Forwarded from the GEnie Religion & Ethics RT
Category 33, Topic 15
The 95 Theses
Here are the 95 Theses Martin Luther supposedly nailed on the church door at Wittenburg.
This was posted a while back by David Becker in one of the Lutheran topics.
1. When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, "Repent" (Mt 4:17), he willed
the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.
2. This word cannot be understood as referring to the sacrament of penance,
that is, confession and satisfaction, as administered by the clergy.
3. Yet it does not mean solely inner repentance; such inner repentance is
worthless unless it produces various outward mortification of the flesh.
4. The penalty of sin remains as long as the hatred of self (that is, true
inner repentance), namely till our entrance into the kingdom of heaven.
5. The pope neither desires nor is able to remit any penalties except those
imposed by his own authority or that of the canons.
6. The pope cannot remit any guilt, except by declaring and showing that it
has been remitted by God; or, to be sure, by remitting guilt in cases
to his judgment. If his right to grant remission in these cases were
disregarded, the guilt would certainly remain unforgiven.
7. God remits guilt to no one unless at the same time he humbles him in all
things and makes him submissive to the vicar, the priest.
8. The penitential canons are imposed only on the living, and, according to
the canons themselves, nothing should be imposed on the dying.
9. Therefore the Holy Spirit through the pope is kind to us insofar as the
pope in his decrees always makes exception of the article of death and of
10. Those priests act ignorantly and wickedly who, in the case of the dying,
reserve canonical penalties for purgatory.
11. Those tares of changing the canonical penalty to the penalty of purgatory
were evidently sown while the bishops slept (Mt 13:25).
12. In former times canonical penalties were imposed, not after, but before
absolution, as tests of true contrition.
13. The dying are freed by death from all penalties, are already dead as far
as the canon laws are concerned, and have a right to be released from them.
14. Imperfect piety or love on the part of the dying person necessarily
brings with it great fear; and the smaller the love, the greater the fear.
15. This fear or horror is sufficient in itself, to say nothing of other
things, to constitute the penalty of purgatory, since it is very near to the
horror of despair.
16. Hell, purgatory, and heaven seem to differ the same as despair, fear, and
assurance of salvation.
17. It seems as though for the souls in purgatory fear should necessarily
decrease and love increase.
18. Furthermore, it does not seem proved, either by reason or by Scripture,
that souls in purgatory are outside the state of merit, that is, unable to
grow in love.
19. Nor does it seem proved that souls in purgatory, at least not all of
them, are certain and assured of their own salvation, even if we ourselves
be entirely certain of it.
20. Therefore the pope, when he uses the words "plenary remission of all
penalties," does not actually mean "all penalties," but only those imposed by
21. Thus those indulgence preachers are in error who say that a man is
absolved from every penalty and saved by papal indulgences.
22. As a matter of fact, the pope remits to souls in purgatory no penalty
which, according to canon law, they should have paid in this life.
23. If remission of all penalties whatsoever could be granted to anyone at
all, certainly it would be granted only to the most perfect, that is, to very
24. For this reason most people are necessarily deceived by that
indiscriminate and high-sounding promise of release from penalty.
25. That power which the pope has in general over purgatory corresponds to
the power which any bishop or curate has in a particular way in his own
diocese and parish.
26. The pope does very well when he grants remission to souls in purgatory,
not by the power of the keys, which he does not have, but by way of
intercession for them.
27. They preach only human doctrines who say that as soon as the money clinks
into the money chest, the soul flies out of purgatory.
28. It is certain that when money clinks in the money chest, greed and
avarice can be increased; but when the church intercedes, the result is in
hands of God alone.
29. Who knows whether all souls in purgatory wish to be redeemed, since we
have exceptions in St. Severinus and St. Paschal, as related in a legend.
30. No one is sure of the integrity of his own contrition, much less of
having received plenary remission.
31. The man who actually buys indulgences is as rare as he who is really
penitent; indeed, he is exceedingly rare.
32. Those who believe that they can be certain of their salvation because
they have indulgence letters will be eternally damned, together with their
33. Men must especially be on guard against those who say that the pope's
pardons are that inestimable gift of God by which man is reconciled to him.
34. For the graces of indulgences are concerned only with the penalties of
sacramental satisfaction established by man.
35. They who teach that contrition is not necessary on the part of those who
intend to buy souls out of purgatory or to buy confessional privileges preach
36. Any truly repentant Christian has a right to full remission of penalty
and guilt, even without indulgence letters.
37. Any true Christian, whether living or dead, participates in all the
blessings of Christ and the church; and this is granted him by God, even
without indulgence letters.
38. Nevertheless, papal remission and blessing are by no means to be
disregarded, for they are, as I have said (Thesis 6), the proclamation of the
39. It is very difficult, even for the most learned theologians, at one and
the same time to commend to the people the bounty of indulgences and the need
of true contrition.
40. A Christian who is truly contrite seeks and loves to pay penalties for
his sins; the bounty of indulgences, however, relaxes penalties and causes
to hate them -- at least it furnishes occasion for hating them.
41. Papal indulgences must be preached with caution, lest people erroneously
think that they are preferable to other good works of love.
42. Christians are to be taught that the pope does not intend that the buying
of indulgences should in any way be compared with works of mercy.
43. Christians are to be taught that he who gives to the poor or lends to the
needy does a better deed than he who buys indulgences.
44. Because love grows by works of love, man thereby becomes better. Man
does not, however, become better by means of indulgences but is merely freed
45. Christians are to be taught that he who sees a needy man and passes him
by, yet gives his money for indulgences, does not buy papal indulgences but
46. Christians are to be taught that, unless they have more than they need,
they must reserve enough for their family needs and by no means squander it
47. Christians are to be taught that they buying of indulgences is a matter
of free choice, not commanded.
48. Christians are to be taught that the pope, in granting indulgences, needs
and thus desires their devout prayer more than their money.
49. Christians are to be taught that papal indulgences are useful only if
they do not put their trust in them, but very harmful if they lose their fear
of God because of them.
50. Christians are to be taught that if the pope knew the exactions of the
indulgence preachers, he would rather that the basilica of St. Peter were
burned to ashes than built up with the skin, flesh, and bones of his sheep.
51. Christians are to be taught that the pope would and should wish to give
of his own money, even though he had to sell the basilica of St. Peter, to
many of those from whom certain hawkers of indulgences cajole money.
52. It is vain to trust in salvation by indulgence letters, even though the
indulgence commissary, or even the pope, were to offer his soul as security.
53. They are the enemies of Christ and the pope who forbid altogether the
preaching of the Word of God in some churches in order that indulgences may
preached in others.
54. Injury is done to the Word of God when, in the same sermon, an equal or
larger amount of time is devoted to indulgences than to the Word.
55. It is certainly the pope's sentiment that if indulgences, which are a
very insignificant thing, are celebrated with one bell, one procession, and
one ceremony, then the gospel, which is the very greatest thing, should be
preached with a hundred bells, a hundred processions, a hundred ceremonies.
56. The true treasures of the church, out of which the pope distributes
indulgences, are not sufficiently discussed or known among the people of
57. That indulgences are not temporal treasures is certainly clear, for many
indulgence sellers do not distribute them freely but only gather them.
58. Nor are they the merits of Christ and the saints, for, even without the
pope, the latter always work grace for the inner man, and the cross, death,
and hell for the outer man.
