Philosophy in the Boudoir: Piety
If you’re not up to reading the entire extract, try skimming the highlighted parts – hopefully they give a reasonable overview of the ideas in the text.
…from The third dialogue
[The women, having calmed down during this treatise, are once more clad in negligees and reclining on the couch, while Dolmance is near by, sitting in an armchair] But virtue exists in many forms; what say you, for example, of piety?
What can it mean to someone who has no belief in religion? And who could stomach those beliefs? Come now, Eugenie, let us be logical; could religion best be described as the pact that binds a man to his Creator, and forces him to prove, by way of blind worship, his gratitude to that great Creator for his existence?
I could not put it better.
Excellent! Now, if we can show that man owes his existence to nothing but the remorsless tides of Nature; if man is thus proven as ancient as the world itself, that he is no different to the oak, to the crops, to the minerals that are in the earth’s belly, which remain only to reproduce, since reproduction is essential to the existence of the planet, which it, in turn, owes to nothing whatsoever; if it is shown that God, held by morons to be the maker of all we know, is just the dead end of human reason, an illusion made at that point when that reason can go no further; if it is proven that the existnce of God is impossible, in that relentless Nature herself wields the power it pleases cretins to attribute to that God; if it is made clear that, supposing this useless deity were to exist, he would be the ultimate absurdity since he would have only once come into action, and have been contemptibly redundant throughout the million centuries thereafter; and that, supposing that his ways are as portrayed by religion, he would be the most abominable of all creatures, since he permits Evil to flourish when his supreme powers could repress it; if, as I say, all this is proven without doubt to be true – as it unquestionably is – then, Eugenie, do you still believe in the need for this virtue, this piety which binds man to an imbecilic and deficient, an atrocious and hateful Creator?
[To Madame de Saint-Ange] What! The you mean to say, beloved, that God is an illusion?
Madame de Saint-Ange:
And, without doubt, one of the most deplorable.
To believe in such a thing one must be insane! That disgraceful mirage, Eugenie, spawn of the fear of some and the weakness of others, is superfluous to the terrestrial scheme and would no doubt imbalance it, since the will of God would no doubt be righteous, and unable to sustain the essential injustices decreed by nature; since he would forever have to demand good, while Nature needs good only to mirror the evil which serves her edicts; since God would have to exert his influence continually, and Nature, bound to perpetual flux, would then at all times be in opposition to him. You may reply, that God and Nature are one; ’tis an absurd notion. The artefact cannot equal its maker; is a watch, then, the watch-maker? In that case, you may persist, it must be God who is all, and Nature nothing. Again absurd! There have to be two conditions in the universe; the created, and creator; to identify which is the creator is our sole task, the only question to be answered. If movement is intrinsic to Nature, and if she Galvanises matter by occult reactions; if only she can, due to her energy, create, multiply, sustain, preserve, hold in equilibrium, within the infinite halls of Space, all the spheres that we behold and whose uniform, unchanging progress leaves us awash in awe and admiration; what need, then, to imagine some outside agent, when this motive force appears in Nature herself, who is pure matter in flux? Can you suppose that your phantom deity will offer any revelations? I challenge anyone to prove it to me! Even if I am mistaken about the infra-structure of matter, I am presented, at most, with nothing more than an obstacle. What do you do for me, by offering me your God? Nothing, but offer up yet another god. How can you expect me to accept, as the cause of something I can hardly comprehend, something I comprehend even less? Will I be able to study, to understand better your revolting God through Christianity? Let us examine, then , how that God is painted by Christian dogma…
I see nothing in the God of that heinous sect but a fickle and barbaric being, who creates today a world of destruction that he spurns tomorrow – a feeble entity forever unable to keep mankind under his control, subservient to him. Man, though supposedly formed by him, dominates him and consistently repulses him, thereby earning eternal torment! What a waekling, this God! he moulds the universe, yet cannot make man conform to his image! Doubtless, you will retort that if man was a mirror of his maker, then he would not deserve to be so; what a bland remark this is! Why should man deserve his God? If he had been conceived as wholly good, man could never act in an evil way; only then would the handiwork seem worthy of a god. With choice, came temptation; and almighty God knew the result. As quick as God created his being, he doomed him to pleasure. What a frightful God, this God of yours, a monster! Can any criminal more deserve our hatred and unflinching revenge than he? Far from happy with a task so superbly executed, he drowns man to bring him into line; he burns him, and curses him.
