On the Idea of God

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 6-8

Scanned by Aaron Gulyas, February, 1998.

THE principles of every religion are founded upon the idea of a God. Now, it is impossible to have true ideas of a being, who acts upon none of our senses. All our ideas are representations of sensible objects. What then can represent to us the idea of God, which is evidently an idea without an object? Is not such an idea as impossible, as an effect without a cause Can an idea without an archetype be any thing, but a chimera There are however, divines, who assure us that the idea of God is innate; or that we have this in our mother's womb. Every principle is the result of reason; all reason is the result of experience; experience is acquired only by the exercise of our senses: therefore religious principles are not founded upon reason, and are not innate.

Every systern of religion can be founded only upon the nature of God and man; and upon the relations which subsist between them. But to judge of the reality of those relations, we must have some idea of the divine nature. Now, the world exclaims, the divine nature is incomprehensible to man; yet ceases not to assign attribtites to this incomprehensible God, and to assure us, that it is our indispensable duty to find out that God, whom it is impossible to comprehend.

The most important concern of man is what he can least comprehend. If God is incomprehensible to man, it would seem reasonable never to think of him; but religion maintains, man cannot with impunity cease a moment to think (or rather dream) of his God.

We are told, that divine qualities are not of a nature to be comprehended by finite minds. The natural consequence must be, that divine qualities are not made to occupy finite minds. But religion tells us, that the poor finite mind of man ought never to lose sight of an inconceivable being whose qualities he can never comprehend. Thus we see, religion is the art of turning the attention of mankind upon subjects they can never comprehend.

Religion unites man with God, or forms a communication between them; yet do you not say, God is infinite? If God be infinite, no finite being can have communication or relation with him. Where there can be no relation, there can be no union, communication, or duties. If there be no duties between man and his God, there is no religion for man. Thus; in saying God is infinite, you annihilate religion or man, who is a finite being. The idea of infinity, is to us an idea without model, without archetype, without object.

If God be an infinite being, there cannot be either in the present, or future world, any relative proportion between man and his God. Thus, the idea of God can never enter the human mind. In supposition of a life, in which man would be much more enlightened than in this, the idea of the infinity of God would ever remain the same distance from his infinite mind. Thus the idea of God will be no more clear in the future, than in the present life. Thus intelligences superior to man, can have no more complete ideas of God, than man, who has not the least conception of him in the present life.

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