Sylvain Maréchal 1799

The Dictionary of Ancient and Modern Atheists

Source: Dictionnaire des athées anciens et modernes. Chez Grabit, year VIII (1799);
Translated: for by Mitch Abidor 2005;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) 2005.

ALEMBERT(d’) – Rest assured that your religion is false...if the truth not clearer than the day.

n.b. Geometers aren’t paid with the coin of probability.

...In his fashion he was even an atheist, since he didn’t believe, as he confessed to me one day, either that God created matter, or that he was an intelligent being, immaterial and distinct from his effects ... Naigeon

ANACREON -Atheist of the best form, this poet recognized no other divinities than the Graces, and his only cult was that of Love.

ANAXAGORAS – “Anaxagoras the Atheist inspired a reasonable religion, explaining by natural causes that which appeared extraordinary.”

He didn’t pass himself off as having much piety towards the gods. Was it to characterize him that an altar to good sense was raised on his tomb?

ARABS -This spiritual nation counts many atheists among them, and perfectly responds to all those demi-philosophers who claim that atheism extinguishes the imagination.

ST AUGUSTINE – “God is a being of whom we speak without being able to say anything.”

In which case, great doctors, burn all your books.

Aside from this, this Church Father was a believer in fatalism, for he believed that man is invincibly predetermined for good or evil.

BORNO – The peoples of Borno have neither law nor religion. – Dapper

n.b. Yet they are no less wise or happy.

BUONAPARTE (of l'Institut national) – In 1798 the English said that Buonaparte is the general of the atheists. -note communicated by Lalande.

Did the English feel themselves authorized to speak thus of Buopnaparte because of his familiar expression: “The god of fortune accompanies me?” Caesar expressed himself in the same way, and Caesar was nothing if not religious

CAMPANELLA (Th. of Calabria) – Cyprianus believes that deep down Campanella had no religion...

He didn’t have what it takes to be an atheist, Naigeon said.

His book entitled “Atheismus triumphatus” would be better titled “Atheismus triumphans.”

Far from combating and defeating atheism, he handles it mildly and even makes it triumph.

Twenty-seven years of prison and seven tortures prevented Campanella from going as far as he could have.

CANARIES- Nature was the only divinity of the ancient inhabitants of the Canaries – Herbert, English traveler

DIDEROT – Was an atheist and even a firm and carefully thought out one. He arrived at this result through a method of investigation that uses all the paths that lead most directly and surely to truth, i.e., through meditation, experience, observation, and calculation. -Naigeon

EGYPTIANS – Jablonski, in the article on Phtha, depicts the Egyptians as atheists, whose system so resembles that of Spinoza that, if one has the least power of observation, it is impossible to mistake it.

FAMILIES – We know several families (we could cite them) whose children were and are raised in absolute ignorance of God. Their purity of morals is the sweet fruit of this anti-religious education. An entire city, an entire people of virtuous atheists has appeared to good spirits to be in the order of things both possible and very natural. Daily experience confirms this conjecture within several households. And after all, a nation, a city, are nothing but a large family, or the gathering together of several families

GNOSIMAQUES – This name, made up of two Greek words (man who combats science) was given to certain philosophers who condemned all kinds of study and research, especially those that had religion as their object. These practical atheists claimed that man should limit himself to doing good works.

Blessed be the Gnosimaques!

GYMNOSOPHISTS – ... always accused of atheism, and always respected for their wisdom, the Gymnosophists fulfilled society’s obligations with the greatest exactitude – Helvetius (On the Spirit v. II)

n.b. Atheists must necessarily be better citizens than the rest of the members of a political state for the reason that they do not obey two masters, God and the law. They only recognize the latter as being above them.

HANNIBAL- This general of the Carthaginian armies against the Romans, according to Livy, had no fear of the gods and was a downright atheist....

n.b. Almost all great captains are atheists. Wars, even the most just, are a witness against providence.

JACOB , the patriarch – He fought against God for a whole night...

n.b. Is this in order to teach us in oriental style that the patriarch Jacob was an atheist, or at the very least had to do himself violence in order to believe?

Julian (the emperor) – Nicknamed the Apostate by the Christians.

