Simon Griffee

Man’s Ideas Upon Divinity ➶

21 November 2014

Carl Sagan quoting Holbach in the preface to Cosmos’s Chapter VII, The Backbone of Night, p.167:

If a faithful account was rendered of Man’s ideas upon Divinity, he would be obliged to acknowledge, that for the most part the word “gods” has been used to express the concealed, remote, unknown causes of the effects he witnessed; that he applies this term when the spring of the natural, the source of known causes, ceases to be visible: as soon as he loses the thread of these causes, or as soon as his mind can no longer follow the chain, he solves the difficulty, terminates his research, by ascribing it to his gods… When, therefore, he ascribes to his gods the production of some phenomenon… does he, in fact, do any thing more than substitute for the darkness of his own mind, a sound to which he has been accustomed to listen with reverential awe?

— Paul Heinrich Dietrich, Baron von Holbach, Système de la Nature, London, 1770

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