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Chapter XX.—Argument:  But If the World is Ruled by Providence and Governed by the Will of One God, an Ignorant Antipathy Ought Not to Carry Us Away into the Error of Agreement with It:  Although Delighted with Its Own Fables, It Has Brought in Ridiculous Traditions.  Nor is It Shown Less Plainly that the Worship of the Gods Has Always Been Silly and Impious, in that the Most Ancient of Men Have Venerated Their Kings, Their Illustrious Generals, and Inventors of Arts, on Account of Their Remarkable Deeds, No Otherwise Than as Gods.

“I have set forth the opinions almost of all the philosophers whose more illustrious glory it is to have pointed out that there is one God, although with many names; so that any one might think either that Christians are now philosophers, or that philosophers were then already Christians.  But if the world is governed by providence, and directed by the will of one God, antiquity of unskilled people ought not, however delighted and charmed with its own fables, to carry us away into the mistake of a mutual agreement, when it is rebutted by the opinions of its own philosophers, who are supported by the authority both of reason and of antiquity.  For our ancestors had such an easy faith in falsehoods, that they rashly believed even other monstrosities as marvellous wonders;17791779    Some editors read, “mere wonders,” apparently on conjecture only. a manifold Scylla, a Chimæra of many forms, and a Hydra rising again from its auspicious wounds, and Centaurs, horses entwined with their riders; and whatever Report was allowed17801780    Otherwise, “was pleased.” to feign, they were entirely willing to listen to.  Why should I refer to those old wives’ fables, that men were changed from men into birds and beasts, and from men into trees and flowers?—which things, if they had happened at all, would happen again; and because they cannot happen now, therefore never happened at all.  In like manner with respect to the gods too, our ancestors believed carelessly, credulously, with untrained simplicity; while worshipping their kings religiously, desiring 185to look upon them when dead in outward forms, anxious to preserve their memories in statues,17811781    Four early editions read “instantius” for “in statuis,” making the meaning probably, “more keenly,” “more directly.” those things became sacred which had been taken up merely as consolations.  Thereupon, and before the world was opened up by commerce, and before the nations confounded their rites and customs, each particular nation venerated its Founder, or illustrious Leader, or modest Queen braver than her sex, or the discoverer of any sort of faculty or art, as a citizen of worthy memory; and thus a reward was given to the deceased, and an example to those who were to follow.


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