Book XXIV. Of Laws in relation to Religion Considered in
Itself, and in its Doctrines
1. Of Religion in General. As amidst several
degrees of darkness we may form a judgment of those which are the least
thick, and among precipices which are the least deep, so we may search
among false religions for those that are most conformable to the welfare
of society; for those which, though they have not the effect of leading
men to the felicity of another life, may contribute most to their
happiness in this.
I shall examine, therefore, the several religions of the world, in
relation only to the good they produce in civil society, whether I speak
of that which has its root in heaven, or of those which spring from the
As in this work I am not a divine but a political writer, I may here
advance things which are not otherwise true than as they correspond with a
worldly manner of thinking, not as considered in their relation to truths
of a more sublime nature.
With regard to the true religion, a person of the least degree of
impartiality must see that I have never pretended to make its interests
submit to those of a political nature, but rather to unite them; now, in
order to unite, it is necessary that we should know them.
The Christian religion, which ordains that men should love each other,
would, without doubt, have every nation blest with the best civil, the
best political laws; because these, next to this religion, are the
greatest good that men can give and receive.
2. A Paradox of M. Bayle's. M. Bayle has
pretended to prove1 that it is
better to be an Atheist than an Idolater; that is, in other words, that it
is less dangerous to have no religion at all than a bad one. "I had
rather," said he, "it should be said of me that I had no
existence than that I am a villain." This is only a sophism founded
on this, that it is of no importance to the human race to believe that a
certain man exists, whereas it is extremely useful for them to believe the
existence of a God. From the idea of his non-existence immediately follows
that of our independence; or, if we cannot conceive this idea, that of
disobedience. To say that religion is not a restraining motive, because it
does not always restrain, is equally absurd as to say that the civil laws
are not a restraining motive. It is a false way of reasoning against
religion to collect, in a large work, a long detail of the evils it has
produced if we do not give at the same time an enumeration of the
advantages which have flowed from it. Were I to relate all the evils that
have arisen in the world from civil laws, from monarchy, and from
republican government, I might tell of frightful things. Were it of no
advantage for subjects to have religion, it would still be of some, if
princes had it, and if they whitened with foam the only rein which can
restrain those who fear not human laws.
A prince who loves and fears religion is a lion, who stoops to the hand
that strokes, or to the voice that appeases him. He who fears and hates
religion is like the savage beast that growls and bites the chain which
prevents his flying on the passenger. He who has no religion at all is
that terrible animal who perceives his liberty only when he tears in
pieces and when he devours.
The question is not to know whether it would be better that a certain
man or a certain people had no religion than to abuse what they have, but
to know what is the least evil, that religion be sometimes abused, or that
there be no such restraint as religion on mankind.
To diminish the horror of Atheism, they lay too much to the charge of
idolatry. It is far from being true that when the ancients raised altars
to a particular vice, they intended to show that they loved the vice; this
signified, on the contrary, that they hated it. When the Lacedæmonians
erected a temple to Fear, it was not to show that this warlike nation
desired that he would in the midst of battle possess the hearts of the
Lacedæmonians. They had deities to whom they prayed not to inspire
them with guilt; and others whom they besought to shield them from it.
3. That a moderate Government is most agreeable
to the Christian Religion, and a despotic Government to the Mahometan.
The Christian religion is a stranger to mere despotic power. The mildness
so frequently recommended in the Gospel is incompatible with the despotic
rage with which a prince punishes his subjects, and exercises himself in
As this religion forbids the plurality of wives, its princes are less
confined, less concealed from their subjects, and consequently have more
humanity: they are more disposed to be directed by laws, and more capable
of perceiving that they cannot do whatever they please.
While the Mahometan princes incessantly give or receive death, the
religion of the Christians renders their princes less timid, and
consequently less cruel. The prince confides in his subjects, and the
subjects in the prince. How admirable the religion which, while it only
seems to have in view the felicity of the other life, continues the
happiness of this!
