Watching a recording of PBS' "A Brief History of Disbelief" last night, I learned a fact that could come in handy if you're ever on a high-stakes quiz show.
They ask: Who wrote the first atheist book? You say, Baron d'Holbach. (When you win the million dollars, be sure to remember with gratitude what blogger informed you of this.)
Philosophically, the Baron and I also are on much the same wavelength. I like this excerpt from his writings:
Madmen may everywhere be seen, who, after meditating upon their terrible God, imagine that to please him they must inflict on themselves, the most exquisite torments. The gloomy ideas formed of the deity, far from consoling them, have every where disquieted their minds, and prejudiced follies destructive to happiness.
How could the human mind progress, while tormented with frightful phantoms, and guided by men, interested in perpetuating its ignorance and fears?
Man has been forced to vegetate in his primitive stupidity: he has been taught stories about invisible powers upon whom his happiness was supposed to depend. Occupied solely by his fears, and by unintelligible reveries, he has always been at the mercy of priests, who have reserved to themselves the right of thinking for him, and of directing his actions.
Videos of "A Brief History of Disbelief" can be viewed online. The three part series is a bit dry for my taste, but there's some enjoyable snippets. Like, the quotes from skeptics and unbelievers. Many of them can be read here, including some thoughts from the Baron.
If we go back to the beginning we shall find that ignorance and fear created the gods, that fancy enthusiasm or deceit adorned them, that weakness worships them, that credulity preserves them, and that custom, respect and tyranny support them in order to make the blindness of men serve their own interests.
Unfortunately, more than 230 years after he wrote those words not much has changed. Hopefully the next quarter of a millennium will bring more enlightenment to the Earth.