Front Page Titles (by Subject) Number XLII.: Of High-Church Atheism. - The Independent Whig, vol. 2 (7th ed. 1743)
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Number XLII.: Of High-Church Atheism. - Thomas Gordon, The Independent Whig, vol. 2 (7th ed. 1743) 
The Independent Whig: or, a Defence of Primitive Christianity, And of Our Ecclesiastical Establishment, against The Exorbitant Claims and Encroachments of Fanatical and Disaffected Clergymen. The Seventh Edition, with Additions and Amendments (London: J. Peele, 1743). Vol. 2.
Part of: The Independent Whig, 4 vols.
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Of High-Church Atheism.
Wednesday,November 2. 1720.
THat Religion, or the Worship of a Deity, is natural to Man, is confessed by Mr. Hobbes himself in his Leviathan, wherein he endeavours to assign the natural Causes thereof: And no History or Voyages give us an Account of any Country, in any manner civilized, without Religion, as well as Priests or Ministers, and Temples or Places of Worship. Men have been in all Ages so prone to Religion, that rather than not have one, they have been contented to worship the most abject Beings in Nature; and indeed, nothing seems to have been too absurd and ridiculous for them to believe and practise, under the Direction of any Men, who had Confidence enough to take upon them to be spiritual Guides of the People. It was ever sufficient to pretend to teach Religion, to make any thing to be received as Religion.
Nor is this Disposition at all abated in the World. The Pagan Part is much the same: And many Christians are more prone, if possible, to Absurdity and Folly, than the Pagans. The Popish, Greek, and several other Christian Sects, worship a Breaden God; and, besides other numerous Absurdities and Follies, exceed them in that grand one of all, of delivering up their Persons, Estates, and Consciences, to the Priest; and of hating, damning, persecuting, and burning one another, and all who have any Difference in Opinion with them, as he inspires them: In all which they outgo both the antient and modern Pagans, who have generally given Toleration to Men of different Religions from themselves, and have in no Place gone those Lengths in Persecution, which some Christians (or rather some Persons pretending to be Christians) have done.
As a farther Proof, that Religion is natural to Man, I observe, that no History informs us, that ever Atheism (by which I understand, a direct Denial of the Existence of a Deity, a Providence, and Worship) was able to introduce itself among the People of any Country whatsoever.
Religion is not only natural to Man, but esteemed necessary to Government by Princes and States, who, whether they themselves have believed any Religion or no, have established Forms of Religion, and been willing, that their Subjects should obey them, and defend their Country, upon a Principle of Religion, as knowing its powerful Operation on the Minds of Men.
And besides, Religion has a great Support from Priests or Divines, who are very numerous every-where, and have a Zeal for every Form which they profess, equal to the Interest which they derive from it: And if the Interest of one Form runs low, many of them can change their Party, and become zealous for another Religion; as they did three times in the Compass of five Years in England, in the Reigns of Edward the Sixth, Mary, and Elizabeth; the non-complying Clergy never amounting to Two hundred under any of those Changes.
Great Complaints indeed have been and are daily made in relation to the mighty Growth of Atheism. But those Complaints seem to me, for the most part, if not altogether, groundless, and to be generally Calumnies of High-Church Priests, and High-Church Men, upon the best Christians, namely, such who profess themselves ready to submit to the Authority of Jesus Christ, but refuse Submission to any Priests, whether they be Greek, Muscovite, Roman, Dutch, Scotch, or English.
There is not, therefore, and cannot be, any Danger of the Overthrow of Religion, as long as Men continue Men; Religion will necessarily prevail among us, and every-where else, in Virtue of Mens general Disposition to Religion, either under one or several Forms, according as the Civil Magistrates of the World are more or less persuaded, that they themselves are to dictate (or to dictate after a Priest) Religion to their Subjects.
The noisy Outcry therefore of the Danger of Religion from Atheism or Irreligion, is a mere Chimera of the High Priests; which, in all Likelihood, they start, to put Men on a false Scent, and to disguise and carry on their own Designs of Power and Wealth: For while People are alarmed with the Fears of Atheism, they are disposed to fall into all the pretended Measures of the Priest to suppress it, and to become zealous for him, who never fails to make use of the Panic or Madness of the People (which is his Opportunity) to establish Doctrines and Practices for his own Advantage; which at his Suggestion they falsly suppose to be most opposite to Atheism, and to be the best Means to suppress it.
