To A. C. Middleton:—I have read your communication in the Investigator of the 13th inst., requesting information about Meslier, other than that given by Voltaire, and will relate what has fallen in my reach. Naigeon, in his “Ancient and Modern Philosophy,” under the head “Meslier,” after giving a brief account of his life and an extract from his “Testament,” blames Voltaire for not publishing the whole of Meslier’s work. Your remark, that “this extract is Deistical,” refers only to the first part of his work. The second part, that Naigeon accused Voltaire of suppressing, was Atheistical. “Nobody had ever heard of this Meslier before,” because this was his first, if not only publication, (his “Testament,” not Good Sense.) He was, according to Naigeon, a poor Cure’s son of a blacksmith, and names two persons who were acquainted with him. Naigeon does not mention d’Holbach in this work.
S. Marechal, “Dictionaire des Athees,” mentions Meslier, and gives the inscription on his tomb-stone! It also gives all the works of d’Holbach, or Olbeck, as he calls him, among which is “Le Bon Sens;” it also attributes to him “Christianity Unveiled,” supposed to be by Boulanger. This work is in the Astor Library, New York. I recently called for it, but was told by the clerk that he had “orders” from the Trustees not to take it from the shelves only for persons of mature age; I, as I am a young man, had to forego the pleasure of reading it. Alas! that bigotry should control our finest library! Most of the French Liberal works are placed in their Index Expurgatorius.
Poignot, or Poignon, in his Catalogue of books condemned to be burnt, (Livres condamnes au feu,) makes mention of Meslier’s “Testament,” and gives his birth, age, residence, &c. In a letter like this, through a newspaper, I must be brief, and cannot be expected to give extracts. The authors I refer to, but give the name of the works where they may be found. I see no more reason for denying Meslier’s existence, because d’Holbach used his name, than for pursuing the same course with M. de Mirabaud. We have the evidence of his contemporaries, friends, and his tombstone; but nowhere do I find “God Sense” attributed to him. Yours, &c.
D. D. Lum.
Brooklyn, (N. Y.,) May 17, 1857.
Dyer D. Lum, “Cure Meslier,” The Boston Investigator 27, no. 5 (May 27, 1857): 2.
Infidels Should Avow Their Sentiments.
MR. EDITOR:–Will the time over arrive when Infidels will freely avow their sentiments?—when all who doubt of the inspiration of the Bible will stand boldly forward and say, “I am an Infidel?” We know that there are hundreds, aye, thousands who frequent Reason’s sepulchre every Sabbath and partake of the “Lord’s supper,” who entertain sceptical views of inspiration. Why is it that Infidels do not openly avow their unbelief?
These are questions that should be carefully considered. I contend that the blame rests on avowed Infidels. It is because they do not take a firmer stand against Christianity. But few, even among Infidels, have dared to face public opinion. As long as the Infidels of the present day follow the examples of Voltaire, Gibbon, Paine, and others, few will acknowledge their unbelief. Nearly, if not all of the Infidels of England, from Herbert to Gibbon, have called Christianity a pure, benevolent, and universal system of ethics, adapted to every duty and condition of life! Voltaire, when writing against it, does it in an underhand manner, and extols its influence on society. Thomas Paine calls Jesus a virtuous and an amiable man. Robert Dale Owen styles him a benefactor of his race. So I might go on and give similar extracts from the writings of seven-eights of all infidels. If we would draw these secret Sceptics to open Infidelity, we must cease to praise the system to which they belong.
We must take the ground of a Carlile, a Taylor, and a Kneeland, and adopt their manner of writing. Call Christianity by its right name—a relic of heathen idolatry and superstition; give no quarter, seek its extinction, and free the human mind from its thralldom to the base superstition of a wandering and sanguinary tribe of Bedouin Arabs, whose only delight la in slaughter and rapine. Let us call ourselves Infidels or Atheists, and throw aside those cringing titles, unbelievers, Sceptics, Liberals, Socialists, Secularists, &c. Let us remedy this and speak of Christianity and its Deity as we do of the idolatry of ancient Greece and Rome and modern Pagans. Destroy this absurd reverence for “things spiritual.” Robert Taylor’s sermon on the “Unjust Judge,” contained in his “Devil’s Pulpit,” should be printed in tract form and distributed throughout the country. It would do much towards destroying this blind submission to “the greatest curse that ever befell the human race.” (Taylor.)
“Earth groans beneath religion’s iron age,
And priests dare babble of a God of peace,
Even whilst their hands are red with guiltless blood,
Murdering the while, uprooting every germ
Of truth, exterminating, spoiling all,
Making the earth a slaughter-house.”—[Shelley.
DYER D. LUM.
Brooklyn, (N. Y.,) June 15, 1857.
