…philosophers cannot entirely exempt themselves from this natural frailty; but have oft ascribed to inanimate matter the horror of a vacuum, sympathies, antipathies, and other affections of human nature. The absurdity is not less, while we cast our eyes upwards; and transferring, as is too usual, human passions and infirmities to the Deity, represent him as jealous and revengeful, capricious and partial, and, in short, a wicked and foolish man in every respect but his superior power and authority. No wonder, then, that mankind, being placed in such an absolute ignorance of causes, and at the same time being so anxious concerning their future fortune, should immediately acknowledge a dependence on invisible powers, possessed of sentiment and intelligence. — from “The Origin of Polytheism”


David Hume (1711–1776) was a Scottish philosopher and historian and considered to be one of the most important thinkers in Western philosophy. Hume’s lifelong project was to establish a natural science of man — a philosophy based squarely on a psychological understanding of human nature. Eschewing reason except as a handmaid of human behavior, Hume said that, above all, humans are guided by custom and sentiment. Like his French forerunner Michel de Montaigne (1533–1592), Hume popularized the essay as a literary form.

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