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But it is necessary to the happiness of man, that he be mentally
faithful to himself. Infidelity does not consist in believing, or in
disbelieving; it consists in professing to believe what he does not
believe.

It is impossible to calculate the moral mischief, if I may so express
it, that mental lying has produced in society. When a man has so far
corrupted and prostituted the chastity of his mind, as to subscribe
his professional belief to things he does not believe, he has prepared
himself for the commission of every other crime. He takes up the trade
of a priest for the sake of gain, and, in order to qualify himself for
that trade, he begins with a perjury. Can we conceive anything more
destructive to morality than this?

Soon after I had published the pamphlet COMMON SENSE, in America, I saw
the exceeding probability that a revolution in the system of government
would be followed by a revolution in the system of religion. The
adulterous connection of church and state, wherever it had taken place,
whether Jewish, Christian, or Turkish, had so effectually prohibited, by
pains and penalties, every discussion upon established creeds, and upon
first principles of religion, that until the system of government should
be changed, those subjects could not be brought fairly and openly before
the world; but that whenever this should be done, a revolution in the
system of religion would follow. Human inventions and priest-craft
would be detected; and man would return to the pure, unmixed, and
unadulterated belief of one God, and no more.

CHAPTER II - OF MISSIONS AND REVELATIONS.

EVERY national church or religion has established itself by pretending
some special mission from God, communicated to certain individuals. The
Jews have their Moses; the Christians their Jesus Christ, their apostles
and saints; and the Turks their Mahomet; as if the way to God was not
open to every man alike.

Each of those churches shows certain books, which they call revelation,
or the Word of God. The Jews say that their Word of God was given by God
to Moses face to face; the Christians say, that their Word of God came
by divine inspiration; and the Turks say, that their Word of God (the
Koran) was brought by an angel from heaven. Each of those churches
accuses the other of unbelief; and, for my own part, I disbelieve them
all.

As it is necessary to affix right ideas to words, I will, before I
proceed further into the subject, offer some observations on the word
'revelation.' Revelation when applied to religion, means something
communicated immediately from God to man.

No one will deny or dispute the power of the Almighty to make such a
communication if he pleases. But admitting, for the sake of a case, that
something has been revealed to a certain person, and not revealed to any
other person, it is revelation to that person only. When he tells it to
a second person, a second to a third, a third to a fourth, and so on, it
ceases to be a revelation to all those persons. It is revelation to the
first person only, and hearsay to every other, and, consequently, they
are not obliged to believe it.

It is a contradiction in terms and ideas to call anything a revelation
that comes to us at second hand, either verbally or in writing.
Revelation is necessarily limited to the first communication. After
this, it is only an account of something which that person says was
a revelation made to him; and though he may find himself obliged to
believe it, it cannot be incumbent on me to believe it in the same
manner, for it was not a revelation made to me, and I have only his word
for it that it was made to him.

When Moses told the children of Israel that he received the two tables
of the commandments from the hand of God, they were not obliged to
believe him, because they had no other authority for it than his telling
them so; and I have no other authority for it than some historian
telling me so, the commandments carrying no internal evidence of
divinity with them. They contain some good moral precepts such as any
man qualified to be a lawgiver or a legislator could produce himself,
without having recourse to supernatural intervention. [NOTE: It is,
however, necessary to except the declamation which says that God 'visits
the sins of the fathers upon the children'. This is contrary to every
principle of moral justice.--Author.]

When I am told that the Koran was written in Heaven, and brought to
Mahomet by an angel, the account comes to near the same kind of hearsay
evidence and second hand authority as the former. I did not see the
angel myself, and therefore I have a right not to believe it.

When also I am told that a woman, called the Virgin Mary, said, or gave
out, that she was with child without any cohabitation with a man, and
that her betrothed husband, Joseph, said that an angel told him so, I
have a right to believe them or not: such a circumstance required a
much stronger evidence than their bare word for it: but we have not even
this; for neither Joseph nor Mary wrote any such matter themselves.
It is only reported by others that they said so. It is hearsay upon
hearsay, and I do not chose to rest my belief upon such evidence.

