Baron d'Holbach

German-born French philosopher (1723–1789)

Baron d'Holbach, Paul-Henri Thiry (8 December 1723 – 21 January 1789) was a French author, philosopher and encyclopedist. He was born Paul Heinrich Dietrich in Edesheim, Germany. He is most famous as being one of the first self-described atheists in Europe.

All children are born Atheists; they have no idea of God.

Quotes edit

  • We are all just cogs in a machine, doing what we were always meant to do, with no actual volition. (1770)
  • It is thus superstition infatuates man from his infancy, fills him with vanity, and enslaves him with fanaticism.
  • If the ignorance of nature gave birth to such a variety of gods, the knowledge of this nature is calculated to destroy them.
  • When we examine the opinions of men, we find that nothing is more uncommon, than common sense; or, in other words, they lack judgment to discover plain truths, or to reject absurdities, and palpable contradictions.
    • Good Sense without God, or, Freethoughts Opposed to Supernatural Ideas (London: W. Stewart & Co., ca. 1900) (Project Gutenberg e-text), preface
    • Translator unknown. Original publication in French at Amsterdam, 1772, as Le bon sens ("Common Sense"), and often attributed to John Meslier.
  • Savage and furious nations, perpetually at war, adore, under diverse names, some God, conformable to their ideas, that is to say, cruel, carnivorous, selfish, blood-thirsty.
    • ibid., preface
  • All children are born Atheists; they have no idea of God.
    • ibid., chap. 30
  • Pascal proves nothing in favour of Religion, unless that a man of genius may be foolish on some subjects, and is but a child, when he is weak enough to listen to his prejudices.
    • ibid., chap. 167
  • Religion has ever filled the mind of man with darkness, and kept him in ignorance of his real duties and true interests. It is only by dispelling the clouds and phantoms of Religion, that we shall discover Truth, Reason, and Morality. Religion diverts us from the causes of evils, and from the remedies which nature prescribes; far from curing, it only aggravates, multiplies, and perpetuates them.
    • ibid., chap. 206
  • Suns are extinguished or become corrupted, planets perish and scatter across the wastes of the sky; other suns are kindled, new planets formed to make their revolutions or describe new orbits, and man, an infinitely minute part of a globe which itself is only an imperceptible point in the immense whole, believes that the universe is made for himself.
    •  La Système de la nature; quoted by Norman Hampson, The Enlightenment p. 220 (paperback edition)
  • Now, if the ignorance of nature gave birth to Gods, the knowledge of nature is calculated to destroy them.
    • La Système de la nature; quoted in The Law of Reason, published by J. Thompson, p. 40.
  • Everything that passes in the world, proves to us, in the clearest manner, that it is not governed by an intelligent being.
    • Good Sense, or Natural Ideas vs. Supernatural
  • The universe can be only what it is; all sensible being there enjoy and suffer, that is, are moved sometimes in an agreeable, and sometimes in a disagreeable manner. these effects are necessary; they result necessarily from causes, which act only according to their properties.
    • Good Sense, or Natural Ideas vs. Supernatural
  • To wonder at the order of nature, is to wonder that any thing can exist; it is to be surprised at one's own existence.
    • Good Sense, or Natural Ideas vs. Supernatural
  • There is a science that has for its object only things incomprehensible. Contrary to all other sciences, it treats only of what cannot fall under our senses, Hobbes calls it the kingdom of darkness. It is a country, where every thing is governed by laws, contrary to those which mankind are permitted to know in the world they inhabit. In this marvelous region, light is only darkness; evidence is doubtful or false; impossibilities are credible: reason is a deceitful guide; and good sense becomes madness. This science is called Theology, and this theology is a continual insult to this reason of man.
    • Good Sense, or Natural Ideas vs. Supernatural
  • The worshipers of God find, above all in the order of the universe, an invincible proof of this existence of an intelligent and wise being, who governs it. But this order is nothing but a series of movements necessarily produced by causes or circumstances, which are sometimes favourable, and sometimes hurtful to us: we approve of some, and complain of others.
    • Good Sense, or Natural Ideas vs. Supernatural
  • a protestant is bound to believe the gospel to be divine: and the examination of it is permitted only, while he finds there what the ministers of his sect have resolved that he shall find. Beyond this, he is regarded as an ungodly man, and often punished for the weakness of his intellect.
    • Ecce Homo, A Critical Inquiry into the History of Jesus of Nazareth
  • Jesus, with a view, no doubt, of sweetening the lot of his apostles, recommended compassion to the listening multitude, of which he, as well as his party, stood in the greatest need. It is readily perceived, that the messiah felt the most imperious necessity to preach charity to his auditors; for he lived on alms, and his success depended on the generosity of the public, and the benefactions of the good souls who hearkened to his lessons.