None of that changes man one bit. One being – more potent than this wicked God, a being still in possession of his power, forever flouting his maker – the Devil – eternally seduces away from that flock coveted by the almighty. Nothing can dissever us from the grip of this demon’s energy. But picture if you will the awful God you preach: he has only one son, conceived by some wierd union; for, since man fucks, he has decided that his God fucks too; thus did God emanate and send down from Heaven his offspring. one would imagine that this progency should appear borne on celestial rays, amid angelic hosts lighting up the whole cosmos; not at all! The Lord who has come to deliver us originates in a pigsty, suckled by a Jewish whore! Behold the worthy lineage accorded this savior! Yet, his mission is one of honour; surely he will enlighten us? Let us see him more closely; what does he say to us? How does he act? What is his burning mission, which mystery will he unravel, what teaching will he give to us? Through what act will his glory shine?
I see, first of all, an unremarkable childhood; doubtless, the corrupt brat renders a few depraved favours to the priests at the Temple of Jerusalem. Then he disappears for fifteen years to be injected with the daydreams of Egyptian thought, hosting them back to Judaea. No sooner does he return than his ravings begin: he claims to be the son of God, equal to his father; to this alliance he adds another phantom called the Holy Ghost, swearing these three to be but one person! The more this preposterous theory defies reason, the more the knave insists it is beneficial to swallow it – and harmful to reject it. The imbecile protests that it is for our own deliverance that he has taken fleshy form, although he is God made carnate in a mortal child; the miracles he will perform will convince all the world of this truth. And so: during a bawdy supper the charlatan apparently turns water into wine; in the desert he feeds a pack of villains with fodder hidden previously, by devoted conspirators; one of his cronies plays dead, and our imposter seemingly restores him to life; he retreats to some mountain where, before a couple of friends only, he effects some conjury that would cause the worst of contemporary frauds to blush with shame.
Condemning, moreover, all those who do not acknowledge him, the scoundrel promises Heaven to any fools that will listen. An illiterate, he fails to write anything; a numbskull, he seldom talks; does even less, being weak; and finally, utterly boring the magistrates with his seditious outbursts, this fake has himself nailed to a cross after promising his devious deciples that, every time they invoke him, he will descend to be devoured. He is tortured, and does not complain. His mighty father, that sublime God he claims as sire, affords him no help at all. And that sums him up, this rogue, put unto death like the rest of those outlaws, whose leader he so deserved to be.
His henchmen assemble, saying: “We have to act; all our hopes are dashed lest we save our hides in a cunning flourish. Well drug the guard presiding over Jesus, then make off with the body, rumouring he is risen from the dead: ’tis a sure ruse; if we can get this trickery believed, our new religion’s founded, established; the whole world will fall… to work!” So the blow is struck, and succeeds. How many knaves boast boldness in place of merit! They steal the corpse; fools, women, children, bawl out “Miracle!” at the top of their lungs. Yet, in this city where such amazing feats have just occured, a city stained with the blood of God, no one cares to believe in that God; not one inhabitant is converted. Even better, the event is so insignificant that no historian records it. Only that imposter’s disciples think they can gain from this fraud; but at a later date.
This last detail is crucial; note it well. From that time, their plot gestates. Several years pass before they expolit their deceit; eventually, they erect upon it in the precarious frame of that unclean doctrine. Men grab any novelty, weary of tyrants, the world is ready for revolution. The cheats make known their story, and progress rapidly: the usual way of folly. Soon, Jesus and Mary usurp altars of Venus and Mars; the biography of the imposter appears, the feeble lies swallowed by gullible fools. A hundred false quotes are propagated; some of his actual drivel is taken as his morality and, as the fiction is aimed at the poor, charity is made into its masthead. Wierd rites are instigated under the name of “sacraments”; the most abhorrent and nauseating of these is where a priest, covered in sin, nonetheless achieves, through a few magical words, the power to manifest the Lord in crusts of bread. ‘Tis certain: this disgusting cult might have been strangled at birth, had one employed whipcords of the ridicle it deserved; but persecution was preferred, and the cult burgeoned; it was inevitable.
Even today, if one were to saturate it with deserved contempt, it would crumble. The dextrous Voltaire always used this method, and he may pride himself above all writers on his legion followers.
Such, Eugenie, is the brief history of God and his religion; consider the treatment these fables deserve, and regard them sternly.
My choice is straightforward: I disdain these sick fantasies; and this God, to whom I lately clung through weakness and ignorance, hlds nothing for me now save the utmost revulsion.
Madame de Saint-Ange:
Swear you will think no more of him, never consider him, never invoke him, and never return to him as long as you live.
[Flinging herself on Madame de Saint-Ange’s breast] I swear it in your arms! How readily I see that you demand it for my own good, that you do not wish these thoughts to disturb my peace of mind!
Madame de Saint-Ange:
What other motive could I have?