Theology distorts philosophy

From Superstitions in all ages for Jean Meslier

From the most remote period theology alone regulated the march of philosophy. What aid has it lent it? It changed it into an unintelligible jargon, which only had a tendency to render the clearest truth uncertain; it converted the art of reasoning into a science of words; it threw the human mind into the aerial regions of metaphysics, where it unsuccessfully occupied itself in sounding useless and dangerous abysses. For physical and simple causes, this philosophy substituted supernatural causes, or, rather, causes truly occult; it explained difficult phenomena by agents more inconceivable than these phenomena; it filled discourse with words void of sense, incapable of giving the reason of things, better suited to obscure than to enlighten, and which seem invented but to discourage man, to guard him against the powers of his own mind, to make him distrust the principles of reason and evidence, and to surround the truth with an insurmountable barrier.

If we would believe the adherents of religion, nothing could be explicable in the world without it; nature would be a continual enigma; it would be impossible for man to comprehend himself. But, at the bottom, what does this religion explain to us? The more we examine it, the more we find that theological notions are fit but to perplex all our ideas; they change all into mysteries; they explain to us difficult things by impossible things. Is it, then, explaining things to attribute them to unknown agencies, to invisible powers, to immaterial causes? Is it really enlightening the human mind when, in its embarrassment, it is directed to the “depths of the treasures of Divine Wisdom,” upon which they tell us it is in vain for us to turn our bold regards? Can the Divine Nature, which we know nothing about, make us understand man’s nature, which we find so difficult to explain?


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Ask a Christian philosopher what is the origin of the world. He will answer that God created the universe. What is God? We do not know anything about it. What is it to create? We have no idea of it! What is the cause of pestilences, famines, wars, sterility, inundations, earthquakes? It is God’s wrath. What remedies can prevent these calamities? Prayers, sacrifices, processions, offerings, ceremonies, are, we are told, the true means to disarm Celestial fury. But why is Heaven angry? Because men are wicked.


Why are men wicked? Because their nature is corrupt. What is the cause of this corruption? It is, a theologian of enlightened Europe will reply, because the first man was seduced by the first woman to eat of an apple which his God had forbidden him to touch. Who induced this woman to do such a folly? The Devil. Who created the Devil? God! Why did God create this Devil destined to pervert the human race? We know nothing about it; it is a mystery hidden in the bosom of the Deity.

Does the earth revolve around the sun? Two centuries ago a devout philosopher would have replied that such a thought was blasphemy, because such a system could not agree with the Holy Book, which every Christian reveres as inspired by the Deity Himself. What is the opinion to−day about it? Notwithstanding Divine Inspiration, the Christian philosophers finally concluded to rely upon evidence rather than upon the testimony of their inspired books.

What is the hidden principle of the actions and of the motions of the human body? It is the soul. What is a soul? It is a spirit. What is a spirit? It is a substance which has neither form, color, expansion, nor parts. How can we conceive of such a substance? How can it move a body? We know nothing about it. Have brutes souls?

The Carthusian assures you that they are machines. But do we not see them act, feel, and think in a manner which resembles that of men? This is a pure illusion, you say. But why do you deprive the brutes of souls, which, without understanding it, you attribute to men? It is that the souls of the brutes would embarrass our theologians, who, content with the power of frightening and damning the immortal souls of men, do not take the same interest in damning those of the brutes. Such are the puerile solutions which philosophy, always guided by the leading−strings of theology, was obliged to bring forth to explain the problems of the physical and moral world.

Source: Superstition in all ages , author: Jean meslier

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