This article was obtained from the Humanist Bulletin Spring 1997, Vol. 4 - No. 2
Sorry about the lack of paragraphs. This is how the article looked when I saw it, so I'm not sure where to put them.
Common Sense about Theology
hough the ninteenth century prose style of the text that follows isn't as easy to read as most writings of today, the arguments themselves are quite clear. Here, the Enlightenment atheist Baron d'Holbach provides a basic understanding of why skeptics of religion think as they do: they aren't asserting their own will in preference to that of God, they are simply acknowledging an inability to make sense of the whole god idea as propounded by theologians. The simple common sense behind Paul Henri Holbach's brief and sweeping observations on theology can, in fact, leave one dumbfounded as to how any perceptive individual can maintain a system of theistic belief at all.
There is a vast empire governed by a monarch, whose conduct does but confound the minds of his subjects. He desires to be known, loved, respected, and obeyed, but he never shows himself; everything tends to make uncertain the notions which we are able to form about him. The people subjected to his power have only such ideas of the character and the laws of their invisible sovereign as his ministers give them; these suit, however, because they themselves have no idea of their master, for his ways are impenetrable, and his views and his qualities are totally incomprehensible, moreover, his ministers disagree among themselves in regard to the orders which they pretend emanated from the sovereign whose organs they claim to be; they announce them diversely in each province of the empire; they discredit and treat each other as impostors and liars; the decrees and ordinances which they promulgate are obscure; they are enigmas, made not to be understood or divined by the subjects for whose instruction they were intended. The laws of the invisible monarch need interpreters, but those who explain them are always quarreling among themselves about the true way of understanding them; more than this, they do not agree among themselves; all which they relate of their hidden prince is but a tissue of contradictions, scarcely a single word that is not contradicted at once. He is called supremely good, nevertheless not a person but complains of his decrees. He is supposed to be infinitely wise, and in his administration everything seems contrary to reason and good sense. They boast of his justice, and the best of his subjects are generally the least favored. We are assured that he sees everything, yet his presence remedies nothing. It is said that he is the friend of order, and everything in his universe is in a state of confusion and disorder; all is created by him, yet events rarely happen according to his projects. He foresees everything, but his foresight prevents nothing. He is impatient if any offend him; at the same time he puts every one in the way of offending him. His knowledge is admired in the perfection of his works, but his works are full of imperfections, and of little permanence. He is continually occupied in creating and destroying then repairing what he has done, never appearing to be satisfied with his work. In all his enterprises he seeks but his own glory, but he does not succeed in being glorified. He works but for the good of his subjects, and most of them lack the necessities of life. Those whom he seems to favor are generally those who are the least satisfied with their fate; we see them all continually revolting against a master whose greatness they admire, whose wisdom they extol, whose goodness they worship, and whose justice they fear, revering orders which they never follow. This empire is the world; its monarch is God; His ministers are the priests; their subjects are men.
II.-WHAT IS THEOLOGY?
There is a science which has for its object only incomprehensible things. Unlike all others, it occupies itself but with things unseen. Hobbes calls it "the kingdom of darkness." In this land all obey laws opposed to those which men acknowledge in the world they inhabit. In this marvelous region light is but darkness, evidence becomes doubtful or false, the impossible becomes credible, reason is an unfaithful guide, and common sense changed into delirium. This science is named Theology, and this Theology is a continual insult to human reason.
The above text was first published in 1791 by Baron d'Holbach as part of a digest of his philosophy, as influenced by the famous seventeenth century apostate cleric, Jean Meslier. Holbach entitled this digest, _Le bon sens du cure' Meslier_. Translated into English from the original French in the early 1800s, it was retitled _Common Sense_ and credited to Meslier himself.
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