Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAP. XXIV.: Of the local Laws of Religion. - Complete Works, vol. 2 The Spirit of Laws
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CHAP. XXIV.: Of the local Laws of Religion. - Charles Louis de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu, Complete Works, vol. 2 The Spirit of Laws 
The Complete Works of M. de Montesquieu (London: T. Evans, 1777), 4 vols. Vol. 2.
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Of the local Laws of Religion.
THERE are many local laws in various religions: and when Montezuma with so much obstinacy insisted, that the religion of the Spaniards was good for their country, and his for Mexico, he did not assert an absurdity; because, in fact, legislators could never help having a regard to what nature had established before them.
The opinion of the metempsychosis is adapted to the climate of the Indies. An excessive heat burns * up all the country; they can breed but very few cattle; they are always in danger of wanting them for tillage; their black cattle multiply but indifferently† ; and they are subject to many distempers: a law of religion which preserves them, is therefore more suitable to the policy of the country.
While the meadows are scorched up, rice and pulse, by the assistance of water, are brought to perfection; a law of religion which permits only this kind of nourishment, must therefore be extremely useful to men in those climates.
The flesh‡ of cattle in that country is insipid, but the milk and butter which they receive from them serves for a part of their subsistence; therefore the law which prohibits the eating and killing of cows, is in the Indies not unreasonable.
Athens contained a prodigious multitude of people, but its territory was barren. It was therefore a religious maxim with this people, that those who offered some small presents to the gods* , honoured them more than those who sacrificed an ox.
[* ]See Bernier’s travels, vol. ii. page 137.
[† ]Edifying letters, col. xii. page 95.
[‡ ]Bernier’s travels, vol. ii. page 187.
[* ]Euripides in Athenæus, lib. 2.