John Toland (30 November 1670 – 11 March 1722) was an Irish-born rationalist philosopher and freethinker.
Christianity not Mysterious (1696)
Full title: Christianity not Mysterious: Or, A Treatise Showing That there is nothing in the Gospel Contrary to Reason nor Above it, And that no Christian Doctrine can be properly called A Mystery.
- If we make a just computation, and take in the primitive martyrs with the Prophets and Apostles themselves, the professed defenders of Truth, only for Truth's sake, will be found to be a small handful with respect to the numerous partisans of error.
- Such is the deplorable condition of our age, that a man dares not openly and directly own what he thinks of divine matters, though it be never so true and beneficial, if it but very slightly differs from what is received by any party, or that is established by law.
- That the sacred name of religion which sounds nothing but sanctity, peace and integrity should be so universally abused to patronize ambition, impiety and contention! And that what is our highest interest perfectly to understand, should (for reasons afterward to be laid open) both be maintained to be obscure, and very industriously made so!
- Nay, it has come to this, that Truth meets no where with stronger opposition, than from many of those that raise the loudest cry about it, and would be taken for no less than the only dispensers of the favors and oracles of Heaven. If any has the firmness to touch the minutest thing that brings them Gain or Credit, he's presently pursued with the hue and cry of Heresy.
- I hope to make it appear, that the use of reason in religion is not so dangerous as commonly represented.
- I hold nothing as an article of my Religion, but what the highest evidence forced me to embrace.
- The best method, I think, of communicating to others the Truth, is that by which a Man has learnt it himself.
- Not only a few men, but oftentimes whole societies, whilst they consider things but very superficially, set such a value upon certain sounds, as if they were the real essence of all religion. ... And yet, as I hinted now, they either signify nothing, or have been invented by some leading men to make plain things obscure.
- They are not the articles of the East or West, Orthodox or Arian, Protestant or Papist, considered as such, that I trouble myself about, but those of Jesus Christ and his Apostles.
- Since Religion is calculated for reasonable Creatures, 'tis Conviction and not Authority that should bear Weight with them.
Section II: That the Doctrines of the Gospel are not contrary to Reason
- As for acquiescing in what a man understands not, or cannot reconcile to his reason, they know best the fruits of it that practice it. For my part, I'm a stranger to it, and cannot reconcile myself to such a principle. On the contrary, I am pretty sure he pretends in vain to convince the judgment, who explains not the nature of the thing. A man may give his verbal assent to he knows not what, out of fear, superstition, indifference, interest, and the like feeble and unfair motives: but as long as he conceives not what he believes, he cannot sincerely acquiesce in it, and remains deprived of all solid satisfaction. ... But he that comprehends a thing, is as sure of it as if he were himself the author.
- Revelation was not a necessitating motive of assent, but a means of information. We should not confound the way whereby we come to the knowledge of a thing with the grounds we have to believe it.