which they will cease to believe the moment it opposes their misguiding propensities.
Let then the pretended advantages which the Christian religion lends morality, be no longer boasted *. The prio, ciples drawn from revelation tend to its destruction. We have frequent examples of Christian nations, w..ose morals are far more corrupted than those of people whom they style infidels and heathens; the former are at least most subject to religious fanaticism, a passion calculated to banish justice and all the social virtues from society.
Christianity creates intolerants and persecutors, who are much more injurious to society than the most abandoned debauchees. It is at least certain, that the most Christian nations of Europe are not those where true morality is most felt and practised. In Spain, Portugal, and Italy, where the most superstitious sect of Christians has fixed its residence, people live in the most shameful ignorance of their duties. Robbery, assassination, debauchery, and persecution are there carried to their worst extreme; and yet all men are full of religion. Few virtuous men exist in those countries. There religion itself becomes an accomplice to vice, furnishes criminals with an asylum, and pro. cures to them easy means of reconciliation with God. Presents, prayers, and ceremonies procure mankind a dispensation from the practice of virtue, Even amongst nations, who boast of possessing Christianity in all its purity, religion has so entirely absorbed the attention of its sectaries,
• Notwithstanding the happy influences attributed to the Christian religion, do we find more virtues in those who profess it, than in those who are strangers to it? Are the men redeemed by the blood of even a Deity, more honest than others? It might be imagined that we would ask in vain among Christians for rapine, fornication, adultery, and oppression. Among the orthodox courtiers who surround Christian thrones, do we not discover intrigues, calumny, and perfidy? Among the clergy who preach to others such redoubtable doctrines, and announce such terrible chastisements, do we not find crimes that shun the day, and every specics of ini. quity! --All these men are Christians, who, unbridled by their relia gion, continually violate the plainest duties of morality, and knowa ingly continue to offend a God whom they are conscious of baving irritated. Yet they flatter themselves they shall be able, by a death bed repentance, to appease that divine justice which they have insulted during the whole course of their lives.
that morality enters not into their thoughts; and they calcu. late that they fulfil all their duties by a scrupulous observation of the minutiæ of superstitious ceremonies, whilst they are strangers to all social affections, and labour for the destruction of human happiness.
Christianity Unveiled, Chap. xi.
Political Effects of the Christian Religion.
AFTER having seen the inutility and even danger of the perfections, virtues, and duties proposed by the Christian religion, let us enquire whether its political influences be more happy, and whether it can in reality promote the welfare of a nation, among whom it is established and faithfully observed. We at once find, that wherever this religion is admitted, two opposite legislations, ever at variance with each other, establish themselves. Although this religion preaches love and peace, it soon annihilates the effects of those precepts by the divisions which it necessarily sows' among its sectaries, who unavoidably interpret differently the ambiguous oracles announced in holy writ. We find that from the infancy of religion the most acrimonious disputes have continually taken place among divines. The successive ages of Christianity have been stained with schisms, heresies, persecutions, and contests, widely discordant from its boasted spirit of peace and concord; which is in fact incompatible with a religion whose precepts are so dark and equivocal. In all religious disputes each party believes that God is on its side, and consequently they are obstinate *. Indeed, how can it be otherwise, when they
* All the religions on earth declare that they have emanated from God, and pretend to possess an exclusive right to his favours. The Indian asserts that the Brama himself is the author of his worship. The Scandinavian derives his from the awful Odin. If the Jew and