On the Politics of Jesus Christ – From The Three Impostors (1776)

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      Jesus Christ, who was acquainted with the maxims and the science of the Egyptians, gave currency to the belief alluded to above, because he thought it suitable to his purposes. Reflecting how Moses had become renowned by his command of an ignorant people, he undertook to build on this foundation, and got some few imbecile people to follow him, whom he persuaded that the Holy Ghost was his father, and that his mother was a virgin. These simple folks, accustomed to give themselves over to dreams and reveries, adopted his opinions, and believed whatever he wished: indeed, something considerably beyond this miraculous birth would by no means have been too miraculous for them. A beautiful dove overshadowed a virgin: there is nothing surprising in that. It happened frequently in Lydia; and the swan of Leda is the counterpart of the dove of Mary. That a man should be born of a virgin, by the operation of the Holy Spirit, is neither more extraordinary nor more miraculous that that Genghis Khan should be born of a virgin, as the Tartars assert; or that Foh, according to the Chinese belief, derived his origin from a virgin rendered pregnant by the rays of the sun.

      This prodigy appeared at a time when the Jews, wearied with their God as they had formerly been with their Judges, were desirous to have some visible ruler among them, as was the case with other nations. As the number of fools is infinite, Jesus Christ in a short time had many followers; but as his extreme poverty was an invincible obstacle to [60]his elevation, the Pharisees—at one time his admirers, and at another time startled at his boldness—forwarded or thwarted his interests, according to the inconstant humour of the populace. The report of his divine origin was spread about; but without forces, as he was, it was impossible that he could succeed, although some cures which he performed, and some resurrections from the dead to which he pretended, brought him somewhat into repute. Without money or arms he could not fail to perish: if he had been in possession of these, he would have been no less successful than Moses or Mahomet, and all those who, with like advantages, have elevated themselves above their fellow-men. If he had been more unfortunate, he would not have been less adroit; and several traits in his history prove that the principal defect in his policy was his carelessness in not sufficiently providing for his own security. Otherwise, I do not find that his plans were less skilfully devised than those of the other two: at all events his law has become the rule of faith to people who flatter themselves that they are the wisest in the world.

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