Essay 16

Of Atheism, Simplified

by Francis Bacon Icon

I would rather believe in all the fables than to think tthat this universal frame is without a mind.

Therefore, God never does the miracles needed to convince the atheists because his ordinary works should already convince them.

  • A little philosophy inclines man’s mind to atheism.
  • But depth in philosophy brings men’s minds [back] to religion.

The mind of man might look on scattered second causes.

  • But it may sometimes rest in them and go no further.
  • But when it beholdes the chain of second causes, confederate and linked together, it must fly to Providence and Deity.

The schools of Leucippus, Democritus, Epicurus were accused of atheism.

  • But even those schools demonstrate religion the most.

The belief that 4 mutable elements and 1 immutable fifth essence, duly and eternally placed, do not need God [to manage them] is 1,000 times more credible than the belief that an army of infinite small portions, or seeds unplaced, could have produced this order and beauty by themselves.

The Scripture said: “The fool has said in his heart that there is no God.”

It does not say: “The fool has thought in his heart that there is no God but cannot thoroughly believe so.”

This is because no one denies that there is a God except for those who create a reality where there is no God.

Thus, atheism is merely in the lip, than in the heart of man.

  • This is proven by the fact that atheists will always talk of their own opinion and would be glad to be strengthened, by the consent of others.

Atheists strive to get disciples just like the other sects.

But if they truly thought that there were no God then they would not trouble themselves.

Epicurus is charged, that he did but dissemble for his credit’s sake, when he affirmed there were blessed natures, but such as enjoyed themselves, without having respect to the government of the world.

Wherein they say he did temporize; though in secret, he thought there was no God.

But certainly he is traduced. His words are noble and divine: Non deos vulgi negare profanum; sed vulgi opiniones diis applicare profanum.

Plato could have said no more.

  • He had the confidence to deny the administration.
  • But he did not have the power to deny the nature.

The Indians of the West, have names for their particular gods, though they have no name for God. As if the heathens should have had the names Jupiter, Apollo, Mars, etc., but not the word Deus.

This shows that even those barbarous people have the notion, though they have not the latitude and extent of it.

So that against atheists, the very savages take part, with the very subtlest philosophers.

Contemplative atheists are rare. Examples are:

  • Diagoras
  • Bion
  • Lucian
  • etc

They seem to be more than they are. for that all that impugn a received religion, or superstition, are by the adverse part branded with the name of atheists.

But the great atheists are hypocrites. They always handle holy things, but without feelings And so they are necessarily cauterized in the end.

The causes of atheism are:

  1. Divisions in religion

If there are many divisions, any one main division adds zeal to both sides. But many divisions introduce atheism.

  1. Scandal of priests

This is proven by St. Bernard said: non est jam dicere, ut populus sic sacerdos; quia nec sic populus ut sacerdos.

  1. Custom of profane scoffing in holy matters

This, little by little, defaces the reverence of religion.

  1. Learned times, specially with peace and prosperity

Troubles and adversities bow men’s minds to religion.

  • The people who deny a God destroy man’s nobility. This is because man is of kin to the beasts by his body and kin to God by his spirit.
    • If he is not kin to God, then he is a base and ignoble creature.
  • These destroy likewise magnanimity, and the raising of human nature

A dog gains generosity and courage when he finds himself maintained by a man.

  • The man who to him is a God, or melior natura

So man, when he resteth and assureth himself, upon divine protection and favor, gathered a force and faith, which human nature in itself could not obtain.

Therefore, as atheism is in all respects hateful, so in this, that it depriveth human nature of the means to exalt itself, above human frailty. As it is in particular persons, so it is in nations.

Never was there such a state for magnanimity as Rome. Of this state hear what Cicero saith: Quam volumus licet, patres conscripti, nos amemus, tamen nec numero Hispanos, nec robore Gallos, nec calliditate Poenos, nec artibus Graecos, nec denique hoc ipso hujus gentis et terrae domestico nativoque sensu Italos ipsos et Latinos; sed pietate, ac religione, atque hac una sapientia, quod deorum immortalium numine omnia regi gubernarique perspeximus, omnes gentes nationesque superavimus.


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