    • Ecce Homo
  • The preacher recommended peace and concord; dispositions necessary to a new born, weak, and persecuted sect; but this necessity ceased when this sect had attained strength enough to dictate the law.
    • Ecce Homo
  • The preacher recommended peace and concord; dispositions necessary to a new born, weak, and persecuted sect; but this necessity ceased when this sect had attained strength enough to dictate the law.
    • Ecce Homo
  • We are quite surprised at finding, that Moses and the ancient Hebrew writers have no where mentioned the dogma of a future life, which now-a-days forms one of the most important articles of the Christian religion. Solomon speaks of the death of men by comparing it with that of brutes. Some of the prophets, it is true, have spoken of a place called Cheol, which has been translated Hell (Enfer); yet it is evident, that this word implies merely sepulchre or tomb. They have also translated the Hebrew word Topheth into Hell: but on examining the word, we find that it designates a place of punishment near Jerusalem, where malefactors were punished, and their carcases burned. It was after the Babylonish captivity that the Jews knew the dogma of another life, and the resurrection, which they learned of the Persian disciples of Zoroaster. In the time of Jesus, that dogma was not even generally received. The Pharisees admitted it, and the Sadducees rejected.
    • Ecce Homo
  • Jesus, whose birth was very equivocal, had particular reasons for wishing that adultery should be treated with indulgence. Independently of Mary his mother, from whom Joseph was probably separated, our preacher had in his train dames, whose conduct had not been irreproachable anterior to their conversion. Besides Mary Magdalene, who was a noted courtesan, Jesus had in his suite Joanna, wife of Chuza, Herod's steward, who, according to the tradition, robbed and forsook her husband to follow the messiah, and assist him with her property. Moreover, the indulgence which he preached must have gained him the hearts of all the ladies in his auditory.
    • Ecce Homo
  • the apostles, and especially their successors in the sacred ministry have, in preaching their gospel, brought on the world troubles and divisions unknown in all other preceding religions.
    • Ecce Homo
  • Jesus charged people of property with the maintenance of his apostles. Their successors have taken sufficient advantage of this, and through it assumed an authority to exercise the most cruel extortions on impoverished nations.
    • Ecce Homo
  • It must be acknowledged, that the impossibility of comprehending the doctrine of Jesus furnishes a good reason for denying that it can be divine. It cannot be conceived why a God, sent to instruct men, should never distinctly explain himself. No Pagan oracle employed terms more ambiguous, than the divine missionary chosen by Providence to enlighten nations.
    • Ecce Homo
  • In the whole gospel system, the devil is more sly and powerful than both God the Father and God the Son: he is always successful in thwarting their designs, and succeeds in reducing God the Father to the dire necessity of making his dear Son die in order to repair the evil which Satan had done to mankind. Christianity is real manichaeism, wherein every advantage is on the side of the bad principle, who, by the great number of his adherents renders nugatory all the purposes of the Deity.
    • Ecce Homo
  • Christians, docile to the lessons of their divine master, which they dare not examine, have made perfection consist in a total abandonment of those objects which nature has rendered dearest to man. Christianity seems intended only to create discord, detach men from every thing on earth, and break the ties which ought to unite them. There is, according to Jesus, but one thing needful; namely, to be attached to him exclusively: a maxim very useful in meriting heaven, but calculated to destroy every society on the earth.
    • Ecce Homo
  • the miracles of the messiah were calculated to convince those only who did not [Pg 82]see them. Thus it is, that these miracles are believed at present by people who would not credit those performed in their presence.
    • Ecce Homo
  • Jesus, to whom miracles cost nothing when every thing was arranged for performing them, did not risk himself by working them impromptu, or in the presence of those he judged acute enough to examine them.
  • Jesus caused a fig-tree to die in twenty-four hours to punish it for not producing figs at a season when it was physically impossible for it to bear any; that is about the month of March. As all the actions of the messiah, even when they appear foolish to ordinary men, have an important signification in the eyes of devotees illuminated by faith, we ought to perceive in the miracle of this fig-tree one of the fundamental dogmas of the Christian religion symbolically represented. The fig-tree cursed is the mass of mankind, whom, according to our theologists, the God of mercy curses, and condemns to eternal flames, for having neither faith nor grace, which they could not possibly acquire of themselves, and which God does not seem to have been willing to give them. Thus we find that the ridiculous passage of the fig-tree in the gospel, is intended to typify one of the most profound dogmas of the Christian religion.
