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It afterwards goes to school, where its genius is
killed by the barren study of a dead language, and the philosopher is
lost in the linguist.

But the apology that is now made for continuing to teach the dead
languages, could not be the cause at first of cutting down learning to
the narrow and humble sphere of linguistry; the cause therefore must be
sought for elsewhere. In all researches of this kind, the best evidence
that can be produced, is the internal evidence the thing carries with
itself, and the evidence of circumstances that unites with it; both of
which, in this case, are not difficult to be discovered.

Putting then aside, as matter of distinct consideration, the outrage
offered to the moral justice of God, by supposing him to make the
innocent suffer for the guilty, and also the loose morality and low
contrivance of supposing him to change himself into the shape of a man,
in order to make an excuse to himself for not executing his supposed
sentence upon Adam; putting, I say, those things aside as matter of
distinct consideration, it is certain that what is called the
christian system of faith, including in it the whimsical account of
the creation--the strange story of Eve, the snake, and the apple--the
amphibious idea of a man-god--the corporeal idea of the death of a
god--the mythological idea of a family of gods, and the christian
system of arithmetic, that three are one, and one is three, are all
irreconcilable, not only to the divine gift of reason, that God has
given to man, but to the knowledge that man gains of the power and
wisdom of God by the aid of the sciences, and by studying the structure
of the universe that God has made.

The setters up, therefore, and the advocates of the Christian system of
faith, could not but foresee that the continually progressive knowledge
that man would gain by the aid of science, of the power and wisdom of
God, manifested in the structure of the universe, and in all the works
of creation, would militate against, and call into question, the truth
of their system of faith; and therefore it became necessary to their
purpose to cut learning down to a size less dangerous to their project,
and this they effected by restricting the idea of learning to the dead
study of dead languages.

They not only rejected the study of science out of the christian
schools, but they persecuted it; and it is only within about the last
two centuries that the study has been revived. So late as 1610, Galileo,
a Florentine, discovered and introduced the use of telescopes, and by
applying them to observe the motions and appearances of the heavenly
bodies, afforded additional means for ascertaining the true structure
of the universe. Instead of being esteemed for these discoveries, he was
sentenced to renounce them, or the opinions resulting from them, as a
damnable heresy. And prior to that time Virgilius was condemned to be
burned for asserting the antipodes, or in other words, that the earth
was a globe, and habitable in every part where there was land; yet the
truth of this is now too well known even to be told. [NOTE: I cannot
discover the source of this statement concerning the ancient author
whose Irish name Feirghill was Latinized into Virgilius. The British
Museum possesses a copy of the work (Decalogiunt) which was the pretext
of the charge of heresy made by Boniface, Archbishop of Mayence, against
Virgilius, Abbot--bishop of Salzburg, These were leaders of the
rival "British" and "Roman parties, and the British champion made a
countercharge against Boniface of irreligious practices." Boniface had
to express a "regret," but none the less pursued his rival. The Pope,
Zachary II., decided that if his alleged "doctrine, against God and his
soul, that beneath the earth there is another world, other men, or
sun and moon," should be acknowledged by Virgilius, he should be
excommunicated by a Council and condemned with canonical sanctions.
Whatever may have been the fate involved by condemnation with "canonicis
sanctionibus," in the middle of the eighth century, it did not fall on
Virgilius. His accuser, Boniface, was martyred, 755, and it is probable
that Virgilius harmonied his Antipodes with orthodoxy. The gravamen of
the heresy seems to have been the suggestion that there were men not of
the progeny of Adam. Virgilius was made Bishop of Salzburg in 768. He
bore until his death, 789, the curious title, "Geometer and Solitary,"
or "lone wayfarer" (Solivagus). A suspicion of heresy clung to his
memory until 1233, when he was raised by Gregory IX, to sainthood beside
his accuser, St. Boniface.--Editor. (Conway)]

If the belief of errors not morally bad did no mischief, it would make
no part of the moral duty of man to oppose and remove them. There was no
moral ill in believing the earth was flat like a trencher, any more than
there was moral virtue in believing it was round like a globe; neither
was there any moral ill in believing that the Creator made no other
world than this, any more than there was moral virtue in believing that
he made millions, and that the infinity of space is filled with worlds.
But when a system of religion is made to grow out of a supposed system
of creation that is not true, and to unite itself therewith in a manner
almost inseparable therefrom, the case assumes an entirely different
ground. It is then that errors, not morally bad, become fraught with
the same mischiefs as if they were. It is then that the truth, though
otherwise indifferent itself, becomes an essential, by becoming the
criterion that either confirms by corresponding evidence, or denies by
contradictory evidence, the reality of the religion itself. In this
view of the case it is the moral duty of man to obtain every possible
evidence that the structure of the heavens, or any other part of
creation affords, with respect to systems of religion. But this, the
supporters or partizans of the christian system, as if dreading the
result, incessantly opposed, and not only rejected the sciences, but
persecuted the professors. Had Newton or Descartes lived three or four
hundred years ago, and pursued their studies as they did, it is most
probable they would not have lived to finish them; and had Franklin
drawn lightning from the clouds at the same time, it would have been at
the hazard of expiring for it in flames.

Later times have laid all the blame upon the Goths and Vandals, but,
however unwilling the partizans of the Christian system may be to
believe or to acknowledge it, it is nevertheless true, that the age of
ignorance commenced with the Christian system. There was more knowledge
in the world before that period, than for many centuries afterwards; and
as to religious knowledge, the Christian system, as already said,
was only another species of mythology; and the mythology to which it
succeeded, was a corruption of an ancient system of theism. [NOTE by
Paine: It is impossible for us now to know at what time the heathen
mythology began; but it is certain, from the internal evidence that it
carries, that it did not begin in the same state or condition in which
it ended. All the gods of that mythology, except Saturn, were of modern
invention. The supposed reign of Saturn was prior to that which is
called the heathen mythology, and was so far a species of theism that
it admitted the belief of only one God. Saturn is supposed to have
abdicated the govemment in favour of his three sons and one daughter,
Jupiter, Pluto, Neptune, and Juno; after this, thousands of other
gods and demigods were imaginarily created, and the calendar of gods
increased as fast as the calendar of saints and the calendar of courts
have increased since.

All the corruptions that have taken place, in theology and in religion
have been produced by admitting of what man calls 'revealed religion.'
The mythologists pretended to more revealed religion than the christians
do. They had their oracles and their priests, who were supposed to
receive and deliver the word of God verbally on almost all occasions.

Since then all corruptions down from Moloch to modern predestinarianism,
and the human sacrifices of the heathens to the christian sacrifice of
the Creator, have been produced by admitting of what is called revealed
religion, the most effectual means to prevent all such evils and
impositions is, not to admit of any other revelation than that which is
manifested in the book of Creation., and to contemplate the Creation as
the only true and real word of God that ever did or ever will exist;
and every thing else called the word of God is fable and
imposition.--Author.]

It is owing to this long interregnum of science, and to no other cause,
that we have now to look back through a vast chasm of many hundred years
to the respectable characters we call the Ancients. Had the progression
of knowledge gone on proportionably with the stock that before existed,
that chasm would have been filled up with characters rising superior in
knowledge to each other; and those Ancients we now so much admire
would have appeared respectably in the background of the scene. But
the christian system laid all waste; and if we take our stand about
the beginning of the sixteenth century, we look back through that long
chasm, to the times of the Ancients, as over a vast sandy desert, in
which not a shrub appears to intercept the vision to the fertile hills
beyond.

It is an inconsistency scarcely possible to be credited, that any
thing should exist, under the name of a religion, that held it to be
irreligious to study and contemplate the structure of the universe that
God had made. But the fact is too well established to be denied. The
event that served more than any other to break the first link in this
long chain of despotic ignorance, is that known by the name of the
Reformation by Luther. From that time, though it does not appear to have
made any part of the intention of Luther, or of those who are called
Reformers, the Sciences began to revive, and Liberality, their
natural associate, began to appear. This was the only public good the
Reformation did; for, with respect to religious good, it might as well
not have taken place.



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