Religion, in some form or other, seems to have been observed by mankind, in all ages and all parts of the world; and considered as the most noble employment, of the most divine nature, and producing the most beneficial effects to society, of all the objects that ever engaged their attention: although from casual circumstances, and interested motives of individuals, there are as many modes and varieties of worship, as languages or nations on the face of the earth.
Europeans have in general embraced Christianity, as contained in the Bible, which they call the Word of God, as the only true and infallible system on earth, and which only can lead us to eternal happiness. This Bible, we have been taught to believe, is holy, just, perfect, and superior to the human understanding; so sacred, that to doubt or disbelieve it, would entail on us inevitable never-ending misery. This doctrine, being instilled into children by their nurses, and enforced by terror at a riper age, has long been assented to by the generality of people, who seldom think or enquire for themselves, but are always more or less the dupes of designing men.
But the times are now changing; the privilege of reasoning and believing for ourselves begins to be exercised—freedom of enquiry abounds; and the natural inherent right of speaking and acting according to the dictates of our own conscience (without injuring society) is happily enjoyed. Consequently, impositions of every kind, superstitious prejudices, and the long worshipped fabrics of civil and religious tyranny, are daily growing into contempt, and in all probability will soon be torn from their foundations, and consigned to that infamous oblivion which they so highly merit.
To come more immediately to the point—the Christian religion, as generally practised, presents itself as one of those monuments of ignorance and credulity, which the wisdom of the present generation is probably destined to overthrow, and to substitute a system more simple, more pure, and more agreeable to the dictates of reason. The Bible, upon examination, we shall find deficient in many of the virtues that have been ascribed to it. As a human composition, its merits have been greatly over-rated: it is exceeded in sentiment, invention, style, and every other literary qualification. The obscurity, incredibility, and obscenity, so conspicuous in many parts of it, would justly condemn the works of a modern writer. It contains a mixture of inconsistency and contradiction; to call which the word of God, is the highest pitch of extravagance: it is to attribute to the Deity that which any person of common sense would blush to confess himself the author of.
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