BARON D'HOLBACH 1723 - 1789


 1       Baron D'Holbach                                                                                        2801-2808


 2       Ronald Bruce Meyer (Baron d'Holbach)                                                   2809-2809


 3       Robert D. Richardson, Jr. (Baron D'Holbach)                                          2810-2810


 4       Eric Lee (Baron d'Holbach)                                                                       2811-2812


 5       Book by Baron d'Holbach, for sale                                                           2812-2813


 6       Diderot and the Encyclopaedists                                                              2813-2814


 7       A History of Freedom of Thought                                                             2814-2815


 8       Books by Baron d'Holbach, for sale                                                         2816-2817


 9       Christianity Unveiled                                                                                 2818-2828


10      The System of Nature                                                                                2829-2839


from: Baron D'Holbach, A Prelude to the French Revolution, W.H. Wickwar, Reprints of Economic Classics, Augustus M. Kelley ● Publishers, New York 1968 (1935).

'2. D'Holbach, Scientist

          In publishing the names of the contributors to their second volume, which was ready in 1751, the editors of the Encyclopedia remarked how much they owed, "to a person [Baron d'Holbach] whose native language is German and who is deeply versed in questions of mineralogy, metallurgy, and physics. On these different matters he has given us a prodigious multitude of articles...drawn from the best German works.... It is well known how rich Germany is in this sphere, and we venture to assure our readers that on this vast subject this work will contain a great number of interesting and novel facts that one would search for in vain in our French books. This scientist has not contented himself with rendering us this great service. He has also supplied us with a number of articles on other subjects; but he has insisted that his name shall remain unknown: this it is that prevents our acquainting the public with the name of this philosopher-citizen who cultivates science with disinterestedness, without ambition, and in silence, and who, satisfied with the pleasure of being useful, does not even aspire to the legitimate glory of appearing so."

          After this encouraging beginning, the anonymous philosophe embarked on an enterprise of his own, which soon stripped him of his anonymity. The third volume of the Encyclopédie was therefore able to be perfectly explicit in 1753: "Baron d'Holbach, who is engaged in making the works of the best German chemists known in France, has given us the articles signed (———)."

          He contributed all told some four hundred articles to the Encyclopédie between 1751 and 1765. (2) Many of these were merely short notices constituting a kind of mineralogical dictionary [I (LS) collect minerals]. But the rest were of the highest importance. It was d'Holbach who wrote the long essays on fossils, glaciers, the sea, mountains, stones, strata, earthquakes, and volcanoes; on mines and metallurgy; on all the metals but one; and on many of the precious stones. Besides these, he wrote some thirty articles on the constitution of the Holy Roman Empire; one on Iceland and the Edda; a considerable number based on travel-books; and a very interesting one on pronunciation, dealing mainly with English, but also with German, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and Russian.

          Though not the work of a scientific discoverer, these articles show d'Holbach as a widely read and excellently documented gentleman who thought clearly, wrote plainly, kept abreast of the progress of the times, and played his part as an intelligent and understanding onlooker at the birth of the modern positive sciences of geology and mineralogy, chemistry, and metallurgy. In so doing, he confined himself always to the matter in hand, and never gave way to the temptation to digress into religious or political speculation. He [d'Holbach] laughed at the vanity of imperial ceremonial, he preferred enlightened monarchies, and he was interested in public health and labour conditions and in the scientific employment of soils, of precious stones [I (LS) collect "precious stones"], and of metals; but as much could have been said of many another member of the encyclopedist circle. He showed little sign yet of being in any special sense the collaborator of Diderot [1713 - 1784], except in so far as his articles on the large-scale extractive industries patronized by Northern princes formed a counterpart


and complement to those of Diderot on the luxury handicrafts of the small masters of Paris. And except by his passion for science—and especially for applied science—he had so far given no signs of his subsequent philosophy.

          The same spirit animated an independent enterprise on which he was engaged during the same years: the translation of German scientific works into French, and their publication in book form. Being interested in the application of science to industrial processes—an aspect of scientific progress that hardly dates back beyond the eighteenth century—in 1752 he helped to make common property some of the secrets of the Saxon glass-makers [I (LS) collect glass], and subsequently translated other books on metallurgical chemistry, metallurgy, and sulphur—this last by Stahl of phlogiston fame. He himself has told us in the Encyclopedia how his dissatisfaction with Buffon's [1707 - 1788] vague generalizations led him to translate Lehmann's much more useful treatises on mining, on the formation of metals, and on stratification; and how he translated an Introduction à la minéralogie and a Pyritologie because in them Henckel made hay of those who claimed to find gold and silver everywhere. Besides these German works he edited a collection of scientific papers originally published by the Swedish academies. This made altogether no less than a dozen scientific volumes in less than fifteen years. (3)

          Even if d'Holbach employed some professional translator to do the hack-work, and confined himself to the functions of editor—which is only the merest supposition—the very bulk of his contribution to French scientific literature, considered in conjunction with his intimate friendship with Montamy, Rouelle, (4) and other early French chemists, would go far to justify the astounding claim made for him by his friend Naigeon [Jacques-André Naigeon 1738 - 1810] in an obituary article in 1789: "It is to him that we owe to a very large extent the rapid advances made by natural history and chemistry amongst us some thirty years ago; it is he who inspired the taste and even the passion for them; it is he who translated the excellent works which the Germans had published on these sciences—sciences that were then almost unknown, or at least very much neglected; and the translations are edited with excellent notes, by way both of explanation and of rectification." (5)

          Even if this was an exaggeration—and that is by no means certain—it was a plausible and probably a well-justified one. For we find a scientist of the value of Daubenton, Buffon's excellent and unassuming collaborator, praising d'Holbach for fixing the French scientific nomenclature of the minerals by his translation and editing of the Swede Wallerius's Minéralogie (1753). (6)

          It was no doubt partly for this scientific work that d'Holbach was made a member of the princely academies of Berlin, of Petersburg, and of Mannheim in his native Palatinate, even though he never solicited admission to the academies of Paris.

          And it was perhaps partly at lest for the same reason that Voltaire, when d'Holbach waited on him on his triumphal return to Paris in 1778, assured him that he had heard all about him and that he was one of the men whose respect and friendship he had most desired.


          So we may attach what importance we will to Diderot's complaint that d'Holbach left his natural history cabinet shut up in boxes all through the 'fifties: "Do you not find it odd that natural history is this friend's dominant passion, that he has provided himself at great expense with all that is most rare in that domain—and that this precious collection has remained for years and years poked away in a stable somewhere among the straw and the manure?" (7) [laughing! friends berate me (LS) for (my only possessions) the books, minerals, gemstones, etc., I have (including separate storage) in file boxes] There were other services that could be rendered to science besides that of opening one's natural history cabinet to the admiration of one's guests. And, in any case, what matters most, so far as we are here concerned, is that d'Holbach did know something about science, did take science seriously, and did try to communicate his knowledge to a wider public.' [46-50].

          "In the seventeen-sixties, d'Holbach [Baron d'Holbach 1723 - 1789] engaged a school-master, Lagrange, as private tutor to his children. He is said to have treated him with a consideration that was then rarely shown to tutors. And he suggested to him that in his spare time he should translate Lucretius [c. 100 to 90 - c. 55 to 53 B.C.E.] and Seneca [c. 4 B.C.E. - 65 C.E.].

          Lagrange was able to publish Lucretius de rerum natura in 1768, both in a large de luxe format and in a popular edition, with the Latin text opposite the French translation, and with the proofs corrected by Diderot.

          Of Seneca's collected works he had translated and annotated the greater part before he died in 1775. On the remaining volumes Naigeon [1738 - 1810] then set to work, enlisting the support of d'Holbach and his scientific friends for the notes on natural history, and persuading Diderot [1713 - 1784] to write an introduction and add a volume on the struggles of modern philosophes under the guise of a long essay on Seneca's life and writings and the reigns of Claudius and Nero. [Seneca! a classical favorite of mine (LS). Holbach! a "modern" favorite of mine]

          Many of the books previously edited by Naigeon had undoubtedly been co-operative productions of very similar nature. But this one made no secret of its family origin; and in the mutual congratulations in which it abounded, the lion's share fell to its spiritual father, Baron d'Holbach. Diderot praised Naigeon and d'Holbach for investing Lagrange with immortality now he was dead; and Naigeon, with a thought perhaps for his own very similar circumstances, praised d'Holbach for the help and encouragement he had given Lagrange during his lifetime.

          This fitting farewell of the encyclopedists to the world—for it was the last work inspired by d'Holbach and Diderot to be published during the lifetime of either of them—was published at the end of 1778. That very year, the two most-read though not the most philosophical of the philosophes, Voltaire [1694 - 1778] and Rousseau [1712 - 1778], had died. At the time of his triumphal entry into Paris, Voltaire had been able to satisfy his long desire to meet d'Holbach; but whatever secrets were exchanged at that meeting were buried with him in the grave. Rousseau, on the other hand, left behind him his Confessions, so that his sins and those of his lost friends might live after him: and these tales told by a dead man made the existence of the coterie holbachique known to the whole world, and held up to scorn a man whose prime ambition, like that of the atheist Wolmar in his own Nouvelle Héloïse, had been to do good secretly without hope of reward. (1)" [104-106].


"Bruno Bauer [1809 - 1882], who studied the Aufklaerung [Aufklärung: Enlightenment] sufficiently to write a history of it, did at least borrow the title of that same book [Christianisme dévoilé (Christianity Unveiled)] for a work of his own [Entdeckte Christentum (Christianity Exposed)]. And Karl Marx [1818 - 1883] [at one time, a student of Bruno Bauer (see Article #4, 107, 437.)] named the father of materialist interpretations only to damn him [Baron d'Holbach] one day as an atheist and nothing more, and the next as a utilitarian to be mentioned in the same breath as Bentham [Jeremy Bentham 1748 - 1832]. In short, although the spiritual fathers of the German Revolution of 1848 undoubtedly came under the influence of d'Holbach [Baron d'Holbach 1723 - 1789] and his fellow Encyclopedists, his personality and the singular logic and completeness of his philosophic system had been lost to them, on account partly of the disguises under which he had been forced to labour, partly of the greatness of the Revolution in which an infinite number of conflicting currents were united, and not least of the nineteenth-century feud between materialism and idealism, which he had done much to precipitate." [116].

          'Next to the assumption that all ideas were impressed on men from outside, the most important assumption of contemporary psychology was that all human action was determined by desire and fear, hope [desire] of happiness and fear of pain. Therefore: "Man is superstitious only because everything from childhood up has contributed to make him so: he expects happiness from his chimeras [illusions, etc.]." (6) "That is why, from age to age, nations pass on ideas which they have never examined; they believe that their happiness is attached to institutions in which maturer examination would show them the source of most of their ills." (7)










they [religion's "speculations"] influence conduct only when they justify [approve, favor, pardon, rationalize, etc.] it." (8)' [136].

[Comment: I (LS) sojourned a summer, 1981, in Guadalajara, Mexico. 1984 - 1989, I lived in downtown Tijuana, Mexico. My impression (with the help of Mexican friends) (not a criticism, but, a description): the majority of religious Mexicans, as in the practice of "situational politics", practice "SITUATIONAL RELIGION". [from 2804] "IN ACTUAL PRACTICE THE SLIGHTEST SELF-INTEREST IS STRONGER" THAN RELIGION'S "SPECULATIONS".].


Excursus: from: Article #23, 485: '[Nietzsche 1844 - 1900] —In all ages—for example, in the case of Luther [1483 - 1546]—"faith" has been no more than a cloak, a pretense, a curtain behind which the instincts have played their game—a shrewd blindness [see Article #2, 36, 37] to the domination of certain of the instincts....I have already called "FAITH" THE SPECIALLY CHRISTIAN FORM OF SHREWDNESS—people always talk of their "faith" and act according to their instincts....' [113]. End of Excursus.

          'Accepting and developing Boulanger's [Nicolas Antoine Boulanger 1722 - 1759] thesis that it was fear of floods and other natural catastrophes that had begotten man's first worship, d'Holbach regarded belief in a personal and arbitrary God as a perfectly honest attempt of primitive man to explain and placate the invisible forces that he had not yet had sufficient experience to understand. (16) But he also maintained that it was only the existence of the clergy that has perpetuated belief in the existence of a personal and capricious God in an age in which natural law had provided a more satisfactory explanation of natural phenomena. In the heavy humour of his Théologie portative, he defined God as, "A word synonymous with priest; the factotum of theologians....THE SUBSTITUTION OF THE WORD PRIESTS [and frequently, the personal pronoun I] FOR THAT OF GOD MAKES THEOLOGY THE SIMPLEST OF SCIENCES. From which it follows that real atheists are non-existent, as it takes an imbecile to deny the obvious existence of the clergy." And of the existence of the clergy he offered a purely material explanation: "It is only in civilized societies, where leisure and comfort offer facilities for reveries and reasonings, that idle thinkers meditate, dispute, and indulge in metaphysics. This faculty of thought is almost non-existent among savages occupied with hunting, fishing, and the trouble of gaining a precarious livelihood by dint of incessant work. The common people in our own day have no higher idea of the Deity than the savage had. A spiritual and immaterial God serves only to occupy the leisure of a certain number of nimble wits that have no need to work for their living. THEOLOGY IS USEFUL ONLY TO THOSE WHO LIVE AT THE EXPENSE OF OTHERS OR WHO ARROGATE TO THEMSELVES THE RIGHT OF THINKING FOR THOSE WHO WORK." (17)' [139-140].

          '"The power of opinion," he [Baron d'Holbach] wrote, "is greater than that of the most absolute of sovereigns." And he himself, like all his Encylopedist friends,


was helping undermine old opinions and accustom men to new ones. (21)' [141].

'"Our wills follow our opinions, as our actions follow our wills," wrote Hobbes, in words that d'Holbach quoted with approval; "in which sense they say truly and properly who say the world is governed by opinion [see 2730]." (1)' [160].

          '"Happiness is a form of existence at which we aim or whose perpetuation we desire. It is measured by its persistence and its intensity. The greatest happiness is that which lasts longest. Passing or short-lived happiness is called PLEASURE: THE GREATER ITS INTENSITY, THE MORE FLEETING IT IS, BECAUSE OUR SENSES ARE SUSCEPTIBLE OF ONLY A CERTAIN AMOUNT OF MOVEMENT. On becoming excessive, pleasure is transformed into pain, which is an unpleasant form of existence of which we desire the cessation: that is why pleasure and pain are often so nearly related. Immoderate pleasure is followed by regret, surfeit, and disgust: a passing happiness becomes a lasting misfortune. It is obvious, according to this principle, that man, who necessarily seeks happiness every moment of his life, must, when he is reasonable, keep his pleasures within bounds, refuse all those that might change into pain, and attempt to procure the most lasting happiness possible." (4)' [163-164].

"[Baron d'Holbach's] preference for a constitutionally limited monarchy owed much to Montesquieu [1689 - 1755]". [165].

          "Locke [John Locke 1632 - 1704] was clearly d'Holbach's master in social theory just as surely as Hobbes [Thomas Hobbes 1588 - 1679] was his master in psychology." [168].

'to d'Holbach, all the most exhausting wars of the eighteenth century were trade wars rather than dynastic quarrels: "All the wars waged by the powers of Europe for nearly a century past have had no object but commerce, the surest way of acquiring money....What advantages does the citizen farmer gain from so many wars undertaken under the pretext of trade? None but new taxes—or, in their absence, loans...." (31)

          Trade and trade wars thus lead us to the evil burden of a public debt three times as old in France as in England: "The national debt ought to be reckoned among the inventions most disastrous to the state...." On the one hand, "thanks to credit, a people remains eternally loaded with overwhelming debts which make peace itself almost useless to them and which never allow them to breathe." And, on the other hand, "the public debt, by its consequences, becomes a source of corruption for a great number of citizens; it encourages them in idleness and laziness, by furnishing them, without work and without usefulness to the state, with means of living at the expense of the active and industrious man who works to keep up the luxury of idle rentiers. Every man who is not employed becomes a bad citizen, a vicious libertine. The greater the number of useless members that it nourishes, the greater is the unhappiness of society. Every rentier is a charge on the man that works." (32)


          From this evil sprang a still greater. Still worse than the public debt was tax-farming, "the art that destroys nations." The credit enjoyed by absolute monarchy was small, and its needs were great: therefore "the despot addresses himself to a class of citizens who furnish him with the aids necessary for his avidity, in exchange for the right to extort from all others with impunity....In his blindness he does not see that the taxes on his subjects are often doubled; that the sums that go to enrich the extortioners are lost to himself; and that an army of subordinate publicani [revenue collectors] is subsidized at a pure loss, to make war on the nation...." (33)

          The result was the complete demoralization of the whole nation: "These brigands grown rich [rentiers like himself and farmer-generals like Helvétius] [brackets and contents, by the author (Wickwar)] arouse the jealousy of the nobility and the envy of their fellow citizens....Wealth [immortality seeking? death defiance? etc.?] becomes the one and only motive: the thirst for gold, an insatiable greed, lays hold of every heart. Every one suffers, because no one is content with a lot which he compares with sorrow with that of citizens more opulent than himself. Wealth being no longer the fruit of labour, industry, and commerce, but of favour, fortune, craft, and fraud, all subjects are discouraged. In short, state borrowing destroys population, tillage, and trade, the most important objects in the state: the sovereign's over-eagerness for pleasure destroys them every moment. Taxes dry up: credit disappears: fortunes are destroyed; the countryside is deserted; the merchant ventures nothing; the manufacturer folds his arms; industry is driven abroad; emigration becomes frequent; and, finally, the state marches forward every day toward its dissolution." (34)' [211-213].


D'Holbach's Work

Such, told as far as may be in his own words, was the contribution of Paul Thiry, Baron d'Holbach, towards the revolution in men's opinions and beliefs out of which the French Revolution was to arise within a few months of his death.

          In 1761 [1766? (see 2818)], with the first publication of "Boulanger's" Christianity Unveiled, he had begun his attack on the rôle of religion in society. By appealing to the religious strife by which Christendom had been torn asunder in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, he had attempted to demonstrate the immorality of all religion. Seeing how greatly the moral influence of the same religion varied from person to person, he threw the responsibility for this uncertainty on the survival of primitive man's anthropomorphic belief in a capricious personal deity, contrasting it sharply with the eighteenth-century conception of the immutable laws of nature. And he saw every reason for believing that a scientific outlook, less capricious in its social consequences, might gradually seize hold of opinion, if only philosophers could make their voices heard.

          By 1770, when he [Baron d'Holbach] published "Mirabaud's" [Jean-Baptiste Mirabaud 1675 - 1760] Systems of Nature, his metaphysical presuppositions—materialism and atheism, eudemonism and determinism—had become abundantly clear: for politics and ethics he tried to find physiological foundations, on which the moral superstructure might be more firmly based.


          Finally, in the Politique naturelle of 1772 and the Morale universelle of 1776, he [Baron d'Holbach] outlined a scheme of utilitarian ethics and politics of universal applicability, on the basis of man's physical nature and primary needs. True to tradition, he described the unity and interdependence of society in terms of a social covenant; and he saw no justification for property or for social inequality, apart from the contribution made by the individual to the well-being of society. Losing faith in enlightened despotism, he hoped to guarantee civil and religious liberty by the complete separation of church and state, by judicious insistence on the time-honoured right of rebellion, and by a return to the principle of representation and constitutional monarchy. Lastly, he set raison d'état above peace treaties and dressed mercantilism in laissez-faire robes, in the hope of thereby prolonging the life of the state and promoting the well-being of its citizens.

          In short, he [Baron d'Holbach] denounced religion, preached materialism, and attacked absolutism, because he wanted to convince men of the need for revolutionizing life by inspiring it with a truly human purpose: the life and happiness of the greatest number.'

[216-217] [end of Summary].


          D'Holbach himself believed as firmly as any man in his own metaphysical creed; but with it he was big enough to couple a belief in the inevitability of diversity and the fundamental rightness of liberty.

          Such atheism was revolutionary only in so far as it helped undermine the intolerant church-state. It did not hold out atheism as a new gospel for a revolutionary government to pour down its subjects' throats both in and out of season. The state was to be godless, not in setting up a cult of godlessness, but in letting its subjects believe just what they pleased about metaphysics and the future life, provided that they kept the law.

          Some solitary survivals there were, like Rousseau [1712 - 1778] and Robespierre [1758 - 1794], who made deism into a new state religion, or Naigeon [1738 - 1810] who dreamed of having atheism preached by a state-paid church. But such enthusiasts were significant only as latter-day Julians [Julian, Emperor 361 - 363 (331 - 363)]. The times were against them. The future in France and the West was with the Voltaires [Voltaire 1694 - 1778] and the Holbachs [Baron d'Holbach 1723 - 1789], apostles of tolerance and secularism."

[218, 219-220] [end of Conclusion and text].

_____ _____ _____


See (Baron d'Holbach):

_____ _____ _____

from (Ronald Bruce Meyer):

'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 [religion], 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.

Baron d'Holbach, Christianity Unveiled [see 2818],

quoted in Jim Herrick, Against the Faith [see Addition 27, 1269-1270], 1985, p. 85.'

'"All children are atheists," wrote Holbach, "they have no idea of God."[2]'

'[Baron d'Holbach] was quite popular among the skeptical intellectual elite for his exquisite parties. Many of his guests agreed with Holbach that "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."[3]

His [Baron d'Holbach's] guests were a Who's Who of the intellectual West: the Encyclopedist Denis Diderot [1713 - 1784], the mathematician Jean Le Rond d'Alembert, the historian Edward Gibbon [1737 - 1794], the writer Horace Walpole, the chemist Joseph Priestley, the social critic Cesare Beccaria, the statesman and scientist Benjamin Franklin, the actor David Garrick, the philosophers Claude-Adrien Helvétius and David Hume [1711 - 1776], the naturalist Buffon [1707 - 1788], the economist Adam Smith, the novelist Lawrence Stern, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau [1712 - 1778]. When he was not entertaining, he was writing, articles on chemistry and mineralogy for the French Encyclopedia....'

'It was Baron D'Holbach who said, "If the ignorance of nature gave birth to gods, the knowledge of nature is calculated to destroy them."[5]'

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"The System of Nature [1770], Volume 1 by Baron D'Holbach [1723 - 1789]

Holbach is thus significant for Romantic interest in myth in two ways. First, he provides a clear statement of what can be loosely called the antimythic position, that rationalist condescension and derogation of all myth and all religion that was never far from the surface during the Romantic era. Holbach was and is a reminder that the Romantic affirmation of myth was never easy, uncritical, or unopposed. Any new endorsement of myth had to be made in the teeth of Holbach and the other skeptics. The very vigor of the Holbachian critique of myth impelled the Romantics to think more deeply and defend more carefully any new claim for myth. Secondly, although Holbach's argument generally drove against myth and religion both, he did make an important, indeed a saving distinction between mythology and theology. Mythology is the more or less harmless personification of the power in and of nature; theology concerns itself with what for Holbach was the nonexistent power beyond or behind nature. By exploiting this distinction it would become possible for Shelley, for example, to take a strong antitheological--even an anti-Christian--position without having to abandon myth.

