I suppose that the man who reads this article is convinced that this
world is formed with intelligence, and that a little astronomy and
anatomy suffices to make this universal and supreme intelligence
Can he know by himself if this intelligence is omnipotent, that is to
say, infinitely powerful? Has he the least notion of the infinite, to
understand what is an infinite power?
The celebrated historian philosopher, David Hume, says in "Particular
Providence": "A weight of ten ounces is lifted in a balance by another
weight; therefore this other weight is of more than ten ounces; but one
can adduce no reason why it should weigh a hundred ounces."
One can say likewise: You recognize a supreme intelligence strong enough
to form you, to preserve you for a limited time, to reward you, to
punish you. Do you know enough of this power to demonstrate that it can
do still more?
How can you prove by your reason that this being can do more than he has
The life of all animals is short. Could he make it longer?
All animals are the prey of each other: everything is born to be
devoured. Could he form without destroying?
You do not know what nature is. You cannot therefore know if nature has
not forced him to do only the things he has done.
This globe is only a vast field of destruction and carnage. Either the
great Being has been able to make of it an eternal abode of delight for
all sentient beings, or He has not been able. If He has been able and if
He has not done so, fear to regard him as malevolent; but if He has not
been able, fear not to look on Him as a very great power, circumscribed
by nature in His limits.
Whether or no His power is infinite does not regard you. It is a matter
of indifference to a subject whether his master possesses five hundred
leagues of land or five thousand; he is subject neither more nor less.
Which would be the greater insult to this ineffable Being, to say: "He
has made miserable men without being able to dispense with them, or He
has made them for His pleasure?"
Many sects represent Him as cruel; others, for fear of admitting a
wicked God, have the audacity to deny His existence. Is it not better to
say that probably the necessity of His nature and the necessity of
things have determined everything?
The world is the theatre of moral ill and physical ill; one is only too
aware of it: and the "All is good" of Shaftesbury, Bolingbroke and Pope,
is only a witty paradox, a poor joke.
The two principles of Zarathustra and Manes, so carefully scrutinized by
Bayle, are a still poorer joke. They are, as has been observed already,
Moliere's two doctors, one of whom says to the other: "Grant me the
emetic, and I will grant you the bleeding." Manichaeism is absurd; and
that is why it has had so many supporters.
I admit that I have not been enlightened by all that Bayle says about
the Manichaeans and the Paulicians. That is controversy; I would have
preferred pure philosophy. Why discuss our mysteries beside
Zarathustra's? As soon as you dare to treat of our mysteries, which need
only faith and no reasoning, you open precipices for yourself.
The trash in our scholastic theology has nothing to do with the trash in
Why debate original sin with Zarathustra? There was never any question
of it save in St. Augustine's time. Neither Zarathustra nor any
legislator of antiquity had ever heard speak of it.
If you dispute with Zarathustra, put under lock and key the old and the
new Testaments which he did not know, and which one must revere without
desiring to explain them.
What then should I have said to Zarathustra? My reason cannot admit two
gods who fight, that is good only in a poem where Minerva quarrels with
Mars. My feeble reason is much more content with a single great Being,
whose essence was to make, and who has made all that nature has
permitted Him, than it is satisfied with two great Beings, one of whom
spoils the works of the other. Your bad principle Ahriman, has not been
able to upset a single one of the astronomical and physical laws of the
good principle Ormuzd; everything progresses in the heavens with the
greatest regularity. Why should the wicked Ahriman have had power over
this little globe of the world?
If I had been Ahriman, I should have attacked Ormuzd in his fine grand
provinces of so many suns and stars. I should not have limited myself to
making war on him in a little village.
There is much evil in this village: but whence have you the knowledge
that this evil is not inevitable?
You are forced to admit an intelligence diffused over the universe; but
(1) do you know, for instance, if this power reaches right to foreseeing
the future? You have asserted it a thousand times; but you have never
been able either to prove it, or to understand it. You cannot know how
any being whatever sees what is not. Well, the future is not; therefore
no being can see it. You are reduced to saying that He foresees it; but
foreseeing is conjecturing. This is the opinion of the Socinians.
Well, a God who, according to you, conjectures, can be mistaken. In your
system He is really mistaken; for if He had foreseen that His enemy
would poison all His works here below, He would not have produced them;
He would not have prepared for Himself the shame of being continually
(2) Do I not do Him much more honour by saying that He has made
everything by the necessity of His nature, than you do Him by raising an
enemy who disfigures, who soils, who destroys all His works here below?
(3) It is not to have an unworthy idea of God to say that, having formed
thousands of millions of worlds where death and evil do not dwell, it
was necessary that evil and death should dwell in this world.
(4) It is not to disparage God to say that He could not form man without
giving him self-esteem; that this self-esteem could not lead him without
misguiding him almost always; that his passions are necessary, but that
they are disastrous; that propagation cannot be executed without desire;
that desire cannot animate man without quarrels; that these quarrels
necessarily bring wars in their train, etc.
(5) When he sees part of the combinations of the animal, vegetable and
mineral kingdoms, and this globe pierced everywhere like a sieve, from
which escape in crowds so many exhalations, what philosopher will be
bold enough, what scholastic foolish enough to see clearly that nature
could stop the effects of volcanoes, the inclemencies of the atmosphere,
the violence of the winds, the plagues, and all the destructive
(6) One must be very powerful, very strong, very industrious, to have
formed lions which devour bulls, and to have produced men who invent
arms to kill at one blow, not only bulls and lions, but even each other.
One must be very powerful to have caused to be born spiders which spin
webs to catch flies; but that is not to be omnipotent, infinitely
(7) If the great Being had been infinitely powerful, there is no reason
why He should not have made sentient animals infinitely happy; He has
not done so, therefore He was not able.
(8) All the sects of the philosophers have stranded on the reef of moral
and physical ill. It only remains to avow that God having acted for the
best has not been able to act better.
(9) This necessity settles all the difficulties and finishes all the
disputes. We have not the impudence to say--"All is good." We say--"All
is the least bad that is possible."
(10) Why does a child often die in its mother's womb? Why is another who
has had the misfortune to be born, reserved for torments as long as his
life, terminated by a frightful death?
Why has the source of life been poisoned all over the world since the
discovery of America? why since the seventh century of our era does
smallpox carry off the eighth part of the human race? why since all time
have bladders been subject to being stone quarries? why the plague, war,
famine, the inquisition? Turn in every direction, you will find no other
solution than that everything has been necessary.
I speak here to philosophers only and not to theologians. We know well
that faith is the thread in the labyrinth. We know that the fall of Adam
and Eve, original sin, the immense power given to the devil, the
predilection accorded by the great Being to the Jewish people, and the
baptism substituted for the amputation of the prepuce, are the answers
which explain everything. We have argued only against Zarathustra and
not against the university of Conimbre or Coimbre, to which we submit in