It is the Christian religion that, in spite of the extent of the empire
and the influence of the climate, has hindered despotic power from being
established in Ethiopia, and has carried into the heart of Africa the
manners and laws of Europe.
The heir to the empire of Ethiopia2
enjoys a principality and gives to other subjects an example of love and
obedience. Not far thence may we see the Mahometan shutting up the
children of the King of Sennar, at whose death the council sends to murder
them, in favour of the prince who mounts the throne.
Let us set before our eyes, on the one hand, the continual massacres of
the kings and generals of the Greeks and Romans, and, on the other, the
destruction of people and cities by those famous conquerors Timur Beg and
Jenghiz Khan, who ravaged Asia, and we shall see that we owe to
Christianity, in government, a certain political law; and in war, a
certain law of nations — benefits which human nature can never
It is owing to this law of nations that among us victory leaves these
great advantages to the conquered, life, liberty, laws, wealth, and always
religion, when the conqueror is not blind to his own interest.
We may truly say that the people of Europe are not at present more
disunited than the people and the armies, or even the armies among
themselves were, under the Roman empire when it had become a despotic and
military government. On the one hand, the armies engaged in war against
each other, and, on the other, they pillaged the cities, and divided or
confiscated the lands.
4. Consequences from the Character of the
Christian Religion, and that of the Mahometan. From the characters of
the Christian and Mahometan religions, we ought, without any further
examination, to embrace the one and reject the other: for it is much
easier to prove that religion ought to humanise the manners of men than
that any particular religion is true.
It is a misfortune to human nature when religion is given by a
conqueror. The Mahometan religion, which speaks only by the sword, acts
still upon men with that destructive spirit with which it was founded.
The history of Sabbaco,3 one of
the pastoral kings of Egypt, is very extraordinary. The tutelar god of
Thebes, appearing to him in a dream, ordered him to put to death all the
priests of Egypt. He judged that the gods were displeased at his being on
the throne, since they commanded him to commit an action contrary to their
ordinary pleasure; and therefore he retired into Ethiopia.
5. That the Catholic Religion is most agreeable
to a Monarchy, and the Protestant to a Republic. When a religion is
introduced and fixed in a state, it is commonly such as is most suitable
to the plan of government there established; for those who receive it, and
those who are the cause of its being received, have scarcely any other
idea of policy than that of the state in which they were born.
When the Christian religion, two centuries ago, became unhappily divided
into Catholic and Protestant, the people of the north embraced the
Protestant, and those of the south adhered still to the Catholic.
The reason is plain: the people of the north have, and will for ever
have, a spirit of liberty and independence, which the people of the south
have not; and therefore a religion which has no visible head is more
agreeable to the independence of the climate than that which has one.
In the countries themselves where the Protestant religion became
established, the revolutions were made pursuant to the several plans of
political government. Luther having great princes on his side would never
have been able to make them relish an ecclesiastical authority that had no
exterior pre-eminence; while Calvin, having to do with people who lived
under republican governments, or with obscure citizens in monarchies,
might very well avoid establishing dignities and preferments.
Each of these two religions was believed to be perfect; the Calvinist
judging his most conformable to what Christ had said, and the Lutheran to
what the Apostles had practised.
6. Another of M. Bayle's Paradoxes. M. Bayle,
after having abused all religions, endeavours to sully Christianity: he
boldly asserts that true Christians cannot form a government of any
duration. Why not? Citizens of this profession being infinitely
enlightened with respect to the various duties of life, and having the
warmest zeal to fulfil them, must be perfectly sensible of the rights of
natural defence. The more they believe themselves indebted to religion,
the more they would think due to their country. The principles of
Christianity, deeply engraved on the heart, would be infinitely more
powerful than the false honour of monarchies, than the humane virtues of
republics, or the servile fear of despotic states.