Holbach was one of William Godwin's [1756 - 1836] major sources for his ideas about political justice, and Shelley [Percy Bysshe Shelley 1792 - 1822], who discussed Holbach with Godwin, quotes extensively from_The System of Nature_in_Queen Mab_. Furthermore, Volney's [1757 - 1820]_Ruins_, another important book of Shelley, is directly descended from_The System of Nature_. On the other side, Holbach was a standing challenge to such writers as Coleridge [1772 - 1834] and Goethe [1749 - 1832] and was reprinted and retranslated extensively in America, where his work was well known to the rationalist circle around Jefferson and Barlow.

Issued in 1770 as though by Jean-Baptiste de Mirabaud [1675 - 1760] (a former perpetual secretary to the Académie française who had died ten years before), _La Système de la nature_was translated and reprinted frequently. The Samuel Wilkinson translation we have chosen to reprint was the most often reprinted or pirated version in English. A useful starting point for Holbach's work is Jerome [Jeroom] Vercruysse, _Bibliographie descriptive des écrits du baron d'Holbach_ (Paris, 1971). The difficult subject of the essentially clandestine evolution of biblical criticism as an anti-Christian and antimyth critique in the early part of the eighteenth century, before the well-documented era of the biblical critic Eichhorn in Germany, is illuminated in Ira Wade, _The Clandestine Organization and Diffusion of Philosophic Ideas in France from 1700-1750_ (Princeton Univ. Press, 1938).

Robert D. Richardson, Jr. University of Denver"

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"Customer Reviews"

"System of Nature [1770]

by Paul Henri Thiry d'Holbach, Baron d'Holbach [1723 - 1789]"

          'Enlightenment indeed, October 3, 2004

Reviewer: Eric Lee (Toronto, Ontario, CANADA) - See all my reviews

What impresses me the most is how firm, consistent, and bold d'Holbach was in holding certain opinions which at the time were shocking to (most of the) learned and unintelligible to (almost all the) unlearned. This guy was not just smart - he had guts, knew he was right, stuck to his guns, and never wavered.

D'Holbach did not write for fame (he wrote anonymously, for his neck's sake) or for money (he was very rich by inheritance), but for truth.

D'Holbach would have been pleased to know that Einstein [Albert Einstein 1879 - 1955] was also a strict determinist like him, that Francis Crick [1916 - 2004] was also a materialist like him (believing matter is all there is and rejecting "the soul", "mind-brain dualism" and similar nonsense), and that atheism is no longer a radical thing (to put it mildly), especially among the educated. Most natural scientists are now atheists. D'Holbach's utilitarianism would find wide appeal in this democratic age. If alive today, d'Holbach would be in good company among some of the greatest minds of the world.

But even in this day and age, there are scientists, of all people, who believe otherwise! (E.g., Freeman Dyson, who believes in free will, John Eccles, who believed in mind-body dualism, and John Polinghorne, the mathematical physicist who is also a priest in the Church of England.) And so d'Holbach's book is still a pleasure to read - and much needed. But if the objective reality of nature revealed by science hasn't convinced you by now of d'Holbach's point of view, this book isn't going to convince you either. Those who come to read it are (like me) probably already converted by other means.

Incidentally, I'd add that d'Holbach showed pretty sound judgments about other matters. He speculated that the human species might have arrived by evolutionary stages, long before Charles Darwin [1809 - 1882] proved this to be the case. (And it would be a few years after d'Holbach's death in 1789 that Erasmus Darwin [(Grandfather of Charles Darwin) 1731 - 1802] first hinted at evolution.) Also, when discussing how small events can give rise to very big events d'Holbach made an incredibly prescient guess about Napoleon's [Napoleon I (Napoleon Bonaparte) 1769 - 1821] birth [see 2812]. D'Holbach also showed he understood men when he warned the normally clever Hume [David Hume 1711 - 1776] (who was 12 years his senior) about Rousseau's [1712 - 1778] character.

Baron d'Holbach was wisdom personified.' [End of Review].


from: Eric Lee (reviewer (see 2811)) (e-mail, 1/25/2005):


When the Baron [d'Holbach] discussed how small events can give rise to big events, he was talking about what we now know as deterministic chaos - infinitesimal initial changes can be magnified millions of times over time. James Clerk Maxwell [1831 - 1879] too spoke of this effect of chaos in an essay, and quoted these lines: "There is a tide in the affairs of men/which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune." [(LS) Shakespeare: Julius Caesar Act IV. Scene III] In Chapter 12 of "The System of Nature" the Baron [d'Holbach] wrote: "If man was to judge of causes by their effects, there would be no small causes in the universe." The [Then] he gave two historical examples to illustrate this point: first, Muhammad [c. 570 - 632], and second, Genghis Khan [c. 1162 - 1227]. Then he added, in conclusion: "Perhaps, AT THIS MOMENT, atoms are amassing, insensible particles are combining, of which the assemblage shall form a sovereign, who will be either the scourge or the saviour of a mighty empire..." The Baron was writing in 1769 - the year of Napoleon's [Napoleon Bonaparte (Napoleon I) 1769 - 1821] birth.

I don't believe in astrology. And I don't believe the Baron did either; he was too scientifically literate to buy this kind of nonsense. He had nothing to say about astrology in this book.


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'Systeme de la Nature. Ou Des Loix du Monde Physique & du Monde Moral.

HOLBACH (Paul Henri), Baron d:

Price: US$ 737.64....1770. FIRST EDITION, second impression. 2 volumes....

Holbachs work, "the Bible of materialism," immediately attracted clerical and establishment hostility, and the work was banned on 7 November 1770. That ensured its fame and subsequent reprints. In this second impression, the errata of the first impression have been corrected in the text. Holbach (or dHolbach [d'Holbach]) excited widely disparate feelings in his countrymen. Sophie Geoffrin, the daughter of Madame Geoffrin, wrote to him in 1776, "For many years to have set all respectable people against you by your indecent and imprudent manner of speaking against religion." David Hume [1711 - 1776] admired him and was grateful for his assistance in the quarrel with Rousseau. Rousseau modelled the character of Wolman (of whom Julie says that he "does good without recompense") in his Nouvelle Heloise upon him. Of the work itself, Thomas Morley [(I contacted John Valdimir Price, via e-mail. He replied: "Another Senior Moment! Of course it should be John Morley.") John Morley


1838 - 1923], in his biography of Holbach, said it was a "thundering engine of revolt and destruction." ....John [Valdimir] Price Antiquarian Books...London'.


Excursus: from: Diderot [1713 - 1784] and the Encyclopaedists, John Viscount Morley [1838 - 1923], Honorary Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, In Two Volumes, Vol. II, Macmillan, 1923 (1878). [See: 2814, 2815].




The System of Nature was published in 1770, eight years before the death of Voltaire [1694 - 1778] and of Rousseau [1712 - 1778], and it gathered up all the scattered explosives of the criticism of the century into one thundering engine of revolt and destruction.  It professed to be the posthumous work of Mirabaud [Jean-Baptiste de Mirabaud 1675 - 1760], who had been secretary to the Academy. This was one of the common literary frauds of the time. Its real author was Holbach. It is too systematic and coherently compacted to be the design of more than one man, and it is too systematic also for that one man to have been Diderot. At the same time there are good reasons for believing that not only much of its thought, but some of the pages, were the direct work of Diderot. The latest editor of the heedless philosopher has certainly done right in placing among his miscellanea the declamatory apostrophe which sums up the teachings of this remorseless book. The rumour imputing the authorship to Diderot was so common, and Diderot himself was so disquieted by it, that he actually hastened away from Paris to his native Langres and to the Baths of Bourbonne, in order to be ready to cross the frontier at the first hint of a warrant being out against him.1 Diderot has recorded his admiration of his friend's work. "I am disgusted," he said, "with the modern fashion of mixing up incredulity and superstition. What I like is a philosophy that is clear, definite, and frank, such as you have in the System of Nature. The author is not an atheist in one page, and a deist in another. His philosophy is all of one piece."2

Few books have ever produced a wider [1914 edition: "No book has ever produced a more widespread"] shock. Everybody insisted on reading it, and almost everybody was terrified. It suddenly revealed to men, like the blaze of lightning to one faring through darkness, the formidable shapes, the unfamiliar sky, the sinister landscape into which the wanderings of the last fifty years had brought them unsuspecting. They had had half a century of such sharp intellectual delight as had not been known throughout any great society in Europe since the death of Michael Angelo [1475 - 1564], and perhaps north of the Alps had never been known at all. And now it seemed to many of them, as they turned over the pages of Holbach's book, as if they stood face to face with the devil of the mediaeval legend, come to claim their souls. Satire of Job and David, banter about Joshua's massacres and Solomon's concubines, invective against blind pastors of blinder flocks, zeal to place Newton on the


throne of Descartes, and Locke upon the pedestal of Malebranche, wishes that the last Jansenist might be strangled in the bowels of the last Jesuit [source? compare: Diderot, Dithyrambe sur la fête des Rois: "And with the bowels of the last priest, Let us strangle the last King" (]—all this had given zest and savour to life. In the midst of their high feast, Holbach pointed to the finger of their own divinity, Reason, writing on the wall the appalling judgments that there is no God; that the universe is only matter in spontaneous movement; and, most grievous word of all, that WHAT MEN CALL THEIR SOUL DIES WITH THE DEATH OF THE BODY, AS MUSIC DIES WHEN THE STRINGS ARE BROKEN.' [158-160].

End of Excursus.

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Excursus: from: A History of Freedom of Thought, J.B. Bury [1861 - 1927], with an Epilogue by H. J. Blackman, Second Edition, Oxford University Press, 1957 (1913). [Note: emphasis on John Morley (see 2813)].


"....These years also saw the appearance of John Morley's [1838 - 1923] sympathetic studies of the French freethinkers of the eighteenth century, Voltaire (1872), Rousseau (1873), and Diderot (1878). He edited the Fortnightly Review, and for some years this journal was distinguished by brilliant criticisms on the popular religion, contributed by able men writing from many points of view. A part of the book which he afterwards published under the title Compromise appeared in the Fortnightly in 1874. In Compromise 'the whole system of objective propositions which make up the popular belief of the day' is condemned as mischievous, and it is urged that those who disbelieve should speak out plainly. Speaking out is an intellectual duty. Englishmen have a strong sense of political responsibility, and a correspondingly weak sense of intellectual responsibility. Even minds that are not commonplace are affected for the worse by the political spirit which 'is the great force in throwing love of truth and accurate reasoning into a secondary place'. And the principles which have prevailed in politics have been adopted by theology for her own use. In the one case, convenience first, truth second; in the other, emotional comfort first, truth second. If the immorality is less gross in the case of religion, there is 'the stain of intellectual improbity'. And this is a crime against society, for 'they who tamper with veracity from whatever motive are tampering with the vital force of human progress'. The intellectual insincerity which is here blamed is just as prevalent to-day. The English have not changed their nature, the 'political' spirit is still rampant, and we are ruled by the view that because compromise is necessary in politics it is also a good thing in the intellectual domain.

The Fortnightly under Morley's guidance was an effective organ of enlightenment. I have no space to touch on the works of other men of letters and of men of science in these combative years, but it is to be noted that, while denunciations of modern thought poured from the pulpits, a popular diffusion of freethought was carried on, especially by Bradlaugh


[Charles Bradlaugh 1833 - 1891] in public lectures and in his paper, the National Reformer, not without collisions with the civil authorities.

If we take the cases in which the civil authorities in England have intervened to repress the publication of unorthodox opinions during the last two centuries we find that the object has always been to prevent the spread of freethought among the masses. The victims have been either poor, uneducated people, or men who propagated free thought in a popular form. I touched upon this before in speaking of Paine [Thomas Paine 1737 - 1809], and it is borne out by the prosecutions of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The unconfessed motive has been fear of the people. Theology has been regarded as a good instrument for keeping the poor in order, and unbelief as a cause or accompaniment of dangerous political opinions. The idea has not altogether disappeared that free thought is peculiarly indecent in the poor, that it is highly desirable to keep them superstitious in order to keep them contented, that they should be duly thankful for all the theological as well as social arrangements which have been made for them by their betters. I may quote from an essay of Frederic Harrison an anecdote which admirably expresses the becoming attitude of the poor towards ecclesiastical institutions. 'The master of a workhouse in Essex was once called in to act as chaplain to a dying pauper. The poor soul faintly murmured some hopes of heaven. But this the master abruptly cut short and warned him to turn his last thoughts towards hell. "And thankful you ought to be," said he, "that you have a hell to go to."'

