« ПредишнаНапред »
fore no religion. And notwithstanding all Atheists have leave given them by their principles to become Jibertines, yet it is not true that all libertines are Atheifts. Some plainly affert their belief of a God; and others, who deny his existence, yet do not deny it upon any principles, any scheme of philofophy which they have framed, and by which they account for the exiftence and duration of the world, in the beautiful order in which we fee it, without the aid of a Divine Eternal Mind.
But there are two forts of men, who without injuftice have been called Atheists; those who frankly and in plain terms have denied the being of a God; and those who, though they afferted his being, denied thofe attributes and perfections, which the idea of a God includes; and fo, while they acknowledged the name, fubverted the thing. These are as real Atheists as the former, but lefs fincere. If any man fhould declare he believes a Deity, but affirms that this Deity is of human shape, and not eternal; that he derives his being from the fortuitous concourfe and complication of atoms; or, though he allowed him to be eternal, fhould maintain, that he shewed no wisdom, defign, or prudence, in the formation, and no care or providence in the government, of the world; that he never reflects on any thing exterior to his own being, nor interests himfelf in human affairs; does not know, or does not attend to, any of our actions: fuch a perfon is, indeed, and in effect, as much an Atheist as the former. For though he owns the appellation, yet his defcription is deftructive
deftructive of the idea of a God. I do not affirm, that the idea of a God implies the relation of a Creator: but, fince in the demonftration of the existence of a God we argue from the effect to the caufe, and proceed from the contemplation of the creature to the knowledge of the Creator, it is evident we cannot know there is a God, but we must know him to be the Maker, and, if the Maker, then the Governor and Benefactor of the world. Could there be a God, who is entirely regardlefs of things without him, who is perfectly unconcerned with the direction and government of the world, is altogether indifferent whether we worship or affront him, and is neither pleafed nor difpleafed " with any of our actions; he would certainly to us be the fame as no God. The log in the fable would be altogether as venerable a Deity; for if he has no concern with us, it is plain we have none with him: if we are not subject to any laws he has made for us, we can never be obedient or difobedient, nor can we need forgivenefs, or expect reward. If we are not the fubjects of his care and protection, we can owe him no love or gratitude; if he either does not hear or difregards our prayers, how impertinent is it to build temples, and to worship at his altars! In my opinion, fuch notions of a Deity, which lay the axe to the root of all religion, and make all the expreffions of it idle and ridiculous; which deftroy the diftinction of good and bad, all morality of our actions, and remove all the grounds and reasons of fear of punishment, and hope of reward; will justly denominate a man an
Atheist, though he ever fo much difclaims that ignominious title.
Thales the founder of the Ionic fchool, and the philofophers who fucceeded him, Anaximander, Anaximenes, Diogenes Apollionates, Anaxagoras, and Archelaus, are cenfured by Ariftotle as difbelievers of a Deity; the reafon he gives is, that these philofophers, in treating of the principles of the world, never introduce the Deity as the efficient caufe. But if it be confidered, that natural fcience was then in its infancy, and that thofe primitive philofophers only undertook to account for the material principle out of which the world was made, which one afferted to be water, ope fire, another air; though this may prove that they formed but a lame and unfinished scheme of philofophy, yet it does not evince, that they denied the being of a God, or that they did not believe him to be the efficient caufe of all things. It is indeed a convincing evidence that their philofophy was imperfect, as at firft it might well be; but from their filence or omillion of him in their fyftems, when they defigned to treat only of the material caufes of things, it is unreasonable to affirm that they denied his being and it is certain Anaxagoras taught, that, besides matter, it was abfolutely neceffary to affert a Divine Mind, the Contriver and Maker of the world; and for this religious principle, as was faid before, he was at Athens an illuftrious confeffor.
After the death of Socrates, the Ionic fchool was foon divided into various fects and philofophical parties of the Cyrenaic fchool, Theodorus and Dion Borifthenites,
Borifthenites, were reputed Atheists, contemners of the Gods, and deriders of religion. Yet fince it does not appear, that they had formed any impious fcheme of philosophy, or maintained their irreligion by any pretended principles of reason, it is not improbable that thefe men were rather abandoned libertines, without confideration and reflection, than fpeculative and philofophical Atheists.
The Italic fchool, to its great difhonour, was more fertile in impiety, and produced a greater number of thefe irreligious philofophers. The mafters, who fucceeded their famous founder Pythagoras, foon degenerated from his noble and pious principles, and not only corrupted the purity of his doctrine, but became downright apoftates, renouncing the belief of a God, and fubverting the foundations of religion. Leucippus, Democritus, Diagoras, and Protagoras, were justly reckoned in this rank; who afferted, that the world was made by the cafual combination of atoms, without any affiftance or direction of a Divine Mind. They taught their followers this doctrine, fupported it with arguments, and fo were Atheists on pretended principles of reafon. But among all the ancient obdurate Atheists, and inveterate enemies of religion, no one seems more fincere, or more implacable, than Epicurus.
And though this person was perhaps of as dull an understanding, of as unrefined thought, and as little fagacity and penetration, as any man who was ever complimented with the name of a philofopher; yet feveral great wits, and men of diftinguished learning, in this
laft age, have been pleased to give the world high encomiums of his capacity and fuperior attainments.
After a long night of ignorance had overspread the face of Europe, many wife men, from a generous love of truth, refolved to exercise their reafon, and free themfelves from prejudice, and a fervile veneration of great names, and prevailing authority; and, growing impatient of tyrannical impofitions, as well in philofophy as religion, to their great honour, separated both from the church of Rome, and the school of Ariftotle. Thefe patriots of the commonwealth of learning combined to reform the corruptions, and redrefs the grievances, of philofophy; to pull down the Peripatetic monarchy, and fet up a free and independent ftate of feience; and, being fully convinced of the weakness and unreasonableness of Ariftotle's fyftem, which confifted chiefly of words without any determined meaning, and of idle metaphyfical definitions, of which many were falfe, and many unintelligible; they in this cafe had - recourse to the Corpufcularian hypothefis, and revived the obfolete and exploded system of Epicurus.
Many of these noble leaders, who had declared against the Peripatetic ufurpation, and afferted the rights and liberties of human understanding, called in this philofopher, for want of a better, to depose Ariftotle. And though a general revolution did not follow, yet the defection from the prince of science, as he was once esteemed, was very great. When these first reformers of Ariftotle's fchool had efpoused the intereft of Epicurus, and introduced his doctrines, that