It is astonishing that this great man should not be able to distinguish
between the orders for the establishment of Christianity and Christianity
itself; and that he should be liable to be charged with not knowing the
spirit of his own religion. When the legislator, instead of laws, has
given counsels, this is because he knew that if these counsels were
ordained as laws they would be contrary to the spirit of the laws
7. Of the Laws of Perfection in Religion.
Human laws, made to direct the will, ought to give precepts, and not
counsels; religion, made to influence the heart, should give many
counsels, and few precepts.
When, for instance, it gives rules, not for what is good, but for what
is better; not to direct to what is right, but to what is perfect, it is
expedient that these should be counsels, and not laws: for perfection can
have no relation to the universality of men or things. Besides, if these
were laws, there would be a necessity for an infinite number of others, to
make people observe the first. Celibacy was advised by Christianity; when
they made it a law in respect to a certain order of men, it became
necessary to make new ones every day, in order to oblige those men to
observe it.4 The legislator wearied
himself, and he wearied society, to make men execute by precept what those
who love perfection would have executed as counsel.
8. Of the Connection between the moral Laws and
those of Religion. In a country so unfortunate as to have a religion
that God has not revealed, it is necessary for it to be agreeable to
morality; because even a false religion is the best security we can have
of the probity of men.
The principal points of religion of the inhabitants of Pegu5
are, not to commit murder, not to steal, to avoid uncleanliness, not to
give the least uneasiness to their neighbour, but to do him, on the
contrary, all the good in their power. With these rules they think they
should be saved in any religion whatsoever. Hence it proceeds that those
people, though poor and proud, behave with gentleness and compassion to
9. Of the Essenes. The Essenes6
made a vow to observe justice to mankind, to do no ill to any person, upon
whatsoever account, to keep faith with all the world, to hate injustice,
to command with modesty, always to side with truth, and to fly from all
10. Of the Sect of Stoics. The several sects
of philosophy among the ancients were a species of religion. Never were
any principles more worthy of human nature, and more proper to form the
good man, than those of the Stoics; and if I could for a moment cease to
think that I am a Christian, I should not be able to hinder myself from
ranking the destruction of the sect of Zeno among the misfortunes that
have befallen the human race.
It carried to excess only those things in which there is true greatness —
the contempt of pleasure and of pain.
It was this sect alone that made citizens; this alone that made great
men; this alone great emperors.
Laying aside for a moment revealed truths, let us search through all
nature, and we shall not find a nobler object than the Antoninuses; even
Julian himself — Julian (a commendation thus wrested from me will not
render me an accomplice of his apostasy) — no, there has not been a
prince since his reign more worthy to govern mankind.
While the Stoics looked upon riches, human grandeur, grief,
disquietudes, and pleasures as vanity, they were entirely employed in
labouring for the happiness of mankind, and in exercising the duties of
society. It seems as if they regarded that sacred spirit, which they
believed to dwell within them, as a kind of favourable providence watchful
over the human race.
Born for society, they all believed that it was their destiny to labour
for it; with so much the less fatigue, their rewards were all within
themselves. Happy by their philosophy alone, it seemed as if only the
happiness of others could increase theirs.
11. Of Contemplation. Men being made to
preserve, to nourish, to clothe themselves, and do all the actions of
society, religion ought not to give them too contemplative a life.7
The Mahometans become speculative by habit; they pray five times a day,
and each time they are obliged to cast behind them everything which has
any concern with this world: this forms them for speculation. Add to this
that indifference for all things which is inspired by the doctrine of
If other causes besides these concur to disengage their affections; for
instance, if the severity of the government, if the laws concerning the
property of land, give them a precarious spirit — all is lost.
The religion of the Gaurs formerly rendered Persia a flourishing
kingdom; it corrected the bad effects of despotic power. The same empire
is now destroyed by the Mahometan religion.
12. Of Penances. Penances ought to be joined
with the idea of labour, not with that of idleness; with the idea of good,
not with that of supereminence; with the idea of frugality, not with that
13. Of inexpiable Crimes. It appears from a.
passage of the books of the pontiffs, quoted by Cicero,8
that they had among the Romans inexpiable crimes:9
and it is on this that Zozymus founds the narration so proper to blacken
the motives of Constantine's conversion; and Julian, that bitter raillery
on this conversion in his Cæsars.
