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Atheism Among The People by Alphonse de Lamartine

IV. It is in this sense, my friends, that I say to youà

It is in this sense, my friends, that I say to you, |I believe in God.|

But, once having said this word with the universe of beings and of worlds, and blessed this invisible God for having rendered himself visible, sensible, evident, palpable, adorable in the mirror of weak human intelligence, made gradually more and more pure, I reason with myself on the best worship to be rendered Him in thought and action. Let me show how, by this reasoning, I am forcibly drawn to the love of the People.

I say to myself, then, |Who is this God? Is he a vain notion, which has no effect on the thoughts and acts of man, his creature; who inspires nothing in him; who gives him no commands; who imposes nothing upon him; who does not reward, and who does not punish? -- No! God is not a mere notion, an idea, an evidence; -- God is a law, -- the living law, the supreme law, the universal law, the eternal law. Because God is a law on high, he is a duty on the earth; and when man says, 'I believe in God,' he says, at the same time, 'I believe in my duty towards God, -- I believe in my duty towards man.' God is a government!|

And what are these duties? They are of three sorts: --

Duty towards God, -- that is to say, the duty of developing, as much as possible, my intelligence and my reason, to arrive at the purest idea and the highest worship of the Supreme Being, by whom and for whom all is, all exists: -- Religion.

Private Duties, -- that is to say, the exact and tender discharge of all sentiments to which form has been given, either in written or unwritten laws, which bind me to those, to whom, in the order of nature, I hold most closely, -- the nearest to myself in the human group -- father, mother, brothers, sisters, wife, children, friends, neighbors: -- the Family.

Collective Duties, -- that is to say, devotions, even to the sacrifice of myself, even to death, to the progress, the well-being, the preservation, the amelioration of this great human family, of which my family, and my country, are only parts; and of which I myself am only a miserable and vanishing fraction, a leaf of a summer, which vegetates and withers on a branch of the immense trunk of the human race: -- Society.

Let us speak to-day only of these last duties, -- because, now we are occupied with politics alone.

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