Page:Plutarch - Moralia, translator Holland, 1911.djvu/393

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.


OF SUPERSTITION

THE SUMMARY

[It should seem that Plutarch composed this book in mockery and derision of the Jews, whom he toucheth and girdeth at in one place, and whose religion he mingleth with the superstition of the pagans; to as much purpose (I wis) as that which he delivereth in a discourse at the table, where he compareth the feast of the Tabernacles, ordained by the eternal and almighty God, with the Bacchanals and such stinking ordures of idolaters; thinking verily that Bacchus was the god of the Jews. This slander of his and false calumniation ought to be imputed unto that ignorance of the true God, wherein Plutarch did remain enwrapped: yet is not he the man alone who hath derided and flouted the religion of the Jews; but such scoffs and derisions of the sages and wise men of this world, especially and above all when they are addressed against God, fall upon the head of the authors and devisers thereof, to their utter confusion. Moreover, as touching this point, that some have thought this present discourse, wherein he endeavoureth and laboureth to prove superstition to be more perilous than atheism, is dangerous to be read, and containeth false doctrine; for that superstition of the twain is not so bad: I say that in regard of the foolish devotion of Plutarch and such as himself, which in no wise deserveth the name of religion, but is indeed a derision and profanation of true piety and godliness, it were not amiss to affirm that superstition is more wretched and miserable than atheism, considering that less hurtful and dangerous it is for a man not to have his mind and soul troubled at all and disquieted with a fantastical illusion of idols and chimeras in the air, than to fear, honour and serve them in such sort as justice and humanity should in manner be abolished by such superstitious idolators. To be short, that it were better to defeat and overthrow at once all false gods than to lodge any one in his head, for to languish thereby in perpetual misery. Concerning true religion and the extremities thereof, the case is otherwise, and the question disputable, which we leave to divines and theologians to scan upon, to discourse and determine, since our intention and purpose urgeth us not at this time to discourse hereupon.

But to return unto our author, considering that which we come to touch; atheists cannot find how to prevail and maintain their opinion: for sufficient process and accusation against themselves they carry every minute of an hour in their cauterised and seared conscience; but he sheweth that to worship and serve many idols is a thing without comparison more deplorable than to disavow and disclaim them all. But to prove this, after he had discovered the course of superstition and atheism, and declared the difference

371