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Sir Francis Bacon

Essay 16

Of Atheisme.
1 I HAD rather beleeue all the Fables in the Legend, and the Talmud, and the Alcoran, then that this vniuersall Frame, is without a Minde. And therefore, God neuer wrought Miracle, to conuince Atheisme, because his Ordinary Works conuince it. It is true, that a little Philosophy inclineth Mans Minde to Atheisme; But depth in Philosophy, bringeth Mens Mindes about to Religion: For while the Minde of Man, looketh vpon Second Causes Scattered, it may sometimes rest in them, and goe no further: But when it beholdeth, the Chaine of them, Confederate and Linked together, it must needs flie to Prouidence, and Deitie. Nay euen that Schoole, which is most accused of Atheisme, doth most demonstrate Religion; That is, the Schoole of Leucippus, and Democritus, and Epicurus. For it is a thousand times more Credible, that foure Mutable Elements, and one Immutable Fift Essence, duly and Eternally placed, need no God; then that an Army, of Infinite small Portions, or Seedes vnplaced, should haue produced this Order, and Beauty, without a Diuine Marshall. The Scripture saith; The Foole hath said in his Heart, there is no God: It is not said; The Foole hath thought in his Heart: So as, he rather saith it by rote to himselfe, as that he would haue, then that he can throughly beleeue it, or be perswaded of it. For none deny there is a God, but those, for whom it maketh that there were no God. It appeareth in nothing more, that Atheisme is rather in the Lip, then in the Heart of Man, then by this; That Atheists will euer be talking of that their Opinion, as if they fainted in it, within themselues, and would be glad to be strengthned, by the Consent of others: Nay more, you shall haue Atheists striue to get Disciples, as it fareth with other Sects: And, which is most of all, you shall haue of them, that will suffer for Atheisme, and not recant; Wheras, if they did truly thinke, that there were no such Thing as God, why should they trouble themselues? Epicurus is charged, that he did but dissemble, for his credits sake, when he affirmed; There were Blessed Natures, but such as enioyed themselues, without hauing respect to the Gouernment of the World. Wherin, they say, he did temporize; though in secret, he thought, there was no God. But certainly, he is traduced; For his Words are Noble and Diuine: Non Deos vulgi negare profanum, sed vulgi Opiniones Dijs applicare profanum. Plato could haue said no more. And although, he had the Confidence, to deny the Administration, he had not the Power to deny the Nature. The Indians of the West, haue Names for their particular Gods, though they haue no name for God: As if the Heathens, should haue had the Names Iupiter, Apollo, Mars, &c. But not the Word Deus: which shewes, that euen those Barbarous People, haue the Notion, though they haue not the Latitude, and Extent of it. So that against Atheists, the very Sauages take part, with the very subtillest Philosophers. The Contemplatiue Atheist is rare; A Diagoras, a Bion, a Lucian perhaps, and some others; And yet they seeme to be more then they are; For that, all that Impugne a receiued Religion, or Superstition, are by the aduerse Part, branded with the Name of Atheists. But the great Atheists, indeed, are Hypocrites; which are euer Handling Holy Things, but without Feeling. So as they must needs be cauterized in the End. The Causes of Atheisme are; Diuisions in Religion, if they be many; For any one maine Diuision, addeth Zeale to both Sides; But many Diuisions introduce Atheisme. Another is, Scandall of Priests; When it is come to that, which S. Bernard saith; Non est iam dicere, vt Populus, sic Sacerdos: quia nec sic Populus, vt Sacerdos. A third is, Custome of Profane Scoffing in Holy Matters; which doth, by little and little, deface the Reuerence of Religion. And lastly, Learned Times, specially with Peace, and Prosperity: For Troubles and Aduersities doe more bow Mens Mindes to Religion. They that deny a God, destroy Mans Nobility: For certainly, Man is of Kinne to the Beasts, by his Body; And if, he be not of Kinne to God, by his Spirit, he is a Base and Ignoble Creature. It destroies likewise Magnanimity, and the Raising of Humane Nature: For take an Example of a Dog; And mark what a Generosity, and Courage he will put on, when he findes himselfe maintained, by a Man; who to him is in stead of a God, or Melior Natura: which courage is manifestly such, as that Creature, without that Confidence, of a better Nature, then his owne, could neuer attaine. So Man, when he resteth and assureth himselfe, vpon diuine Protection, and Fauour, gathereth a Force and Faith; which Humane Nature, in it selfe, could not obtaine. Therefore, as Atheisme is in all respects hatefull, so in this, that it depriueth humane Nature, of the Meanes, to exalt it selfe, aboue Humane Frailty. As it is in particular Persons, so it is in Nations: Neuer was there such a State, for Magnanimity, as Rome: Of this State heare what Cicero saith; Quam volumus, licet, patres conscripti, nos amemus, tamen nec numero Hispanos, nec robore Gallos, nec calliditate Pænos, nec artibus Græcos, nec denique hoc ipso huius Gentis & Terræ domestico natiuoque sensu Italos ipsos & Latinos; sed Pietate, ac Religione, atque hâc vnâ Sapientiâ, quod Deorum Immortalium Numine, omnia regi, gubernarique perspeximus, omnes Gentes Nationesque superauimus.

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