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Buddeus - Treatise on Atheism

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Treatise on Atheism and Superstition

1740

Preface

When I have reflected seriously on the spirit of the age, I have noted there that atheism was creeping more and more into the minds of men. I have not taken for true that the number of true atheists is effectively as great as some have claimed; but the world is full of certain vain and corrupt spirits, who glory in cutting and in sustaining dangerous sentiments that lead directly to atheism, and that, led away from the path of salvation, fall unhappily into eternal damnation. Under the specious pretext of wishing to think freely, and to be defenders of this liberty, or rather this libertinage, they attack the dogmas of religion, the holiest and best established among them; lukewarm and negligent in the practice of religious duties, they drop the reins of their reckless passions, and open a path leading to their ruin, and as the Christian religion looks austere and uncomfortable to them, in its condemnation of disorder, its repression of lusts, and that it threatens just punishments to those who break divine law, it is not surprising that ...

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Are there really atheists? We relate a brief history of atheism. We remove from some wise men the unjust suspicion that they were infected with atheism.

Chapter 2: We explain what atheism is, the different species thereof, and what are its foundations.

Chapter 3: The dogmas that link to atheism, or that lead thereto.

Chapter 4: The causes of atheism, its properties and effects.

Chapter 5: We demonstrate the existence of God.

Chapter 6: We overturn the foundations of atheism, and we respond to the atheists' principal arguments.

Chapter 7: Refutation of the dogmas that lead to atheism. The link between these dogmas and atheism.

Chapter 8: Of superstition and its types. The superstitions that directly regard religion.

Chapter 9: The superstitions that indirectly regard divine worship.

Chapter 10: The causes, effects, properties, and remedies for superstition.

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Chapter 1: Are there really atheists? We relate a brief history of atheism. We remove from some wise men the unjust suspicion that they were infected with atheism.

I.

That a God exists, is a truth so clear and certain, that we cannot deny it without dealing cruelly with our mind, and without making great efforts on ourself. Nevertheless, experience, as well as history ancient and modern teach us that there have been in all ages men so unhappy, which have by force of study and application, finally triumphed  over themselves, or to doubt the existence of God (1), or to even make an open profession of atheism (2), or at least to advance some doctrines, from which a certain consequence is that there is no God (3)

II.

The general corruption of mankind before the flood, when men gave themselves over to all type of crimes, and  justly drew the anger and punishment of God; this general corruption, I say, is a convincing proof that those who lived in these times no longer had the fear of the Lord before their eyes. We have nevertheless here space to doubt whether there were then people who made profession of atheism (1).

III.

The common vice of humankind being to pass from one extreme to the other, it follows that Superstition and Idolatry should flood almost the whole universe after the Deluge. Then the true Religion is preserved pure and entire in the family and posterity of Abraham, and then in the nation of Israel. The writings of Moses are an illustrious proof thereof, and it would be an unworthy malice or rather a madness and an extreme impudence to accuse Moses of Pantheism, that is to say, that he believed in no God other than the Universe.

IV.

It is beyond doubt that the Israelites had a great penchant for Idolatry and Superstition. The writings of the Prophets and other sacred writers are full of the reproaches and threats of anger and the indignation of God, because of the excesses committed by the Hebrews on this subject. Such was the general disposition of the Israelites. It did not nevertheless allow that, in the other extremity, making profession of Atheism, not only by their morals and conduct, but rather by their doctrine, which can be proved from many passages of Scripture.

V.

It is again an unsufferable Calumny to say that Solomon, and the Prophets who lived after him, have taught a doctrine favourable to Atheism, or those who approach thereto; to speak thus is to close one's eyes against the light, and to search in vain for subterfuges to be able to defend a desperate cause.

VI.

Although the doctrine of the Israelites, as contained in the Books of Moses, and in those of the Old Testament which are inspired, being very pure, and directly opposed to the madness and impiety of the Atheists, we cannot nevertheless dispute that it was not immediately altered by the mixture of the opinions taken from the Pagan Philosophers, which gave birth to the fictions of the Cabalists, of whose system agrees in many ways with that of the impious Spinoza.

VII.

