Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume IV/Minucius Felix/The Octavius of Minucius Felix/Chapter 8
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Chapter VIII.—Argument: The Impious Temerity of Theodorus, Diagoras, and Protagoras is Not at All to Be Acquiesced In, Who Wished Either Altogether to Get Rid of the Religion of the Gods, or at Least to Weaken It. But Infinitely Less to Be Endured is that Skulking and Light-Shunning People of the Christians, Who Reject the Gods, and Who, Fearing to Die After Death, Do Not in the Meantime Fear to Die.
“Therefore, since the consent of all nations concerning the existence of the immortal gods remains established, although their nature or their origin remains uncertain, I suffer nobody swelling with such boldness, and with I know not what irreligious wisdom, who would strive to undermine or weaken this religion, so ancient, so useful, so wholesome, even although he may be Theodorus of Cyrene, or one who is before him, Diagoras the Melian, to whom antiquity applied the surname of Atheist,—both of whom, by asseverating that there were no gods, took away all the fear by which humanity is ruled, and all veneration absolutely; yet never will they prevail in this discipline of impiety, under the name and authority of their pretended philosophy. When the men of Athens both expelled Protagoras of Abdera, and in public assembly burnt his writings, because he disputed deliberately rather than profanely concerning the divinity, why is it not a thing to be lamented, that men (for you will bear with my making use pretty freely of the force of the plea that I have undertaken)—that men, I say, of a reprobate, unlawful, and desperate faction, should rage against the gods? who, having gathered together from the lowest dregs the more unskilled, and women, credulous and, by the facility of their sex, yielding, establish a herd of a profane conspiracy, which is leagued together by nightly meetings, and solemn fasts and inhuman meats—not by any sacred rite, but by that which requires expiation—a people skulking and shunning the light, silent in public, but garrulous in corners. They despise the temples as dead-houses, they reject the gods, they laugh at sacred things; wretched, they pity, if they are allowed, the priests; half naked themselves, they despise honours and purple robes. Oh, wondrous folly and incredible audacity! they despise present torments, although they fear those which are uncertain and future; and while they fear to die after death, they do not fear to die for the present: so does a deceitful hope soothe their fear with the solace of a revival.
- According to the codex, “the Milesian.” [See note in Reeve’s Apologies of Justin Martyr, Tertullian, and Minucius Felix, vol. ii. p. 59. S.]
- Some have corrected this word, reading “without consideration,” scil. “inconsulte;” and the four first editions omit the subsequent words, “concerning the divinity.”
- There are various emendations of this passage, but their meaning is somewhat obscure. One is elaborately ingenious: “Ita illis pavorum fallax spes solatio redivivo blanditur,” which is said to imply, “Thus the hope that deceives their fears, soothes them with the hope of living again.”