59. St. Lawrence said that the poor of the church were the treasures of the
church, but he spoke according to the usage of the word in his own time.
60. Without want of consideration we say that the keys of the church, given
by the merits of Christ, are that treasure.
61. For it is clear that the pope's power is of itself sufficient for the
remission of penalties and cases reserved by himself.
62. The true treasure of the church is the most holy gospel of the glory and
grace of God.
63. But this treasure is naturally most odious, for it makes the first to be
last (Mt. 20:16).
64. On the other hand, the treasure of indulgences is naturally most
acceptable, for it makes the last to be first.
65. Therefore the treasures of the gospel are nets with which one formerly
fished for men of wealth.
66. The treasures of indulgences are nets with which one now fishes for the
wealth of men.
67. The indulgences which the demagogues acclaim as the greatest graces are
actually understood to be such only insofar as they promote gain.
68. They are nevertheless in truth the most insignificant graces when
compared with the grace of God and the piety of the cross.
69. Bishops and curates are bound to admit the commissaries of papal
indulgences with all reverence.
70. But they are much more bound to strain their eyes and ears lest these men
preach their own dreams instead of what the pope has commissioned.
71. Let him who speaks against the truth concerning papal indulgences be
anathema and accursed.
72. But let him who guards against the lust and license of the indulgence
preachers be blessed.
73. Just as the pope justly thunders against those who by any means whatever
contrive harm to the sale of indulgences.
74. Much more does he intend to thunder against those who use indulgences as
a pretext to contrive harm to holy love and truth.
75. To consider papal indulgences so great that they could absolve a man even
if he had done the impossible and had violated the mother of God is madness.
76. We say on the contrary that papal indulgences cannot remove the very
least of venial sins as far as guilt is concerned.
77. To say that even St. Peter if he were now pope, could not grant greater
graces is blasphemy against St. Peter and the pope.
78. We say on the contrary that even the present pope, or any pope
whatsoever, has greater graces at his disposal, that is, the gospel,
powers, gifts of healing, etc., as it is written, 1 Co 12[:28].
79. To say that the cross emblazoned with the papal coat of arms, and set up
by the indulgence preachers is equal in worth to the cross of Christ is
80. The bishops, curates, and theologians who permit such talk to be spread
among the people will have to answer for this.
81. This unbridled preaching of indulgences makes it difficult even for
learned men to rescue the reverence which is due the pope from slander or
the shrewd questions of the laity.
82. Such as: "Why does not the pope empty purgatory for the sake of holy love
and the dire need of the souls that are there if he redeems an infinite
of souls for the sake of miserable money with which to build a church? The
former reason would be most just; the latter is most trivial.
83. Again, "Why are funeral and anniversary masses for the dead continued and
why does he not return or permit the withdrawal of the endowments founded for
them, since it is wrong to pray for the redeemed?"
84. Again, "What is this new piety of God and the pope that for a
consideration of money they permit a man who is impious and their enemy to
out of purgatory the pious soul of a friend of God and do not rather, because
of the need of that pious and beloved soul, free it for pure love's sake?"
85. Again, "Why are the penitential canons, long since abrogated and dead in
actual fact and through disuse, now satisfied by the granting of indulgences
as though they were still alive and in force?"
86. Again, "Why does not the pope, whose wealth is today greater than the
wealth of the richest Crassus, build this one basilica of St. Peter with his
own money rather than with the money of poor believers?"
87. Again, "What does the pope remit or grant to those who by perfect
contrition already have a right to full remission and blessings?"
88. Again, "What greater blessing could come to the church than if the pope
were to bestow these remissions and blessings on every believer a hundred
times a day, as he now does but once?"
89. "Since the pope seeks the salvation of souls rather than money by his
indulgences, why does he suspend the indulgences and pardons previously
granted when they have equal efficacy?"
90. To repress these very sharp arguments of the laity by force alone, and
not to resolve them by giving reasons, is to expose the church and the pope
the ridicule of their enemies and to make Christians unhappy.
91. If, therefore, indulgences were preached according to the spirit and
intention of the pope, all these doubts would be readily resolved. Indeed,
they would not exist.
92. Away, then, with all those prophets who say to the people of Christ,
"Peace, peace," and there is no peace! (Jer 6:14)
93. Blessed be all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, "Cross,
cross," and there is no cross!
94. Christians should be exhorted to be diligent in following Christ, their
Head, through penalties, death and hell.
95. And thus be confident of entering into heaven through many tribulations
rather than through the false security of peace (Acts 14:22).
Made available to the network by
Bob Van Cleef <revc@GARG.CAMPBELL.CA.US>
Send email to
with the following text in the body of the message
to get information on the Roman Catholic Archive file server
A HANDBOOK FOR PRINCES
(Excerpt from The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli)
The cit of Florence was ruled by the wealthy and brilliant Medici family throughout
most of the fifteenth century. After a brief republican interlude from 1492 to 1512, the Medici
despots again gained control. One of those to suffer exile on the return of the Medici was
Niccolo Machiavelli, who had worked in the Florentine diplomatic service. During his exile he
wrote several books, the first of which, The Prince, (1513), was a manual for rules addressed
to Lorenzo, the Medici prince. Written partially in the vain hope of regaining his official
position, Machiavelli also pleaded with Lorenzo to put himself at the head of a “national”
movement for the unification of the whole Italian peninsula and the expulsion of foreign armies.
Machiavelli had read deeply in the classics and, unlike so many of his predecessors who
wrote about politics, had acquired a great deal of practical experience in government. Not
concerned with ideal men and ideal societies or with religious principles, he confined himself to
the realities of political life. His theories and recommendations were supported by examples
which he drew from history. The Prince has influenced politicians and statesmen until our
own day and Machiavelli’s name has become (probably unjustly) a synonym for that which is
Of the Things for Which Men, and Especially Princes, Are Praised or Blamed
It now remains to be seen what are the methods and rules for a prince as
regards his subjects and friends…. A man who wishes to make a profession of
goodness in everything must necessarily come to grief among so many who are not
good. Therefore it is necessary for a prince who wishes to maintain himself to learn
how not to be good, and to use this knowledge and not use it according to the
necessity of the case.
Leaving on one side, then, those things which concern only an imaginary
prince, and speaking of those that are real, I state that all men, and especially princes,
who are placed at a greater height, are reputed for certain qualities which bring them
either praise or blame. Thus one is considered liberal, another…miserly; …one cruel,
another merciful; one a breaker of his word, another trustworthy; …one humane,
another haughty; …one frank, another astute; one hard, another easy; one serious,
another frivolous; one religious, another an unbeliever, and so on. I know that
everyone will admit that it would be highly praiseworthy in a prince to possess all the
above-named qualities that are reputed good, but as they cannot all be possessed or
observed, human conditions no permitting of it; it is necessary that he should be
prudent enough to avoid the scandal of those vices which would lose him the state….
And yet he must not mind incurring the scandal of those vices without which it
would be difficult to save the state, for if one considers well, it will be found that
some things which seem virtues would, if followed, lead to one‟s ruin, and some
others which appear vices result in one‟s greater security and well-being.
Of Cruelty and Clemency, and Whether It Is Better to Be Loved or Feared
Proceeding to the other qualities before named, I say that every prince must
desire to be considered merciful and not cruel. He must, however, take care not to
misuse this mercifulness….