Dyer D. Lum, “Infidels Should Avow Their Sentiments,” The Boston Investigator 27, no. 11 (July 8, 1857): 1.
The First Christians.
[An Extract from the Writings of Voltaire.]
Mr. Editor:-I send you for publication an extract from Voltaire, if you think it deserving. Like most of his theological works, it was published under an assumed name. It is from his “God and Men, by Dr. Obern; a theological, but reasonable work, translated by Jacques Aimon.” The following is by “the translator-Jacques Aimon,” in the form of an appendix.
Dyer D. Lum.
Brooklyn Heights, (N. Y.;) Nov. 22, 1857.
After the chapter on “Christian Platonists,” I should like to add a few words to conJirm the opinion of the author, if it will be permitted me to mix my ideas with his. I affirm that all the opinions of the first Christians were taken from Plato, even to the dogma of the immortality of the soul, which was unknown to the ancient Jews. I shall show that the expression kingdom of heaven, which is so often used in the Gospels, is found in the Phedon of Plato. Here are the own words of the Greek philosopher, who, without knowing it, founded Christianism:–“Another pure world is above this pure heaven where the stars are; the earth that we inhabit is only the gross sediment of this ethereal world,” etc.
Plato then adds, that “We could see this kingdom of heaven, this abode of the blessed, if we could transport ourselves to the other side of this gross air, as the fish can see our earth when they jump above the level of the water.”
Again, he expresses himself thus:–“In this perfect earth, all is perfect; it produces precious stones to which ours cannot approach……; it is covered with gold and silver; this spectacle is the pleasure of the righteous. Their seasons are always temperate; their organs, their intelligence, their health, are all infinitely above ours,” etc.
Who cannot recognize in this description the celestial Jerusalem? The only difference is, that there is at least some philosophy in the celestial city of Plato, and none in that of the Apocalypse attributed to St. John. “It was like,” said he, “a jasper stone, clear as crystal….. He that talked with me had a golden reed to measure the city…… The city lieth foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth, and it measured twelve thousand furlongs; the length, breadth, and the height of it are equal….. The first foundation was jasper; the second sapphire; the third a chalcedony; the fourth an emerald,” etc.
The purgatory, especially, is cvillently taken from the Phedon; the words of Plato are remarkable:–“Those who are not entirely criminal, nor absolutely innocent, are carried to Aeheroll; there they suffer pains proportionate to their faults, until, having been purged from their sins, they receive the recompense of their good actions.”
The doctrine of the resurrection is yet more Platonic, since in the tenth book of the Republic, the Greek philosopher introduces Heres resuscitated, and relates what passed in the other world.
It matters little where Plato had obtained his opinions, or, if you like, his fables, whether from the ancient Egyptian philosophers, from Timeus of Socres, or from his own brain. That which is most important to consider, is that they were consoling to the human species; and this was what made Cicero say that he loved better to be deceived with Plato, than have reason with Epicurus. It is certain that the moral and physical evils of our short lives, would make it sweet to hope for an elcrnal life where no evil dare approach. But why commence by giving us the evil before the good? Why was not this eternal life given at first? Would it not be ridiculous and barbarous to build for his children a magnificent palace filled with all imaginable delicacies, but the hall to be a dungeon inhabited by toads and serpents, and to imprison his children in this horrible dungeon for seventy or eighty years, to make them like better all the luxuries with which the palace abounds; luxuries that they shall feel only after the serpents in the hall shall have devoured their flesh and bones?
It is unquestionable that all this doctrine was spread throughout entire Greece before the Jewish people had heard the least of it. The Jewish law, that the Jews pretended had been given them by God himself, never alludes to the immortality of the soul, punishments and recompenses after death, nor the resurrection of the body. It is the height of folly to say that these ideas are darkly expressed in the Pentateuch. If they are divine, they would nol be merely limited; they would be clearly expressed. They only became adopted by some Hebrews a long time after Plato, while Plato is the real founder of Christianism.
If we then considcr that the doctrine of the Word and the Trinity is expressed by no author but Plato, it is absolutely necessary to regard him as the only founder of Christian metaphysics. Jesus, who wrote nothing himself, who came so long after Plato, and who only appeared to a gross and barbarous people, could not be the author of a system so much older than himself, and which he certainly never knew.
The Platonic philosophy, once more, is the father of Christianism, and the Jewish religion is its mother.
But what could be more unnatural than to beat its father and mother? Let a man hold to the Platonic philosophy to day, and a pedant of theology would present a request that he be compelled to recant in a public place, or, if he could, do as a pedant did to Michael Servetus. When a Spanish neuvo christiano imitated Jesus Christ, in being circumcised as him, observing the Sabbath like him, and eating like him the paschal lamb with milk in the month of March, the officers of the Inquisition sought to burn him publicly.