The most important English freethinkers who appealed to the masses were Holyoake [George Jacob Holyoake 1817 - 1906],1 the apostle of 'secularism', and Bradlaugh [1833 - 1891]. The great achievement for which Bradlaugh will be best remembered was the securing of the right of unbelievers to sit in Parliament without taking an oath (1888). The chief work to which Holyoake (who in his early years was imprisoned for blasphemy) contributed was the abolition of taxes on the Press, which seriously hampered the popular diffusion of knowledge.1 In England, censorship of the Press had long ago disappeared (above, p. 110); in most other European countries it was abolished in the course of the nineteenth century.2

In the progressive countries of Europe there has been a marked growth of tolerance (I do not mean legal toleration, but the tolerance of public opinion), during the last thirty years. A generation ago Lord Morley [1838 - 1923] wrote: "The preliminary stage has scarcely been reached—the stage in which public opinion grants to every one the unrestricted right of shaping his own beliefs, independently of those of the people who surround him.' I think this preliminary stage has now been passed. Take England. We are now far from the days when Arnold [Matthew Arnold 1822 - 1888] would have sent the elder Mill [James Mill 1773 - 1836] to Botany Bay ["Australia's first penal colony" (Internet)] for irreligious opinions. But we are also far from the days when Darwin's Descent created an uproar. Darwin [Charles Robert Darwin 1809 - 1882] has been buried in Westminster Abbey. TO-DAY BOOKS CAN APPEAR DENYING THE HISTORICAL EXISTENCE OF JESUS WITHOUT CAUSING ANY COMMOTION." [176-179]. End of Excursus.

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"Système social, ou principes naturels de la morale et de la politique. Avec un examen de l'influence du gouvernement sur les moeurs [1773 French (per Vercruysse (Encyc. Unbelief))]. Par l'auteur du 'Système de la nature'.


Price: US$1108.66...Londres (Amsterdam, M.M. Rey), 1774. 3 volumes....

The work was severely prosecuted by the authorities and as late as 1823 a bookseller was punished for having brought another edition on the market. Paul-Henri Dietrich Thiery d'Holbach (1723-1789), the foremost exponent of atheistic materialism and the most intransigent polemicist against religion in the Enlightenment. On settling in Paris, Holbach had associated with the younger philosophers who, with Diderot, d'Alembert and Rousseau, were grouping around the Encyclopédie, to which he also became a major contributor. His [D'Holbach's] Salon soon became the main social center, and a sort of intellectual headquarters, for the Encyclopedist movement. Among those attending were Diderot, Grimm, Helvétius, d'Alembert, Rousseau, Boulanger, Condillac, Naigeon, Turgot, and Condorcet. The Baron also counted among his acquaintances many foreigners, notably Hume, Gibbon, Smith, Priestley, Walpole, Garrick, Sterne, Beccaria and Franklin [Benjamin Franklin 1706 - 1790]. It is little surprizing [also, surprising] that Holbach was also known as le premier maître d'hôtel de la philosophie. Almost everything he wrote - whether because it expounded atheism and materialism, attacked Christianity, or castigated absolute monarchy, the state church, and feudal privilege - was highly subversive under the Ancien régime and could have exposed him to the severest penalties. Consequently, his innumerable manuscripts were usually forwarded through secret channels to Holland for publication, after which the books were smuggled back into France....A Gerits & Son...Amsterdam".

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"Systême de la Nature. Ou des Loix du Monde Physique & du Monde Moral. Par M. Mirabaud [Jean-Baptiste Mirabaud 1675 - 1760].

HOLBACH, Baron Paul Henry Dietrich von.]

Price: US$ 11112.48 [note: eleven thousand US dollars] [Convert Currency]

Shipping: [Rates and Speeds]

Book Description: London [but Amsterdam: M.M. Rey], 1770. 2 vols., 8vo (217 x 134 mm.), pp. [xii], 370[2]; [ii], 412, with half-title, without final errata leaf. Vignette on title and at end. Vol. 2 with some light dampstaining to top blank margins in second half of the book. Entirely uncut in the original grey-brown wrappers, slightly soiled, extremities somewhat frayed. Preserved together in a dark brown half morocco box, spine ruled and lettered in gilt. First edition, first issue (without the errata leaf, as often), of Holbach's most famous work, 'the bible of


materialism'. Holbach, a man of vast humanistic and philosophical knowledge, was also familiar with various branches of science and technology. One of the most relevant contributors to Diderot's [Denis Diderot 1713 - 1784] Encyclopédie, he wrote no less than 1100 articles for the 'enlightened project', mostly anonymously, covering metallurgy and mineralogy, chemistry and geology. Published under a pseudonym, this book immediately attracted the most violent hostility from the establishment, and was banned by the French parliament shortly after publication. Such vehement opposition of course ensured its broad fame and various reprints. Voltaire [1694 - 1778] was ill at ease with Holbach's daring materialism and atheism. This 'philippique against God', as he calls it, was going far beyond the questioning of the Church's worldly power. No room for any supernatural contribution was left in what soon became known as the most organic statement of atheism. The work was perceived by its early readers [John Morley (see 2813)] as a 'thundering engine of revolt and destruction', to the point that Frederick [II] the Great [King of Prussia 1740 - 1786 (1712 - 1786)] resented its confident 'freethinking' as a dangerous threat to the foundations of the kingdom and felt the need to write his own confutation. Kress 6737; PMM 215; Quérard, IV, 119; Tchemerzine VI, 243; Vercruysse 1770.A6. Bookseller Inventory #88232

Bookseller: Simon Finch Rare Books (London...United Kingdom)"

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from: (electronic text); and, a Gordon Press reprint (laborious for typist and self, to read), 1974:

Christianity Unveiled; Being an Examination of The Principles and Effects of the Christian Religion, [Baron d'Holbach 1723 - 1789 (attributed to Nicolas Antoine Boulanger 1722 - 1759)], translated from the French of Boulanger, by W.M. Johnson. London: Printed and Published by R. Carlile, 55, Fleet Street, 1819 (1766? French) (1761? French [see 2807]).

"Many immoral men have attacked the Christian religion, because it opposed their propensities; many wise men have despised it, because to them it appeared ridiculous; many persons have looked upon it with indifference, because they did not feel its real inconveniences. I attack it [religion] as a citizen, because it appears to me to be injurious to the welfare of the state, an enemy to the progress of the human mind, and opposed to the principles of true morality, from which political interests can never be separated." ["A Letter from the Author to a Friend" (preface)].

          "MANKIND, FOR THE MOST PART, HOLD TO THEIR RELIGION THROUGH HABIT. They have never seriously examined the reasons why they are attached to it, the motives of their conduct, or the foundations of their opinions. Thus, what has ever been considered as most important to all, has been of all things least subjected to scrutiny [compare: Montaigne, 2819, 2851]. Men blindly follow on in the paths which their fathers trod; they believe, because in infancy they were told they must believe; they, hope, because their progenitors hoped, and they tremble, because they trembled. Scarcely ever have they deigned to render an account of the motives of their belief. Very few men have leisure to examine, or fortitude to analyze, the objects of their habitual veneration, their blind attachment, or their traditional fears. Nations are carried away in the torrent of habit, example, and prejudice. Education habituates the mind to opinions the most monstrous, as it accustoms the body to attitudes the most uneasy. All that has long existed appears sacred to the eyes of man; they think it sacrilege to examine things stamped with the seal of antiquity. Prepossessed in favour of the wisdom of their fathers, they have not the presumption to investigate what has received their sanction [sanction "of their fathers"]. They [men] see not that man has ever been the dupe of his prejudices, his hopes, and his fears; and that the same reasons have almost always rendered this [religion] enquiry equally impracticable...." [Chapter 1].

          "Thus, religious opinions, once received, maintain their ground, through a long succession of ages; thus nations transmit from generation to generation ideas which they have never examined; they imagine their welfare to be attached to institutions in which, were the truth known, they would behold the source of the greater part of their misfortunes. Civil authority also flies to the support of the prejudices of mankind, compels them to ignorance by forbidding inquiry, and holds itself in continual readiness to punish all who attempt to undeceive themselves." [Chapter 1].


Excursus: "NOTHING IS SO FIRMLY BELIEVED AS WHAT IS LEAST KNOWN." [compare: belief in God, Jesus, Resurrection, Hell, Heaven, etc.] (Michel Eyquem de Montaigne 1533 - 1592) [See: 2851]. End of Excursus.

          "If religion be the object most important to mankind, if it extends its influences not only over our conduct in this life, but also over our eternal happiness, nothing can demand from us a more serious examination. Yet it is of all things, that, respecting which, mankind exercise the most implicit credulity. The same man, who examines with scrupulous nicety things of little moment to his welfare, wholly neglects inquiry concerning the motives, which determine him to believe and perform things, on which, according to his own confession, depend both his temporal and eternal felicity. He blindly abandons himself to those whom chance has given him for guides; he confides to them the care of thinking for him, and even makes a merit of his own indolence and credulity. IN MATTERS OF RELIGION, INFANCY AND BARBARITY SEEM TO BE THE BOAST OF THE GREATER PART OF THE HUMAN RACE."

[Chapter 1].

          "The surest means of deceiving mankind, and perpetuating their errors, is to deceive them in infancy. Amongst many nations at the present day, education seems designed only to form fanatics, devotees, and monks; that is to say, men either useless or injurious to society....Religion seems to have been invented only to render both kings and people equally the slaves of the priesthood. The latter ["priesthood"] is continually busied in raising obstacles to the felicity of nations." [Chapter 1].

"Were all Christian nations exactly conformed to their principles, they must be plunged into the most profound inactivity. Our countries would be inhabited by a small number of pious savages, who would meet only to destroy each other. For, why should a man mingle with the affairs of a world, which his religion informs him is only a place of passage? What can be the industry of that people, who believe themselves commanded by their God to live in continual fear, to pray, to groan, and afflict themselves incessantly? How can a society exist which is composed of men who are convinced that, in their zeal for religion, they ought to hate and destroy all, whose opinions differ from their own? How can we expect to find humanity, justice, or any virtue, amongst a horde of fanatics, who copy in their conduct, a cruel, dissembling, and dishonest God? A God who delights in the tears of his unhappy creatures, who sets for them the ambush, and then punishes them for having fallen into it! A God who himself ordains robbery, persecution, and carnage!

          Such, however, are the traits with which the Christian religion represents the God which it has inherited from the Jews. This God was a sultan, a despot, a tyrant, to whom all things were lawful. Yet he is held up to us as a model of perfection. Crimes, at which human nature revolts, have been committed in his name; and the greatest villainies have been justified by the pretence of their being committed, either by his command, or to merit his favour. Thus the Christian religion, which boasts of being the only true support of morality, and of furnishing mankind with the strongest


motives for the practice of virtue, has proved to them a source of divisions, oppressions, and the blackest crimes.


It furnishes the human race with a thousand ingenious means of tormenting themselves, and scatters amongst them scourges unknown before. The Christian, possessed of common sense, must bitterly regret the tranquil ignorance of his idolatrous ancestors.

          If the manners of nation have gained nothing by the Christian religion, governments of which it has pretended to be the support, have drawn from it advantages equally small. It establishes to itself in every state a separate power, and becomes the tyrant or the enemy of every other power. Kings were always the slaves of priests; or if they refused to bow the knee, they were proscribed, stripped of their privileges, and exterminated either by subjects whom religion had excited to revolt, or assassins whose hands she had armed with her sacred poignard. Before the introduction of the Christian religion, those who governed the state commonly governed the priesthood; since that period, sovereigns have dwindled into the first slaves of the priesthood, the mere executors of its vengeance and its decrees.