    • Ecce Homo
  • the ways of God are not as those of men. The Deity ought never to act in a natural way, or be easily understood. It is the essence of religion that men should not comprehend any part of the divine conduct. This furnishes to their spiritual guides the pleasure of explaining it to them for their money.
    • Ecce Homo
  • The dogma of the resurrection of Jesus is only attested by men whose subsistence depended on that absurd romance; and as roguery continually belies itself, these witnesses could not agree among themselves in their evidence. They tell us, that Jesus had publicly predicted his own resurrection. He ought therefore to have risen publicly; he ought to have shewn himself, not in secret to his disciples, but openly to priests, pharisees, doctors, and men of understanding, especially after having intimated, that it was the only sign which would be given them. Was it not acknowledging the falsehood of his mission, to refuse the sign by which he had solemnly promised to prove the truth of that mission? Was it reasonable to require the Jews to believe, on the word of his disciples, a fact which he could have demonstrated before their own eyes? How is it possible for rational persons of the present age to believe, after the lapse of eighteen hundred years, on the discordant testimonies of four interested evangelists, fanatics, or fabulists, a story which they could not make be believed in their own time; except by a small number of imbecile people, incapable of reasoning, fond of the marvellous, and of too limited understandings to escape the snares laid for their simplicity.
    • Ecce Homo
  • The mere reading of the life of Jesus, as we have represented it according to documents which Christians consider inspired, must be sufficient to undeceive every thinking being. But it is the property of superstition to prevent thinking: it benumbs the soul, confounds the reason, perverts the judgment, renders doubtful the most obvious truths, and makes a merit with its slaves of despising inquiry, and of relying on the word of those who govern them.
    • Ecce Homo
  • Men are naturally disposed to listen to, and believe those who make them hope for an end to their miseries. Misfortunes render them timorous and credulous, and lead them to superstition. A fanatic easily makes conquests among a wretched people. It is not then wonderful that Jesus should soon acquire partizans, especially among the populace who in every country are easily seduced.
    • Ecce Homo
  • Our hero knew the weakness of his fellow-citizens. They wanted prodigies, and he, in their eyes, performed them. A stupid people, totally strangers to the natural sciences, to medicine, or to the resources of artifice, easily mistook very simple operations for miracles, and attributed effects to the finger of God which might be owing to the knowledge Jesus had acquired during the long interval that preceded his mission. Nothing is more common than the combination of enthusiasm and imposture; the most sincere devotees, when they intend to advance what they believe to be the word of God, often countenance frauds which they style pious. There are but few zealots who do not even think crimes allowable when the interests of religion are concerned. In religion, as at play, one begins with being dupe, and ends with being knave.
    Thus on considering things attentively, and comparing the different accounts of the life of Jesus, we must be persuaded that he was a fanatic, who really thought himself inspired, favored by Heaven, sent to his nation; in short, that he was the messiah, who, to support his divine mission, felt no difficulty to employ such deceptions as were best calculated for a people to whom miracles were absolutely necessary; and whom, without miracles, the most eloquent harangues, the wisest precepts, the most intelligent counsels, and the truest principles could never have convinced. A medley of enthusiasm and juggling constitute the character of Jesus, and it is that of all spiritual adventurers who assume the name of Reformers, or become the chiefs of a sect.
    • Ecce Homo

Quotes about d'Holbach edit

  • Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is an absurd one. What is most repellent in the System of Nature — after the recipe for making eels from flour — is the audacity with which it decides that there is no God, without even having tried to prove the impossibility. If God did not exist, he would have to be invented. But all nature cries aloud that he does exist: that there is a supreme intelligence, an immense power, an admirable order, and everything teaches us our own dependence on it.
    • Voltaire, in his Letter to Prince Frederick William of Prussia (28 November 1770)
  • It is very strange that men should deny a Creator and yet attribute to themselves the power of creating eels.

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