9. How slow is humankind in getting rid of its prejudices, of its habits, of its early ideas! We are separated from Moses by forty centuries, and yet our Christian generation stills retains traces of the usages of his barbarian time, consecrated, or, at least, approved, by the religions of our day! To put an end to the use of the stake, and to give currency to a more just idea of the true greatness of God, has required all the force of the opinions of the non-orthodox, of those who are considered as heretics by the Church. But although the stake has been abolished, social and moral persecutions are still in full vigor, so deeply rooted in the human mind is the idea of a cruel God. Filled with the notions that have been instilled into them from their infancy, men and women naturally see nothing strange in the statement that God, who is represented to them as being honored by barbarous deeds, should condemn human beings to eternal tortures, and behold, without pity, the sufferings of the damned.
Yes, it is the philosophers, those who are qualified as “impious” by the Church, who have been scandalized at seeing the name of God profaned by being associated with deeds unworthy of God’s goodness; it is they who have presented to humanity a nobler idea of the greatness of the Divine Being, by stripping away from that idea the passions and pettiness attributed to God by the unenlightened beliefs of the primitive ages. The religious sentiment has thereby gained in dignity what it has lost in external show; for, while there are fewer devotees of ecclesiastical formalities, there are a greater number of men and women who are sincerely religious in heart and feeling.
But, besides the latter, how many are there who, going no deeper than the surface, have been led to negation of the idea of Providential action! Through its failure to harmonize its doctrines with the progress of the human mind, the Church has driven some to Deism, others, to absolute unbelief, others, again, to Pantheism; in other words, it has driven humankind to make gods of themselves, for lack of any higher ideal.