Nevertheless, he must be cautious in believing and acting, and must not be
afraid of his own shadow, and must proceed in a temperate manner with prudence
and humanity, so that too much confidence does not render him incautious….
From this arises the question whether it is better to be loved more than feared,
or feared more than loved. The reply is that one ought to be both feared and loved,
but as it is difficult for the two to go together, it is much safer to be feared than loved
if one of the two has to be wanting. For it may be said of men in general that they are
ungrateful, …anxious to avoid danger, and covetous of gain…And the prince who has
relied solely on their words, without making other preparations, is ruined; for the
friendship which is gained by purchase and not through grandeur and nobility of
spirit is bought but no secured…And men have less scruple in offending one who
makes himself loved than one who makes himself feared; for love is held by a chain of
obligation which, men being selfish, is broken whenever it serves their purpose; but
fear in maintained by a dread of punishment which never fails.
Still, a prince should make himself feared in such a way that if he does not
gain love, he at any rate avoids hatred; for fear and the absence of hatred may well go
together, and will be always attained by one who abstains from interfering with the
property of his citizens and subjects…. And when he is obliged to take the life of
anyone, let him do so when there is a proper justification and manifest reason for it;
but above all he must abstain from taking the property of others, for men forget more
easily the death of their father than the loss of their patrimony [inheritance]….
But when the prince is with his army and has a large number of soldiers under
his control, then it is extremely necessary that he should not mind being thought
cruel; for without this reputation he could not keep an army united or disposed to any
I conclude, therefore, with regard to being feared and loved, that men love at
their own free will, but hear at the will of the prince, and that a wise prince must rely
on what is in his power and not on what is in the power of others, and he must only
contrive to avoid incurring hatred, as has been explained.
In What Way Princes Must Keep Faith
How laudable it is for a prince to keep good faith and live with integrity, and
not with astuteness, everyone knows. Still, the experience of our times shows those
princes to have done great things who have had little regard for good faith, and have
been able by astuteness to confuse men‟s brains, and who have ultimately overcome
those who have made loyalty their foundation.
You must know then that there are two methods of fighting, the one by law,
the other by force; the first method is that of men, the second of beasts; but as the first
method is often insufficient, one must have recourse to the second. It is therefore
necessary for a prince to know well how to use both the beast and the man….
A prince being thus obliged to know well how to act as a beast must imitate
the fox and the lion, for the lion cannot protect himself from traps, and the fox cannot
defend himself from wolves. One must therefore be a fox to recognize traps and a
lion to frighten wolves. Those that wish to be only lions do not understand this.
Therefore, a prudent ruler ought not to keep faith when by so doing it would be
against his interest, and when the reasons which made him bind himself no longer
exist. If men were all good, this precept [rule] would not be a good one; but as they
are bad and would not observe their faith with you, so you are not bound to keep faith
with them. Nor have legitimate grounds ever failed a prince who wished to
show…excuse for the nonfulfillment of his promise. Of this one could furnish an
infinite number of modern examples and show how many times peace has been
broken, and how many promises rendered worthless by the faithlessness of princes;
and those that have been best able to imitate the fox have succeeded best….
It is not, therefore, necessary for a prince to have all the above-named
qualities, but it is very necessary to seem to have them. “I would even be bold to say
that to possess them and always to observe them is dangerous, but to appear to possess
them is useful. Thus it is well to seem merciful, faithful, humane, sincere, religious,
and also to be so; but you must have the mind so disposed that when it is needful to be
otherwise you may be able to change to the opposite qualities. And it must be
understood that a prince, and especially a new prince, cannot observe all those things
which are considered good in men, being often obliged in order to maintain the state
to act against faith, against charity, against humanity, and against religion. And
therefore he must have a mind disposed to adept itself according to the wind and as
the variations of fortune dictate, and, as I said before, not deviate from what is good,
if possible, but be able to do evil if constrained [compelled].
A prince must take great care that nothing goes out of his mouth which is not
full of the above-named five qualities, and, to see and hear him, he should seem to be
all mercy, faith, integrity, humanity, and religion.
Letter of Thomas Cranmer, 1533
Letter of Thomas Cranmer on Henry VIII's divorce,
In this letter Cranmer writes of the official divorce of Henry VIII from Catherine of
Aragon and the coronation of Henry's next Queen, Anne Boleyn. He speaks of the legal
meeting in which Catherine was informed that the King rejected the Pope's authority
over the marriage and of the obvious pregnancy of Anne at her coronation ceremony.
Note the tone of the last paragraph of the letter.
Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, to Mr. Hawkyns the Ambassador at the
Emperor's Court; upon the Divorce of Queen Catherine, and the Coronation of Queen
Anne Boleyn. 1533.
In my most heartie wise I commend me unto you and even so, would be right glad to hear
of your welfare, etc. This is to advertise you that inasmuch as you now and then take
some pains in writing unto me, I would be loathe you should think your labor utterly lost
and forgotten for lack of writing again; therefore and because I reckon you to be some
deal desirous of such news as hath been here with us of late in the King's Graces matters,
I intend to inform you a parte thereof, according to the tenure and purport used in that
And first as touching the small determination and concluding of the matter of divorce
between my Lady Catherine and the King's Grace, which said matter after the
Convocation in that behalf had determined and agreed according to the former consent of
the Universities, it was thought convenient by the King and his learned Council that I
should repair unto Dunstable, which is within 4 miles unto Amptell, where the said Lady
Catherine keepeth her house, and there to call her before me, to hear the final sentence in
this said matter. Notwithstanding she would not at all obey thereunto, for when she was
by doctor Lee cited to appear by [the end of] a day, she utterly refused the same, saying
that inasmuch as her cause was before the Pope she would have none other judge; and
therefore would not take me for her judge. Nevertheless the 8th day of May, according to
the said appointment, I came unto Dunstable, my lord of Lincoln being assistant unto me,
and my Lord of Winchester, Doctor Bell... with diverse others learned in the Law being
counsellors in the law for the King's part; and so there at our coming kept a court for the
appearance of the said Lady Catherine, where were examined certain witnesses which
testified that she was lawfully cited and called to appear... And the morrow after
Ascension day I gave final sentence therin, how it was indispensable for the Pope to
license any such marriages.
This done, and after our re-journeying home again, the Kings Highness prepared all
things convenient for the Coronation of the Queen, which also was after such a manner as
followeth. The Thursday next before the feast of Pentecost, the King and the Queen being
at Greenwich, all the crafts of London thereunto well appointed, in several barges decked
after the most gorgeous and sumptuous manner, with diverse pageants thereunto
belonging, repaired and waited all together upon the Mayor of London; and so, well
furnished, came all unto Greenwich, where they tarried and waited for the Queen's
coming to her barge; which so done, they brought her unto the Tower, trumpets, shawms,
and other diverse instruments all the ways playing and making great melody, which, as is
reported, was as comely done as never was like in any time nigh unto our rememberance.
