left biblioblography: Profiles in Atheism - The Good Baron

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Profiles in Atheism - The Good Baron

"Baron d'Holbach (1723 to 1789)

"The philosopher, Baron d'Holbach, (originally named Paul Heinrich Dietrich) was born in Heidelsheim, Germany. At a young age, he relocated to Paris and in 1749 he became a naturalized French citizen. In tribute to his uncle, F.A. d'Holbach, from whom he inherited property, money and title, he adopted the last name of d'Holbach (in French, he was sometimes referred to as Paul Henri Thiry). Baron d'Holbach Jr. used his inheritance to entertain French Philosophes. He advocated atheism, determinism and materialism and rejected absolute monarchy, feudal privilege, the notion of predestination and organized religion. Holbach wrote widely on these topics but published anonymously and under a pseudonym in Holland from fear of retribution. Examples of his work are Christianisme Devoile (1767), Le Systeme de la Nature (1770), Bon Sens, ou Idees Naturelles Opposees aux Idees Surnaturelles (1772), Systeme Social (1773), Politique Naturelle (1773 - 74) and Morale Universelle (1776)."

The Encyclopedia says, "Although a native of the Palatinate, he lived in Paris from childhood. He became a member of a group of notable thinkers and literary men including Diderot, Helvétius, Condorcet, and Rousseau. A supporter of naturalistic and materialistic views, he was a vigorous opponent of Christianity and all positive forms of religion. His best-known work is Système de la nature (1770), first published under the name of Mirabaud."

From Good Sense:

"When we examine the opinions of men, we find that nothing is more uncommon, than common sense; or, in other words, they lack judgment to discover plain truths, or to reject absurdities, and palpable contradictions. We have an example of this in Theology, a system revered in all countries by a great number of men; an object regarded by them as most important, and indispensable to happiness. An examination of the principles upon which this pretended system is founded, forces us to acknowledge, that these principles are only suppositions, imagined by ignorance, propagated by enthusiasm or knavery, adopted by timid credulity, preserved by custom which never reasons, and revered solely because not understood."

And from his The System of Nature:

"The source of man's unhappiness is his ignorance of Nature. The pertinacity with which he clings to blind opinions imbibed in his infancy, which interweave themselves with his existence, the consequent prejudice that warps his mind, that prevents its expansion, that renders him the slave of fiction, appears to doom him to continual error. He resembles a child destitute of experience, full of ideal notions: a dangerous leaven mixes itself with all his knowledge: it is of necessity obscure, it is vacillating and false:--He takes the tone of his ideas on the authority of others, who are themselves in error, or else have an interest in deceiving him. To remove this Cimmerian darkness, these barriers to the improvement of his condition; to disentangle him from the clouds of error that envelope him; to guide him out of this Cretan labyrinth, requires the clue of Ariadne, with all the love she could bestow on Theseus. It exacts more than common exertion; it needs a most determined, a most undaunted courage--it is never effected but by a persevering resolution to act, to think for himself; to examine with rigour and impartiality the opinions he has adopted. He will find that the most noxious weeds have sprung up beside beautiful flowers; entwined themselves around their stems, overshadowed them with an exuberance of foliage, choked the ground, enfeebled their growth, diminished their petals; dimmed the brilliancy of their colours; that deceived by their apparent freshness of their verdure, by the rapidity of their exfoliation, he has given them cultivation, watered them, nurtured them, when he ought to have plucked out their very roots."

And of course, some quotes to top it off:

""All children are atheists - they have no idea of God."
"What has been said of [God] is either unintelligible or perfectly contradictory; and for this reason must appear impossible to every man of common sense."
"Tolerance and freedom of thought are the veritable antidotes to religious fanaticism."
"All religions are ancient monuments to superstition, ignorance, ferocity; and modern religions are only ancient follies."
"All religious notions are uniformly founded on authority; all the religions the world forbid examination, and are not disposed that men should reason upon them."

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beepbeepitsme said...

And the last quote I think is particularly pertinent.

"All religious notions are uniformly founded on authority; all the religions the world forbid examination, and are not disposed that men should reason upon them."

remy said...

THAT is wonderful writing.

I have of late begun to subtitute the word superstition for religion. The term 'relgion' retains too much respect in most peoples lexicon.

The battle is not between reason and relgion but between reason and superstition. And, ummmm, people don't like it.

Krystalline Apostate said...

BBIM - little late on this, but note the d'Holbach quote:
"All children are atheists - they have no idea of God."
Bear that in mind next time some schlub blathers about Flew.

beepbeepitsme said...

Good point.