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Good Sense without God: The Revolutionary Treatise on Free Thought Paperback – 29 Jan 2014

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Product details

  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (29 Jan. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1495367878
  • ISBN-13: 978-1495367878
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.2 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,342,486 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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About the Author

Paul Henri Thiry, Baron d'Holbach, was born in December 1723, in Edesheim, Rhine Palatinate but was raised in Paris by his uncle Franciscus Adam d'Holbach. Paul Henri attended the University of Leyden, Holland, from 1744 till about 1749. In that year he married his cousin Basile-Genevieve d'Aine. Around 1754 his uncle Franciscus and his father-in-law both died, leaving Paul Henri the barony of d'Holbach and a large fortune. D'Holbach used his wealth to establish a coterie in Paris for which he became famous. This group included noted intellectuals of the day such as Denis Diderot, Claude-Adrien Helvetius, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Benjamin Franklin, Edward Gibbon, David Hume, and Adam Smith, as well as French nobles and ambassadors from European countries. D'Holbach contributed articles on chemistry and allied scientific topics to Diderot's ENCYCLOPEDIE. A vigorous opponent of Christianity, he escaped public and political ridicule by publishing his critical views using the names of deceased friends or employing pseudonyms. In 1761 he published LE CHRISTIANISME DEVOILE (Christianity Unveiled) using the name of his deceased friend N.A. Boulanger. His most famous book, SYSTEME DE LA NATURE (The System of Nature), published in 1770 under the name of J.B. Mirabaud, derided religion. LE BON-SENS (Good Sense) was published in 1772 under the name of Jean Meslier. D'Holbach's 1773 SYSTEME SOCIAL (Social System) placed morality and politics in a utilitarian framework. THE SYSTEM OF NATURE and GOOD SENSE were condemned by the Paris parliament and publicly burned. D'Holbach died on June 21, 1789, in Paris.

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Baron d'Holbach was clearly a well travelled and highly educated man, who seems to have gone to some effort to introduce the works and ideas of his native Germany to his adopted France, and vice versa, (as did the poet Heinrich Heine).
This work was published from Amsterdam, under a pseudonym - so strong was the dogma and power of the Church that any challenge was highly risky.
I read it in December 2009, at a time when my national newspaper had a headline :"Church recruiting drive targets 2-year-olds", and felt acutely how little progress there has been since 1772. Indeed, as a former secondary school teacher, I feel this book should be read by teenagers, to give them an alternative view of religion. As stated in the preface "its clearness of expression, facility, and precision of style, render it most suitable for the average student".
In essence the book sets out the reasons for believing there is no God, no after-life, and no reason to be sad on these accounts. About 130 pages in length, there is some repetition, and the Baron does seem to be seeking out all possible aspects of religious belief to nullify their validity, so there are times when he is erecting Aunt Sallies, but there are also many lucid moments, which deserve to be known and quoted, for example :
"Can any sensible man, delighted with the sciences and attached to the welfare of his fellow-creatures, reflect, without vexation and anguish, how many profound, laborious, and subtle brains have been for ages foolishly occupied in the study of absurdities? What a treasure of knowledge might have been diffused by many celebrated thinkers, if instead of engaging in the impertinent disputes of vain theology, they had devoted their attention to intelligible objects really important to mankind?
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In 1770 Louis XV was nearing the end of his long and despotic reign in France. The law there called for execution of those who preached a religion other than Roman Catholicism. It was in this setting that Paul Thiry (Baron d'Holbach) published his "System of Nature." Two years later "Good Sense" appeared, expounding in 206 articles Thiry's opinions about religion previously expressed in the "System." It was printed anonymously and in a foreign country to forestall persecution of the writer.
The Author's Preface summarizes his argument. The incomprehensibility of the concept of God results in the elaboration of speculations about this being, and the perplexity arising from attempts to "solve an insolvable problem" leads to fanaticism and violence. The servants of religion have promoted ignorance, fear, and submissiveness, which "make men wicked and unhappy. Knowledge, Reason, and Liberty can alone reform and make men happier."
Thiry criticizes the concept of God from the standpoints of epistemology, logic, and ethics. He addresses the cosmological and teleological arguments for the existence of God, the allegation that all people possess an "inward sense" of a deity, and the historical prevalence of theistic beliefs as evidence of their correctness. The concept of faith, and the notion of "truths above reason," are analyzed and criticized.
The author demonstrates the absence of a plausible motive for divine creation of the universe. He notes that "chance" means "ignorance of true causes" and criticizes the theological argument that the alternative to divine creation is "chance"--an argument that theologians have continued to make despite its invalidity. He points out the absence of any plausible concept of how an immaterial spirit can affect matter.
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This has to be among the primary texts for atheist thinkers. D'Holbach's writing is a high point in the history of atheism, and I believe there is nothing to better it until Bertrand Russell (interestingly, another highly privileged individual) began to address the subject in the twentieth century. Sometimes D'Holbach's arguments are just beautifully worded assertions, but often he is making strong arguments that have echoed through modernity and can still be heard from today's more militant atheists. What makes D'Holbach stand out, however, is that he was writing at a time when it was actually dangerous to be an atheist - I mean, seriously dangerous. It is also noteworthy that his canons are usually zeroed on the church's abuse of power - moreso than on the substructures of Christian theology.