And so her Grace came to the Tower at Thursday at night, about 5 of the clock... In the
morning there assembled with me at Westminster church the bishop of York, the bishop
of London, the bishop of Winchester, the bishop of Lincoln, the bishop of Bath, and the
bishop of Saint Asse, the Abbot of Westminster with ten or twelve more abbots, which all
revested ourselves in our pontificalibus (robes of office), and so furnished, with our
crosses and croziers, proceeded out of the Abbeu in a procession unto Westminster Hall,
where we received the Queen apparelled in a robe of purple velvet, and all the ladies and
gentlewomen in robes and gowns of scarlet according to the manner used before time in
such besynes; and so her Grace, sustained on each side with two bishops, the bishop of
Lincoln and the bishop of Winchester, came forth in procession unto the Church of
Westminster... my Lord of Suffolk bearing before her the crown, and two other lords
bearing also before her a scepter and a white rod, and so entered up into the high altar,
where diverse ceremonies used about her, I did set the crown on her head, and then was
sung Te Deum, etc....
But now Sir you may not imagine that this Coronation was before her marriage, for she
was married much about saint Paul's day last, as the condition thereof doth well appear
by reason she is now somewhat big with child. Notwithstanding, it hath been reported
throughout a great part of the realm that I married [them after the Coronation]; which was
plainly false, for I myself knew not thereof a fortnight after it was done. And many other
things be also reported of me, which be mere lies and tales.
From Henry Ellis, ed. Original Letters of Illustrative of English History, including
Numerous Royal Letters. London: Harding, Triphook, and Lepard, 1825. Vol 3, pp. 34-
39. I have reduced the archaic spellings in places to make it easier to read.
LUTHER REFUSES TO SUBMIT TO
THE DIET OF WORMS
When Martin Luther posted his ninety-five theses on the door of the court church at
Wittenberg on October 31, 1517, he expected to initiate a scholarly debate. Instead he found
himself at the head of a great revolution. Within a few years it became clear that he differed
with the Church not only on the matter of abuses but also on fundamental religious doctrines.
By 1520 Luther had set forth views on religion (such as justification by faith alone) that
undermined the basis of the Catholic priesthood. When the Pope issued a bull threatening him
with excommunication, Luther in defiance publicly burned the papal bull. In 1521 he was
summoned by the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, to defend his position before the Imperial
Diet at Worms. There, in a dramatic encounter with his opponents, Luther again refused to
retract his opinions. The Diet thereupon condemned him and declared him an outlaw. To his
protection came his prince, Frederick the Wise, Elector of Saxony, who took him to his castle.
Luther’s stand before the Diet made him a popular hero in many parts of Germany.
The Dr. Eck mentioned in the selection debated with Luther in 1519 and was
instrumental in having Luther’s doctrines condemned by the Pope.
[Eck, Official of the Archbishop of Trier, asked Luther:] Do you wish to
defend the books which are recognized as your work? Or to retract anything
contained in them?…
[Luther replied:] Most serene Lord Emperor, most illustrious Princes, most
gracious Lords: …I beseech you to grant a gracious hearing to my plea, which I trust
will be a plea of justice and truth; and if through my inexperience I neglect to give to
any their proper titles or in any way offend against the etiquette of the court in my
manners or behavior, be kind enough to forgive me, I beg, since I am a man who has
spent his life not in courts but in the cells of a monastery; a man who can say of
himself only this, that to this day I have thought and written in simplicity of heart,
solely with a view to the glory of God and the pure instruction of Christ‟s faithful
Your Imperial Majesty and your Lordships: I ask you to observe that by books
are not all of the same kind.
There are some in which I have dealt with piety in faith and morals with such
simplicity and so agreeably with the Gospels that my adversaries themselves are
compelled to admit them useful, harmless, and clearly worth reading by a Christian….
The second kind consists in those writings leveled against the papacy and the
doctrine of the papists, as against those who by their wicked doctrines and precedents
have laid waste Christendom by doing harm to the souls and the bodies of men. No
one can either deny or conceal this, for universal experience and worldwide
grievances are witnesses to the fact that through the Pope‟s laws and through
manmade teachings the consciences of the faithful have been most pitifully ensnared,
troubled, and racked in torment, and also that their goods and possessions have been
devoured (especially amongst this famous German nation) by unbelievable tyranny,
and are to this day being devoured without end in shameful fashion….
The third kind consists of those books which I have written against private
individuals, so-called; against those, that is, who have exerted themselves in defense
of the Roman tyranny and to the overthrow of that piety which I have taught….
However, since I am a man and not God, I cannot provide my writings with
any other defense than that which my Lord Jesus Christ provided for his teaching.
When he had been interrogated concerning his teaching…and had received a buffet
from a servant, he said: “If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil.” If the Lord
himself, who knew that he could not err, did not refuse to listen to witness against his
teaching, even from a worthless slave, how much more ought I, scum that I am,
capable of naught but error, to seek and to wait for any who may wish to bear witness
against my teaching.
And so, through the mercy of God, I ask your Imperial Majesty, and your
illustrious Lordships, or anyone of any degree to bear witness, to overthrow my
errors, to defeat them by the writings of the Prophets or by the Gospels; for I shall be
most ready, if I be better instructed, to recant any error, and I shall be the first in
casting my writings into the fire….
Thereupon the Orator of the Empire, in a tone of upbraiding, said that
[Luther‟s] answer was not to the point…. He was being asked for a plain reply…to
this question: Was he prepared to recant, or no?
Luther then replied: Your Imperial Majesty and your Lordships demand a
simple answer. Here it is, plain and unvarnished. Unless I am convicted of error by
the testimony of Scripture or (since I put to trust in the unsupported authority of
Pope or of councils, since it is plain that they have often erred and often contradicted
themselves) by manifest reasoning I stand convicted by the Scriptures to which I
have appealed, and my conscience is taken captive by God‟s word, I cannot and will
not recant anything, for to act against our conscience is neither safe for us, nor open
On this day I take my stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.
Alexei being interrogated by Peter the Great
Peter the Great’s Letter to his Unworthy
Background: In 1715 Peter the Great was the ruler of the Russian Empire. He worried
about the succession because his son Alexei did not appear to have the makings of a
strong ruler. In the following letter to his son, Peter I explains his doubts about his son’s
abilities. Eventually peter had another son, Peter who he made the heir to his throne.
Everyone knows how, before the beginning of this war, our people were hemmed
in by the Swedes, who not only stole the essential ports of our fatherland…but cut us off
from communication with the whole world. And also later, in the beginning of this war
(which enterprise was and is directed by God alone), oh, what great persecution we had
to endure from those eternal enemies of ours because of our incompetence in the art of
war, and with what sorrow and endurance we went to this school and, with the help of the
above-mentioned guide, achieved a creditable degree [of effectiveness]. We were thus
found worthy of looking on this enemy now trembling before us, trembling, perhaps,
even move than we did before him. All this has been accomplished with the help of God
through my modest labors and through those of other equally zealous and faithful sons of
However, when…I think of my successor, a grief perhaps as strong as my joy
gnaws [eats at] me, when I see you, my heir, unfit for the management of state affairs (for
it is not the fault of God, who has not deprived you of mind or health; for although not of
a very strong constitution [physical health], you are not very weak either). But, above all,
you have no wish to hear anything about military affairs, which opened to us the way
from darkness to light, so that we who were unknown before are now honored. I do not
teach you to be inclined to wage war without a just cause [good reason], but to love this
art and to …learn it by all means, for it is one of the two activities necessary for
government; order and defense….
