Belief in a God Established by Fear, Continued and Transmitted by Education

Hanover Historical Texts Project
Baron D'Holbach,
Good Sense: or, Natural Ideas Opposed to Supernatural; being a Translation from a Work Called "Le Bon Sens"
corrected and carefully revised by H. D. Robinson

(Boston: J. P. Mendum, 1856) Pages 17-19

Scanned by Aaron Gulyas, February, 1998.

To the generality of men, nothing renders an argument more convincing than fear. It is therefore, that theologians assure us, we must take the safest part; part; that nothing is so criminal as incredulity ; that God will punish without pity every one who has the temerity to doubt his existence that his severity is just, since madness or perversity only can make us deny the existence of an enraged monarch, who without mercy avenges himself on Atheists. If we coolly examine these threatenings, we shall find, they always suppose the thing in question. They must first prove the existence of a God, before, they assure us, it is safest to believe, and horrible to doubt or deny his existence. They must then prove, that it is possible and consistent, that a just God cruely punished men for having been in a state of madness, and prevented their believing the existence of a being ~ehom their perverted reason could not conceive. In a word, they must prove, that an infinitely just God can infinite1y punish the invincible and natural ignorance of man with respect to the divine nature. Do not theologians reason very strange]y? They invent phantoms, they compose them of contradictions; they then assure us, it is safest not to doubt the existence of these phantoms they themselves have invented. According to this mode of reasoning, there is no absurdity, which it would not be more safe to believe, than not to believe.

All children are Atheists; they have no idea of God. Are they then criminal on account of their ignorance? At what age must they begin to believe in God? It is, you say, at the age of reason. But at what time should this age commence? Besides, if the profoundest theologians lose themselves in the divine nature, which they do not presume to comprehend, what ideas must the people of the world, women, artisans, in a word, those who compose the mass of mankind, have of him?

Men believe in God only upon the word of those, who have no more idea of him than themselves. Our nurses are our first theologians. They talk to children of God as if he were a scarecrow; they teach them from the earliest age to join their hands mechanically. Have nurses then more true ideas of God than the children whom they teach to pray to him?

Religion, like family-estate, passes with its incumbrances from parents to children. Few men in the world would have a God, had not pains been taken in infancy to give them one. Each would receive from his parents and teachers the God whom they received from theirs; but each, agreeably to his disposition, wou1d arrange, modify, and paint him in his own manner.

Return to Texts and Documents
Return to Hanover College Department of History
Please send comments to: