Revolt of the Angels – Anatole France


“In this world,” said Arcade, “in this world, which we call a cosmos, though it is but a microcosm, no thinking being can imagine that he is able to destroy even one atom. At the utmost, all we can hope for is that we shall succeed in modifying here and there, the rhythm of some group of atoms and the arrangement of certain cells. That, when one thinks of it, must be the limit of our great enterprise….Zita, is the evil in the nature of things or in their arrangement? That is what we ought to know. Zita, I am profoundly troubled–”

“Arcade,” replied Zita, “if to act we had to know the secret of Nature, one would never act at all. And neither would one live – since to live is to act.”


“Moreover,” added Arcade, “I freely acknowledge that it is almost impossible systematically to constitute a natural moral law. Nature has no principles. She furnishes us with no reason to believe that human life is to be respected. Nature, in her indifference, makes no distinction between good and evil.”

“You see then, replied Maurice, “that religion is necessary.”

“Moral law,” replied the angel, “which is supposed to be revealed to us, is drawn from reality from the grossest empiricism. Custom alone regulates morals. What heaven prescribes is merely the consecration of ancient customs. The divine law, promulgated amid fireworks on some Mount Sinai, is never anything but the codification of human prejudice. And from this fact – namely, that morals change – religions which endure for a long time, such as Judeo-Christianity, vary their moral law.”


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