The Pagan religion indeed, which prohibited only some of the grosser
crimes, and which stopped the hand but meddled not with the heart, might
have crimes that were inexpiable; but a religion which bridles all the
passions; which is not more jealous of actions than of thoughts and
desires; which holds us not by a few chains but by an infinite number of
threads; which, leaving human justice aside, establishes another kind of
justice; which is so ordered as to lead us continually from repentance to
love, and from love to repentance; which puts between the judge and the
criminal a greater mediator, between the just and the mediator a great
judge — a religion like this ought not to have inexpiable crimes. But
while it gives fear and hope to all, it makes us sufficiently sensible
that though there is no crime in its own nature inexpiable, yet a whole
criminal life may be so; that it is extremely dangerous to affront mercy
by new crimes and new expiations; that an uneasiness on account of ancient
debts, from which we are never entirely free, ought to make us afraid of
contracting new ones, of filling up the measure, and going even to that
point where paternal goodness is limited.
14. In what Manner Religion has an Influence on
Civil Laws. As both religion and the civil laws ought to have a
peculiar tendency to render men good citizens, it is evident that when one
of these deviates from this end, the tendency of the other ought to be
strengthened. The less severity there is in religion, the more there ought
to be in the civil laws.
Thus the reigning religion of Japan having few doctrines, and proposing
neither future rewards nor punishments, the laws to supply these defects
have been made with the spirit of severity, and are executed with an
When the doctrine of necessity is established by religion, the penalties
of the laws ought to be more severe, and the magistrate more vigilant; to
the end that men who would otherwise become abandoned might be determined
by these motives; but it is quite otherwise where religion has established
the doctrine of liberty.
From the inactivity of the soul springs the Mahometan doctrine of
predestination, and from this doctrine of predestination springs the
inactivity of the soul. This, they say, is in the decrees of God; they
must therefore indulge their repose. In a case like this, the magistrate
ought to waken by the laws those who are lulled asleep by religion.
When religion condemns things which the civil laws ought to permit,
there is danger lest the civil laws, on the other hand, should permit what
religion ought to condemn. Either of these is a constant proof of a want
of true ideas of that harmony and proportion which ought to subsist
Thus the Tartars under Jenghiz Khan,10
among whom it was a sin and even a capital crime to put a knife in the
fire, to lean against a whip, to strike a horse with his bridle, to break
one bone with another, did not believe it to be any sin to break their
word, to seize upon another man's goods, to do an injury to a person, or
to commit murder. In a word, laws which render that necessary which is
only indifferent have this inconvenience, that they make those things
indifferent which are absolutely necessary.
The people of Formosa believe11
that there is a kind of hell, but it is to punish those who at certain
seasons have not gone naked, who have dressed in calico and not in silk,
who have presumed to look for oysters, or who have undertaken any business
without consulting the song of birds; while drunkenness and debauchery are
not regarded as crimes. They believe even that the debauches of their
children are agreeable to their gods.
When religion absolves the mind by a thing merely accidental, it loses
its greatest influence on mankind. The people of India believe that the
waters of the Ganges have a sanctifying virtue.12
Those who die on its banks are imagined to be exempted from the torments
of the other life, and to be entitled to dwell in a region full of
delights; and for this reason the ashes of the dead are sent from the most
distant places to be thrown into this river. Little then does it signify
whether they had lived virtuously or not, so they be but thrown into the
The idea of a place of rewards has a necessary connection with the idea
of the abodes of misery; and when they hope for the former without fearing
the latter, the civil laws have no longer any influence. Men who think
themselves sure of the rewards of the other life are above the power of
the legislator; they look upon death with too much contempt. How shall the
man be restrained by laws who believes that the greatest pain the
magistrate can inflict will end in a moment to begin his happiness?