We will call him the Materialist because of his beautiful invocation of the sun.

This philosopher prince dismissed a body of police agents, vile spies charged by his predecessors with searching through family secrets and consciences in order to denounce the unbelieving and the impious to the government.

LEIBNITZ – ...He always carried on his person his rosary beads, a precaution that was not without utility. Being without them one day, sailors threw him into the sea during a storm, thinking they had on board an atheist being punished by heaven.

n.b. Many atheists still carry and say their rosary.

MILTON (J) English poet – When he was old he kept himself apart from all kinds of communion, frequented no religious assembly, and at home observed the ritual of no sect. He limited himself to a profound respect for the God of the philosophers...because he was persuaded that one can be a good man without subscribing to the formulas of any party. This is why he lined up on the side of the independents, and professed an unlimited tolerance

MYTHOLOGISTS – The authors of mythology, both poets and prose writers, were Spinozists, composing their gods of personified parts of nature.

The Mythologists had more imagination and good faith than the theologians, their successors.

ORPHEUS -...According to this poet of antiquity, God came from an egg.

n.b. An egg thus existed before God. Alas, Orpheus’s egg is the true Pandora’s Box.

PARIS – In Paris, under the reign of Charles IX in the year 1573, there was a man who, surprised in the act proselytizing in secret for atheism, was sent before parlement and condemned as impious...He maintained that there was no other God in the world than that of maintaining his body without soiling it, and in fact, according to what was said, he was a virgin... He had as many shirts as there are days of the year...he was enemy of all ordures, in act and in word, but even more so of God...He vomited strange blasphemies, though he proffered them with a sugary mouth and a gentle mien...By command of the King a lovely sacrifice to God was made of him at the Place de Greve, and he was burned half-alive...

The name of this unfortunate is unknown to us.

n.b. The details of this tale make your hair stand on end. Poor human race. How you were treated in the XVI century! And how little it’s changed in the XVII!

PEOPLE-...Vox populi vox dei. That is, the voice of the people is the voice of God

n.b. This proverb has disgusted many people with the belief in God.

PLINY – The ancient, or the naturalist, born in Verona.

“The universe is an august temple, above which it is not permitted us to seek the divinity.”

One could not in fewer words and more poetically explain Spinoza’s system.

Pliny communicates to his readers a certain liberty of spirit, a daringness in thought, that is the germ of philosophy.” – Buffon.

n.b. Buffon didn’t dare take the same liberties, fearing priestly censure.

PORTUGAL – The horrible earthquake in Lisbon in 1755 peopled Portugal with atheists. Many of the best believers could not reconcile that terrible catastrophe with the idea of providence

PYRRHON – The leader of skeptical philosophers.

Doubt is the beginning of wisdom.

Pyrrhon, a contemporary of Epicurus, was appreciated by his compatriots. In consideration of him, philosophers were freed from all taxes.

n.b. Examples of deference accorded to philosophy are so rare as to be cited.

RABELAIS- The priest of Meudon. See his books, his life and his death.

I am going to seek the great perhaps, he said upon expiring.

Rabelais, pernicious writer...who annihiulates the religious sentiment – Garasse

Drunken philosopher, it was said.

RIVAROL – God is always absent in the moral order. – De la Philosophie Moderne

Those who arrive at disbelief through meditation or through long study are calm and elevated spirits.

ROMANS- For 170 years the first Romans lived without any religion, according to the reports of several writers...That is to say, the whole religion of the Romans was nothing but atheism.

SeVIGNE (Madame de) – Madame de Sevigne said that she loved God like a gallant man one has never known.

THEISTS or Deists – These two almost synonymous qualifications designate those who, already revolted by the absurdity and immorality of all religions, but not daring to immediately pass over into the camp of the atheists, limit themselves to saying that they need a God in order to make the world.

These good people, not kindly looked upon by the religious inspire some interest in philosophers.

If theists or deists are at all logical, they don’t delay in becoming atheists. They are on the road.

WOOD – Religions depend more than we think on soil and climate. -Essay on Homer’s Genius

n.b. The same cannot be said of mathematical truths. Always and everywhere a triangle has three sides.