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Joseph Priestley

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If any person, discouraged by these difficulties, should think to relieve himself by rejecting all religion, natural and revealed, he will find, if he reflect at all, that he has miserably deceived himself, and that he is involved in greater perplexity than ever; the scheme he has adopted not only filling his mind with great darkness and distress, but being contrary to some of the plainest appearances in nature, and therefore manifestly irrational and absurd.
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Vol. I : Preface (1772)

 
Joseph Priestley

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That religion in which I must know in advance that something is a divine command in order to recognize it as my duty, is the revealed religion (or the one standing in need of a revelation); in contrast, that religion in which I must first know that something is my duty before I can accept it as a divine injunction is the natural religion. … When religion is classified not with reference to its first origin and its inner possibility (here it is divided into natural and revealed religion) but with respect to its characteristics which make it capable of being shared widely with others, it can be of two kinds: either the natural religion, of which (once it has arisen) everyone can be convinced through his own reason, or a learned religion, of which one can convince others only through the agency of learning (in and through which they must be guided). … A religion, accordingly, can be natural, and at the same time revealed, when it is so constituted that men could and ought to have discovered it of themselves merely through the use of their reason, although they would not have come upon it so early, or over so wide an area, as is required. Hence a revelation thereof at a given time and in a given place might well be wise and very advantageous to the human race, in that, when once the religion thus introduced is here, and has been made known publicly, everyone can henceforth by himself and with his own reason convince himself of its truth. In this event the religion is objectively a natural religion, though subjectively one that has been revealed.

 
Immanuel Kant
 

If it were so, as conceited sagacity, proud of not being deceived, thinks, that we should believe nothing that we cannot see with our physical eyes, then we first and foremost ought to give up believing in love. If we were to do so and do it out of fear lest we be deceived, would we not then be deceived? We can, of course, be deceived in many ways. We can be deceived by believing what is untrue, but we certainly are also deceived by not believing what is true. We can be deceived by appearances, be certainly are also deceived by the sagacious appearance, by the flattering conceit that considers itself absolutely secure against being deceived. Which deception is more dangerous? Whose recovery is more doubtful, that of the one who does not see, or that of the person who sees and yet does not see? Which is more difficult-to awaken someone who is sleeping or to awaken someone who, awake, is dreaming that he is awake? Works of Love, Hong 5

 
Soren Aabye Kierkegaard
 

Since it is always the same person whose mind thinks, wills, and judges, the autonomous nature of these activities has created great difficulties. Reason’s inability to move the will, plus the fact that thinking can only “understand” what is past what neither remove it nor “rejuvenate it” ... have led to the various doctrines asserting the mind’s impotence and the force of the irrational, in brief to Hume’s famous dictum that “Reason is and ought only to be the slave of the passions,” that is, to a rather simple-minded reversal of the Platonic notion of reason’s uncontested rulership in the household of the soul. What is so remarkable in all these theories and doctrines is their implicit monism, the claim that behind the obvious multiplicity of the world’s appearances and, even more pertinently to our context, behind the obvious plurality of man’s faculties and abilities, there must exist a oneness—the old hen pan, “the all is one”—either a single source or a single ruler.

 
Hannah Arendt
 

Though I myself am an atheist, I openly profess religion in the sense just mentioned, that is, a nature religion. I hate the idealism that wrenches man out of nature; I am not ashamed of my dependency on nature; I openly confess that the workings of nature affect not only my surface, my skin, my body, but also my core, my innermost being, that the air I breathe in bright weather has a salutary effect not only on my lungs but also on my mind, that the light of the sun illumines not only my eyes but also my spirit and my heart. And I do not, like a Christian, believe that such dependency is contrary to my true being or hope to be delivered from it. I know further that I am a finite moral being, that I shall one day cease to be. But I find this very natural and am therefore perfectly reconciled to the thought.

 
Ludwig Andreas Feuerbach
 

The mind of man will never be able to contemplate the being, perfections, and providence of God without meeting with inexplicable difficulties. We may find sufficient reason for acquiescing in the darkness which involves these great subjects, but we must never expect to see them set in a perfectly clear light. But notwithstanding this, we may know enough of the divine being, and of his moral government, to make us much better and happier beings than we could be without such knowledge; and even the consideration of the insuperable difficulties referred to above is not without its use, as it tends to impress the mind with sentiments of reverence, humility, and submission.

 
Joseph Priestley
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