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Consider well the atheist, and observe his behavior first in things not under the disposal of his will. If he be otherwise a man of good temper, he is silent under his present circumstances, and is providing himself with either remedies or palliatives for his misfortunes. But if he be a [p. 175] fretful and impatient man, his whole complaint is against Fortune. He cries out, that nothing is managed here below either after the rules of a strict justice or the orderly course of a providence, and that all human affairs are hurried and driven without either premeditation or distinction. This is not the demeanor of the superstitious; if the least thing do but happen amiss to him, he sits him down plunged in sorrow, and raises himself a vast tempest of intolerable and incurable passions, and presents his fancy with nothing but terrors, fears, surmises, and distractions, until he hath overwhelmed himself with groans and fears. He blames neither man, nor Fortune, nor the times, nor himself; but charges all upon God, from whom he fancies a whole deluge of vengeance to be pouring down upon him; and, as if he were not only unfortunate but in open hostility with Heaven, he imagines that he is punished by God and is now making satisfaction for his past crimes, and saith that his sufferings are all just and owing to himself. Again, when the atheist falls sick, he reckons up and calls to his remembrance his several surfeits and debauches, his irregular course of living, excessive labors, or unaccustomed changes of air or climate. Likewise, when he miscarries in any public administration, and either falls into popular disgrace or comes to be ill presented to his prince, he searches for the causes in himself and those about him, and asks,
Where have I erred? What have I done amiss?
What should be done by me that undone is?
But the fanciful superstitionist accounts every little distemper in his body or decay in his estate, the death of his children, and crosses and disappointments in matters relating to the public, as the immediate strokes of God and the incursions of some vindictive daemon. And therefore he dares not attempt to remove or relieve his disasters, or [p. 176] to use the least remedy or to oppose himself to them, for fear he should seem to struggle with God and to make resistance under correction. If he be sick, he thrusts away the physician; if he be in any grief, he shuts out the philosopher that would comfort and advise him. Let me alone, saith he, to pay for my sins: I am a cursed and vile offender, and detestable both to God and angels. Now suppose a man unpersuaded of a Divinity in never so great sorrow and trouble, you may yet possibly wipe away his tears, cut his hair, and force away his mourning; but how will you come at this superstitious penitentiary, either to speak to him or to bring him any relief? He sits him down without doors in sackcloth, or wrapped up in foul and nasty rags; yea, many times rolls himself naked in mire, repeating over I know not what sins and transgressions of his own; as, how he did eat this thing and drink the other thing, or went some way prohibited by his Genius. But suppose he be now at his best, and laboring under only a mild attack of superstition; you shall even then find him sitting down in the midst of his house all becharmed and bespelled, with a parcel of old women about him, tugging all they can light on, and hanging it upon him as (to use an expression of Bion's) upon some nail or peg.

1 Pythagoras, Carmen Aur. 41.

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