And this which you now deem of no moment is the very highest of all: that is whether you have a right idea of the gods, whereby you may live your life well or ill. But first I would point out to you something bearing on this question, which you will hardly dispute;it is thus:
Neither you nor your friends are the first to hold atheistical opinions; there have always been plenty of persons suffering from this diseaseand I can tell you how it has gone with a good many of them who were in your condition: how not one of them who took up in his youth with this opinion that there are no gods, ever continued until old age faithful to his conviction; although I grant that the other two diseased notions concerning the gods may and do persist with a few persons: the notion I mean that gods exist but that they regard not human affairs, and that other notion that they regard human affairs but are easily persuaded by sacrifice and prayer.
Note 1. Plato. Laws, 888. This was a favourite passage with my old friend Robt. Wm. Raper, V.P. of Trin. Coll., Oxford; who died while the book was making: I took it at his suggestion. [Trans. R. Bridges.] [back]