It is equally a remarkable and horrible thing that the Christian sect has nearly always caused blood to flow; and the Epicurean sect who denied both Providence and the immortality of the soul, have always been pacific. There is not a single affront in the whole history of the Epicureans; and there has not been perhaps a single year, from Athenasuis and Arius to Quesnel and Le Pellier, that has not been marked by exiles, imprisonment, robberies, assassinations, conspiracies, and murderous combats.
Plato never imagined that one day his sublime and unintelligible reveries would become the pretext of so many abominations. If they have perverted so horribly philosophy, it is time to develope its first purity.
All the ancient sects, except the Christian, supported one another; let us then support that of the Christians; but let them also support us. Let them not be an insolvent monster, because the first chapter of the Gospel attributed to John has been evidently composed by a Christian; that is no reason for persecuting me. Let the priests who are nourished, clothed, fed, only by the tenths I pay, who only subsist by the sweat of my brow, or that of our farmers, no more -pretend to by my master, and a bad master; I pay them to teach morality, to give an example of gentleness, and not to be a tyrant.
All priests are in this predicament; the Pope himself, his officers, valets, guards, are dependent upon them who cultivate. the earth, and who were born their equals. There are none who do not feel that the power of the Pope is only founded upon their prejudices. Let them abuse them no more, and tremble that these prejudices ate not dissipated.
Dyer D. Lum, “The First Christians,” The Boston Investigator 27, no. 36 (December 30, 1857): 1.
Syracuse, (N. Y.,) Nov. 6, 1860.
Mr. Editor:–A few years ago, when out of business, I amused myself by translating a work of Voltaire’s, entitled “Important Examination.” It is one of the richest works of that immortal person, and to me it appears superior to the “Age of Reason.” The style is equally forcible and terse, and interspersed with sarcastic remarks that stamp it as the work of Voltaire. If you would publish it in the columns of the Investigator, I would be pleased to forward it to your address.
Yours, truly, Dyer D. Lum.
[Thank you for your kind offer. We should be glad to receive the work.–Editor
Dyer D. Lum, [letter on Voltaire], The Boston Investigator 30, no. 30 (November 14, 1860); 237.
I. Something exists.
- This does not admit of doubt.
- We can have no idea of nothing.
II. Something always has existed,
- Else there could be no existence.
- Nothing could not create something.
III. Something always will exist.
- Matter is indestructible,
- Hence, eternal.
IV. Something is a substance.
- Substance is a body or thing,
- Else a thing is not a thing.
- A thing is matter, material.
- Substance is matter.
V. Matter is ever thing; every thing is matter.
- See Axiom IV. § 2.
- All that exists is matter.
- Whatever exists, has size, location, form and weight.
- These are the property of matter only.
VI. All that is not matter, is nothing.
- What is not some thing, is no thing.
- See Axiom IV. § 3, 4.
VII. There is no “spirit.”
- “Spirit” is immateriality.
- Immateriality is nothing. See Axiom VI.
VIII. “God” is material—matter.
- “God” is something or nothing.
- If something—material.
- If immaterial—nothing.
- See Axiom V. § 3, 4
IX. And subject to matter.
- Whatever is material is formed of matter and governed by natural laws.
- Consequently, me is a natural prediction.
X. Matter is supreme.
- The inevitable conclusion of the preceding Axiom.
- If capable of producing the governing power, she is capable of producing whatever exists,
- And vice-versa.
XI. There is no “God.”
- For matter is supreme. X.
- Because there is no “spirit.” VII.
- In consequence of every thing being material and subject to matter. V. IX.
- Because there is no occasion for any.
- Because he cannot be matter. IV. VI.
- Therefore he must be a non-entity.
- Nothing cannot be a cause. II. § 2.
- We cannot believe what is inconceivable.
Dyer D. Lum.
Syracuse, (N. Y.,) Nov. 12, 160.
- “Cure Meslier,” The Boston Investigator 27, no. 5 (May 27, 1857): 2.
- “Infidels Should Avow Their Sentiments,” The Boston Investigator 27, no. 11 (July 8, 1857): 1.
- “The First Christians: An Extract from the Writings of Voltaire,” The Boston Investigator 27, no. 36 (December 30, 1857): 1.
- [letter on Voltaire], The Boston Investigator 30, no. 30 (November 14, 1860); 237.
- “Axioms,” The Boston Investigator 30, no. 31 (November 21, 1860): 242.
- [notice of Voltaire translation received] – Boston Investigator, (Boston, MA), 30, 32; November 28, 1860; pg. 254
- [notice of second (partial) Voltaire translation received] – Boston Investigator, (Boston, MA) Wednesday, 30, 38; January 09, 1861; pg. 302