          Let us then conclude, that the Christian religion has no right to boast of procuring advantages either to policy or morality. Let us tear aside the veil with which it envelopes itself. Let us penetrate back to its source. Let us pursue it in its course; we shall find that, founded on imposture, ignorance, and credulity, it can never be useful but to men who wish to deceive their fellow-creatures. We shall find, that it will never cease to generate the greatest evils among mankind, and that instead of producing the felicity it promises, it is formed to cover the earth with outrages, and deluge it in blood; that it will plunge the human race in delerium and vice, and blind their eyes to their truest interests and their plainest duties." [end of Chapter 1].

"The Legislator [God] of the Hebrews speaks only of the transient punishments of this life; the Christian represents his God as pouring out unbounded vengeance to all eternity. In one word, Christian fanaticism feeds itself with the idea of an hell, where its God, transformed into a ferocious executioner, as unjust as implacable, shall bathe himself in the tears of his wretched creatures, and perpetuate their existence, to render them eternally miserable. There, clothed in vengeance, he shall mock at the torments of sinners, and listen with rapture to the groans with which they shall make the brazen roofs of their prisons resound; not the smallest hope of some distant termination of their pains shall give them an interval of imaginary relief.

          The Christians in adopting the terrible God of the Jews, have sublimed [heightened, refined, etc.] his cruelty. They represent him as the most capricious, wicked, and cruel tyrant which the human mind can conceive, and suppose him to treat his subjects with a barbarity and injustice truly worthy of a demon. In order to be convinced of this truth, let us


contemplate, for a moment, a picture of the Jewish mythology, adopted and rendered still more extravagant by the Christians." [Chapter 3].

[footnote (not referenced above)] "[18:1] ORIGEN SAYS, THAT CELSUS REPROACHED CHRIST WITH HAVING BORROWED MANY OF HIS MAXIMS FROM PLATO. See Origen contra Cel. chap. i. 6. Augustine confesses [354 - 430] [see 2740-2741], that he found the beginning of the Gospel of John, in Plato; see S. Aug. Conf. I. vii. ch. 9, 10, 11. The notion of the word [Logos (see 2730)] is evidently taken from Plato; the church has since found means of transplanting a great part of Plato, as we shall hereafter prove." [Chapter 3].


Excursus: from: Einstein and Religion, Physics and Theology, Max Jammer, Princeton, c1999, 67: 'The term "theology" was used, probably for the first time, by Plato [427 - 347 B.C.E.] in his Politeia (Republic II, 379a), then by Aristotle [384 - 322 B.C.E.] (Metaphysics III, 4, 1000 a 9), and throughout the Middle Ages. Spinoza [1632 - 1677] also used it, e.g., in the title of his Tractatus theologico-politicus (1670).' End of Excursus.

[footnote (not referenced above)] '[37:1] Any thing may be found in the Bible, if it be read with the imagination of Saint Augustine, who pretended to see all the New Testament in the Old [see Article #1, 11, 88. (Shires)]. According to him, the death of Abel is a type of that of Christ; the two wives of Abraham are the synagogue and the church; a piece of red cloth held up by an harlot, who betrayed Jericho, signifies the blood of Christ; the lamb, goat, and lion, are figures of Jesus Christ; the brazen serpent represents the sacrifice on the cross. Even the mysteries of the Christian religion are announced in the Old Testament. Manna represents the Eucharist, &c. See S. Aug. Serm. 78, and Ep. 156. How can a man, in his senses, see, in the Immanuel announced by Isaiah, the Messiah, whose name is Jesus? Isaiah c. vii. v. 14. How discover, in an obscure and crucified Jew, a leader who shall govern Israel? How see a royal deliverer and restorer of the Jews, in one, who, far from delivering his nation, came only to destroy their laws; and after whose coming their land was desolated by the Romans? A man must be sharp sighted indeed to find the Messiah in their predictions. Jesus himself does not seem to have been more clear, or happy, in his prophecies. In the Gospel of Luke, chap. xxi. he speaks of the last judgment: he mentions angels, who, at the sound of the trumpet, assemble Mankind together before him. He adds: "Verily, I say unto you, this generation shall not pass away, until these things re accomplished." The world, however, still stands, and Christians have been expecting [making noises about] the last judgment [a great favorite of masochistic-sadistic-Christians] for eighteen hundred years.' [Chapter 6].

[footnotes (not referenced above)] '[41:1] The dogma of the Trinity is evidently borrowed from the reveries of Plato, or from the allegories under which that romantic Philosopher chose to conceal his doctrine. It appears that to him [Plato] the Christian religion is indebted for the greater part of its dogmas. Plato admitted three Hypostases, or modes of being in the Divinity. The first constituted the supreme God;


the second the Logos, Word, or divine intelligence proceeding from the first; the third is the Spirit, or Soul of the World. The early teachers of the Christian religion appear to have been Platonics; their enthusiasm probably found in Plato a doctrine analogous to their feelings; had they been grateful, they would have recorded him as a prophet, or at least as one of the fathers of the church. The Jesuitical missionaries found a Divinity, nearly similar to that of the Christians, at Thibet. Among the Tartars, God is called Kon-cio-cik, the only God, and Kon-cio-sum, the threefold God. They also give him the titles Om, Ha, Hum, intelligence, might, power or words, heart, love. The number three was always revered among the ancients; because Salom, which in the oriental languages signifies three, signifies also health, safety, salvation.

[41:2] The Egyptians appear to have been the first, who pretended that their gods had assumed material bodies. Foe, the god of the Chinese, was born of a virgin, who was fecundated by a ray of the sun. In Indostan nobody doubts the incarnations of Vishnou. It seems that theologists of all nations, despairing to exalt themselves to a level with God, have endeavoured to debase him to level with themselves.

[43:1] Divines have always disagreed among themselves respecting the proofs of the existence of a God. They mutually style each other Atheists, because their demonstrations have never been the same. Few Christians have written on the existence of God, without drawing upon themselves an accusation of Atheism. Descartes [1596 - 1650], Clarke, Pascal [1623 - 1662], Arnauld, and Nicole, have been considered as Atheists. The reason is plain. It is impossible to prove the existence of a Being so inconsistent as the God of the Christians. We shall be told that men have no means for judging of the Divinity, and that our understandings are too narrow to form any idea of him. Why then do they dispute incessantly concerning him? Why assign to him qualities which destroy each other? Why recount fables concerning him? Why quarrel and cut each others throats, because they are differently interpreted by different persons?' [Chapter 7].

          "NOT content with having enveloped their God in mysterious clouds and Judaic fables, the teachers of Christianity seem to be still busied in the multiplication of mysteries, and embarrassing more and more the reason of their disciples. Religion, designed to enlighten mankind, is only a tissue of enigmas; a labyrinth which sound sense can never explore. That which ancient superstitions found most incomprehensible, seems not unaptly to be interwoven with a religious system, which imposes eternal silence on reason. The fatalism of the Grecians has been transformed, in the hands of Christian priests, into predestination. According to this tyrannic dogma, the God of mercies has destined the greatest part of mankind to eternal torments. He places them in this world that they, by the abuse of their faculties and liberty, may render themselves worthy of the implacable wrath of their creator. A benevolent and prescient God gives to mankind a free will, of which he knows they will make so perverse an use, as to merit eternal damnation. Thus, instead of punishing them with the propensities necessary to their happiness, he permits them to act, only that he may have the pleasure of plunging them into hell. NOTHING, CAN BE MORE HORRID THAN THE DESCRIPTION GIVEN US BY CHRISTIANS OF this place [HELL], DESTINED TO BE THE FUTURE RESIDENCE OF


ALMOST ALL MANKIND. There a merciful God will, throughout an eternity, bathe himself in the tears of wretches, whom he created for misery. Sinners, shut up in this awful dungeon, will be delivered up for ever to devouring flames. There shall be heard weeping and wailing, and gnashing of teeth. The torments of this place shall, at the end of millions of years, have only begun. The consoling hope of a distant mitigation of pain shall be unknown. In one word, God, by an act of his omnipotence, shall render man capable of miseries uninterrupted, and interminable. His justice will punish finite crimes, the effects of which are limited by time, by torments infinite in degree and duration. Such is the idea a Christian forms of the God that demands his love. This tyrant creates him only to render him miserable; he gives him reason to deceive him, and propensities to lead him astray. He gives him liberty, that he may incur eternal ruin. He gives him advantages above the beasts, that he may be subjected to torments, which beasts, like inanimate substances, are incapable of suffering. The dogma of predestination represents the lot of man as worse than, that of brutes and stones. [45:1]

          It is true, the Christian religion promises a blissful residence to those whom God shall have chosen to be objects of his love. But this place [Heaven] is reserved only for a small number of elect, who, without any merit in themselves, shall, nevertheless, have unbounded claims upon the grace of God.

          Thus, the Tartarus ["1. Greek Mythology. The abysmal regions below Hades where the Titans were confined. 2. An infernal region; hell." (] and Elysium ["1. Greek Mythology. The Elysian Fields. 2. A place or condition of ideal happiness."] of the heathen mythology, invented by imposters to awe and seduce mankind, have been transplanted into the system of the Christians, who have given them the new appellation of Heaven and Hell." [Chapter 8].

"....This Satan, the cause of so much terror to Christians, was evidently borrowed from the doctrine of two principles, formerly admitted in Egypt and all the East. The Osyris and Typhon of the Egyptians, the Orosmades and Aharimanes of the Persians and Chaldeans, have undoubtedly given birth to the continual war between the God of Christians and his formidable adversary. By this system mankind have endeavoured to account for all the good and evil with which life is chequered. An Almighty Devil serves to justify the Supreme Being with respect to all necessary and unremitted evils which afflict the human race.

          Such are the dreadful and mysterious doctrines upon which Christians in general are agreed. There are many others which are peculiar to different sects. Thus, a numerous sect [Catholics] of Christians admit an intermediate state [purgatory] between heaven and hell, where souls, too sinful for the former and too innocent for the latter, are subjected for a time, in order to expiate by their sufferings the sin they commit in this life; after undergoing this punishment, they are received into the abodes of eternal felicity. This doctrine [purgatory], which was evidently drawn from the reveries of Plato, has, in the hands of the Roman priests, been converted into an inexhaustible source of riches. They have arrogated to themselves the power of opening the gates of purgatory, and pretend that, by their prayers, they


can mitigate the rigour of the divine decrees, and abridge the torments of the souls, condemned to this place by a just God. [46:1]

          The preceding remarks show, that the Christian religion has been often inculcated and spread by dint of terror. By striking mankind with horror they render them submissive, and remove all his dependence on his reason. [47:1]" [Chapter 8].

[footnote (see above)] "[46:1] IT IS EVIDENT THAT THE ROMAN CATHOLICS ARE INDEBTED TO PLATO [427 - 347 B.C.E.] FOR THEIR PURGATORY. That great philosopher divided souls into three classes; the pure, the curable, and the incurable. The first returned, by refusion, to the universal soul of the world, or the divinity, from which they had emanated; the second went to hell, where they passed in review every year before the judges of that dark empire, who suffered them to return to light when they had sufficiently expiated their faults; the incurables remained in Tartarus, where they were to suffer eternal torment. Plato, as well as Christian casuists, described the crimes, faults, &c. which merit those different degrees of punishment.

Protestant Divines, jealous probably of the RICHES of the Catholic clergy, have imprudently rejected the doctrine of a PURGATORY, whereby they have much diminished their own credit. It would, perhaps, have been wiser to have rejected the doctrine of an hell, whence souls can never be released, than that of PURGATORY, which is more reasonable, and FROM WHICH THE CLERGY CAN DELIVER SOULS BY MEANS OF THAT ALL-POWERFUL AGENT, MONEY." [Chapter 8].