Among those Nations wherein some vestiges in the monuments of Antiquity, that of the Sabaeans is one of the most renowned.  Following the sentiments of some authors, it has spread Idolatry and superstition across all the Orient. It is asserted that the doctrine of these peoples had a great relation with that of Spinoza. That is rather probable, because idolatry is not far from Pantheism; nevertheless we cannot be entirely sure.

VIII.

We can apply to the Chaldeans the same thing we said about the Sabaeans, that they had believed in Pantheism. And in effect, since Idolatry then flooded the Universe, these peoples became so miserably addicted to it. I would not in any case accuse them of atheism, although their thoughts were not far from it.

IX.

We now pass from the Barbarians to the Greek nation. The first Greek philosopher who presents himself is Orpheus, who passes for the first inventor, or rather the moderator of Religion among the Greeks, having established certain ceremonies for the worship of the Gods. His intention was doubtless that of exciting in men the study of wisdom, to search out the causes of natural things, and to prevent them to make an evil usage thereof, but rather to bring them to recognise their author, by the worship that they should give him. In spite of this, we find certain authors who claim that he sustained the impious dogma that Nature was God Himself.

X.

The Poets and Philosophers among the Greeks, applied themselves to godly things, although it was by differing means. The poets being called Theologians par excellence, because they made the origin of all things to depend on the divine will, and they accommodated themselves to the ideas and the weak ability of the people, and so they introduced the dogma of the plurality of Gods. The Philosophers enclosing themselves in the study of natural causes, received the appellation of Physicists, and they inclined mostly towards Atheism; for example Thales of Miletus, Anaximander, and Anaximenes who were of the Ionic sect, and they are strongly gripped by Atheism, of which some authors try to excuse them.

XI.

Socrates had been instructed and educated in the Ionic school, but discontented by the doctrine that he had learned there, he cast Philosophy in a completely different mould, and a better one than what its predecessor had been; without detaining itself with vain speculations, he taught men to control their morals and life according to the precepts of right reason, and to apply themselves to the study of morality, which is the true Wisdom. Thus he cannot help but to draw the hatred of the wicked, in freely returning to their vices. They therefore sought a pretext to declare him guilty, and they found none so plausible as to accuse him of Atheism, under the pretext that he did not approve of the people's Superstition. It is nevertheless constant that he was far from guilty of these two vices.

XII.

Before mentioning the Philosophers who came out of Socrates' school, and went on to form new sects, we will say a word on Critias, the disciple unworthy of Socrates, who was the scourge of his fatherland, and the cruelest of the Tyrants who oppressed Athens after the city was subdued by Leander the Leader of the Spartans, he made open profession of Atheism, which shows so much the bad character of this pretended Philosopher.

XIII.

The Savants are much spoken of in Plato's works, who had the first place among Socrates' disciples. Some of them returned to Fanaticism, Enthusiasm and Superstition; others to Atheism and particularly to Spinozism (1); others we are assured on the contrary that they are completely compatible with the Christian Religion (2). What is certain is that they had been far from Atheism, however much their dogmas were not free of all reproach (3).

XIV.

Plato's disciples did not all agree on the certainty of the knowledge of things, when they separated into many Sects. Xenocrates, Polemon, and the others who cast the foundations of the first Academy, frequently disputed on a Matter for and against, they nevertheless admitted a certainty (1); but Arcesilas who founded the second Academy, carried doubt so far that he taught that we can know nothing, nor understand anything (2). Carneades of Cyrene, founder of the third Academy, fell out of agreement that he had of the certainty and truth of things, but he did not deny that we have the faculty of knowing them, nor denying nevertheless that there were many probable things. Which leads back to the first opinion. (I. It is evident that the dogmas of the second and third academies lead a person straight to Atheism (2). Thus it is not surprising that Carneades in particular has been accused thereof, and his disciple Clitomachus. The same judgment should be brought against Pyrrho and his followers known by the name of Sceptics.

XV.

According to the feelings of many, Aristotle (2) is added to the catalogue of the atheists, because of his system of the eternity of the world, and of the necessary link between God and matter (1). Some don't refrain from finding a great difference between his system and that of Spinoza, because he establishes two substances, which being united by a close and necessary link, are nevertheless of a completely opposite nature, but others do not believe this proof sufficient to excuse him of Spinozism (1). Whatever he may be, it is at least certain that those who have claimed to reconcile Aristotle with Holy Scripture, have fooled themselves (1).

