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This study is founded on the five concluding chapters of Orpheus, Histoire générale des Religions, first published in 1909, of which, in spite of the war, more than 30,000 copies have been sold. It has been translated into English, German, Russian, Italian, Spanish and Swedish. Certain chapters of it have become somewhat antiquated; all require revision. While rewriting in part the history of Christianity, I have been careful not to alter its character as a sketch. The bibliography, an important feature even in such attempts, has been brought
up to date.
Although I know more than I did thirteen years ago, my general ideas have not varied. Christianity, like all other religions, should be treated by history as a purely human institution ; but it is the greatest of all, not excepting Buddhism,
; because it suits the temper of progressive and laborious nations, and adapts itself to the most various conditions of society. Civilisation and Christianity are united as by an indissoluble marriage tie. Whatever may have been the mishaps and misdeeds of dogmatic theology and ambitious priestcraft, things which I have not tried to conceal, it is certain that Christianity, while opposing a veto to unbridled and degraded superstition, has taught and teaches the world the only moral lessons accessible to every one, thus preserving and propagating the most enduring elements of Hebrew and Hellenic wisdom, and cleansing and softening the animal instincts of the human race. If those gospel lessons, though preached to thousands of millions for twenty centuries, have not yet been assimilated by mankind,