[footnote (see above)] '[47:1] Mahomet perceived, as well as Christian Divines, the necessity of frightening mankind, in order to govern them. "Those," says the Alcoran, "who do not believe, shall be clothed in a garment of fire; boiling water shall be poured on their heads; their skins and their entrails shall be smitten with rods of iron. Whenever they shall Strive to escape from hell, and avoid its torments, they shall be thrust again into it; and the devils say unto them: 'taste the pain of burning'." See Alcoran [Koran], ch. viii.' [Chapter 8].

"Holy water, which has taken the place of the aqua lustralis [Latin: Holy Water] [see, on] of the Romans, is believed by certain Christians to possess astonishing virtues. It renders sacred, places and things which were profane. In fine, the Christian Theurgy ["supernatural intervention in human affairs" (] being employed by a pontiff in the consecration of a king, renders him more respectable in the eyes of men, and stamps him with a divine character.

          Thus all is magic and mystery, all is incomprehensible, in a religion revealed by God himself, to enlighten the darkened understanding of mankind." [Chapter 9].

"A true Christian must be enraged when he sees his God offended. He must arm himself with a just and holy severity to repress the offenders. He must have an ardent desire to extend the empire of his religion. A zeal, originating in this divine love[sic], has been the source of the terrible persecutions of which Christians have so


often been guilty. Zeal produces murderers as well as martyrs. It is zeal that prompts intolerant man to wrest the thunder from the hand of the Most High, to avenge him to his enemies. It is this that causes members of the same state, and the same family, to detest and torment each other for opinions, and puerile ceremonies, which they are led to esteem as of the last importance. It is this zeal that has a thousand times kindled those religious wars so remarkable for their atrocity. Finally, it is this zeal for religion which justifies calumny, treason, carnage, and, in short, the disorders most fatal to society. It has always been considered as lawful to employ artifice, falsehood, and force, in support of the cause of God. The most choleric and corrupted men are commonly the most zealous. They hope that, for the sake of their zeal, Heaven will pardon the depravity of their manners be it ever so excessive.

          It is from an effect of the same zeal that enthusiastic Christians fly over every sea and continent to extend the empire of their God and make new proselytes. Stimulated by this zeal, missionaries go to trouble the repose of what they call heathen nations, whilst they would be astonished and enraged to find missionaries from those nations endeavouring to propagate a new religion in their country. [67.1]

          When these propagators of the faith have had power in their hands, they have excited the most horrid rebellions; and have, in conquered countries, exercised cruelties calculated only to render the God detestable whom they pretended to serve. They have thought that men who have so long been strangers to their God could be little better than beasts; and, therefore, judged it lawful to exercise every kind of violence over them. In the eyes of a Christian an infidel is seldom worthier than a dog." [Chapter 12].

[footnote (not referenced above)] "[61.1] Seneca [4 B.C.E. - 65 C.E.] says, with much truth, that a man of sense cannot fear the Gods, because no man can love what he fears. De Benef. 4. The Bible says, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. I think it rather the beginning of folly." [Chapter 12].

[footnote (referenced above)] "[67.1] Kambi [possibly: K'ang-hsi (Kangxi). see below], Emperor of China, asked the Jesuit missionaries at Pekin, what they would say, if he should send missionaries to their nation. The revolts excited by Jesuits in Japan and Ethiopia are well known. A holy missionary has been heard to say, that without muskets, missionaries could never make proselytes [see Article #6, 179 (Voltaire)]." [Chapter 12].


Excursus: from: Merriam-Webster's Biographical Dictionary, 1995 (c1983).


"Hsüan-yeh [K'ang-hsi, Kangxi], Reign title K'ang-hsi...Temple name Sheng-tsu...Posthumous name Jen Huanng-ti...1654–1722. Chinese emperor (1661–1722), second of the Ch'ing dynasty. Third son of Fu-lin; at first dominated by advisers (1661–69); defeated Wu San-kuei (1678) and suppressed his Revolt of the Three Feudatories (1681); conquered Taiwan (1683); concluded Treaty of Nerchinsk with Peter the Great on boundaries (1689); annexed Outer Mongolia (1697) and Tibet (1720). His reign largely one of internal peace; constructed many public works, including embankment of


Huang Ho River and dredging of Grand Canal; traveled over empire; kept taxes low; opened four ports for foreign trade. Patron of arts and letters and himself very learned; ordered compilation of many books of the Chinese classics; encouraged introduction of Western arts and education; friendly to Jesuits and other Roman Catholic missionaries until decree (1717) denying them right to spread Christianity; gave Jesuits, as Ferdinand Verbiest, important scientific posts at court." [512].

[See: Emperor of China, Self-portrait of K'ang-hsi, by Jonathan D. Spence, Jonathan Cape, 1974]. End of Excursus.

          'No religion ever placed its sectaries in more complete and continual dependance on priests, than the Christian. Those harpies [harpy: Greek Mythology. One of several loathsome, voracious monsters....", etc. (] never lose 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 were looked upon as courtiers in favour, ministers commissioned to exercise power in his name, and favourites to whom he could refuse nothing. Thus they became absolute masters of the destiny of the Christians. They gained establishments and rendered themselves necessary by the introduction of innumerable practices and duties, which, though puerile and ridiculous, they had the address [tact] to make their flocks look upon as indispensibly [also, indispensably] necessary to their salvation. They represented the omission of these pretended duties as a crime infinitely greater than an open violation of all the laws of morality and reason.

          Let us not then be surprized, that, in the most zealous, that is to say the most superstitious sects, we see mankind perpetually infested with priests. Scarce are they [mankind] born, when, under the pretext of washing away original sin, their priests impose on them a mercenary baptism, and pretend to reconcile them with a God whom they have as yet been unable to offend. By means of a few words and magical ceremonies they are thus snatched from the dominion of Satan. From the tenderest infancy their education is frequently entrusted to priests, whose principal care is to instil into them early the prejudices as necessary to the views of the church. Terrors are now introduced into their minds which increase during their whole lives. They are instructed in the fables, absurd doctrines, and incomprehensible mysteries of a marvellous religion. In one word, they are formed into superstitious Christians, and rendered incapable of being useful citizens or enlightened men. Only one thing is represented to them as necessary, which is to be in all things devoutly submissive to his religion. "Be devout," say his teachers, "be blind, despise thy reason, attend to heaven, and neglect earth; this is all thy God demands to conduct thee to eternal felicity."' [Chapter 13].

"priests have taken upon themselves the management of marriages. Without their consent, a Christian cannot become a father. He must first submit to the capricious formalities of his religion, without which his children must be excluded from the rank of citizens." [Chapter 13].


          "When death approaches, the Christian, stretched in agony on his bed, is still assailed in those distressful moments by priests. In some sects religion seems to have been invented to render the bitter death of man ten thousand times more bitter. A malicious priest comes to the couch of the dying man, and holds before him the spectacle of his approaching end, arrayed in more than all its terrors. Although this custom is destructive to citizens, it is extremely profitable to the priesthood, [76:1] who owe much of their riches to legacies procured by it. Morality is not quite so highly advantaged by it. Experience proves, that most Christians live in security and postpone till death their reconciliation with God. By means of a late repentance, and largesses to the priesthood, their faults are expiated, and they are permitted to hope that heaven will forget the accumulated crimes of a long and wicked life." [Chapter 13].

[footnote (see above)] "[76:1] In Catholic countries." [Chapter 13].

          "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 murmur to the sword that strikes instead of protecting themselves. 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 turns 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 practice virtue, this religion has, in princes, too often found support for itself, and destruction for its enemies." [Chapter 14].

"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." [Chapter 14].


          'Must it not be a great temerity and sin for a Christian to serve in war? Is not the man, who has never the right to believe himself absolutely in a state of grace, extremely rash when he exposes himself to eternal damnation? Is not the Christian, who ought to have charity with all men, and love even his enemies, guilty of an enormous crime, when he kills a man of whose dispositions he is ignorant, and whom he, perhaps, precipitates at once into hell? A Christian soldier is a monster; unless, indeed, he fights in the cause of religion. Then, if he dies, "he dies a blessed martyr."' [Chapter 14].

          "The Christian religion has always declared war against science and all human knowledge. These have been looked upon at obstacles to salvation. Neither reason nor study are necessary to men, who are to submit their reason to the yoke of faith. From the confession of Christians themselves, the founders of their religion were simple and ignorant men. Their disciples must be as little enlightened as they were, to admit the fables and reveries they have received from them. It has always been remarked, that the most enlightened men seldom make the best Christians. Science is apt to embarrass faith; and it moreover turns the attention from the great work of salvation, which is represented as the only necessary one. If science be serviceable to political society, ignorance is much more so to religion and its ministers. Those ages, destitute of science and industry, were the golden age of the church of Christ. Then were kings dutifully submissive to priests; then the coffers of priests held all the riches of society. The priests of a very numerous sect have kept from the eyes of their followers even the sacred pages which contain the laws of their religion. This conduct is, undoubtedly, very discreet. Reading the Bible is the surest of all means to prevent its being respected.

          In one word, if the maxims of the Christian religion were rigorously and universally followed, no political society could subsist. If this assertion be doubted, listen to what was said by the earliest doctors of the church, and it will be acknowledged, that their precepts are wholly incompatible with the power and preservation of states. According to Lactantius [c. 240 - c. 320], no Christian can become a soldier. According to St. Justin [c. 100 - 165], no Christian can be a magistrate. According to St. Chrysostom [354 - 407], no Christian can meddle with commerce. And, according to a great number, no man ought to study. In fine, join these maxims to those of Christ, apply them in practice, and the result will be a perfect Christian, useless to his family, his country, and mankind; an idle contemplator, unconcerned in the interests of this world, and occupied entirely with the other [Heaven], whither it is his most important business to go." [Chapter 14].

_____ _____ _____


from: The System of Nature or Laws of the Moral and Physical World, Baron D'Holbach [1723 - 1789], with Notes by Diderot [1713 - 1784], now translated for the first time [1835?] by H.D. Robinson. Two Vols. in One. Reprint, Burt Franklin, New York, n.d. [1970] (attributed to Mirabaud, 1770 French).

[Note: this translation, available on the Internet:].

[See: "Holbach, Paul Henri, Baron d'Holbach", Encyclopedia of Unbelief, 1985, volume 1, 323-325 (by Jeroom Vercruysee)].

Volume I

"Of the Soul."

          "Thus, it cannot be too often repeated, all the ideas, all the notions, all the modes of existence, all the thoughts of man are acquired....

when he [man] hears the words spirituality, immateriality, incorporeality, divinity, &c., pronounced, neither his senses nor his memory afford him any assistance: they do not furnish him with any means by which he can form an idea of their qualities, nor of the objects to which he ought to apply them: IN THAT WHICH IS NOT MATTER, he [MAN] CAN ONLY SEE VACUUM AND EMPTINESS" [see 2897]. [84].

"Education, Morals, &c."

"as long as he [man] finds some comfort in existence however slender, he will not consent to deprive himself of life [compare: Viktor Frankl 1905 - 1997 (I (LS) heard him speak, and after, joined questioning others, Unitarian Church, San Francisco, c. 1964), Man's Search for Meaning: An Introduction to Logotherapy]: but when nothing any longer sustains in him the love of this existence, then to live, is to him the greatest of evils; to die, the only mode by which he can avoid the excess of despair.* [see footnote, 2830]

          That society who has not the ability, or who is not willing to procure man any one benefit, loses all its right over him; nature, when it has rendered his existence completely miserable, has in fact ordered him to quit it: in dying he does no more than fulfil one of her decrees, as he did when he first drew his breath. To him who is fearless of death, there is no evil without a remedy; for him who refuses to die, there yet exist benefits which attach him to the world; in this case let him rally his powers, let him oppose courage to a destiny that oppresses him; she cannot have totally abandoned him the sensation of pleasure, and the hopes of seeing a period to his pains. As to the superstitious, there is no end to his sufferings, for he is not allowed to abridge them.[see footnote, 2830] His religion bids him to continue to groan, and forbids his recurring to death, which would lead him to a miserable state of existence: he would be eternally punished for daring to anticipate the tardy orders of a cruel God, who takes pleasure in seeing him reduced to despair, and who wills that man should not have the audacity to quit, without his consent, the post assigned to him....