XVI.

Strato of Lampsacus, disciple of Theophrastus, instructed in the peripatetic school, had a great reputation among those of the sect. He had the name of 'Physicist par excellence (2), is accused not only of Atheism, it is claimed of his system, agrees strongly with that of Spinoza, but from which it sometimes departs (1).

XVII.

Aristippus, author of the sect of the Cyrenaics, and Euclid of Megara, from whom the Megarians took their name, were both disciples of Socrates. And as teh Cyrenaics made the Sovereign Good to consist in body pleasure (2), it is not surprising that many among them fell into Atheism, such as Theodorus called the Atheist, and his disciple Bion of Borysthenes. Those of Megare having taken in none of the doctrine of Socrates but only his subtle manner of disputation, occupied only with sophisms and logical subtleties, were easily led into Atheism; it is at least certain that Stilpo who had studied at their school, did profess Atheism.


XVIII.

We must add to Aristippus and the others of which we speak, Antisthenes, another of Socrates' disciples. He is the source, first of the Cynics, and also of the Stoics. Diogenes of Synope, who had renounced all modesty and honesty, made the Cynics infamous, gave reason to believe that they came to the pinnacle of Atheism and impiety. As far as the Stoics however much they tried to display via their great noisy phrases about Religion, virtue, etc. Their philosophical system is on close examination, not at all far from Spinozism. We cannot nevertheless, without doing them an injustice, disagree that there were among them some men who made a good showing of virtue and honesty.

XIX.

Atheism appears to have been the favoured dogma of the sect of the Eleatic philosophers, from whom Spinoza has taken his doctrine. Xenophanes of Colophon had for a principle, One and all. Parmenides, Melissus, and Zeno the Eleatic wished to deny the movement and consequently all the generations and corruptions, have sustained that there was but a single substance in the universe. Leucippus and Democritus in sustaining that the world had been produced by the lucky concourse of atoms, made no mention of the Divinity that governed and preserved the world. It is true that Epicurus have God a place in his World System, but this was only to avoid public opprobrium, and not to expose them to the anger of the populace; thus he imagined a lazy Divinity, who was occupied with nothing that had to do with human affairs. We shall say nothing of Diagoras, Protagoras, nor of his disciple Prodicoceus, nor of Alexander the Epicurean, all of whom have justly been accused of atheism.

XX.

Before we leave the ancient who lived before Jesus Christ, we will say yet a word on Heraclitus, on Hippocrates, who have been made out to be suspect of Atheism, and that with some appearance of likelihood. Nevertheless there are arguments available to defend their innocence. It is likewise with Euhemerus who was not condemned of Atheism, but of having rejected the Greek superstitions.

XXI.

Let us now speak of the Greek philosophers who lived after Jesus Christ. Their doctrines can be judged by the Sect to which they attached themselves. Some among them were Libertines, and followed no sect, like Plutarch and Lucian. These two have been numbered among the Atheists, and this on no grounds whatever.

XXII.

The numbers of the philosophers has not been as great at Rome as at Athens, but we nevertheless find some who had dangerous ideas about God, and who doubted of Providence and religion. Passing over those who followed no sect at all, we will mention only the three most excellent philosophers of the Republic, who are undoubtedly Cicero, Livius, and Pliny, whom some accuse, and others defend of Atheism.

XXIII.

The order of the time brings us straight to Christianity. The Pagans reproached the first Christians of impiety and of Atheism, but this was a wicked calumny. In the continuation of times, when the Christian Church was governed by the Popes, the Scholastic Theology had ascendancy, many Scholastics fell into the party of Atheism, and cleared the path for Spinozism. Almaric and David of Dinant have been the precursors of Spinoza.

XXIV.