Furthermore, you do not learn anything because you have no desire to learn it, and
you have no knowledge of military affairs. Lacking all knowledge, how can you direct
these affairs? How can you reward the diligent [hard-working] and punish the negligent
[careless] when you yourself do not understand their work? You will be forced to look
into people’s mouths like a young bird. Do you pretend to be unfit for military work
because of weak health? But that is no reason. I ask of you not work, but good will,
which no malady [illness] can destroy. Ask anyone who remembers my brother whom I
spoke of but now, who was, beyond comparison, sicklier than you and could not ride
spirited horses, but he had a great liking for them and was always looking at them and
kept them before his eyes…So you see, not everything is done by great labor, but also by
a strong desire….
Now that I have gone into all this, I return again to my original point, thinking of
you. I am a man, and subject to death. To whom shall I leave all this sowing [planting],
done with God’s help, and that harvest which has already grown? To one who, like the
idle slave in the Gospel, buried his talent in the ground (which means that he threw away
everything that God had given him)? I also keep thinking of your wicked and stubborn
disposition; for how many times I used to scold you for that, and not only scold but beat
you, and also how many years I have now gone without speaking to you, and all without
I have pondered this with much grief and…I have deemed it appropriate to write
to you this last admonition [piece of advice], and to wait a short time for you to mend
your ways….If you do not, know that I shall totally disinherit you like a gangrenous
member [diseased part of the body]; and do not imagine that…I write this only to frighten
you; I will do it indeed (with God’s consent), because I have never spared my own life
for my fatherland and people, nor do I now; therefore how can I spare you, unworthy
one? Better a good stranger than an unworthy kinsman [relative].
THE BRUTALITY OF THE
IN THE NEW WORLD
Bartholomew de Las Casas comments on how his Spanish Brethren treat
The rich, sparsely populated lands of the New World brought many adventurers and
settlers from Europe where the population was comparatively dense and opportunity limited.
Those ambitious adventurers who won an empire for Spain in the decades after the discovery of
the New World are known as the conquistadors. The conquest of the native people was
accomplished by superior weapons, treachery, and bloodshed. Whole civilizations were
destroyed in Mexico and Peru. The territory was robbed of its precious metals, and the
inhabitants were often subjected to extreme cruelty.
Among those who cried out in defense of the Indian was Bartholomew de Las Casas
(1474-1566), who had come as a conqueror, but soon joined the Domonican Order of Friars.
After spending years as Bishop of Chiapas in Mexico, he returned to Spain and published a
devastating account of the treatment of Indians by the Spaniards. Though some scholars have
argued that he told a one-sided story, and though his figures are exaggerated, his account is
In the island of Hispanola−which was the first…to be invaded by the
Christians−the immense massacres and destruction of [the Indians] began. It was the
first to be destroyed and made into a desert. The Christians began by taking the
women and children, to use and to abuse them, and to eat of the substance of their toil
and labor, instead of contenting themselves with what the Indians gave them
spontaneously, according to the means of each. Such stores are always small, because
they keep no more than they ordinarily need, which they acquire with little labor; but
what is enough for three households of ten persons each for a month, a Christian eats
and destroys in one day. From their using force, violence, and other kinds of
vexations the Indians began to perceive that these men could not have come from
The Christians, with their horses and swords and lances, began to slaughter
and practice strange cruelty among them. They penetrated into the country and
spared neither children nor the aged, nor…women,…all of whom they ran through the
body and lacerated, as though they were assaulting so many lambs herded in their
They made a gallows just high enough for the feet to nearly touch the ground,
and by thirteens,…they put wood underneath and, with fire, they burned the
They generally killed the lords and nobles in the following way: they made
wooden gridirons of stakes, bound them upon them, and made a slow fire beneath;
thus the victims gave up the spirit by degrees, emitting cries of despair in their
And because all the people who could flee hid among the mountains and
climbed the crags to escape from men so deprived of humanity, so wicked, such wild
beasts, exterminators and capital enemies of all the human race, the Spaniards taught
and trained the fiercest boarhounds to tear an Indian to pieces as soon as they saw
him, so that they more willingly attacked and ate one than if he had been a boar.
These hounds made great havoc and slaughter.
And because sometimes, though rarely, the Indians killed a few Christians for
just cause, they made a law among themselves that for one Christian whom the
Indians killed, the Christians should kill a hundred Indians.
THE INALIENABLE RIGHTS OF
Excerpt from John Locke‟s The Second Treatise of Civil Government
John Locke was the apostle of liberty and constitutional government against tyranny
and arbitrary rule.
After spending years in exile, Locke came back to England during the Glorious
Revolution. It is not surprising, therefore, that he upheld the principles of the Revolution in his
writings. By imagining primitive man in a happy state of nature, Locke argued that the right
of life, liberty, and property preceded any government whatsoever. According to Locke,
government came into existence by means of a social contract which was made by men of their
own free will to protect these rights. The rulers of society received their authority solely from
the people and thus could not exercise unlimited power. In the event that a ruler failed in his
trust or infringed upon the basic inalienable rights of man, he could legitimately be overthrown.
Locke inspired revolutionary thinking in both America and France in the eighteenth century.
Locke published his Two Treatises of Government in 1690. The following selection
is from the Second Treatise.
The State of Nature
To understand political power aright, and derive it from its original, we must
consider what state all men are naturally in, and that is a state of perfect freedom to
order their actions and dispose of their possessions and persons as they think fit,
within the bounds of the law of nature, without asking leave or depending upon the
will of any other man….
The state of nature has a law of nature to govern it, which obliges everyone;
and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind who will but consult it that, being
all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or
And that all men may be restrained from invading others‟ rights, and from
doing hurt to one another, and the law of nature be observed, which willeth the peace
and preservation of all mankind, the execution of the law of nature is in that state put
into every man‟s hand, whereby everyone has a right to punish the transgressors of
that law to such a degree as may hinder its violation….
To this strange doctrine−viz., That in the state of nature everyone has the
executive power of the law of nature−I doubt not but it will be objected that it is
unreasonable for men to be judges in their own cases, that self-love will make men
partial to themselves and their friends. And on the other side, that ill nature, passion,
and revenge will carry them too far in punishing others; and hence nothing but
confusion and disorder will follow; and that therefore God hath certainly appointed
government to restrain the partiality and violence of men. I easily grant that civil
government is the proper remedy for the inconveniences of the state of nature, which
must certainly be great where men may be judges in their own case, since „tis easy to
be imagined that he who was so unjust as to do his brother an injury, will scarce be so
just as to condemn himself for it. But I shall desire those who make this objection to
remember that absolute monarchs are nut men, and if government is to be the remedy
of those evils which necessarily follow from men‟s being judges in their own cases,
and the state of nature is therefore not to be endured, I desire to know that kind of
government that is, and how much better it is than the state of nature.
God, who hath given the world to men in common, hath also given them
reason to make use of it to be best advantage of life and convenience−.
Though the earth and all inferior creatures be common to all men, yet every
man has a property in his own person; this nobody has any right to but himself. The
labor of his body and the work of his hands we may say are properly his.
Whatsoever, then, he removes out of the state that nature hath provided and left it in,
he hath mixed his labor with and joined to it something that is his own, and thereby
makes it his property…. For this labor being the unquestionable property of the
laborer, no man but he can have a right to what that is once joined to, at least where
there is enough, and as good left in common for others….