          In short, nothing is more useful for society than to inspire man with a contempt for death, and to banish from his mind the false ideas he has of its consequences. The fear of death can never do more than make cowards; the fear of its pretended consequences will make nothing but fanatics or melancholy beings, who are useless to themselves and unprofitable to others. Death is a resource that ought not to be taken away from oppressed virtue, which the injustice of man frequently reduces to despair. If man feared death less, he would neither be a slave nor superstitious; truth would find defenders more zealous; the rights of mankind would be more hardily sustained; errour would be more powerfully opposed; tyranny would be banished from nations: cowardice nourishes it, fear perpetuates it. In fact, man can neither be contented nor happy, whilst his opinions shall oblige him to tremble." [137, 138, 139].

[footnote (see 2829)] "*This has been the opinion of many great men: Seneca [c. 4 B.C.E. - 65 C.E.], the moralist, whom Lactantius [c. 240 - 320] calls the divine Pagan, who has been praised equally by St. Austin[?] and [criticized (see 2740-2741)] by St. Augustine [354 - 430], endeavours by every kind of argument to make death a matter of indifference to man:

—["]Malum est in necessitate vivere: sed in necessitate vivere, necessitas nulla est.["] Quidni nulla sit? Patent undique ad libertatem viae multae, breves, faciles. Agamus Deo gratias, quod nemo in vita teneri possit [potest].—V. Senec. Epist. xii

[translation: '"[Epicurus] It is wrong to live under constraint; but no man is constrained to live under constraint." Of course not. On all sides lie many short and simple paths to freedom; and let us thank God that no man can be kept in life.' [Seneca, Ad Lucilium, Epistulae Morales, R. Gummere, Harvard, vol. I, Epistle XII, 10]].

Cato [(Cato the Younger) Marcus Porcius Cato 95 - 46 B.C.E.] has always been commended, because he would not survive the cause of liberty,—for that he would not live a slave. Curtius [Marcus Curtius, Roman myth, traditional date, "mid-4th century BC" (Radice)], who rode voluntarily into the gap to save his country, has always been held forth as a model of heroic virtue. Is it not evident that those martyrs who have delivered themselves up to punishment, have preferred quitting the world, to living in it contrary to their own ideas of happiness? When the fabulous Samson wished to be revenged on the Philistines, did he not consent to die with them as the only means? If our country is attacked, do we not voluntarily sacrifice our lives in its defence?

          [footnote, (see 2829)] Christianity, and the civil laws of Christians, are very inconsistent in censuring suicide. The Old Testament furnishes examples in Samson and Eleazar—that is to say, in men who stood very high with God. The Messiah, or the son of the Christians' God, if it [the Fiction] be true that he [Jesus] died of his own accord, was evidently a suicide. The same may be said of those penitents who have made it a merit of gradually destroying themselves.' [137].


"Remedies for the Evils of Man."

          "From every thing which has been hitherto said, it evidently results that all the errours of mankind, of whatever nature they may be, arise from man's having renounced reason, quitted experience, and refused the evidence of his senses, that he might be guided by imagination, frequently deceitful, and by authority, always suspicious." [161].

Volume II

"Natural Ideas of the Divinity."

          [footnote (not referenced above)] "*See what has been said upon this in the seventh chapter of the first part. Although the first doctors of the Christian Church may, for the greater part, have drawn from the Platonic philosophy [see Addition 42, 2357 (Ehrlich); 2818 ("Christianity Unveiled")] their obscure notions of spirituality, of incorporeal, and immaterial substances, of intellectual powers, &c. we have only to open their works, to convince ourselves that they had not that idea of God which the theologians of the present day give us. Tertullian [c. 160 - c. 220], as we have elsewhere said, considered God as corporeal. Seraphis [Seraphim (Russian Saint)? 1759 - 1833] said, crying, that they had deprived him of his God, in making him adopt the opinion of spirituality, which was not, however, so much subtilized then as it has been since. Many fathers of the Church have given a human form to God, and have treated as heretics those who made him a spirit. The Jupiter of the pagan theology is looked upon as the youngest child of Saturn or of Time: the spiritual God of the Christians is a much more recent production of time; it is only by dint of subtilizing that this God, the conqueror of all those Gods who preceded him, has been formed by degrees. Spirituality is become the last refuge of theology, which has arrived at making a God more than aerial in the hope, no doubt, that such a God would be inaccessible; indeed, he is so, for to attack him is to combat a mere chimera [illusion, etc.]." [237].

"Of Pantheism, or of the Natural Ideas of the Divinity."

          "Let us then conclude, that the word God, as well as the word create, not presenting to the mind any true idea, ought to be banished [from] the language of all those who are desirous to speak so as to be understood. These are abstract words, invented by ignorance; they are only calculated to satisfy men destitute of experience, too idle, or too timid to study nature and its ways; to content those enthusiasts, whose curious imagination pleases itself with springing beyond the visible world, to run after chimeras [illusions, etc.]. In short, these words are useful to those only, whose sole profession is to feed the ears of the uninformed with pompous words, which are not understood by themselves, and upon the sense and meaning of which they are never in harmony with each other." [242].


          [footnote (not referenced above)] "*A great many nations have adored the sun; the sensible effects of this star, which appears to infuse life into all nature, must naturally have induced men to worship it.—Yet, whole people have abandoned this God so visible, to adopt an abstract and metaphysical God. If the reason of this phenomenon should be asked, we shall reply, that the God who is most concealed, most mysterious, and most unknown, must always, for that very reason, be more pleasing to the imagination of the uninformed, than the God whom they see daily. An unintelligible and mysterious tone is essentially necessary to the ministers of all religions: a clear, intelligible religion, without mystery, would appear less divine to the generality of men, and would be less useful to the sacerdotal order, whose interest it is that the people should comprehend nothing of that which they believe to be the most important to them. This, without doubt, is the secret of the clergy. THE PRIEST MUST HAVE AN UNINTELLIGIBLE GOD, WHOM HE MAKES TO SPEAK AND ACT IN AN UNINTELLIGIBLE MANNER, RESERVING TO HIMSELF THE RIGHT OF EXPLAINING HIS ORDERS AFTER HIS OWN MANNER." [243].

          "Very few men have the courage to examine the God which every one is in agreement to acknowledge; there is scarcely any one who dares to doubt his existence although it has never been proved: each receives in infancy, without any examination, the vague name of god, which his fathers transmit him, which they consign to his brain with those obscure ideas which they themselves have attached to it, and which every thing conspires to render habitual in him: nevertheless, each modifies it in his own manner; indeed, as we have frequently observed, the unsteady notions of an imaginary being cannot be the same in all the individuals of the human species; each man has his mode of considering him: each man makes to himself a God in particular, after his own peculiar temperament, his natural dispositions, his imagination...." [246].

          [footnote (not referenced above)] "*The religion of Abraham ["c. 2000—1650 BC" (see Cam. Bio. Dict.)] appears to have originally been a theism imagined to reform the superstition of the Chaldeans; the theism of Abraham was corrupted by Moses ["15th—13th century BC], who availed himself of it to form the Judaical superstition. Socrates [469 - 399 B.C.E.] was a theist, who, like Abraham, believed in divine inspirations; his disciple, Plato [427 - 347 B.C.E.], embellished the theism of his master with the mystical colours which he borrowed from the Egyptian and Chaldean priests, and which he modified himself in his poetical brain. The disciples of Plato such as Proclus, Jamblichus, Plotinus, Porphyrus, &c. were true fanatics, plunged in the grossest superstition. In short, the first doctors of Christianity were Platonists, who combined the Judaical superstition, reformed by the Apostles or by Jesus, with Platonism. Many people have looked upon Jesus as a true theist, whose religion has been by degrees corrupted. Indeed, in the books which contain the law which is attributed to him, there is no mention either of worship, or of priests, or of sacrifices, or of offerings, or of the greater part of the doctrines of actual Christianity, which has become the most prejudicial of all the superstitions of the earth. Mahomet [Muhammad/Mohammed c. 570 - 632], in combating the polytheism of his country, was only desirous of bringing back the Arabs to the primitive theism of Abraham and


of his son Ishmael, and yet Mahometism is divided into seventy-two sects. All this proves that theism is always more or less mingled with fanaticism, which sooner or later finishes by producing ravages and misery." [257-258].

          [footnote (not referenced above)] "*....There are very few men in the world who dare be consistent: but let us invite all the deicolists [deists?], or supporters of the existence of a God, under whatever denomination they may be designated, to inquire of themselves, if it be possible for them to attach any fixed, permanent, and invariable idea, always compatible with the nature of things, to the being whom they designate under the name of God, and they will see, that, as soon as they distinguish him from nature, they will no longer understand any thing about him. The repugnance which the greater part of men show for atheism, perfectly resembles the HORROUR OF A VACUUM [see 2897]: they have occasion to believe something, the mind cannot remain in suspense; above all, when they persuade themselves that the thing interests them in a very lively manner; and then, rather than believe nothing, they will believe every thing that shall be desired, and will imagine that the most certain mode is to take a part." [258-259].

"The God, who exists only in imagination, demands an imaginary worship;


"From Men's Notions on the Divinity, &c."

          [footnote (not referenced above)] "*The Emperor Charles the Fifth [1550 - 1558] used to say, that, being a warrior, it was impossible for him to have either conscience or religion: his general, the Marquis de Pescaire, said, that nothing was more difficult, than to serve at one and the same time the God Mars and Jesus Christ. Generally speaking, nothing is more contrary to the spirit of Christianity than the profession of arms; and yet the Christian princes have most numerous armies, and are perpetually at war. Moreover, the clergy would be extremely sorry that the maxims of the evangelists, or the Christian meekness should be rigidly followed, which in nowise accords with their interests. This clergy have occasion for soldiers to give solidity to their doctrines and their rights. This proves to what a degree religion is calculated to impose on the passions of men." [267].

"Comparison Between Theological Morality and Natural Morality."

"The most religious men are commonly misanthropists, extremely useless to the world, and injurious to themselves." [274].


"the idea of a terrible God has in all times and in all places, given birth to the most cruel extravagances!

          If these irrational devotees only injure themselves, and deprive society of that assistance which they owe it, they without doubt, do less harm that those turbulent and zealous fanatics who, filled with their religious ideas, believe themselves obliged to disturb the world, and to commit actual crimes to sustain the cause of THEIR CELESTIAL PHANTOM ["God"]." [274].

"Nature tells man in society to cherish glory, to labour to render himself estimable, to be active, courageous, and industrious: religion tells him [man] to be humble, abject, pusillanimous, to live in obscurity, to occupy himself with prayers, with meditations, and with ceremonies; it says to him, be useful to thyself, and do nothing for others.* ...." [280].

          [footnote (referenced above)] "*It is very easy to perceive that religious worship does a real injury to political societies, by the loss of time, by the laziness and inaction which it causes, and of which it makes a duty. Indeed, religion suspends the most useful labours during a considerable portion of the year." [280].

          [footnote (not referenced above)] "In seeing the theologians so frequently accuse the atheists with being absurd, we should be tempted to believe that they have no idea of that which the atheists have to oppose to them; it is true, they have established an excellent method; the priests say and publish what they please, whilst their adversaries can never defend themselves." [303].

