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God

During the reign of Arcadius, Logomacos, lecturer in theology of Constantinople, went to Scythia and halted at the foot of the Caucasus, in the fertile plains of Zephirim, on the frontier of Colchis. That good old man Dondindac was in his great lower hall, between his sheepfold and his vast barn; he was kneeling with his wife, his five sons and five daughters, his kindred and his servants, and after a light meal they were all singing God's praises. "What do you there, idolator?" said Logomacos to him.

"I am not an idolator," answered Dondindac.

"You must be an idolator," said Logomacos, "seeing that you are not Greek. Tell me, what was that you were singing in your barbarous Scythian jargon?"

"All tongues are equal in the ears of God," answered the Scythian. "We were singing His praises."

"That's very extraordinary," returned the theologian. "A Scythian family who pray God without having been taught by us!" He soon engaged Dondindac the Scythian in conversation, for he knew a little Scythian, and the other a little Greek. The following conversation was found in a manuscript preserved in the library of Constantinople.


LOGOMACOS:

Let us see if you know your catechism. Why do you pray God?

DONDINDAC:

Because it is right to worship the Supreme Being from whom we hold everything.

LOGOMACOS:

Not bad for a barbarian! And what do you ask of Him?

DONDINDAC:

I thank Him for the benefits I enjoy, and even for the ills with which He tries me; but I take good care not to ask Him for anything; He knows better than us what we need, and besides, I am afraid to ask Him for good weather when my neighbour is asking for rain.

LOGOMACOS:

Ah! I thought he was going to say something silly. Let us start again farther back. Barbarian, who has told you there is a God?

DONDINDAC:

The whole of nature.

LOGOMACOS:

That does not suffice. What idea have you of God?

DONDINDAC:

The idea of my creator, of my master, who will reward me if I do good, and who will punish me if I do ill.

LOGOMACOS:

Trash, nonsense all that! Let us come to essentials. Is God infinite secundum quid, or in essence?

DONDINDAC:

I don't understand you.

LOGOMACOS:

Brutish fool! Is God in one place, beyond all places, or in all places?

DONDINDAC:

I have no idea ... just as you please.

LOGOMACOS:

Dolt! Is it possible for what has been not to have been, and can a stick not have two ends? Does He see the future as future or as present? how does He draw the being out of non-existence, and how annihilate the being?

DONDINDAC:

I have never examined these things.

LOGOMACOS:

What a blockhead! Come, one must humble oneself, see things in proportion. Tell me, my friend, do you think that matter can be eternal?

DONDINDAC:

What does it matter to me whether it exists from all eternity or not? I do not exist from all eternity. God is always my master; He has given me the notion of justice, I must follow it; I do not want to be a philosopher, I want to be a man.

LOGOMACOS:

These blockheads are troublesome. Let us go step by step. What is God?

DONDINDAC:

My sovereign, my judge, my father.

LOGOMACOS:

That's not what I'm asking you. What is His nature?

DONDINDAC:

To be potent and good.

LOGOMACOS:

But, is He corporeal or spiritual?

DONDINDAC:

How should I know?

LOGOMACOS:

What! you don't know what a spirit is?

DONDINDAC:

Not in the least: of what use would it be to me? should I be more just? should I be a better husband, a better father, a better master, a better citizen?

LOGOMACOS:

It is absolutely essential you should learn what a spirit is. It is, it is, it is ... I will tell you another time.

DONDINDAC:

I'm very much afraid that you may tell me less what it is than what it is not. Allow me to put a question to you in my turn. I once saw one of your temples; why do you depict God with a long beard?

LOGOMACOS:

That's a very difficult question which needs preliminary instruction.

DONDINDAC:

Before receiving your instruction, I must tell you what happened to me one day. I had just built a closet at the end of my garden; I heard a mole arguing with a cockchafer. "That's a very fine building," said the mole. "It must have been a very powerful mole who did that piece of work."

"You're joking," said the cockchafer. "It was a cockchafer bubbling over with genius who is the architect of this building." From that time I resolved never to argue.


Francois-Marie Arouet Voltaire