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The Ruins

Part I, Chapter 21
PROBLEM OF RELIGIOUS CONTRADICTIONS
The various groups having taken their places, an unbounded silence succeeded to the
murmurs of the multitude; and the legislator said:
Chiefs and doctors of mankind! You remark how the nations, living apart, have hitherto
followed different paths, each believing its own to be that of truth. If, however, truth is
one, and opinions are various, it is evident that some are in error. If, then, such vast
numbers of us are in the wrong, who shall dare to say, "I am in the right?" Begin,
therefore, by being indulgent in your dissensions. Let us all seek truth as if no one
possessed it. The opinions which to this day have governed the world, originating from
chance, propagated in obscurity, admitted without discussion, accredited by a love of
novelty and imitation, have usurped their empire in a clandestine manner. It is time, if
they are well founded, to give a solemn stamp to their certainty, and legitimize their
existence. Let us summon them this day to a general scrutiny, let each propound his
creed, let the whole assembly be the judge, and let that alone be acknowledged as true
which is so for the whole human race.
Then, by order of position, the representative of the first standard on the left was allowed
to speak:
"You are not permitted to doubt," said their chief, "that our doctrine is the only true and
infallible one. FIRST, it is revealed by God himself--"
"So is ours," cried all the other standards, "and you are not permitted to doubt it."
"But at least," said the legislator, "you must prove it, for we cannot believe what we do
not know."
"Our doctrine is proved," replied the first standard, "by numerous facts, by a multitude of
miracles, by resurrections of the dead, by rivers dried up, by mountains removed--"
"And we also have numberless miracles," cried all the others, and each began to recount
the most incredible things.
"THEIR miracles," said the first standard, "are imaginary, or the fictions of the evil spirit,
who has deluded them."
"They are yours," said the others, "that are imaginary;" and each group, speaking of itself,
cried out:
"None but ours are true, all the others are false."
 
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