Abstinence from wine is a good religious precept in Arabia where orange water, lemon water, lime water are necessary to health. Mohammed would not have forbidden wine in Switzerland perhaps, especially before going to battle.
There are customs of pure fantasy. Why did the priests of Egypt imagine circumcision? it is not for health. Cambyses who treated them as they deserved, they and their bull Apis, Cambyses' courtiers, Cambyses' soldiers, had not had their prepuces lopped, and were very well. Climate does nothing to a priest's genitals. One offered one's prepuce to Isis, probably as one presented everywhere the first fruits of the earth. It was offering the first fruits of life.
Religions have always rolled on two pivots; observance and creed: observance depends largely on climate; creed not at all. One could as easily make a dogma accepted on the equator as the polar circle. It would later be rejected equally at Batavia and in the Orkneys, while it would be maintained unguibus et rostro at Salamanca. That depends in no way on the soil and the atmosphere, but solely on opinion, that fickle queen of the world.
Certain libations of wine will be precept in a vinegrowing country, and it will not occur to a legislator's mind to institute in Norway sacred mysteries which cannot be performed without wine.
It will be expressly ordered to burn incense in the parvis of a temple where beasts are slaughtered in the Deity's honour, and for the priests' supper. This butcher's shop called "temple" would be a place of abominable infection if it were not continually purified: and without the assistance of aromatics, the religion of the ancients would have caused the plague. Even the interior of the temples was decked with festoons of flowers in order to make the air sweeter.
No cow will be sacrificed in the burning land of the Indian peninsula; because this animal which furnishes necessary milk is very rare in an arid country, its flesh is dry, tough, contains very little nourishment, and the Brahmins would live very badly. On the contrary, the cow will become sacred, in view of its rarity and utility.
One will only enter barefoot the temple of Jupiter Ammon where the heat is excessive: one must be well shod to perform one's devotions in Copenhagen.
It is not so with dogma. People have believed in polytheism in all climates; and it is as easy for a Crimean Tartar as for an inhabitant of Mecca to recognize a single God, incommunicable, non-begetting, non-begotten. It is through its dogma still more than through its rites that a religion is spread from one climate to another. The dogma of the unity of God soon passed from Medina to the Caucasus; then the climate cedes to opinion.
The Arabs said to the Turks: "We had ourselves circumcised in Arabia without really knowing why; it was an old fashion of the priests of Egypt to offer to Oshireth or Osiris a little part of what they held most precious. We had adopted this custom three thousand years before we became Mohammedans. You will be circumcised like us; like us you will be obliged to sleep with one of your wives every Friday, and to give each year two and a half per cent of your income to the poor. We drink only water and sherbet; all intoxicating liquor is forbidden us; in Arabia it is pernicious. You will embrace this regime although you love wine passionately, and although it may even be often necessary for you to go on the banks of the Phasis and Araxes. Lastly, if you want to go to Heaven, and be well placed there, you will take the road to Mecca."
The inhabitants of the north of the Caucasus submit to these laws, and embrace throughout the country a religion which was not made for them.
In Egypt the symbolic worship of animals succeeded the dogmas of Thaut. The gods of the Romans later shared Egypt with the dogs, the cats and the crocodiles. To the Roman religion succeeded Christianity; it was entirely driven out by Mohammedanism, which perhaps will cede its place to a new religion.
In all these vicissitudes climate has counted for nothing: government has done everything. We are considering here second causes only, without raising profane eyes to the Providence which directs them. The Christian religion, born in Syria, having received its principal development in Alexandria, inhabits to-day the lands where Teutate, Irminsul, Frida, Odin were worshipped.
There are peoples whose religion has been made by neither climate nor government. What cause detached the north of Germany, Denmark, three-quarters of Switzerland, Holland, England, Scotland, Ireland, from the Roman communion? Poverty. Indulgences and deliverance from purgatory were sold too dear to souls whose bodies had at that time very little money. The prelates, the monks devoured a province's whole revenue. People took a cheaper religion. At last, after twenty civil wars, people believed that the Pope's religion was very good for great lords, and the reformed religion for citizens. Time will show whether the Creek religion or the Turkish religion will prevail by the Aegean Sea and the Pont-Euxine.