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Alvares, Manuel, 1526-1583, et al. / Ethiopia Minor and a geographical account of the Province of Sierra Leone : (c. 1615)

Chapter 21: The origin of the idols and various forms of idolatry,   pp. 1-2

Page 1

Chapter 21

The origin of the idols and various forms of idolatry
From all that has been explained so far, it evidently follows that      
there is but one true God, whose divinity only the ignorant deny, or
falsify by multiplying. For if God cannot be a non-existence, as St.
Athanasius pointed out, so to multiply the divine essence is the same third
as to deny it.   Before discussing idols, let us examine the reasons why
create many gods of various kinds.
Just as the light of a single candle can seem like many lights to ey;
which an overflowing humour has relaxed and disordered so that they have
lost a little of their natural balance, in the same way idolaters have
divided into many lights that single eternal light which illumines all
creation, under the influence of their ill humours.    These are the evil
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confuses our senses, to the extent that, though they see that the heavens
and other domains could not have created themselves nor given life to othi{'l~
bodies, yet they are unwilling to recognise a single universal cause and
prefer to imagine that there are as many gods as there are natural species(aI
hence, one creator of lions, another of horses, another again of water, a4~
so on.  The poets seized the opportunity to concoct fabulous families of
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gods with which they filled their books and convinced the world.
As to the origin of idols, although these derive from various first
principles, the chief one is the great love which some children have for
their parents and some parents for their children.   According to
St. Bonaventura, when Belo, King of the Assyrians, died, his son Nino, wholj
succeeded to the kingdom, had a statue made which resembled his father in
every way, so that he would be consoled by the memory which it aroused when
he saw it. He thought so highly of it that any criminal who took sanctuarL|'
beside it, however grave the offence, was spared the penalty.    The respecti;l
shown by the king was followed b   his subjects, and the same thing happened
when other statues were erected. I The honours and sacrifices made to these
(a) The gods of the heathen were recognised more by their ill-deeds than
by their names : Quorum crimina sunt noxiora quam nomina- (their crim{  
are more noxious than their names). Jupiter was known for his adulte4'
Venis for her-dishonent-living, Bacchus for his insobriety.   Hence the
Athenians possessed a statue of an Unknown God, who was not recognises'}Ill/;'
as God because he was holy, pure, and abhorred sinning.
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