15. How false Religions are sometimes corrected
by the Civil Laws. Simplicity, superstition, or a respect for
antiquity have sometimes established mysteries or ceremonies shocking to
modesty: of this the world has furnished numerous examples. Aristotle says13
that in this case the law permits the fathers of families to repair to the
temple to celebrate these mysteries for their wives and children. How
admirable the civil law which in spite of religion preserves the manners
Augustus14 excluded the youth of
either sex from assisting at any nocturnal ceremony, unless accompanied by
a more aged relative; and when he revived the Lupercalia,15
he would not allow the young men to run naked.
16. How the Laws of Religion correct the
Inconveniences of a political Constitution. On the other hand,
religion may support a state when the laws themselves are incapable of
Thus when a kingdom is frequently agitated by civil wars, religion may
do much by obliging one part of the state to remain always quiet. Among
the Greeks, the Eleans, as priests of Apollo, lived always in peace. In
Japan,16 the city of Meaco enjoys a
constant peace, as being a holy city. Religion supports this regulation,
and that empire, which seems to be alone upon earth, and which neither has
nor will have any dependence on foreigners, has always in its own bosom a
trade which war cannot ruin.
In kingdoms where wars are not entered upon by a general consent, and
where the laws have not pointed out any means either of terminating or
preventing them, religion establishes times of peace, or cessation from
hostilities, that the people may be able to sow their corn and perform
those other labours which are absolutely necessary for the subsistence of
Every year all hostility ceases between the Arabian tribes for four
months: the least disturbance would then be an impiety.17
In former times, when every lord in France declared war or peace, religion
granted a truce, which was to take place at certain seasons.
17. The same Subject continued. When a state
has many causes for hatred, religion ought to produce many ways of
reconciliation. The Arabs, a people addicted to robbery, are frequently
guilty of doing injury and injustice. Mahomet enacted this law:18
"If any one forgives the blood of his brother,19
he may pursue the malefactor for damages and interest; but he who shall
injure the wicked, after having received satisfaction, shall, in the day
of judgment, suffer the most grievous torments."
The Germans inherited the hatred and enmity of their near relatives: but
these were not eternal. Homicide was expiated by giving a certain number
of cattle, and all the family received satisfaction: a thing extremely
useful, says Tacitus, because enmities are most dangerous among a free
people.20 I believe, indeed, that
their ministers of religion, who were held by them in so much credit, were
concerned in these reconciliations.
Among the inhabitants of Malacca,21
where no form of reconciliation is established, he who has committed
murder, certain of being assassinated by the relatives or friends of the
deceased, abandons himself to fury, and wounds or kills all he meets.
18. How the Laws of Religion have the Effect of
Civil Laws. The first Greeks were small nations, frequently dispersed,
pirates at sea, unjust on land, without government and without laws. The
mighty actions of Hercules and Theseus let us see the state of that rising
people. What could religion do more to inspire them with horror against
murder? It declared that the man who had been murdered was enraged against
the assassin, that he would possess his mind with terror and trouble, and
oblige him to yield to him the places he had frequented when alive.22
They could not touch the criminal, nor converse with him, without being
defiled:23 the murderer was to be
expelled from the city, and an expiation made for the crime.24
19. That it is not so much the Truth or Falsity
of a Doctrine which renders it useful or pernicious to Men in civil
Government, as the Use or Abuse of it. The most true and holy
doctrines may be attended with the very worst consequences when they are
not connected with the principles of society: and on the contrary,
doctrines the most false may be attended with excellent consequences when
contrived so as to be connected with these principles.
The religion of Confucius disowns the immortality of the soul: and the
sect of Zeno did not believe it. These two sects have drawn from their bad
principles consequences, not just indeed, but most admirable as to their
influence on society. Those of the religion of Tao, and of Foe,25
believe the immortality of the soul; but from this sacred doctrine they
draw the most frightful consequences.
