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Chapter XXIV.—Argument:  He Briefly Shows, Moreover, What Ridiculous, Obscene, and Cruel Rites Were Observed in Celebrating the Mysteries of Certain Gods.

“How much more truly do dumb animals naturally judge concerning your gods?  Mice, swallows, kites, know that they have no feeling: they gnaw them, they trample on them, they sit upon them; and unless you drive them off, they build their nests in the very mouth of your god.  Spiders, indeed, weave their webs over his face, and suspend their threads from his very head.  You wipe, cleanse, scrape, and you protect and fear those whom you make; while not one of you thinks that he ought to know God before he worships Him; desiring without consideration to obey their ancestors, choosing rather to become an addition to the error of others, than to trust themselves; in that they know nothing of what they fear.  Thus avarice has been consecrated in gold and silver; thus the form of empty statues has been established; thus has arisen Roman superstition.  And if you reconsider the rites of these gods, how many things are laughable, and how many also pitiable!  Naked people run about in the raw winter; some walk bonneted, and carry around old bucklers, or beat drums, or lead their gods a-begging through the streets.  Some fanes it is permitted to approach once a year, some it is forbidden to visit at all.  There is one place where a man may not go, and there are some that are sacred from women:  it is a crime needing atonement for a slave even to be present at some ceremonies.  Some sacred places are crowned by a woman having one husband, some by a woman with many; and she who can reckon up most adulteries is sought after with most religious zeal.  What! would not a man who makes libations of his own blood, and supplicates (his god) by his own wounds, be better if he were altogether profane, than religious in such a way is this?  And he whose shameful parts are cut off, how greatly does he wrong God in seeking to propitiate Him in this manner! since, if God 188wished for eunuchs, He could bring them as such into existence, and would not make them so afterwards.  Who does not perceive that people of unsound mind, and of weak and degraded apprehension, are foolish in these things, and that the very multitude of those who err affords to each of them mutual patronage?  Here the defence of the general madness is the multitude of the mad people.

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