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confound the cause of God with that of their own vanity? Thus mutually averse to concession, they quarrel and fight until force has decided a contest in which they never appeal to reason.
In fact, political authorities have ever been forced to interfere in all the dissensions which have arisen among Christians. Governments have always listened to the frivolous disputes of priests, and foolishly considered them as objects of the last importance. They have conceived, that in a religion established by God himself, there could be nothing of a trifling nature. Thus princes have armed them. selves against their own subjects, whose opinions differed from their's. The way of thinking at court has decided the creed and faith of subjects. Opinions supported by kings and priests have been the only true ones.
Their creatures have been the guardians of orthodoxy, and were commissioned to exterminate all whom they chose to denominate heretics and rebels.
The prejudices of princes or their false policy, has caused them to consider those of their subjects who differ from themselves in religious opinions, as bad citizens, dangerous to the state, and eneinies to their power. If, leaving to priests the business of finishing their own impertinent disputes, they had not assisted their quarrels and persecutions, they would have died away of themselves, and never have
the Christian have received theirs from Jehovab, by the ministry of Moses and Jesus, the Mahometan affirms, that he has received his from his prophet, inspired by the same God. Thus all religions pretend to a divine origin; and they all interdict the use of reason in the examination of their sacred titles. Each pretends to be the only true one, to the exclusion of all others. All menace with the wrath of Heaven those who refuse to submit to their authority; and all acquire the character of falsehond by the palpable contradictions with which they are filled ; by the mis-shapen, obscure, and often odious ideas which they give of the godhead; by the whimsical laws which they attribute to him; and by the disputes which they generate amongst their sectaries. In short, they all appear to be a mass of impostures and reveries equally disgusting to reason. Thus on the score of pretensions, the Christian religion has no advantage over the other superstitions with which the world is infected; and its divine origin is contested by all others with as much propriers as their's is denied by it.
disturbed the peace of nations. If those kings had impar. tially recompensed the good and punished the bad without regard to their worship, ceremonies, and speculative opi. nions, they would not have made many of their subji cts such enemies to that power by which they found themselves oppressed. Christians have always attempted to reclaim heretics by injustice, violence, and persecution. Ought not they to have perceived that this conduct was calculated only to produce hypocrites and hidden enemies, or open rebellions ?
But these reflections are not designed for princes, who, from their infancy, have been filled with fanaticism and prejudices. They, instead of being actuated by virtuous motives, have formed obstinate attachments to frivolities, and impetuous ardour for doctrines foreign to the welfare of their states, and a boundless wrath against all who refuse to bend to their despotic opinions. Such sovereigns find it a shorter way to destroy mankind than reclaim them by mild
Their haughty despotism will not condescend to reason. Religion assures them that tyranny is lawful, and cruelty meritorious, when they are employed in the cause of Heaven.
The Christian religion, in fact, always makes despots and tyrants of all the sovereigns by whom it is adopted. It represents them as gods upon earth; it causes their very caprices to be respected as the will of Heaven itself. It delivers mankind into their hands as an herd of slaves, of whom they may dispose at their pleasure. In return for their zeal for religion, all the outrages upon justice that they can commit are forgiven, and their subjects are commanded under pain of the wrath of the Most High, to submit without a murmer to the sword that strikes instead of protecting them. It is not therefore matter of surprise that since the establishment of this religion, we see so many nations groaning under devout tyrants, who, although obstinately attached to religion, have been unjust, licentious, and cruel. Whatever were the oppressions and ravages of these religious or hypocritical princes, the priests have not failed to preach submission to their subjects. On the other hand,
let us not be surprised to see so many weak and wicked princes support in their turn the interest of a religion which their false policy judged necessary to the maintenance of their authority. If kings were enlightened, just and virtuous, and knew and practised their real duties, they would have had no need of the aid of superstition in governing nations. But, as it is more easy to conform to rites than to acquire talents or practise virtue, this religion has too often found in princes support for itself, and destruction for its enemies.