The doctrine of the immortality of the soul falsely understood has,
almost in every part of the globe and in every age, engaged women, slaves,
subjects, friends, to murder themselves, that they might go and serve in
the other world the object of their respect or love in this. Thus it was
in the West Indies; thus it was among the Danes;26
thus it is at present in Japan,27
in Macassar,28 and many other
These customs do not so directly proceed from the doctrine of the
immortality of the soul as from that of the resurrection of the body,
whence they have drawn this consequence, that after death the same
individual will have the same wants, the same sentiments, the same
passions. In this point of view, the doctrine of the immortality of the
soul has a prodigious effect on mankind; because the idea of only a simple
change of habitation is more within the reach of the human understanding,
and more adapted to flatter the heart, than the idea of a new
It is not enough for religion to establish a doctrine; it must also
direct its influence. This the Christian religion performs in the most
admirable manner, particularly with regard to the doctrines of which we
have been speaking. It makes us hope for a state which is the object of
our belief; not for a state which we have already experienced or known:
thus every article, even the resurrection of the body, leads us to
20. The same Subject continued. The sacred
books29 of the ancient Persians
say, "If you would be holy instruct your children, because all the
good actions which they perform will be imputed to you." They advise
them to marry betimes, because children at the day of judgment will be as
a bridge, over which those who have none cannot pass. These doctrines were
false, but extremely useful.
21. Of the Metempsychosis. The doctrine of
the immortality of the soul is divided into three branches — that of
pure immortality, that of a simple change of habitation, and that of a
metempsychosis, that is, the system of the Christians, that of the
Scythians, and that of the Indians. We have just been speaking of the
first two, and I shall say of the last that as it has been well or ill
explained, it has had good or bad effects. As it inspires men with a
certain horror against bloodshed, very few murders are committed in the
Indies; and though they seldom punish with death, yet they enjoy a perfect
On the other hand, women burn themselves at the death of their husbands;
thus it is only the innocent who suffer a violent death.
22. That it is dangerous for Religion to inspire
an Aversion for Things in themselves indifferent. A kind of honour
established in the Indies by the prejudices of religion has made the
several tribes conceive an aversion against each other. This honour is
founded entirely on religion; these family distinctions form no civil
distinctions; there are Indians who would think themselves dishonoured by
eating with their king.
These sorts of distinctions are connected with a certain aversion for
other men, very different from those sentiments which naturally arise from
difference of rank; which among us comprehends a love for inferiors.
The laws of religion should never inspire an aversion to anything but
vice, and above all they should never estrange man from a love and
tenderness for his own species.
The Mahometan and Indian religions embrace an infinite number of people;
the Indians hate the Mahometans, because they eat cows; the Mahometans
detest the Indians because they eat hogs.
23. Of Festivals. When religion appoints a
cessation from labour it ought to have a greater regard to the necessities
of mankind than to the grandeur of the being it designs to honour.
Athens was subject to great inconveniences from the excessive number of
its festivals.30 These powerful
people, to whose decision all the cities of Greece came to submit their
quarrels, could not have time to despatch such a multiplicity of affairs.
When Constantine ordained that the people should rest on the Sabbath, he
made this decree for the cities,31
and not for the inhabitants of the open country; he was sensible that
labour in the cities was useful, but in the fields necessary.
For the same reason, in a country supported by commerce, the number of
festivals ought to be relative to this very commerce. Protestant and
Catholic countries are situated in such a manner that there is more need
of labour in the former than in the latter;32
the suppression of festivals is therefore more suitable to Protestant than
to Catholic countries.
Dampier observes that the diversions of different nations vary greatly,
according to the climate.33 As hot
climates produce a quantity of delicate fruits, the barbarians easily find
necessaries, and therefore spend much time in diversions. The Indians of
colder countries have not so much leisure, being obliged to fish and hunt
continually; hence they have less music, dancing and festivals. If a new
religion should be established among these people, it ought to have regard
to this in the institution of festivals.