          [footnote (not referenced above)] "....Notwithstanding the pretended dangers which so many people believe they see in atheism, antiquity did not judge of it so unfavourably. Diogenes Laertius [3rd century] informs us, that Epicurus [c. 341 - 271 B.C.E.] was in great favour, that his country caused statues to be erected to him, that he had a prodigious number of friends, and that his school subsisted for a very long period. See Diogenes Laertius, x. 9. Cicero [106 - 43 B.C.E.], although an enemy to the opinions of the Epicureans, gives a brilliant testimony to the probity of Epicurus and his disciples, who were remarkable for the friendship they bore each other. See Cicero de Finibus, ii. 25. The philosophy of Epicurus was publicly taught in Athens during many centuries, and Lactantius [c. 240 - 320] says, that it was the most followed. Epicuri disciplina multo celebrior semper fuit quam caeterorum. V. Institut. Divin. iii. 17. In the time of Marcus Aurelius [Emperor 161 - 180 (121 - 180)], there was at Athens a public professor of the philosophy of Epicurus, paid by that emperor, who was himself a stoic." [310].

          [footnote (not referenced above)] "*Atheists are, it is said, more rare in England and in Protestant countries, where toleration is established, than in Roman Catholic countries, where the princes are commonly intolerant and enemies to the liberty of thought. In Japan, in Turkey, in Italy, and above all in Rome, many atheists are


found. The more power superstition has, the more those minds which it has not been able to subdue will revolt against it. It is Italy that produced Jordano Bruno [Giordano Bruno 1548 - 1600], Campanella [Tommaso Campanella 1568 - 1639], Vanini [Giulio Cesare Vanini 1585 - 1619], &c. There is every reason to believe, that had it not been for the persecutions and ill treatment of the synagogue, Spinosa would never have perhaps promulgated his system. It may also be presumed, that the horrours produced in England by fanaticism, which cost Charles I. [King 1625 - 1649 (1600 - 1649)] his head, pushed Hobbes on to atheism: the indignation which he also conceived at the power of the priests, suggested, perhaps, his principles so favourable to the absolute power of kings. He believed that it was more expedient for a state to have a single civil despot, a sovereign over religion itself, than to have a multitude of spiritual tyrants, always ready to disturb it. Spinosa [Spinoza 1632 - 1677] seduced by the ideas of Hobbes [Thomas Hobbes 1588 - 1679], fell into the same errour in his Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, as well as in his Treatise de Jure Ecclesiasticorum." [314].

          "To judge properly of things, it is necessary to be disinterested; it is necessary to have an enlightened and connected mind to compass a great system. It belongs only to the honest man, to examine the proofs of the existence of God, and the principles of religion; it belongs only to the man acquainted with nature and its ways, to embrace with intelligence the cause of the System of Nature." [317].

          "We are constantly told, that the indecent or criminal conduct of the priests and of their sectaries proves nothing against the goodness of their religious systems; but wherefore do they not say the same thing of the conduct of the atheist, who, as we have already proved, may have a very good and very true system of morality, even while leading a dissolute life? If it be necessary to judge the opinions of mankind according to their conduct, which is the religion that would bear this scrutiny? Let us, then, examine the opinions of the atheist without approving of his conduct; let us adopt his mode of thinking, if we judge it to be true, useful, and rational; let us reject his mode of acting, if we find it blameable. At the sight of a work filled with truth, we do not embarrass ourselves with the morals of the workman. Of what importance is it to the universe whether Newton [Isaac Newton 1642 - 1727] were a sober or an intemperate, a chaste or a debauched man? It only remains for us to examine whether he reasoned well, if his principles be certain, if the parts of his system are connected, if his work contains more demonstrable truths than bold ideas. Let us judge in the same manner of the principles of an atheist; if they are strange and unusual, that is a reason for examining them more strictly; if he has spoken truth, if he has demonstrated his positions, let us yield to the evidence; if he be deceived in some parts let us distinguish the true from the false, but

do not let us fall into the hackneyed prejudice, which on account of one errour in the detail, rejects a multitude of incontestable truths.* [see footnote, 2836]" [320].


          [footnote (see 2835)] '*Dr. Johnson [1709 - 1784] (the Christian bear or hog) says in his preface to his dictionary, that "where a man shall have executed his task with all the accuracy possible, he will only be allowed to have done his duty; but if he commit the slightest errour, a thousand snarlers are ready to point it out."' [320].

          "Atheism, as well as philosophy and all profound and abstract sciences, then, is not calculated for the uninformed, neither is it suitable for the majority of mankind. There are in all populous and civilized nations, persons whose circumstances enable them to mediate, to make researches, and useful discoveries, which, sooner or later, finish by extending themselves, and becoming beneficial when they have been judged advantageous and true. The geometrician, the mechanic, the chymist [sic], the physician, the civilian, the artisan himself, labour in their closets or in their workshops, seeking the means to serve society each in his sphere; nevertheless, not one of these sciences or professions are known to the uninitiated, who, however, do not fail in the long run to profit by, and reap the advantages of those labours of which they themselves have no idea." [324]. [See: 2839].

          [footnote (not referenced above)] "*It is a problem with a great many people, if truth may not be injurious. The best intentioned persons are themselves frequently in great doubt upon this important point. Truth never injures any but those who deceive men: these have the greatest interest in being undeceived. Truth may be injurious to him who announces it, but no truth can possibly injure the human species, and never can it be too clearly announced to beings always little disposed to listen to, or comprehend it. If all those who write to announce important truths, which are always considered as the most dangerous, were sufficiently warmed with the public welfare to speak freely, even at the risk of displeasing their readers, the human race would be much more enlightened and much happier than it is. To write in ambiguous words, is frequently to write to nobody. The human mind is idle, we must spare it as much as possible the trouble and embarrassment of reflecting. What time and study does it not require at the present day to unravel the ambiguous oracles of the ancient philosophers, whose true sentiments are almost entirely lost to us! If truth be useful to men, it is an injustice to deprive them of it; if truth ought to be admitted, we must admit its consequences, which also are truths. Men, for the most part, are fond of truth, but its consequences inspire them with so much fear, that frequently they ["Men"] prefer remaining in errour, of which habit prevents them from feeling the deplorable effects." [325].

"Those men who have the greatest share of talents, as we have already observed, cannot always resolve to divorce themselves completely from their religious ideas; imagination, so necessary to splendid talents, frequently forms in them an insurmountable obstacle to the total extinction of prejudice; this depends much more on the judgment than on the mind. To this disposition, already so prompt to form illusions for them, is also joined the power of habit; to a great many men it would be wresting from them a portion of themselves to take away their ideas of God; it would


be depriving them of an accustomed aliment [sustenance, etc.]; IT WOULD BE PLUNGING THEM INTO A VACUUM [see 2897], and obliging their distempered [disordered, etc.] minds to perish for want of exercise.* [see footnote, below]" [327].

          [footnote (referenced above)] "*Menage [Ménage Gilles(?) 1613 - 1692] has remarked, that history speaks of very few incredulous women, or female atheists. This is not surprising, their organization renders them fearful, the nervous system undergoes periodical variations in them, and the education which they receive, disposes them to credulity. Those amongst them who have a sound constitution, and imagination, have occasion for chimeras suitable to occupy their idleness; above all, when the world abandons them, devotion and its ceremonies then become a business or an amusement for them." [327].

"minds accustomed to be satisfied with theological solutions, no longer see in nature any thing but an inexplicable enigma, an abyss which it is impossible to fathom. Habituated to fix their eyes upon an ideal and mathematical point, which they have made the centre of every thing, the universe becomes a jumble to them, whenever they lose sight of it; and in the confusion in which they find themselves involved, they rather prefer returning to the prejudices of their infancy, which appear to explain every thing, THAN TO FLOAT IN THE VACUUM [see 2897], or quit that foundation which they judge to be immoveable. Thus, the proposition ["a little philosophy disposes men to atheism, but that great depth reconducts them to religion." [327]] of Bacon [Francis Bacon 1561 - 1626 (see 2118-2139)], appears to indicate nothing, except it be, that the most experienced persons cannot defend themselves against the illusions of their imagination, the impetuosity of which resists the strongest reasoning." [327].

          "Atheism is only so rare because every thing conspires to intoxicate man, from his most tender age, with a dazzling enthusiasm, or to puff him up with a systematic and organized ignorance, which is of all ignorance the most difficult to vanquish and to root out. Theology is nothing more than a science of words, which, by dint of repetition, we accustom ourselves to substitute for things; as soon as we feel disposed to analyze them, we find that they do not present us with any actual sense. There are very few men in the world who think deeply, who render to themselves an account of their ideas, and who have penetrating minds; justness of intellect is one of the rarest gifts which nature bestows on the human species." [328].

          [footnote (referenced above)] "It is not to be understood here that nature has any choice in the formation of her beings, it is merely to be considered that the circumstances which enable the junction of a certain quantity of those atoms or parts necessary to form a human machine in such due [satisfying] proportions that one disposition shall not overbalance the other, and thus render the judgment erroneous by giving it a particular bias, very rarely occur...." [328].


"He who shall more honour truth than the subtilties [logic (logics)] of theology, will quickly perceive that this vain science is nothing more than an unintelligible heap of false hypotheses, begging of principles, of sophisms, of vitiated circles, of futile distinctions, of captious subtilties, of disingenuous arguments, from which it is not possible there should result any thing but puerilities, or endless disputes." [329].



          The very idea of death is revolting to man, yet he does every thing in his power to render it more frightful. It is a period which delivers us up defenceless to the undescribable rigours of a pitiless despot. This, it is said, is the strongest rampart against human irregularities. But what effect have those ideas produced upon those who are, or at least pretend to be, persuaded of their truth? The great bulk of mankind seldom think of them; never, when hurried along by passion, prejudice, or example. If they produce any effect, it is only upon those to whom they are unnecessary in urging to do good, and restraining from evil. They fill the hearts of good men with terrour, but have not the smallest influence over the wicked.

          Bad men may be found among infidels, but infidelity by no means implies wickedness. On the contrary, the man who thinks and mediates, better knows motives for being good, than he who permits himself to be blindly conducted by the motives of others. The man who does not expect another state of existence, is the more interested in prolonging his life, and rendering himself dear to his fellow-men, in the only state of existence with which he is acquainted. THE DOGMA OF A FUTURE STATE DESTROYS OUR HAPPINESS IN THIS LIFE; WE SINK UNDER CALAMITY, AND REMAIN IN ERROUR, IN EXPECTATION OF BEING HAPPY HEREAFTER.

          THE PRESENT STATE HAS SERVED AS THE MODEL OF THE FUTURE [see Mencken, Appendix X, 826 ("Heaven is always rich in what is longed for, and hell has an infinite abundance of what is already too abundant")]. We feel pleasure and painhence a heaven and a hell. A body is necessary for enjoying heavenly pleasureshence the dogma of a resurrection.

          But whence has the idea of hell arisen [see 2753-2799]? Because, like a sick person who clings even to a miserable existence, man prefers a life of pain to annihilation, which he considers as the greatest of calamities." [347].

"When nature denies us any pleasure, she leaves open a door for our departure; and should we not make use of it, it is because we still find a pleasure in existence." [350].


          "Admitting every nation to have a form of worship, that circumstance by no means proves the existence of a God.

The universality of an opinion does not prove its truth.

Have not all nations believed in the existence of witchcraft and of apparitions? Previous to Copernicus, did not all men believe that the earth was immoveable, and that the sun turned round it?

          The ideas of God and his qualities are only founded upon the opinions of our fathers, infused into us by education; by habits contracted in infancy, and strengthened by example and authority. Hence the opinion, that all men are born with an idea of the Divinity. We retain those ideas, without ever having reflected upon them." [353].

"It is true, the number of atheists is inconsiderable, because enthusiasm has dazzled the human mind, and the progress of errour has been so very great, that



[362] [last page of text ("Contents", follow)]. [See: 2836].