Reading this piece left me desperate to hear what he would say about our current climate now that, at least here in Europe, the church is slowly but surely losing its grip altogether on culture and society. Yes, it is a dated book, but translates well, is easy to read and is properly entertaining. It's worth spending time with this - you'll know very early on if it's not for you.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)

Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars 3 reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Atheism morals 27 July 2012
By GMan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Baron d'Holbach was a man so ahead of his time it is absolutely amazing. Good Sense discusses on how we can get our morals and do right without religion and theology, rather than needing them to do good. He does address why a divinity does not exist, and the corruption of the church, but again the focus of this book is on morals. His work 'The System of Nature' written two years earlier discusses more about why there is no deity.

D'holbach writes of war, hatred, and the corruption that not just the institution of church has done, but he addresses that it is all based off their teachings and not radicalism (i.e. The Bible, Torah, Koran). He was a well educated man (as proof of his work in Paris), and used examples of all religions, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Chinese, Indian, and even Native American beliefs.

Like many other modern authors and activists who claim we don't need religion to know what is right, that we are instinctual animals who through reason and science we can discover morality, d'Holbach already believed this. What makes this man so amazing is that he knew so much about nature and humans place within it before Darwinism came along (which greatly changed the playing field of how people view religion).

Anyone who is already a freethinker and interested in a classic atheistic work on morality, I encourage you to please read.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A still unsurpassed manifesto of non-theism 2 Feb. 2013
By Michael D. Reynolds - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
In 1770 Louis XV was nearing the end of his long and despotic reign in France. The law there called for execution of those who preached a religion other than Roman Catholicism. It was in this setting that Paul Thiry (Baron d'Holbach) published his "System of Nature." Two years later "Good Sense" appeared, expounding in 206 articles Thiry's opinions about religion previously expressed in the "System." It was printed anonymously and in a foreign country to forestall persecution of the writer.
The Author's Preface summarizes his argument. The incomprehensibility of the concept of God results in the elaboration of speculations about this supposed being, and the perplexity arising from attempts "to solve an insoluble problem" leads to fanaticism and violence. The servants of religion have promoted ignorance, fear, and submissiveness, which "make men wicked and unhappy. Knowledge, Reason, and Liberty, can alone reform and make men happier."
Thiry criticizes the concept of God from the standpoints of epistemology, logic, and ethics. He addresses the cosmological and teleological arguments for the existence of God, the allegation that people possess an "inward sense" of a deity, and the historical prevalence of theistic beliefs as evidence of their correctness. The concept of faith, and the notion of "truths above reason," are analyzed and criticized.
The author demonstrates the absence of a plausible motive for divine creation of the universe. He notes that "chance" means "ignorance of true causes" and criticizes the theological argument that the alternative to divine creation is "chance"--an argument that theologians have continued to make despite its invalidity. He points out the absence of any plausible concept of how an immaterial spirit can affect matter. Intellection, he writes, "depends upon a certain disposition of the material organs of the body" and not some incorporeal entity (a soul).
Thiry notes that the non-factual nature of all ideas about God leads to a proliferation of religions and sects that quarrel incessantly because none of their beliefs can be demonstrated to be correct, nor can opposing beliefs be shown to be false. He remarks, "If religion were necessary at all, it ought to be intelligible to all."
The effects of religion, the author states, have been negative: "Ignorance and fear are the two hinges of religion." Fanaticism has persistently led to persecution and violence. The union of church and state serves to prevent freedom; rulers whom religion declares to be the agents of God are not thereby rendered benevolent.
The allegation that religion is the source of morality is refuted. On the contrary, Thiry avers, religion is a principal cause of immorality. If human beings are enlightened and free, they will behave well because they perceive that doing so benefits them and avoids negative consequences in the real world. Notions of reward and punishment in a hypothetical post-mortem existence are not an effective basis of morality.
Finally, Thiry addresses the subject of atheism. He notes that children have no innate idea of God:
"Religion...passes...from parents to children." He refutes the allegations that atheism results only from unworthy motives and that it leads to wickedness.