Since the study of the Fine Arts that had been until then neglected began again to flourish, and that the Philosophy of Aristotle came back into fashion, the liberty of thought which some abused, degenerated into a frenzied licence, and produced a great number of impious people, of which some openly professed Atheism or at least yielded to dangerous dogmas that lead to it. Others brought forth books full of obscenities and debauchery, and revealed by their life and conduct that they had no religion at all. We place in the first class Pierre Aretin, Francois Poggio Florentin, Jordan Bruno, Pierre Pomponace, Jules Cesar Vanini, Jerome Cardan, Thomas Campanella, Nicolas Machiavelli, & the famous commentators on Aristotle, Andre Cesalpin, Claude Berigard, Cesar de Cremone. To say nothing of Cosmus Ruggerius originating in Italy who passed his life in France, and who died making profession of Atheism. We place in the second class Paul Jove, Ange Politien, Hermolaus Barbarus, Jean della Caza, Antoine Muret etc.

XXV.

Italy alone has not been the lone fatherland of Atheism, France has also produced such monsters, as history teaches us. We will only mention here those who are most famous, such as Francois Rabelais, such a celebrity among the Libertines, by his wicked pleasantries and his impious mockeries. We do him the honour of only placing him among the Atheists-in-practice. The Learned are well attached to Michel Montaigne. It would be to do an injustice to Rene Descartes to suspect him of Atheism, however much the Atheists can abuse themselves with his Hypotheses. Pierre Bayle thus sometimes furnishes the Atheists with arms that he treats too softly when attacking them, such that it appears to some, not to seriously defend himself against it, or from the bottom of his heart.

XXVI.

Benedict Spinoza has claimed to be a disciple of Descartes, but his position is far removed from the path that his master cleared, by making open profession of Atheism. It is esteemed with reason as the Head and Master of the Atheists of our age, having in no way recognised another God beside nature, which is the same as to have denied the existence of God. Many learned pens have sagely refuted him, and some others have been suspected of having approved of errors.

XXVII.

The learned writings that have attacked Atheism in England in our times, leave no doubt that it has not made great progress there. Edward Herbert of Cherbury, who is normally classed among the Atheists, should rather be placed among the Naturalists. Thomas Browne seems to me to be rather Indifferentist than Atheist, as is Thomas Hobbes, whom some prefer nevertheless to excuse. Tolland has surpassed the impieties of the Atheists of preceding centuries, not having even wished to take pains of dissimulating his Atheism. Finally the sad experience has taught us that in Germany itself, and in other Christian countries, similarly there are to be found Atheists who have not been able to keep their Atheism hidden in their hearts.

XXVIII.

We believe we have sufficiently demonstrated that there are indeed atheists, and also that some innocents have been falsely accused or suspected of atheism (1), of which even very good theologians are guilty of, such as Martin Luther (2), Philippe Melanchthon (1), Desiderius Erasmus (2), John Calvin (3), and many others (4).


Chapter 2: We explain what atheism is, the different species thereof, and what are its foundations.

I.
Atheism is a malicious and perverse disposition of spirit (1), by which, without paying heed to conscience, one stifles inspirations and remorse, and sets out to persuade oneself that there is no God (2), or or one approves and obstinately defends certain opinions, from which naturally follow a natural and necessary consequence that cannot be ignored, that there is no God (3).

II.
If by Naturalism, Pantheism is meant, it does not differ at bottom from Atheism, and it is a species thereof (1). For if by Naturalism, the sentiment of those who claim that the lights of reason, without the comfort of revelation suffice all alone to be saved, I agree that it differs (properly speaking) from atheism, but nevertheless it can easily degenerate and lead, to it (2).

III.
This universal indifference towards all religions, that a person should adopt none of them, and sees them all equally, as things indifferent, is not far from atheism; since it is impossible to believe in a God, and to reject all the worship given to Him: for if natural religion is allowed, this is to make profession of the naturalism of which we have already spoken. As for those who establish a particular Indifferentism, they truly and grossly are fooling themselves, but we cannot condemn of Atheism.

IV.

We must say the same of Scepticism, for if it is Universal and without exception, it would both call into doubt the existence of God, since to deny, or to doubt the existence of God, are one and the same thing; all the difference, is between denying, shows a greater malice; and doubting, shows a greater madness. We would bring another judgment against the limited and particular Scepticism, however it is not innocent of crime.

V.

In spite of the difference which seems to appear to find itself first of all to be Enthusiasm and Atheism, it is nevertheless impossible that Fanaticism does not change into Atheism, then by a sacrilegious apotheosis, it transforms things into Gods. For whether you transform creatures into God, or transform God into a Creature, as does Spinoza, it all comes to the same end.