And as different degrees of industry were apt to give men possessions in
different proportions, so [the] invention of money gave them the opportunity to
continue and enlarge them.
The Beginning of Political Societies
Men being, as has been said, by nature all free, equal, and independent, no one
can be put out of this estate and subjected to the political power of another without his
own consent, which is done by agreeing with other men to join and unite into a
community for their comfortable, safe, and peaceable living one amongst another in a
secure enjoyment of their properties, and a greater security against any that are not of
The Ends of Political Society and Government
The great and chief end, therefore, of men‟s uniting into commonwealths, and
putting themselves under government, is the preservation of their property; to which
in the state of nature there are many things wanting [lacking].
First, there wants an established, settled, known law, received and allowed by
common consent to be the standard of right and wrong, and the common measure to
decide all controversies between them….
Secondly, in the state of nature there wants a known and indifferent
[impartial] judge, with authority to determine differences according to the established
Thirdly, in the state of nature there often wants power to back and support the
sentence when right, and to give it due execution….
Thus mankind, notwithstanding all the privileges of the state of nature, being
but in an ill condition, while they remain in it, are quickly driven into society.
The Extent of the Legislative Power
The great end of men‟s entering into society being the enjoyment of their
properties in peace and safety, and the great instrument and means of that being the
laws established in that society: the first and fundamental positive law of all
commonwealths is the establishing of the legislative power….
Thought the legislative…be the supreme power in every commonwealth,
yet…it is not, nor can possibly be, absolutely arbitrary over the lives and fortunes of
the people. For it being but the joint power of every member of the society given up
to that person, or assembly, which is legislator, it can be no more than those persons
had in a state of nature before they entered into society, and gave it up to the
The supreme power cannot take from any man any part of his property
without his own consent….
These are the bounds [limits] which…society, and the law o f God and Nature,
have set to the legislative power of every commonwealth, in all forms of government:
First, they are to govern by …established laws, not to be varied in particular
cases, but to have one rule for rich and poor, for the favorite at court and the
countryman at plow.
Secondly, these laws also ought to be designed for no other end ultimately but
the good of the people.
Thirdly, they must not raise taxes on the property of the people without the
consent of the people.
The Dissolution of Government
[Governments are dissolved] when…a single person or prince sets up his own
arbitrary will in place of the laws which are the will of the society….
There is…another way whereby governments are dissolved, and that is when
the legislative or the prince, either of them, act contrary to their trust….
The legislative acts against the trust reposed in them when they endeavor to
invade the property of the subject and to make themselves or any part of the
community masters or arbitrary disposers of the lives, liberties, or fortunes of the
Whenever the legislators endeavor to take away and destroy the property of
the people, or to reduce them to slavery under arbitrary power, they put themselves
into a state of war with the people, who are thereupon absolved from any further
obedience and are left to the common refuge which God hath provided for all men
against force and violence.
THE RENAISSANCE COURTIER
Excerpt from Baldassare Castiglione‟s Book of the Courtier
Like the ancient Greeks and Romans they admired, the Italians of the Renaissance
were dedicated to living the good life on earth. They devoted themselves to the cultivation of
all the qualities and talents of the individual. The ideal of the Renaissance was the well-
rounded personality. Among the many books dealing with the education and training of the
“universal man,” the most popular was Baldassare Castiglione’s The Book of the Courtier,
published in Italian in 1528. Castiglione (1478-1529) was himself a courtier and a successful
diplomat. His book was translated into many languages and went through numerous editions.
Castiglione’s portrait of the perfect courtier and his instructions for the development of both
body and mind provided a model for the training and the behavior of a gentleman for the upper
classes in Europe.
I am of opinion that the principal and true profession of the Courtier ought to
be that of arms; which I would have him follow actively above all else, and be known
among others as bold and strong, and loyal to whomsoever he serves. And he will
win a reputation for these good qualities by exercising them at all times and in all
places, since one may never fail in this without severest censure….
And…I would have him well built and shapely of limb, and would have him
show strength and lightness and suppleness, and know all bodily exercises that befit a
man of war; whereof I think the first should be to handle every sort of weapon well
on foot and on horse, to understand the advantages of each, and especially to be
familiar with those weapons that are ordinarily used among gentlemen….
[The Courtier should] avoid affectation to the uttermost;…and, to use possibly
a new word, to practice in everything a certain nonchalance that shall conceal design
and show that what is done and said is done without effort and almost without
Our Courtier then will be esteemed excellent and will attain grace in
everything, particularly in speaking, if he avoids affectation; into which fault many
fall, and often more than others, some of us Lombards, who, if they have been a year
away from home, on their return at once begin to speak Roman, sometimes Spanish
or French, and God knows how. And all this comes from overzeal to appear widely
I think that what is chiefly important and necessary for the Courtier in order
to speak and write well is knowledge….
Nor would I have him speak always of grave matters, but of amusing things,
of games, jests, and waggery, according to the occasion; but sensibly of everything,
and with readiness and lucid fullness; and in no place let him show vanity or childish
I would have him more than passably accomplished in letters, at least in those
studies that are called the humanities, and conversant not only with the Latin
language but with the Greek, for the sake of the many different things that have been
admirably written therein. Let him be well versed in the poets, and not less in the
orators and historians, and also proficient in writing verse and prose, especially in this
vulgar [vernacular] tongue of ours….
You must know that I am not content with the Courtier unless he be also a
musician and unless, besides understanding and being able to read notes, he can play
upon divers instruments. For if we consider rightly, there is to be found no rest from
toil or medicine for the troubled spirit more becoming and praiseworthy in time of
leisure than this….
I wish to discuss another matter, which I deem of great importance and
therefore think our Courtier ought be no means to omit: and this is to know how to
draw and to have acquaintance with the very art of painting.
And do not marvel that I desire this art, which today may seem to savor of the
artisan and little to befit a gentleman; for I remember having read that the ancients,
especially throughout Greece, had their boys of gentle birth study painting in school
as an honorable and necessary thing….
The game of tennis…is nearly always played in public, and is one of those
sports to which a crowd lends much distinction. Therefore I would have our Courtier
practice this, and all the others, except the handling of arms, as something that is not
his profession, and let him show that he does not seek or expect praise for it, nor let
him seem to devote much care or time to it, although he may do it admirably….
There are certain other exercises that can be practiced in public and in private,
like dancing; and in this I think the Courtier ought to have a care, for when dancing
in the presence of many and in a place full of people, it seems to me that he should
preserve a certain dignity….
Besides daily showing everyone that he possesses the worth we have already
described, I would have the Courtier strive, with all the thoughts and forces of his
mind, to love and almost to adore the prince whom he serves, above every other thing,
and mold his wishes, habits, and all his ways to his prince‟s liking….
Our Courtier…will not be a bearer of evil tidings; he will not be thoughtless in
sometimes saying things that offend instead of pleasing as he intends. He will not be
obstinate and disputatious, as some are who seem to delight in nothing but to be
troublesome and disagreeable like flies, and who make a point of spitefully
Let him above all take care not to weary his lord, and let him wait for favors to
be offered him rather than angle for them so openly as many do, who are so greedy
that it seems as if they must die if they do not get what they seek….