24. Of the local Laws of Religion. There are
many local laws in various religions; and when Montezuma with so much
obstinacy insisted that the religion of the Spaniards was good for their
country, and his for Mexico, he did not assert an absurdity; because, in
fact, legislators could never help having a regard to what nature had
established before them.
The opinion of the metempsychosis is adapted to the climate of the
Indies. An excessive heat burns up all the country:34
they can breed but very few cattle; they are always in danger of wanting
them for tillage; their black cattle multiply but indifferently;35
and they are subject to many distempers. A law of religion which preserves
them is therefore more suitable to the policy of the country.
While the meadows are scorched, rice and pulse, by the assistance of
water, are brought to perfection; a law of religion which permits only
this kind of nourishment must therefore be extremely useful to men in
The flesh of cattle in that country is insipid36
but the milk and butter which they receive from them serve for a part of
their subsistence; therefore the law which prohibits the eating and
killing of cows is in the Indies not unreasonable.
Athens contained a prodigious multitude of people, but its territory was
barren. It was therefore a religious maxim with this people that those who
offered some small presents to the gods honoured them more than those who
sacrificed an ox.37
25. The Inconvenience of transplanting a Religion
from one Country to another. It follows hence that there are
frequently many inconveniences attending the transplanting a religion from
one country to any other.
"The hog," says M. de Boulainvilliers,38
"must be very scarce in Arabia, where there are almost no woods, and
hardly anything fit for the nourishment of these animals; besides, the
saltness of the water and food renders the people most susceptible of
cutaneous disorders." This local law could not be good in other
countries,39 where the hog is
almost a universal, and in some sort a necessary, nourishment.
I shall here make a reflection. Sanctorius has observed that pork
transpires but little,40 and that
this kind of meat greatly binders the transpiration of other food; he has
found that this diminution amounts to a third.41
Besides, it is known that the want of transpiration forms or increases the
disorders of the skin. The feeding on pork ought rather to be prohibited
in climates where the people are subject to these disorders, as in
Palestine, Arabia, Egypt, and Libya.
26. The same Subject continued. Sir John
Chardin says42 that there is not a
navigable river in Persia, except the Kur, which is at the extremity of
the empire. The ancient law of the Gaurs which prohibited sailing on
rivers was not therefore attended with any inconvenience in this country,
though it would have ruined the trade of another.
Frequent bathings are extremely useful in hot climates. On this account
they are ordained in the Mahometan law and in the Indian religion. In the
Indies it is a most meritorious act to pray to God in the running stream;43
but how could these things be performed in other climates?
When a religion adapted to the climate of one country clashes too much
with the climate of another it cannot be there established; and whenever
it has been introduced it has been afterwards discarded, it seems to all
human appearance as if the climate had prescribed the bounds of the
Christian and the Mahometan religions.
It follows hence, that it is almost always proper for a religion to have
particular doctrines, and a general worship. In laws concerning the
practice of religious worship there ought to be but few particulars; for
instance, they should command mortification in general and not a certain
kind of mortification. Christianity is full of good sense; abstinence is
of divine institution; but a particular kind of abstinence is ordained by
human authority and therefore may be changed.
1. Thoughts on the Comet,
Continuation of Thoughts on the Comet, ii.
2. Description of Ethiopia, by M.
Ponce, Physician. Edifying Letters, coll. iv, p. 290.
25. A Chinese philosopher reasons
thus against the doctrine of Foe: "It is said in a book of that sect,
that the body is our dwelling-place and the soul the immortal guest which
lodges there; but if the bodies of our relatives are only a lodging, it is
natural to regard them with the same contempt we should feel for a
structure of earth and dirt. Is not this endeavouring to tear from the
heart the virtue of love to one's own parents? This leads us even to
neglect the care of the body, and to refuse it the compassion and
affection so necessary for its preservation; hence the disciples of Foe
kill themselves by thousands." — Work of an ancient Chinese
philosopher, in the Collection of Father Du Halde, iii, p. 52.