Page:Plutarch - Moralia, translator Holland, 1911.djvu/401

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
379
Of Superstition


Think you not, then, that there is the same difference between the passions of atheists and superstitious folk? Atheists have no sight nor knowledge of the gods at all; and the superstitious think there are gods, though they be persuaded of them amiss; atheists neglect them altogether as if they were not; but the superstitious esteem that to be terrible which is gracious and amiable; cruel and tyrant-like which is kind and father-like; hurtful and damageable unto us which is most careful of our good and profit; rough, rigorous, savage and fell of nature which is void of choler and without passion. And hereupon it is that they believe brass-founders, cutters in stone, imagers, gravers and workers in wax, who shape and represent unto them gods with bodies to the likeness of mortal men, for such they imagine them to be, such they adorn, adore, and worship, whiles in the meantime they despise philosophers and grave personages of state and government, who do teach and shew that the majesty of God is accompanied with bounty, magnanimity, love, and careful regard of our good: So that as in the one sort we may perceive a certain senseless stupidity and want of belief in those causes from whence proceed all goodness; so in the other we may observe a distrustful doubt and fear of those which cannot otherwise be than profitable and gracious. In sum, impiety and atheism is nothing else but a mere want of feeling and sense of a deity or divine power, for default of understanding and knowing the sovereign good; and superstition is a heap of divers passions, suspecting and supposing that which is good by nature to be bad; for superstitious persons fear the gods, and yet they have recourse unto them; they flatter them, and yet blaspheme and reproach them; they pray unto them, and yet complain of them. A common thing this is unto all men, not to be always fortunate, whereas the gods are void of sickness, not subject to old age, leither taste they of labour or pain at any time: and as Pindarus saith:

Escape they do the passage of the firth
Of roaring Acheron, and live alway in mirth.

But the passions and affairs of men be intermeddled with divers accidents and adventures which run as well one way as another, Now consider with me first and foremost the atheist in those things which happen against his mind, and learn his disposition and affection in such occurrences: if in other respects he be a temperate and modest man, bear he will his fortune patiently without saying a word; seek for aid he will and comfort by what means he can; but if he be of nature violent, and take his