VI.

Atheism properly termed, is either theoretical or practical. He is normally called a Practical Atheist, whose morals are so corrupt, that he gives space for belief that he does not believe in a God who will punish his crimes. That he affirms and sustains this impiety by his discourses or in his writings, observing nevertheless in his conduct an exterior show of honesty and virtue, we will call him a Theoretical Atheist.

VII.

Theoretical Atheism is either ignorant and vulgar, or very philosophical. The former is for those who are guided purely by the stirrings of a blind passion, and are persuaded, or at least claim to be persuaded that there is no God, without taking the trouble to make sense of the phenomena of nature, which otherwise announce the existence of their Creator to us.

VIII.

Philosophical atheism is either Sceptical or Dogmatic. The Pyrrhonist is he who posits the principle that we can have no certain knowledge of anything, consequently calls into doubt the existence of God. The dogmatic is sustained by those who when denying the Divine, make themselves a Philosophical System by which, without recognising, nor making any mention of being able to make sense of the Phenomena of nature.

IX.

Dogmatic Atheism differs according to the philosophical systems--of Aristotle, of the Stoics, of Epicurus, and of Spinoza. For all the Systems of the Atheists can be reduced to one of these four species, the others not being worth any consideration.

X.

The foundation of Sceptical Atheism is, that a person has no certain knowledge, and that therefore one should suspend judgment on all things (1). That of the dogmatic in general is, that matter has always existed, and that necessary existence is of its essence (2). The foundation of atheism of Aristotle is, that the world such as it is, has always existed (1). That of the Stoic, that God is connected by a close link with Matter (2). The foundation of the atheism of Epicurus and of Strato is that the world was formed by the accidental conjunction of atoms (3). That of Spinoza that there is but one substance alone (4).


Chapter 3: The dogmas that link to atheism, or that lead to it.

I.

Among the dogmas that have a very close link with atheism, that which denies Providence is without contradiction among their principal. For an atheist recognises no Providence; thus this is to be of the same opinion as an atheist, for denying it is to overturn the foundation of worship and religion (1).

II.

The second error that has a strong link with Atheism, is of those who are persuaded that the Soul is mortal, and that it should perish with the bod. It is not hard to believe that he who would deny the existence of God, also denies the immortality of the Soul. We can nevertheless conceive that he who denies the immortality of the Soul, can at the same time confess belief in the existence of a God, however he should confess that the false Opinion of the mortality of the Soul ruins the source at the bottom of Religion, and that thus it is the nearest degree which leads to Atheism.

III.

The third dogma which follows atheism is to deny the existence of spirits, or good and bad angels. It is certain that the majority of atheists don't believe in any substance aside from the body, and consequently reject all spirits. Thus, however those who deny the existence of Spirits, are not therefore necessarily atheists, they teach nevertheless a Dogma that leads to atheism. I know there are certain authors who believe that an Atheist can believe in Spirits distinguished from the Soul and Man; but all, well considered, they depart from the notions that are both commonly received and authorised by usage, and they impose them on the ignorant. From which we can judge in what sense they can allow for spectres, Magicians, and Soceries.

IV.

The prophecies which are the predictions of future events, and purely fortuitous, furnish a very solid argument in demonstration of the existence of Divinity; thus those who call the prophecies in doubt, and who weaken them by attributing them to natural causes. Those, I say, should be suspected of atheism, since not only Atheists, but also those who deny Providence, thus deny the Prophecies.

V.

What we have said of the prophecies, can apply also to Miracles, that is to say that they invincibly demonstrate God's existence, thus the Atheists are far from allowing them. Which proves that the opinion of those who deny the miracles, have a link to Atheism, and lead directly thereto.

VI.

It is yet the custom of Atheists to call into doubt the truth of the Christian religion, or to openly attack it; and those who thus abuse it, are on the royal road to Atheism, however they may affect to take on the appellation of Naturalists.

VII.

Finally, the character of the Atheists, is to attack the truth and divine authority of the Scriptures, completely reassured that if they should succeed in destroying it, they should make Atheism to triumph. It is thus with good reason that we place among the dogmas that lead to atheism, those who cannot agree with the authority of Scripture, who disturb it and render it doubtful.