It is, however, not difficult to account for the credit that was given
to the story of Jesus Christ being the Son of God. He was born when the
heathen mythology had still some fashion and repute in the world, and
that mythology had prepared the people for the belief of such a story.
Almost all the extraordinary men that lived under the heathen mythology
were reputed to be the sons of some of their gods. It was not a new
thing at that time to believe a man to have been celestially begotten;
the intercourse of gods with women was then a matter of familiar
opinion. Their Jupiter, according to their accounts, had cohabited with
hundreds; the story therefore had nothing in it either new, wonderful,
or obscene; it was conformable to the opinions that then prevailed among
the people called Gentiles, or mythologists, and it was those people
only that believed it. The Jews, who had kept strictly to the belief of
one God, and no more, and who had always rejected the heathen mythology,
never credited the story.

It is curious to observe how the theory of what is called the Christian
Church, sprung out of the tail of the heathen mythology. A direct
incorporation took place in the first instance, by making the reputed
founder to be celestially begotten. The trinity of gods that then
followed was no other than a reduction of the former plurality, which
was about twenty or thirty thousand. The statue of Mary succeeded the
statue of Diana of Ephesus. The deification of heroes changed into the
canonization of saints. The Mythologists had gods for everything; the
Christian Mythologists had saints for everything. The church became as
crowded with the one, as the pantheon had been with the other; and Rome
was the place of both. The Christian theory is little else than the
idolatry of the ancient mythologists, accommodated to the purposes
of power and revenue; and it yet remains to reason and philosophy to
abolish the amphibious fraud.



CHAPTER III - CONCERNING THE CHARACTER OF JESUS CHRIST, AND HIS HISTORY.

NOTHING that is here said can apply, even with the most distant
disrespect, to the real character of Jesus Christ. He was a virtuous and
an amiable man. The morality that he preached and practiced was of the
most benevolent kind; and though similar systems of morality had been
preached by Confucius, and by some of the Greek philosophers, many years
before, by the Quakers since, and by many good men in all ages, it has
not been exceeded by any.

Jesus Christ wrote no account of himself, of his birth, parentage, or
anything else. Not a line of what is called the New Testament is of his
writing. The history of him is altogether the work of other people; and
as to the account given of his resurrection and ascension, it was the
necessary counterpart to the story of his birth. His historians, having
brought him into the world in a supernatural manner, were obliged to
take him out again in the same manner, or the first part of the story
must have fallen to the ground.

The wretched contrivance with which this latter part is told, exceeds
everything that went before it. The first part, that of the miraculous
conception, was not a thing that admitted of publicity; and therefore
the tellers of this part of the story had this advantage, that though
they might not be credited, they could not be detected. They could not
be expected to prove it, because it was not one of those things that
admitted of proof, and it was impossible that the person of whom it was
told could prove it himself.

But the resurrection of a dead person from the grave, and his ascension
through the air, is a thing very different, as to the evidence it admits
of, to the invisible conception of a child in the womb. The resurrection
and ascension, supposing them to have taken place, admitted of public
and ocular demonstration, like that of the ascension of a balloon, or
the sun at noon day, to all Jerusalem at least. A thing which everybody
is required to believe, requires that the proof and evidence of it
should be equal to all, and universal; and as the public visibility of
this last related act was the only evidence that could give sanction
to the former part, the whole of it falls to the ground, because that
evidence never was given. Instead of this, a small number of persons,
not more than eight or nine, are introduced as proxies for the whole
world, to say they saw it, and all the rest of the world are called
upon to believe it. But it appears that Thomas did not believe the
resurrection; and, as they say, would not believe without having ocular
and manual demonstration himself. So neither will I; and the reason is
equally as good for me, and for every other person, as for Thomas.

It is in vain to attempt to palliate or disguise this matter. The story,
so far as relates to the supernatural part, has every mark of fraud and
imposition stamped upon the face of it.



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