But the constant Danger, and the great and only Concern which we ought to have, is, lest under the Colour and Name of Religion, or the Worship of God, we have not only Falshood and Superstition put upon us, but the most detestable and wicked Practices introduced; such as tend to the Destruction of all Peace, both public and private; all Virtue, Learning, and whatever is praiseworthy among Men. This is practical Atheism: This is the Atheism to be dreaded and feared: This is the Atheism whereof we are in Danger: This is the worst Consequence we have to fear from speculative Atheism; for no Man can say worse of speculative Atheism, than that it leads necessarily to all Immorality: And in fine, this Atheism the Priest has, in most Places of the World, introduced as Religion, to the utter Overthrow of true Religion (which consists chiefly, if not solely, in such Particulars as are for the Good of Society); for by making Men wicked out of Conscience, and upon a Principle of Religion, he as effectually destroys true Religion, as if he introduced speculative Atheism. What is it to a Believer in Christ, whether he be persecuted for his Religion by a Papist, who does it religiously, and upon a Principle of Conscience; or by an Atheist, who does it either to protect himself, or to get Credit in the World, or to share with the Priest, in the Advantages arising from Persecution? Do Men suffer less by a Civil or Foreign War, begun by Zealots, on a Principle of Religion, to promote Religion; than if begun by Atheists, for the sake of Ambition, Glory, Power, Rapine, or Murder? Are the Feuds, Animosities, and Passions, stirred up by Priests on account of Religion, fewer, and less disturbing of the public Peace, than those of Men left to the Conduct of Atheistical Principles! Is it not equal to Husbands to be wronged by Atheists, who need no Pardon, as by Popish Priests, who can pardon one another; or by High-Church Men, who, notwithstanding such Actions, can be countenanced by the Priest, and merit greatly with him on account of their Zeal for the Church, that is, the Priest? Nay, is not the Danger of Cuckoldom equal from a Popish Priest, (who, by his Power of Confessing and Absolving the Woman, has so glorious an Opportunity) as from an Atheist? And would our High Priests, if they could get the Nation to be persuaded, that they have the same Power of Confessing and Absolving, (as they have of late been attempting to do in their Books and Sermons) be less Cuckold-makers than Popish Priests and Atheists?
Could an Atheist be a greater Calumniator than Dr. S------e? Could an Atheist, who thinks no Deference due to a Bishop, have less Regard for the Honour of a Christian Bishop than Dr. S--------e, who pretends to think Bishops have Divine Authority? Could an Atheist, after he had been convicted of Calumny, and forced to confess, that his Evidence for the Calumny failed him, be more hardened in Villainy, than to make no Satisfaction to, and ask no Pardon of, the Person injured; but persist in supposing, that Time will discover his Charge to be true? Could a Set of Atheists have patronized Calumny more, than to have called that Doctor to be the Head of their Society? And might they not, with equal Regard to Virtue and Religion, have chosen a Highwayman, or a Pick-pocket, who gives his Money for the Augmentation of poor Livings? Has a modern Bishop more Satisfaction in being thus attacked by a High-Church Priest, supported and abetted by others, or is the Society less disturbed by such Proceedings, than if such Priests were all Atheists?
Lastly, Is it not equally destructive of Liberty and Property, for Ecclesiastics to use religious Cheats and Tricks to get Money from the People, towards raising and maintaining a needless Army of Black-coats, to live lazily in Monasteries, and other Religious Houses; as for Atheists to use any civil Tricks to maintain a needless standing Army of Red-coats, for by their Arts to plunder the Public for any of their other Purposes?
The Design therefore of some followng Papers shall be to shew, how the High-Church Jacobite Clergy promote true Atheism and Irreligion: That the Laity may be put on the true Scent of Atheism: That they may have a just Dread of the true Atheism: That they may cease to be Atheists, or Worshippers of the Priest, and cease to receive Religion on his Authority; and that they may return to God and Christ, the sole Authors of all true Religion.