I would that our Courtier…might love, honor, and respect others according to
their worth and merits, and always contrive to consort [mingle] more with such as
are in high esteem and noble and of known virtue, than with the ignoble and those of
little worth; in such ways that he may be loved and honored by them also. And he
will accomplish this if he be courteous, kind, generous, affable, and mild with others,
zealous and active to serve and guard his friends‟ welfare and honor both absent and
present, enduring such of their natural defects as are endurable, without breaking with
them for slight cause, and correcting in himself those that are kindly pointed out….
I do not care at present to go more into detail in speaking of things that are too
well known, such as that our Courtier ought not to avow himself a great eater or
drinker, or given to excess in any evil habit;…because a man of this kind not only may
not hope to become a good Courtier, but can be set to no more fitting business than
If our Courtier excels in anything besides arms, I would have him get profit
and esteem from it in fine fashion; and I would have him so discreet and sensible as to
be able with skill and address to attract men to see and hear what wherein he thinks
he excels, always appearing not to do it from ostentation, but by chance and at others‟
request rather than by his own wish…Then, in that of which he knows he is wholly
ignorant, I would never have him make any pretense or seek to win any fame; nay if
need be, let him frankly confess his ignorance….
I wish our Courtier to guard against getting the name of a liar or a boaster,
which sometimes befalls even those who do not deserve it….
Let it suffice to say, besides the things already said, that he should be of such
sort as never to be without something to say that is good and well suited to those with
whom he is speaking, and that he should know how to refresh the minds of his
hearers with a certain sweetness, and by his amusing witticisms and pleasantries to
move them cleverly to mirth and laughter.
SELTTEMENT OF 1689
The English Bill of Rights
The constitutional issues over which the Civil War had been fought remained
unresolved on the death of Charles II in 1685. His successor, James II, was a devout Catholic.
Lacking the political wisdom of his brother, James managed to infuriate even his friends. He
tried to suspend the laws which restricted the rights of Catholics, and he went on to appoint
them to positions of power and influence in the army and the universities. James might have
lived out his life as King had not his wife given birth to a son in 1688, thus assuring a Catholic
succession. At this point, opposing political factions united and offered the throne to Mary, the
Protestant daughter of James, and her husband, William of Orange. When William landed in
England in November 1688, James fled to France without offering resistance.
Parliament at once drew up legislation to clarify the position of the monarch. The Bill
of Rights was passed by Parliament and signed by William and Mary in December 1689. Like
Magna Carta, it came to be considered a milestone in the evolution of constitutional limited
…Whereas the said late King James II having abdicated the government, and
the throne being thereby vacant, his Highness the Prince of Orange (whom it hath
pleased Almighty God to make the glorious instrument of delivering this kingdom
from popery and arbitrary power) did (by the advice of the Lords…and divers
[various] principal persons of the Commons) cause letters to be written to the Lords
Spiritual and Temporal, being Protestants,…for the choosing of such persons to
represent them as were of right to be sent to Parliament, to meet and sit at
Westminster upon the two-and-twentieth day of January, in this year One Thousand
Six Hundred Eighty and Eight, in order to such an establishment as that their
religion, laws, and liberties might not again be in danger of being subverted; upon
which letters elections have been accordingly made.
And thereupon the said Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons,…being
now assembled in a full and free representation of this nation,…do in the first
place,…for the vindicating and asserting their ancient rights and liberties, declare:
1. That the pretended power of suspending of laws, or the execution of laws,
by regal authority without consent of Parliament, is illegal.
2. That the pretended power of dispensing with laws, or the execution of
laws, by regal authority as it hath been assumed and exercised of late, is
3. [That the King is prohibited from commissioning special courts to avoid
going through the normal channels of law.]
4. That levying money for or to the use of the Crown…without grant of
5. That it is the right of the subjects to petition the King, and all
…prosecutions for such petitioning are illegal.
6. That the raising or keeping a standing army within the kingdom in time of
peace, unless it be with consent of Parliament, is against law.
7. That the subjects who are Protestants may have arms for their defense
suitable to their conditions and as allowed by law.
8. That election of members of parliament ought to be free.
9. That the freedom of speech and debates or proceedings in Parliament ought
not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of parliament.
10. That excessive bail ought not to be required, nor excessive fines imposed,
nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
11. That jurors ought to be duly impaneled and returned, and jurors who pass
upon men in trials for high treason ought to be freeholders.
12. That all grants and promises of fines and forfeitures of particular persons
before conviction are illegal and void.
13. And that for redress of all grievances, and for the amending, strengthening,
and preserving of the laws, Parliament ought to be held frequently.
And they do claim, demand, and insist upon all [of these] as their undoubted
rights and liberties; and that no declarations, judgments, doings or proceedings
to the prejudice of the people in any of the said premises ought in any wise to
be drawn hereafter into consequence or example.
Voltaire: A Treatise on Toleration (1763)
Voltaire was the most eloquent and tireless advocate of the anti-dogmatic movement
known as "The Enlightenment." He argued in favor of "deism," a vague substitute for
traditional religion which acknowledged a creator and some sort of divine justice, but
rejected most of the other fundamental beliefs of Christianity. Instead he preached that
all are obliged to tolerate each other. When he defends even false religion as superior to
none, it is obvious that his objections to atheism are superficial and that he looks on
religious beliefs as useful, but not necessarily true. It should be remembered that atheism
was strictly illegal in Voltaire's time, and he had been imprisoned repeatedly and finally
exiled for his challenges to traditional religion. Deism provided a convenient (and legal)
screen for his attacks on Christianity; but many scholars believe that despite his
statements to the contrary, he was in fact an atheist. His arguments for religious freedom
have become commonplaces in the modern Western world, even among religious
What reasons does Voltaire give that we should all tolerate each other?
Whether it is Useful to Maintain People in their Superstition
Such is the feebleness of humanity, such is its perversity, that doubtless it is better for it
to be subject to all possible superstitions, as long as they are not murderous, than to live
without religion. Man always needs a rein, and even if it might be ridiculous to sacrifice
to fauns, or sylvans, or naiads, (1) it is much more reasonable and more useful to venerate
these fantastic images of the Divine than to sink into atheism. An atheist who is rational,
violent, and powerful, would be as great a pestilence as a blood-mad, superstitious man.
When men do not have healthy notions of the Divinity, false ideas supplant them, just as
in bad times one uses counterfeit money when there is no good money. The pagan feared
to commit any crime, out of fear of punishment by his false gods; the Malabarian fears to
be punished by his pagoda. Wherever there is a settled society, religion is necessary; the
laws cover manifest crimes, and religion covers secret crimes.
But whenever human faith comes to embrace a pure and holy religion, superstition not
only becomes useless, but very dangerous. We should not seek to nourish ourselves on
acorns when God gives us bread.
Superstition is to religion what astrology is to astronomy: the foolish daughter of a very
wise mother. These two daughters, superstition and astrology, have subjugated the world
for a long time.
When, in our ages of barbarity, scarcely two feudal lords owned between them a single
New Testament, it might be pardonable to offer fables to the vulgar, that is, to these
feudal lords, to their imbecile wives, and to their brutish vassals; they were led to believe
that Saint Christopher carried the infant Jesus from one side of a river to the other; they
were fed stories about sorcerers and their spiritual possessions; they easily imagined that
Saint Genou (2) would cure the gout, and that Saint Claire (3) would cure eye problems.
The children believed in the werewolf, and the fathers in the rope girdle of Saint Francis.
