Sunday, November 15, 2020


Quarrelsomeness and Contention

Walter Savage Landor, "Lucian and Timotheus," Imaginary Conversations, Vol. I (London: J.M. Dent & Co., 1891), pp. 281-333 (at 283):
Timotheus. Fine talking! Do you know, you have really been called an atheist?

Lucian. Yes, yes; I know it well. But, in fact, I believe there are almost as few atheists in the world as there are Christians.

Timotheus. How! as few? Most of Europe, most of Asia, most of Africa, is Christian.

Lucian. Show me five men in each who obey the commands of Christ, and I will show you five hundred in this very city who observe the dictates of Pythagoras. Every Pythagorean obeys his defunct philosopher; and almost every Christian disobeys his living God. Where is there one who practises the most important and the easiest of his commands, to abstain from strife? Men easily and perpetually find something new to quarrel about; but the objects of affection are limited in number, and grow up scantily and slowly. Even a small house is often too spacious for them, and there is a vacant seat at the table. Religious men themselves, when the Deity has bestowed on them everything they prayed for, discover, as a peculiar gift of Providence, some fault in the actions or opinions of a neighbour, and run it down, crying and shouting after it, with more alacrity and more clamour than boys would a leveret or a squirrel in the play-ground. Are our years and our intellects, and the word of God itself, given us for this, O Timotheus?
Id. (at 285):
Lucian. I love those best who quarrel least, and who bring into public use the most civility and good-humour.
Id. (at 307-308):
Lucian. If your leaders are in earnest, as many think, do persuade them to abstain from quarrelsomeness and contention, and not to declare it necessary that there should perpetually be a religious as well as a political war between east and west. No honest and considerate man will believe in their doctrines who, inculcating peace and good-will, continue all the time to assail their fellow-citizens with the utmost rancour at every divergency of opinion, and, forbidding the indulgence of the kindlier affections, exercise at full stretch the fiercer.
Id. (at 331):
Lucian. I hold it to be the most unphilosophical thing in the world, to call away men from useful occupations and mutual help, to profitless speculations and acrid controversies. Censurable enough, and contemptible too, is that supercilious philosopher, sneeringly sedate, who narrates in full and flowing periods the persecutions and tortures of a fellow man, led astray by his credulity, and ready to die in the assertion of what in his soul he believes to be the truth. But hardly less censurable, hardly less contemptible, is the tranquilly arrogant sectarian, who denies that wisdom or honesty can exist beyond the limits of his own ill-lighted chamber.

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