תמונות בעמוד

From these many notorious instances of the priests" conduct, I conclude they are not to be relied on in any one thing relating to religion ; but that every man must think freely for himself.

Bur to this it may be objected, that the bulk of mankind is as well qualified for Aying as thinking ; and if every man thought it his duty to think freely, and trouble his neighbour with his thoughts (which is an essential part of freethinking) it would make wild work in the world. I answer; whoever cannot think freely, may let it alone if he pleases, by virtue of his right to think freely; that is to say, if such a man freely thinks that he cannot think freely, of which every man is a sufficient judge, why then he need not think freely, unless he thinks fit.

Besides, if the bulk of mankind cannot think freely in matters of speculation, as the being of a God, the immortality of the soul, &c. why then, freethinking is indeed no duty : but then the priests must allow, that men are not concerned to believe whether there is a God or not. But still those who are disposed to think freely, may think freely if they please.

It is again objected, that freethinking will produce endless divisions in opinion, and by consequence disorder society. To which I answer,

When every single man comes to have a different opinion every day from the whole world, and from himself, by virtue of freethinking, and thinks it his duty to convert every man to his own freethinking, as all we freethinkers do; how can that possibly create so great a diversity of opinions, as to have a set of priests agree among themselves to teach the same opinions in their several parishes to all who will come to hear them ? Besides, if all people were of the same


opinion, the remedy would be worse than the disease; I will tell you the reason some other time.

Besides, difference in opinion, especially in matters of great moment, breeds no confusion at all. Wita ness papist and protestant, roundhead and cavalier, and whig and tory, now among us. I observe, the Turkish empire is more at peace within itself, than Christian princes are with one another. Those noble Turkish virtues of charity and toleration are what contribute chiefly to the Aourishing state of that happy monarchy. There Christians and Jews are tolerated, and live at ease, if they can hold their tongues and think freely, provided they never set foot within the mosques, nor write against Mahomet. A few plunderings now and then by the janissaries are all they have to fear.

It is objected, that by freethinking, men will think themselves into atheism ; and indeed I have allowed all along, that atheistical books convert men to freethinking, But suppose that to be true; I can bring you two divines, who affirm superstition and enthusiasm to be worse than atheism, and more mise chievous to society : and in short it is necessary that the bulk of the people should be atheists or superstitious.

It is objected, that priests ought to be relied on by the people, as lawyers and physicians, because it is their faculty. I answer, It is true, a man who is no lawyer, is not suffered to plead for himself. But every man may be his own quack if he pleases, and he only ventures his life ; but in the other case, the priest tells him he must be damned: therefore do not trust the priest, but think freely for yourself; and if you happen to think there is no Hell, there certainly is none, and consequently you cannot be damned. I answer farther, that wherever there is no lawyer, physicians or priest, that country is paradise. Besides, all priests (except the orthodox, and those are not ours, nor any that I know) are hired by the publick to lead men into mischief: but lawyers and physicians are not ; you hire them yourself


. It is objected (by priests, no doubt, but I have forgot their names) that false speculations are necessary to be imposed upon men, in order to assist the magistrate in keeping the peace; and that men ought therefore to be deceived, like children, for their own good. I answer, That zeal for imposing speculations, whether true or false (under which name of speculations I include all opinions of religion, as the belief of a God, providence, immortality of the soul, future rewards and punishments, &c.) has done more hurt, than it is possible for religion to do good. It puts us to the charge of maintaining ten thousand priests in England, which is a burden upon society never felt on any other occasion : and a greater evil to the publick, than if these ecclesiasticks were only employed in the most innocent offices of life, which I take to be eating and drinking. Now if you offer to impose any thing on mankind beside what relates to moral duties, as to pay your debts, not pick pockets, nor commit murder, and the like; that is to say, if, beside this, you oblige them to believe in God and Jesus Christ, what you add to their faith, will take just so much off from their morality. By this argument, it is manifest that a perfect moral man must be a perfect atheist; every inch of religion he gets, loses him an inch of morality: for there is a certain quantum belongs to every man, of which there is nothing to spare. This is clear


from the common practice of all our priests: they never once preach to you, to love your neighbour, to be just in your dealings, or to be sober and temperate. The streets of London are full of common whores, publickly tolerated in their wickedness; yet the priests make no complaints against this enormity, either from the pulpit or the press : I can affirm, that neither you nor I, sir, have ever heard one sermon against whoring since we were boys. No, the priests allow all these vices, and love us the better for them, provided we will promise 'not “to harangue upon a “ text,” nor to sprinkle a little water in a child's face, which they call baptizing, and would engross it all to themselves.

Besides, the priests engage all the rogues, villains, and fools, in their party, in order to make it as large as they can : by this means they seduced Constantine the Great over to their religion, who was the first Christian emperor, and so horrible a villain, that the heathen priests told him they could not expiate his crimes in their church; so he was at a loss to know what to do, till an Ægyptian bishop assured him that there was no villany so great, but was to be expiated by the sacraments of the Christian religion : upon which he became a Christian, and to him that religion owes its first settlement. '

It is objected, that 'freethinkers themselves are the most infamous, wicked, and senseless, of all mankind.

I answer, first, we say the same of priests and other believers. But the truth is, men of all sects are equally good and bad; for no religion whatsoever contributes in the least to mend men's lives. I answer, secondly, that freethinke s use their understanding; but those who have religion, do not: therefore the first have more understanding than the others; witness Toland, Tindal, Gildon, Clendon, Coward, and myself. For, use legs, and have legs.


I answer, thirdly, that freethinkers are the most virtuous persons in the world; for all freethinkers must certainly differ from the priests, and from nine hundred ninety-nine of a thousand of those among whom they live ; and are therefore virtuous of course, because every body hates them,

I answer, fourthly, that the most virtuous people in all ages have been freethinkers; of which I shall produce several instances.

Socrates was a freethinker; for he disbelieved the gods of his country, and the common creeds about them, and declared his dislike when he heard men attribute “ repentance, anger, and other passions “ to the gods, and talk of wars and battles in Heaven, “ and of the gods getting women with child," and such like fabulous and blasphemous stories. I pick out these particulars, because they are the very same with what the priests have in their Bibles, where repentance and anger are attributed to God; where it is said, there was “ war in Heaven;" and that " the

Virgin Mary was with child by the Holy Ghost," whom the priests call God; all fabulous and blasphemous stories. Now I affirm Socrates to have been a true Christian. You will ask perhaps how that can be, since he lived three or four hundred years before Christ? I answer, with Justin Martyr, that Christ is nothing else but reason; and I hope you

do not think Socrates lived before reason. Now, this true Christian Socrates never made notions, speçulations, or mysteries, any part of his religion ; but


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