Chapter 4: The causes of atheism, its properties and effects.

I.

It is in the corruption of Man, that is to say, in unregulated inclinations, that lead him to commit evil, and in the estrangement he has from God as his Summum Bonum (effects from original sin) it is, I say, in this corruption, that we should seek the first Cause of Atheism. If ambition which is of another effect than this corruption comes to join thereto, it brings man to the precipice of impiety, which is atheism.

II.

Aside from this interior spiritual disposition, there are yet many other exterior causes contributing very much to make a man fall into impiety: these causes are bad education, conversation with the ungodly, the reading of atheistic books, badly regulated study; passing over the despising of divine truths, which are resisted and not consented to, and by a just judgment of God, a person is eventually abandoned to a reprobate sense.

III.

We yet find certain things that are not in truth direct or immediate causes of Atheism, and which often give it occasion. These are the pits into which those who have a disposition for Atheism normally fall. The life, for example, of the greater part of Christians, and particularly of the Ecclesiastics, does not often accord with their doctrine. The multitude of sects who divide Christianity. The disputes on religion which are full of bitterness, and so contrary to the rules of moderation. It would be true to ask that these occasions be minimised, as far as human weakness and imbecility allow.

IV.

The properties of Atheism, that is to say, the vices that accompany it, are of multiple sorts: the principal ones are madness and brutality, the despising and disdain for those who have reasonable sentiments, a nice display of honesty, under the mantle of which the Atheists force themselves to hide the most infamous vices, to impose them on the ignorant. These are the characters who can help us to recognise Atheists, even if they try to hide.

V.

Finally the effect produced by atheism, is a great misery, which atheists feel during this life (2). It is as hard to take this from them, as their vice (1). If this plague comes to spread across society, it can only lead to great evils, since it breaks the lynchpin of society and the republic, and ruins the foundation on which the welfare and tranquility of peoples is based (1); so that it is true to say that atheism is the most fatal evil that can infest the human species.

Chapter 5: We demonstrate the existence of God.

I.

To attack Atheism and demonstrate the truth of the principal truth by which we have undertaken this work, we remark first that the existence of God is engraved so profoundly in our souls, that whoever has recourse to common sense and reason, cannot help but give consent to this proposition: There is a God, when he hears it pronounced, and knows what the words mean. It is not then but an extreme malice that leads a person to resist it, and to contradict it. The first thing we demand then of the atheists, is that they pay attention to what is going on within themselves. We do not agree however with Descartes, that God's existence can be proved by an idea of Divinity that he calls Congenitam born inside us.

II.

The Arguments we deploy to prove God's existence are of many kinds. We can reduce them to three classes. The first are the Metaphysical Arguments, the second the Physical ones, and the third those given by History.

III.

The arguments taken as the first cause of motion, from the dependencies of things upon their beginnings, of the contingencies of existing things, & the others of this kind, are contained in the first class, since they clearly show the existence of a first Mover, of a first cause, and of a necessary Being, properties that do not suit anything but a God.

IV.

Now we cast before their eyes the Universe, consideration of which will furnish the first physical proof of the existence of God. Consider the vast extension, the proper arrangement of its constituent parts, the diverse bodies an their great number that are found, what is their usage and their goal, that they never fail to attain, and you will be obliged to recognise that they have been produced by a Worker who has impressed the character of his majesty upon it, and his power, and infinite wisdom. The celestial bodies, and in particular the sun and moon will convince us of the same thing, at least that we will not wish to close our eyes against the light, or our mind against reason.

V.

We descend from the Heavens to the Earth, we will find there no fewer proofs of the Divine Wisdom, it is so well furnished with all the things necessary for the supporting of Man and beast, that we can but imagine a more comfortable existence, to say nothing of the immense treasures that it encloses in its bosom, and that it distributes to mankind. The animals that it nourishes are innumerable; their members and parts of their bodies are formed according to the element and climate that suits them, and the demands of their kind.

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VI.

VII.

VIII.

IX.


Chapter 6: We overturn the foundations of atheism, and we respond to the atheists' principal arguments.

I.

II.

III.

IV.

V.

VI.

VII.

VIII. (on human origins)

IX.