"Good Sense" is arguably the best statement of non-theism ever written, in view of its rationality, comprehensiveness, clarity and power. Reprinting of Englisn translations by several publishers during the past decade makes this landmark work readily available to a new generation of readers.
Good SenseGood Sense Without God: Or Freethoughts Opposed To Supernatural Ideas A Translation Of Baron D'Holbach's "Le Bon Sens"Good Sense Without God: Freethoughts Opposed To Supernatural IdeasGood SenseGood Sense Without GodGood Sense Without God
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the most enlightened of the Enlightment. If he lived today he would be joining the Four Horsemen... 20 July 2014
By Claudio Di Gregorio - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
Colossal. Perhaps it is the merit of the translation --done around 1900s-- but whatever the reason, this mid-XVIII century philosopher reads as if he were our contemporary. Of course, the depth and brilliance of the ideas in this book belong wholly to the Baron, a man of such caliber as to be the host and friend of thinkers such as Diderot and Hume. I won't say more; I will leave Mr. D'Holbach to speak for himself. The following are a few assorted gems of his uniquely sharp mind:
<< Metaphysics teach us that God is a pure spirit. But is modern theology superior to that of the savages? The savages acknowledge a great spirit for the master of the world. The savages, like all ignorant people, attribute to spirits all the effects of which their experience cannot discover the true causes. Ask a savage: what works your watch? He will answer: it is a spirit. Ask the divines: what moves the universe? They answer it is a spirit.
The material Jupiter of the ancients could move, compose, destroy and create beings similar to himself; but the God of modern theology is sterile. He can neither occupy any place in space nor move matter, nor form a visible world, nor create humans or gods.
David Hume, speaking of theologians, has ingeniously observed that they have discovered the solution of the famous problem of Archimedes: a point in the heavens, from where they move the world.
… before we know that we must adore a God must we not know certainly that he exists? But how can we assure ourselves that he exists if we never examine whether he really has the various qualities attributed to him?
"God," they say, "has made humans intelligent but he has not made them omniscient;" hence it is inferred that he has not been able to give them faculties sufficiently enlarged to know his divine essence. In this case, it is evident that God has not been able nor willing to be known by his creatures. By what right then would God be angry with beings who were naturally incapable of knowing the divine essence?
All children are born Atheists; they have no idea of God.
It would be as difficult to instill into the mind of a forty year old person the extravagant notions that are given us of the divinity as to eradicate them from the mind of those who had imbibed them from infancy.
Nature, you say, is totally inexplicable without a God. That is to say, to explain what you understand very little, you have need of a cause which you understand not at all.
We laugh at the savage inhabitants of Paraguay for calling themselves the descendants of the moon. But the divines of Europe call themselves the descendants, or the creation, of a pure spirit. Is this pretension any more rational?
The intelligence of humans no more proves the intelligence of God than the malice of humans proves the malice of that God who is the pretended maker of humans.
To be astonished that a certain order reigns in the world is to be surprised that the same causes constantly produce the same effects.
Divine intelligence, ideas and views have, you say, nothing common with those of humans. Very well. How then can humans judge right or wrong of these views, reason upon these ideas or admire this intelligence? This would be to judge, adore and admire something of which we can't have ideas.
We are assured that God made the world only for his own glory, and that it was necessary that the human species should come into this plan, that there might be someone to admire his works and glorify him for them.[...] (but) A being who has no equal cannot be susceptible of glory; for glory can result only from the comparison of one's own excellence with that of others. […] God, notwithstanding all his endeavours, is not glorified but, on the contrary, all the religions in the world represent him as perpetually offended; the sole object (of the religions) is to reconcile the sinful, ungrateful, rebellious individual with his angry God.
We are told that in the formation of the universe, God's only object was the happiness of humans. But, in a world made purposely for them and governed by an omnipotent God, are humans in reality very happy? Are their enjoyments durable? Are not their pleasures mixed with pains? Are many persons satisfied with their fate? Are not humans continually the victims of physical and moral evils? Is not the human machine –which is represented as a masterpiece of the Creator's skill– liable to derangement in a thousand ways? Should we be surprised at the workmanship of a mechanic who should show us a complex machine, ready to stop every moment and which, in a short time, would break in pieces of itself?>>
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