Page:Plutarch - Moralia, translator Holland, 1911.djvu/409

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387
Of Superstition

beginning of impiety and atheism, but also when it is sprung up and grown, doth patronise and excuse it, although not truly and honestly, yet not without some colourable pretence: for the sages and wise men in times past grew not into this opinion, that the world was wholly void of a divine power and deity, because they beheld and considered anything to be found fault withal in the heaven, some negligence and disorder to be marked, some confusion to be observed in the stars in the times and seasons of the year, in the revolutions thereof, in the course and motions of the sun round about the earth, which is the cause of night and day, or in the nouriture and food of beasts or in the yearly generation and increase of the fruits upon the earth; but the ridiculous works and deeds of superstition, their passions worthy to be mocked and laughed at, their words, their motions and gestures, their charms, sorceries, enchantments and magical illusions, their runnings up and down, their beating of drums and tabours, their impure purifications, their filthy castimonies and beastly sanctifi cations, their barbarous and unlawful corrections and chastisements, their inhuman and shameful indignities, practised even in temples; these things (I say) gave occasion first unto some for to say that better it were there had been no gods at all than to admit such for gods who received and approved these abuses, yea, and took pleasure therein, or that they should be so outrageous, proud and injurious, so base and pinching, so easy to fall into choler upon a small cause, and so hard to be pleased again. Had it not been far better for those Gauls, Scythians, or Tartarians in old time to have had no thought, no imagination, no mention at all delivered unto them in histories of gods, than to think there were gods delighting in the bloodshed of men, and to believe that the most holy and accomplished sacrifice and service of the gods was to cut men's throats and to spill their blood: and had it not been more expedient for the Carthaginians by having at the first for their law-givers either Critias or Diagoras to have been persuaded that there was neither God in heaven nor devil in hell, than to sacrifice so as they did to Saturn, who not (as Empedocles said) reproving and taxing those that killed living creatures in sacrifice:

The sire lifts up his dear beloved son.
Who first some other form and shape did take:
He doth him slay, and sacrifice anon,
And therewith vows and foolish prayers doth make;

but witting and knowing killed their own children indeed for sacrifice; and look, who had no issue of their own, would buy