Chapter 7: Refutation of the dogmas that lead to atheism. The link between these dogmas and atheism.

I.

It is not enough to know that a God created the Universe; we must also confess that this same God supports, preserves, and governs it in wisdom; such that nothing

II.



III.

There are other kinds of spirits than God, the soul and man, these are immaterial substances, endowed with understanding and will, which have the most power to move their bodies, and acting on them; their diverse operations don't leave any room for doubt. This would be thus a great temerity to deny the existence of such spirits, or of attributing their effects to other causes.

IV.

Certain facts that suffer no exception, do not permit us to doubt that there have not been prophets and prophecies, that is to say, accurate predictions of future events and contingents. Those who attribute these predictions to finite and created spirits, and who assert that there is in all men a natural faculty of foretelling the future, those I say, do well to see that they ignore the limits of the human mind. We should then attribute to God alone the prophecies, as being the unique and the true author thereof (1).

V.


VI.

VII.



Chapter 8: Of superstition and its types. The superstitions that directly regard religion.

I.

II.

III.

IV.

V.

VI.

VII.

VIII.


Chapter 9: The superstitions that indirectly regard divine worship.

I.



II.

To begin by the means of grace; as they are not established of God but for the execution of his designs, in accomplishing the salvation of men, is to fall into a vulgar superstition which to abuse oneself of it, and to serve oneself of other illicit uses, is thus to have a corrupt heart and deprive oneself of the fruits of the means of grace, than to use it in this way (1).

III.

Evil angels still serve as nutriment and pretext for superstition of men, and although these creatures seek but evil and the ruin of mankind, they can do nothing without the permission of God. The blindness and stupidity of men is such that they have recourse to them, to be able to obtain the things that surpass the power of men, and to learn secret things, to the loathing of the Divinity. This is the origin of Magic and other magical arts, which cannot take the place of the true worship of God (1).

IV.

V.



VI.

Even more superstitions are committed by those who look at the times (1), places (1), and proper names, that are given to men (2). And although it is evident that these things have no virtue, nor any efficacity to produce their claimed effects; it is nothing out of the ordinary to persuade oneself that they are the causes; the ignorance thus makes them believe them fatal. Those who thus use it, aside from their superstitious credulity, are injurious to providence.

VII.

The reckless desire to know the time of the future, makes men fall into superstition; from which come the different sorts of Divinations, well suited to abuse the gullible. This divinatory superstition is of a great extension; for aside from what we have said of things, that are believed to have relations one to another, as the cause has its effect, or to which an extraordinary virtue is attributed to produce or predict a thing; there are still other things, that are neither the cause of an effect, and that have not any supernatural virtue, as spirits have, who nevertheless are persuaded that they can predict the future; and as those who are of this sentiment attribute to a creature, that which is due only to God alone; and they have no trust in God, it is doubtless that they sin gravely.


Chapter 10: The causes, effects, properties, and remedies for superstition.

I.

Aside from the natural corruption (1) of man, which carries him to recklessness (2); imagination that resists the empire of reason (1) with excessive credulity (1), are the particular causes of superstition. Reunions, assembly of ideas (1). The apparent but false link, between certain causes, and certain effects (2), as well as the misunderstood (1) opinion of the ancients, support superstition.

II.

The effects of superstition can be considered, as much by relation with he who is attacked by this malady, that by relation to those with whom he has commerce, had regard of the first, superstition refills the mind with darkness (1), and entertain the recklessness of passions (2). And as superstitious people never enjoy rest nor mental tranquility, he is the least happy among men (1). Such a man is not less unwelcome to others, bringing an extreme hatred for those who don't share his ideas, which often causes irreparable harm to Church and State (2).

III.

The properties that accompany superstition, is to make men unreasonable (1) and obstinate; and as they rarely come back to their senses, is it quite hard to correct them of these two vices. Superstition is moreover a nearly universal default, there being almost no nation nor people who are exempt from it.

IV.


The best means of healing superstition (1), is to heal the mind of false opinions, and above all of a stupid credulity (2). If we suppress the imagination (3), and if we prity the will of reckless passions, and particularly greed (1). The reading of the word of God joined to prayer, is truly the surest remedy (2); it is not necessary to despise the moderate study of good philosophy (1).

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