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Necessary

OSMIN:

Do you not say that everything is necessary?

SELIM:

If everything were not necessary, it would follow that God had made useless things.

OSMIN:

That is to say that it was necessary to the divine nature to make all that it has made?

SELIM:

I think so, or at least I suspect it; there are people who think otherwise; I do not understand them; maybe they are right. I am afraid of disputes on this subject.

OSMIN:

It is also of another necessary that I want to talk to you.

SELIM:

What! of what is necessary to an honest man that he may live? of the misfortune to which one is reduced when one lacks the necessary?

OSMIN:

No; for what is necessary to one is not always necessary to the other: it is necessary for an Indian to have rice, for an Englishman to have meat; a fur is necessary to a Russian, and a gauzy stuff to an African; this man thinks that twelve coach-horses are necessary to him, that man limits himself to a pair of shoes, a third walks gaily barefoot: I want to talk to you of what is necessary to all men.

SELIM:

It seems to me that God has given all that is necessary to this species: eyes to see with, feet for walking, a mouth for eating, an oesophagus for swallowing, a stomach for digesting, a brain for reasoning, organs for producing one's fellow creature.

OSMIN:

How does it happen then that men are born lacking a part of these necessary things?

SELIM:

It is because the general laws of nature have brought about some accidents which have made monsters to be born; but generally man is provided with everything that is necessary to him in order to live in society.

OSMIN:

Are there notions common to all men which serve to make them live in society?

SELIM:

Yes. I have travelled with Paul Lucas, and wherever I went, I saw that people respected their father and their mother, that people believed themselves to be obliged to keep their promises, that people pitied oppressed innocents, that they hated persecution, that they regarded liberty of thought as a rule of nature, and the enemies of this liberty as enemies of the human race; those who think differently seemed to me badly organized creatures, monsters like those who are born without eyes and hands.

OSMIN:

Are these necessary things in all time and in all places?

SELIM:

Yes, if they were not they would not be necessary to the human species.

OSMIN:

So a belief which is new is not necessary to this species. Men could very well live in society and accomplish their duty to God, before believing that Mahomet had frequent interviews with the angel Gabriel.

SELIM:

Nothing is clearer; it would be ridiculous to think that man could not accomplish his duty to God before Mahomet came into the world; it was not at all necessary for the human species to believe in the Alcoran: the world went along before Mahomet just as it goes along to-day. If Mahometanism had been necessary to the world, it would have existed in all places; God who has given us all two eyes to see the sun, would have given us all an intelligence to see the truth of the Mussulman religion. This sect is therefore only like the positive laws that change according to time and place, like the fashions, like the opinions of the natural philosophers which follow one after the other.

The Mussulman sect could not be essentially necessary to mankind.

OSMIN:

But since it exists, God has permitted it?

SELIM:

Yes, as he permits the world to be filled with foolishness, error and calamity; that is not to say that men are all essentially made to be fools and miscreants. He permits that some men be eaten by snakes; but one cannot say--"God made man to be eaten by snakes."

OSMIN:

What do you mean when you say "God permits"? can nothing happen without His order? permit, will and do, are they not the same thing for Him?

SELIM:

He permits crime, but He does not commit it.

OSMIN:

Committing a crime is acting against divine justice, it is disobeying God. Well, God cannot disobey Himself, He cannot commit crime; but He has made man in such a way that man may commit many crimes: where does that come from?

SELIM:

There are people who know, but I do not; all that I know is that the Alcoran is ridiculous, although from time to time it has some tolerably good things; certainly the Alcoran was not at all necessary to man; I stick by that: I see clearly what is false, and I know very little that is true.

OSMIN:

I thought you would instruct me, and you teach me nothing.

SELIM:

Is it not a great deal to recognize people who deceive you, and the gross and dangerous errors which they retail to you?

OSMIN:

I should have ground for complaint against a doctor who showed me all the harmful plants, and who did not show me one salutary plant.

SELIM:

I am not a doctor, and you are not ill; but it seems to me I should be giving you a very good prescription if I said to you: "Put not your trust in all the inventions of charlatans, worship God, be an honest man, and believe that two and two make four."


Francois-Marie Arouet Voltaire