The number of relics (4) was innumerable.
The sediment of these superstitions still survived among the people, even at that time that
religion was purified. We know that when Monsieur de Noailles, the Bishop of Châlons,
removed and threw into the fire the false relic of the holy navel of Jesus Christ, then the
entire village of Châlons began proceedings against him; however, he had as much
courage as he had piety, and he succeeded in making the Champenois believe that they
could adore Jesus Christ in spirit and truth, without having his navel in the church.
Those we call Jansenists (5) contributed greatly to rooting out gradually from the spirit of
the nation the greater part of the false ideas which dishonored the Christian religion.
People ceased to believe that it was sufficient to recite a prayer to the Virgin Mary for
thirty days so that they could do what they wish and sin with impunity the rest of the
Finally the bourgeoisie began to realize that it was not Saint Geneviève who gave or
witheld rain, but that it was God Himself who disposed of the elements. The monks were
astonished that their saints did not bring about miracles any longer; and if the writers of
The Life of Saint Francis Xavier returned to the world, they would not dare to write that
the saint revived nine corpses, that he was in two places, on the sea and on land, at the
same time, and that his crucifix fell into the sea and was restored to him by a crab.
It is the same with excommunications. Our historians tells us that when King Robert was
excommunicated by Pope Gregory V, for marrying his godmother, the princess Bertha,
his domestic servants threw the meats to be served to the king right out the window, and
Queen Bertha gave birth to a goose in punishment for the incestuous marriage. One could
seriously doubt that in this day and age the servants of the king of France, if he were
excommunicated, would throw his dinner out the window, or that the queen would give
birth to a goose.
There are still a few convulsive fanatics (6) in remote corners of the suburbs; but this
disease only attacks the most vile population. Each day reason penetrates further into
France, into the shops of merchants as well as the mansions of lords. We must cultivate
the fruits of this reason, especially since it is impossible to check its advance. One cannot
govern France, after it has been enlightened by Pascal, Nicole, Arnauld, Bossuiet,
Descartes, Gassendi, Bayle, Fontenelle, and the others, as it as been governed in the times
of Garasse and Menot.
If the masters of errors, and I'm speaking here of the grand masters, so long paid and
honored for abusing the human species, ordered us today to believe that the seed must die
in order to germinate; that the world is immovable on its foundations, that it does not
orbit around the sun; that the tides are not a natural effect of gravitation; that the rainbow
is not formed by the refraction and the reflection of rays of light, and so on, and they
based their ordinances on passages poorly understood from the Holy Bible, how would
educated men regard these men? Would the term "beasts" seem too strong? And if these
wise masters used force and persecution to enforce their insolent stupidity, would the
term "wild beasts" seem too extreme?
The more the superstitions of monks are despised, the more the bishops are respected and
the priests listened to; while they do no good, these monkish superstitions from over the
mountains (7) do a great deal of harm. But of all these superstitions, is not the most
dangerous that of hating your neighbor for his opinions? And is it not evident that it
would be much more reasonable to worship the Holy Navel, the Holy Foreskin, or the
milk or the robe of the Virgin Mary, (8) than to detest and persecute your brother?
Chapter 21: Virtue is Better than Science
The fewer dogmas, the fewer disputes; the fewer disputes, the fewer miseries: if this is
not true, then I'm wrong.
Religion was instituted to make us happy in this life and in the other. What must we do to
be happy in the life to come? Be just.
What must we do in order to be happy in this life, as far as the misery of our nature
permits? Be indulgent.
It would be the height of folly to pretend to improve all men to the point that they think in
a uniform manner about metaphysics. it would be easier to subjugate the entire universe
through force of arms than to subjugate the minds of a single village. . . .
Chapter 22: On Universal Tolerance
It does not require great art, or magnificently trained eloquence, to prove that Christians
should tolerate each other. I, however, am going further: I say that we should regard all
men as our brothers. What? The Turk my brother? The Chinaman my brother? The Jew?
The Siam? Yes, without doubt; are we not all children of the same father and creatures of
the same God?
But these people despise us; they treat us as idolaters! Very well! I will tell them that they
are grievously wrong. It seems to me that I would at least astonish the proud, dogmatic
Islam imam or Buddhist priest, if I spoke to them as follows:
"This little globe, which is but a point, rolls through space, as do many other globes; we
are lost in the immensity of the universe. Man, only five feet high, is assuredly only a
small thing in creation. One of these imperceptible beings says to another one of his
neighbors, in Arabia or South Africa: 'Listen to me, because God of all these worlds has
enlightened me: there are nine hundred million little ants like us on the earth, but my ant-
hole is the only one dear to God; all the other are cast off by Him for eternity; mine alone
will be happy, and all the others will be eternally damned."
They would then interrupt me, and ask which fool blabbed all this nonsense. I would be
obliged to answer, "You, yourselves." I would then endeavor to calm them, which would
be very difficult.
I would then speak with the Christians, and I would dare to say, for example, to a
Dominican Inquisitor of the Faith: (9) "My brother, you know that each province of Italy
has their own dialect, and that people do not speak at Venice or Bergamo the same way
they speak at Florence. The Academy of Crusca near Florence has fixed the language; its
dictionary is a rule which one dare not depart from, and the Grammar of Buonmattei is an
infallible guide that one must follow. But do you believe that the consul of the Academy,
or Buonmattei in his absence, could in conscience cut the tongues out of all the Venetians
and all the Bergamese who persist in speaking their dialect?"
The inquisitor responds, "There is a difference between your example and our practice.
For us, it is a matter of the health of your soul. It is for your good that the director of the
Inquisition ordains that you be seized on the testimony of a single person, however
infamous or criminal that person might be; that you will have no advocate to defend you;
that the name of your accuser will not even be known by you; that the inquisitor can
promise you mercy, and immediately condemn you; that five different tortures will be
applied to you, and then you will be flogged, or sent to the galleys, or ceremoniously
burned. Father Ivonet, Doctor Cuchalon, Zanchinus, Campegius, Roias, Felynus,
Gomarus, Diabarus, Gemelinus, are explicit on this point, and this pious practice cannot
suffer any contradiction."
I would take the liberty to respond, "My brother, perhaps you are reasonable; I am
convinced that you wish to do me good; but could I not be saved without all that?"
It is true that these absurd horrors do not stain the face of the earth every day; but they are
frequent, and they could easily fill a volume much greater than the gospels which
condemn them. (10) Not only is it extremely cruel to persecute in this brief life those who
do not think the way we do, but I do not know if it might be too presumptuous to declare
their eternal damnation. It seems to me that it does not pertain to the atoms of the
moment, such as we are, to anticipate the decrees of the Creator.
Translated by Richard Hooker
(1) Ancient Greek demigods.
(2) His name means "knee" in French.
(3) Her name suggests light.
(4) Physical remains of saints, either their body parts, clothing, or any other physical
object associated with them; these relics were supposed to display remarkable curative
and other magical properties.
(5) Reformers who agreed in many ways with Protestant ideas.
(6) Ecstatics who fell into religious fits.
(8) These are all relics actually venerated in his time.
(9) The Dominicans ran the notorious Inquisition which tortured and condemned to death
people who departed from orthodox Catholicism.
(10) Note how he slips in this comment, arguing that the Inquisition itself is contrary to
the teachings of Christ.