The ministers of religion have not had the same complaisance for princes who refused to make a common cause with them, espouse their quarrels, and become subservient to their passions. They have arisen against those who have thwarted their views, punished their excesses, touched their immunities, endeavoured to subject them to reason, or re. press their ambitious designs. The priests on such occasions, cry out, Impiety! Sacrilege! Then they pretend that the sovereign puts his hand to the censer, and usurps the rights granted them by God himself. Then they endea. vour to excite nations to rebellion, T'hey arm fanatics against sovereigns, whom they declare tyrants, for having been wanting in submission to the church. Heaven is always ready to revenge any injustice done to its ministers. They are themselves submissive, and preach submission to others, only when they are pemitted to share the authority, or are too feeble to resist it. This is the reason why the apostles in the infancy of Christianity, being destitute of power, preached subordination. No sooner had this religion gained sufficient strength than it preached resistance and rebellion ; dethroning some kings and assassinating others *.
'It is well to observe, that the priests who are perpetually crying out to the people to submit themselves to their sovereigns, because their authority is derived from Heaven---because they are the images of the divinity, presently change their language whenever the sovereign does not blindly submit to the church. The clergy uphold despotism only that it may direct its blows against their dnemies; it overthrows it whenever it finds it contrary to its interests. The ministers of the invisible powers preach up obedience to the visible powers only when these are humbly devoted to them. Mirabard.
In every political body where this religion is established, there are two rival powers, which by incessant contention convulse and wound the state. The citizens divide into opposite parties, each of which fights or thinks it fights for God. These contests at different times terminate differently, but the triumphant party is always in the right. By attentive examination of such evints, we shall escape the dominion of fanaticism. It is by stimulating mankind to enquiry that they must be freed from the shackles of superstition. Let mankind think till th«y have thrown aside their prejudices, and they will think justly. The reign of the priesthood will cease when men cease to be ignorant and credulons. Credulity is the offspring of ignorance, and superstition is the child of credulity.
But most kings dread that mankind shonld be enlight. ened. Accomplices with the priesthood, they have formed a league with them to stifle reason, and persecute all who confide in its guidance. Bliad to their own interests and those of their subjects, they wish only to command slaves, forgetting those slaves are always at the disposal of the priests. Thus we see science neglected and ignorance tri. umphant in those countries where this religion holds the most absolute dominion. Arts and sciences are the children of liberty, and, separated from their parent, they languish and die. Among Christian nations, the least superstitious are the most free, powerful, and happy. In countries where spiritual and temporal despotism are leagued, the people grovel in the most shameful ignorance and lethargic inactivity. The European nations who boast of possessing the purest faith are not surely the most flourishing and powerful. Their kings, enslaved themselves by priests, have not energy and courage enough to make a single struggle for their own welfare or that of their subjects. Priests in such states are the only order of men who are rich ; other citizens languish in the deepest indigence. But of what importance are the power and happiness of nations to the sectaries of a religion who seek not for happiness in this world, who believe riches injurious, preach a God of poverty, and recommend abasement to the soul, and mortification of the
flesh? It is, without doubt, to compel people to practise these maxims, that the clergy in many Christian states have taken possession of most of the riches, and live in splendour, while their fellow.citizens are set forward in the road to Heaven, unincumbered with any burthen of earthly wealth.
Such are the political advantages society derives from the Christian religion. . It forms an independant state withio a state. It renders the people slaves. When sovereigns are obedient to it, it favours their tyranny; when they are disobedient, it renders ther subjects fanatic and rebellious. When it accords with political power, it convulses, debases, and impoverishes nations; when not, it makes citizens unsocial, turbulent, intolerant, and mutinous *
Christianity Unveiled, Cliap. xiv.
* See La Contagion Sacrée, by Trenchard, published in 1768. In that work the grievous influence of superstition on governments is strikingly displayed.
No religion ever placed its sectaries in more complete and continual dependance on priests than the Christian. Those harpies never loose sight of their prey. They take infallible measures for subjecting mankind, and making all contribute to their power, riches, and dominion. Having assumed the office of mediator between the heavenly monarch and his subjects, these priests are looked upon as courtiers in favour, ministers commissioned to exercise power in his name, and favourites to whom he can refuse nothing, Thus they become absolute masters of the destiny of the Christians. They gain establishments and render themselves necessary by the introduction of innumerable prac,