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1. It is, I believe, the invariable characteristic of false religions, that, on the one hand, they seek to gain votaries by dishonest indulgence or by unhallowed promises; while, on the other hand, they too plainly shew their interested origin by conferring special privileges or advantages upon their founders or sacerdotal
(1.) In their love of war and rapine and conquest, the northern impostor Odin freely indulged his military followers : and thus at once gratified their favourite passion of enterprize, and employed it as the successful medium of his own aggrandizement. Courage and fortitude were sanctified, and therefore heightened, by religion. The god, whose name he assumed, and of whom (according to the prevalent superstition of his native Asia) he apparently claimed to be an avatar or descent or incarnation: this god is the severe and terrible god; the father of slaughter ; the god, that carrieth desolation and fire; the active and roaring deity; he, who giveth victory, and reviveth courage in the conflict; he, who nameth those that are to be slain *. From the character of the people was drawn the character of the god : and the impostor, who assumed his name, faithfully copied his attributes. The warriors, who went to battle, made a vow to send him a certain number of souls, which they consecrated to him. These souls
* Mallet's North. Ant. vol. i. p. 86, 87.
were Odin's right: and he received them into his celestial palace of Valhalla, where he rewarded all such as died fighting sword in hand. There it was, that he distributed to them honour and felicity : there it was, that he received them to his own table, and welcomed them to an eternal banquet. Oft in the heat of battle did he descend, to intermix himself in the conflict, to inflame the fury of the combatants, to strike those who were destined to perish, and to carry the souls of the brave to his heavenly abode *.
(2.) If, in the Scandinavian Paradise, the warriors of the north eternally combated and feasted and drank mead out of the skulls of their enemies † ; to those; who should similarly die fighting in the cause of Mohammed and Islamism, were promised delights more accordant with the dispositions of persons born in the sultry clime of Arabia.
For him, who dreadeth the tribunal of his Lord, are prepared two gardens, planted with shady trees. In each of them shall be two fountains flowing : in each of them shall there be of every fruit two kinds. They shall repose on couches, the linings whereof shall be of thick silk interwoven with gold : and the fruit of the two gardens shall be near at hand to gather. Therein shall receive them beauteous damsels, refraining their eyes from beholding any besides their spouses, having coniplexions like rubies and pearls. And,
* Mallet's North. Ant. vol. i. p. 87.
+ Ibid. p. 120.
beside these, there shall be two other gardens of a dark green: in each of them shall be two fountains pouring forth plenty of water : in each of them shall be fruits and palm-trees and pomegranates. Therein shall be agreeable and beauteous damsels, having fine black eyes, and kept in pavilions from public view. Therein shall they delight themselves, lying on green cushions and beautiful carpets *.
Such, while luxuriating in Paradise, are the privileges of the true believers; and analogous to them are those, which, in the present world, the prophet grants to his followers and yet more liberally to himself. In addition to the concubines of his Harem, each Musulman is allowed to espouse four legitimate wives: but to Mohammed a greater licence is freely permitted by the voice of inspiration.
O prophet, we have allowed thee thy wives unto whom thou hast given their dower ; and also the slaves which thy right hand possesseth, of the booty which God hath granted thee ; and the daughters of thy uncle, and the daughters of thy aunts both on thy father's side and on thy mother's side, who have fled with thee from Mecca ; and any other believing woman, if she give herself unto the prophet, in case the prophet desireth to take her to wife. This is a peculiar privilege granted unto thee, above the rest of the true believers. We know what we have ordained them, concerning their wives and the slaves whom their right
* Koran chap. 58.
hands possess ; lest it should be deemed a crime in thee to make use of the privilege granted thee: for God is gracious and merciful *.
While Mohammed thus bountifully made provision for the grosser appetites of himself and his followers; he endeavoured to secure the firm establishment of his religion, by enjoining the adoption of military violence, and by exciting among his proselytes a spirit of fierce and relentless fanaticism.
Go forth to battle, both light and heavy : and employ your substance and your persons for the advancement of God's religion. O prophet, wage war against the unbelievers and the hypocrites, and be severe unto them: for their dwelling shall be hell ; an unhappy journey shall it be thither. O true believers, wage war against such of the infidels as are near you; and let them find severity in you : and know, that God is with those, who fear him t. The sword is the key of heaven and of hell. A drop of blood shed in the cause of God, a night spent in arms, is of more avail than two months of fasting or prayer. Whosoever falls in battle, his sins are forgiven : at the day of judgment, his wounds shall be resplendent as vermillion and odoriferous as musk : and the loss of his limbs shall be supplied by the wings of angels and cherubim*.
* Koran chap. 38. In this same chapter, Mohammed has somewhat ludicrously contrived to give his disciples a hint to avoid obtrusiveness, yet without violating the rules of Arabic good-breeding. O trùe believers, enter not the houses of the prophet, unless it be permitted you to eat meat with him, without waiting his convenient time : but, when ye are invited, then enter. And, when ye shall have eaten, disperse yourselves ; and stay not to enter into familiar discourse : for this incommodeth the prophet. He is ashamed to bid you depart. + Koran chap. 9.
(3.) The same evident traces of human contrivance and self-interested management may be observed in the imposture of Alexander of Pontus, who flourished in the days of Lucian, and whose machinations have been fully developed by that writer.
In the religion, already established throughout Pontus, he made no alteration : his own system he only engrafted upon it. That he might the better ensure success, he laboured to engage in his cause the whole heathen priesthood, not only in Pontus, but in all other regions: and, in pursuance of this project, when devotees came to consult him, he often sent them to other pagan oracles, which at that time bore the highest reputation. Of every sect of philosophers he spoke with much respect, the Epicurèans alone excepted; who, as he well knew, would from their principles deride and oppose his fraud. To conquer their resistance as well as that of the Christians, he called in the aid of force and persecution; stirring up the people against them, and answering arguments with stones. That his own advantage might not be overlooked or forgotten, he delivered the following oracle in the
* Koran as abstracted by Gibbon. Hist. of the Decline. chap. 1. vol. ix. p. 297.