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[885a] and third, offences against parents, when a person commits the outrage otherwise than in the cases already described.1 A fourth2 kind of outrage is when a man, in defiance of the magistrates, drives or carries off or uses any of their things without their own consent; and a fifth kind will be an outrage against the civic right of an individual private citizen which calls for judicial vindication. To all these severally one all-embracing law must be assigned. As to temple-robbing, whether done by open violence or secretly, [885b] it has been already stated summarily what the punishment should be; and in respect of all the outrages, whether of word or deed, which a man commits, either by tongue or hand, against the gods, we must state the punishment he should suffer, after we have first delivered the admonition. It shall be as follows:—No one who believes, as the laws prescribe, in the existence of the gods has ever yet done an impious deed voluntarily, or uttered a lawless word: he that acts so is in one or other of these three conditions of mind—either he does not believe in what I have said; or, secondly, he believes that the gods exist, but have no care for men; or, thirdly, he believes that they are easy to win over when bribed by offerings and prayers.3 [885c]

What, then, shall we do or say to such people?

Let us listen first, my good sir, to what they, as I imagine, say mockingly, in their contempt for us.

What is it?

In derision they would probably say this: “O Strangers of Athens, Lacedaemon and Crete, what you say is true. Some of us do not believe in gods at all; others of us believe in gods of the kinds you mention. So we claim now, as you claimed in the matter of laws, [885d] that before threatening us harshly, you should first try to convince and teach us, by producing adequate proofs, that gods exist, and that they are too good to be wheedled by gifts and turned aside from justice. For as it is, this and such as this is the account of them we hear from those who are reputed the best of poets, orators, seers, priests, and thousands upon thousands of others; and consequently most of us, instead of seeking to avoid wrong-doing, do the wrong and then try to make it good. [885e] Now from lawgivers like you, who assert that you are gentle rather than severe, we claim that you should deal with us first by way of persuasion; and if what you say about the existence of the gods is superior to the arguments of others in point of truth, even though it be but little superior in eloquence, then probably you would succeed in convincing us. Try then, if you think this reasonable, to meet our challenge.

Surely it seems easy, Stranger, to assert with truth

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