Baron Holbach

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In existographies, Baron Holbach (232-166 BE) (1723-1789 ACM) (IQ:190|#31) (ID:2.92|62) (RGM:688|1,350+) (PR:2,351|65AE / philosopher:141) (PL:3K+) (SN:12) (RMS:36) (FA:92) (GAE:1) (GPhE:5) (TR:268) (LH:41) (TL:325|#20) was a German-born French-raised physicist, anti-chance, matter in motion philosopher, atheism pioneer, and lawyer, noted for []


An anonymous engraving of Holbach (c.1758) based on drawing by Charles-Nicholas Cochin.[1]


Holbach epitaphs include: "master (maître) of the philosophy hotel" (Galiani, c.1765)[2], "master of the cafe of Europe"[1], "personal enemy of god" (Crowe, 2008)[3], “materialist Mirabaud” (Owen, 1829), “supreme materialist” (Cooper, 1976), “Newton of the atheists” (Priestman, 2000[4]; Miller, 2007[5]), the "pope of atheism" (Spencer, 2014)[6], among others.


In 1753, Holbach's father and uncle both died (destated), leaving him an immense fortune, with which he used to fund his famous intellectual salons.[7] Holbach, aside from owing a number of different estates, had an annual income of 60,000 livres, which translates to about 2.2M USD per year income (66AE value), from the family coffers.[6]

Holbach salon

In 1759, Holbach moved into 8 Rue des Moulins, Paris, a five story palace, with a 50-person dinner table, and a 3,000-book personal library, where at, every Thu and Sun, for a period of two decades, give or take, he hosted one of France's most famous intellectual salons, aka the "Holbach salon".

Diderot turned Holbach atheist?

In c.1753, while Diderot was at the workshop of the engraver who was making the illustrations to the botanical subjects of the Encyclopedia, Holbach walked in and said the following:

“But surely all this beauty [pointing to the illustrated followers], all this ingenuity, is a proof of a higher intelligence?”
— Baron Holbach (c.1753), “Comment [possibly apocryphal] to Diderot”; cited by William Wickar (1935) in Baron d’Holbach: a Prelude to the French Revolution (pgs. 62-63)[8]

Diderot, supposedly, looked at Holbach unmoved, whereupon the Baron "broke down weeping" (Blom, 2010).[1] Another source reports that Holbach got down at Diderot's feet and cried when this deconversion occurred.[9] Blom, however, suggests that this story was a "literary invention", per reason that the illustrations to the Encyclopedia did not commence until 1759, which is not enough time for Holbach to go from "crying deist" to "Meslier atheist" (Christianity Unveiled, 1761) in the course of two years.


Holbach was born Paul Dietrich, aka Paul-Henri Thiry, and employed the pseudonyms: Nicolas Boulanger (for Christianity Unveiled), Nicolas Freret (for Letters to Eugenia), "Jean-Baptiste de Mirabaud" (for System of Nature), aka "materialist Mirabaud" (Owen, 1829), and Jean Meslier. Generally, he became known as: "Baron of Holbach", which renders as Baron d'Holbach (French), which some render verbally in English as "dole-bach" (Miller, 2007)[5]. Eponyms include: Holbach salon (Holbach Hotel), Holbachian, Holbach’s school (Mundt, c.1845)[10], Holbach's geometrician (forerunner to Laplace's demon).


In 1744 to 1748, Holbach, aged 21 to 25, studied at Leiden University, with focus, presumably, in mineralogy, metallurgy, physics, natural history, and chemistry. In Holbach's second year, in 1755, Pieter Musschenbroek, Leiden physics professor, invented the Leyden jar, at which point "thousands of people daily" (Raye, 1745) were going to see his machine and to be electrified. Holbach, presumably, attended Musschenbroek's lectures.[1] Julien Mettrie was at Leiden during these years, e.g. he published his Man a Machine (1748) the year Holbach graduated; and it is conjectured that there may have been some sort of influence, on Holbach, in the air at this point (Blum, 2010). Holbach, upon return to France, obtained a license to practice law, but never worked as a lawyer.

Christianity Unveiled

In 1761, Holbach, published the first part Christianity Unveiled: an Examination of the Principles and Effects of the Christian Religion, published under the pseudonym of the “late M. Boulanger”, i.e. Nicolas Boulanger (1722-1759), a show of respect to his friend and former salon attendee.[1] The following are selections:

“Hardly taken from its mother's breast, the priest baptizes him for money, under the pretext of washing off the stain of original sin and reconciling him with a god he has not yet had opportunity to offend; with the aid of magical incantations he removes him from the demon's realm. From earliest childhood, his education is normally entrusted to priests, whose principal object is to inculcate as soon as possible the prejudices necessary for their ends; they terrify him with a fear that will grow throughout his life; they teach him the fables of a miraculous religion, senseless dogmas, incomprehensible mysteries; in a word, they make him a superstitious Christian, but they never make him a useful citizen, an enlightened man.”
— Baron Holbach (1766), Christianity Unveiled (pg. 214)[11]; cited by Philipp Blom (2010) in A Wicked Company (pg. 96)
“Most sovereigns are afraid of enlightened people; accomplices of the priest [the sovereigns] ally themselves with him to extinguish ‘reason’, and to prosecute those who have the courage to speak out.”
— Baron Holbach (1766), Christianity Unveiled (pg. 233)[11]; cited by Philipp Blom (2010) in A Wicked Company (pg. 96)

The work was a Meslier-fueled direct attack on Christianity, in respect to its destructive moral and political effects.[12] The following letter by Voltaire attests that it was in circulation in 1766 if not before:

“Who can this work be attributed to Bolingbroke, Boulanger or Freret ? My friends, what does it matter who is the author of the work?”
Voltaire (1766), “Letter to Helvetius”
“[The author] is a man [Holbach] who has taken the torch out of your hands, and who has entered proudly into the church’s building of straw, and has set it alight at all corners.”
Denis Diderot (c.1766), “Letter to Voltaire” (on Christianity Unveiled)[13]; cited by Philipp Blom (2010) in A Wicked Company (pg. 108)

The second part was published in Amsterdam in 1767.[1]

System of Nature

Portrait of Holbach (1766) seated and seemingly relaxed, painted by Louis Carmontelle, four year prior to his grand opus System of Nature (1770).[3] The opposite photo, not shown, depicts his second wife, Charlotte Aine (1733–1814), seated at a reading table.[1]

On 18 Aug 1770, Holbach, age 47, published his The System of Nature: the Laws of Moral and Physical World, quickly becoming the top "Atheist's Bible" (AB:1) of all time, aka the “mechanical materialist’s Bible” (Svitak, 1968).[14]

Holbach argued that the universe as nothing more than matter in motion, bound by inexorable natural laws of cause and effect, and there is “no necessity to have recourse to supernatural powers to account for the formation of things.”

Holbach, retrospectively, has been characterized as the “Newton of the atheists” (Ѻ)(V|1:45) or "the supreme materialist" (Cooper, 1976), even cited so in history of atheism documentaries, and high ranked extreme atheist; in epicenter genius categorizations, was “one member of Voltaire’s circle”, if not the leader, and who; according to Caspar Hakfoort, was one of the stepping stone pioneers of scientism.

Knowledge ↑ yields metaphysics + god ↓

See main: Knowledge up, god down

The following three similar knowledge of mechanics / nature increase ↑ is proportional to metaphysics / god decrease ↓ quotes:

“Our earth, our skies, every thing contributes to the formation of species. The uniformity of organisms is not surprising, because all animals and plants are formed under the same circumstances; but it must be true that in the same measure as our knowledge of mechanics will increase, the necessity of metaphysics will diminish and when one is perfect the other will be zero, that is to say nil.”
— Henri Boulainvilliers (c.1710), “Origin of Beings and Species”; cited by Philipp Blom (2010) in A Wicked Company (pg. 19)[15]
“If the ignorance ↑ of nature gave birth to such a variety of gods, the knowledge ↓ of this nature is calculated to destroy them.”
— Baron Holbach (1770), The System of Nature (pg. 174)
“If ignorance of nature gave birth to gods, knowledge of nature is made for their destruction.”
Percy Shelley (1811), The Necessity of Atheism (pg. 38)[16]

Shelley's quote is uncited; but we know he read Holbach's System of Nature. The Boulainvilliers quote appeared anonymously in France first; presumably Holbach read this.



Holbach was influenced by: Lucretius, Benedict Spinoza, Jean Meslier, Bolingbroke, Pierre Bayle, Thomas Hobbes, John Toland, and Anthony Collins.


Holbach influenced: Voltaire, David Hume, Johann Goethe, who read his System of Nature in college (1771)[17], William Godwin (1782), Thomas Jefferson, who had System of Nature, Portable Theology, and Christianity Unveiled in his library, Percy Shelley, Charles Fourier[18], Charles Darwin, Jean Marat, Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, and Friedrich Nietzsche.


Quotes | On

The following are quotes on Holbach:

“We are particularly indebted to one person [Holbach], whose mother tongue is German, and who is very well versed in the matters of mineralogy, metallurgy, and physics; he has given us a prodigious amount of articles on different subjects, of which already a considerable number are included in this volume.”
Denis Diderot (1752), Encyclopedia, Volume Two (pg. #); cited by Philipp Blom (2010) in A Wicked Company (pg. 54)
Holbach, very few will remember, was a wealthy patron of philosophy and an intimate friend of Diderot. His salon was the meeting-place of the Encyclopedists whose activity helped so much to prepare the intellectual ground for the French Revolution. Holbach himself, although an amateur, translated and wrote some fifty books on science, theology, politics, morals, and philosophy, only one of which is widely known, the famous System of Nature published in 1770. This book is a frank exposition of scientific materialism, atheism in the good old eighteenth-century sense, and a kind of socialized Epicureanism, which created such a sensation in its own day that religion had as its protagonist against this monster no less a person than Voltaire.”
— Max Cushing (1920), “A Forgotten Philosopher”[18]
Holbach is one of the most courageous and intellectually lucid and farsighted men of the eighteenth century.”
Philipp Blom (2010), A Wicked Company (pg. 313)
“If anti-Christianity was their creed, Holbach was their pope. He never published under his own name but was nonetheless prolific, contributing over 400 articles in Diderot's Encyclopedia and writing more than 6,500 pages in total. Many of these were as angrily anti-Christian as Meslier's Memoire, and Holbach's friends soon dubbed him the ‘personal enemy of god’.”
— Nick Spencer (2014), Atheists: the Origin of the Species (pg. 104)[6]

Quotes | By

A bust of Holbach (c.1770), attributed to artist Felix Lecomte.[1]

The following are quotes by Holbach:

“Vampires are dead people that play at sucking the blood of the living. Free spirits will, perhaps, doubt such a marvel, but if they open their eyes they will see a dead body sucking the living body of society. See: monks, priests, clergy, etc.”
— Baron Holbach (1768), Portable Theology (pg. #)[19]
Man's life is a line that nature commands him to describe upon the surface of the earth, without his ever being able to ‘swerve[20] from it, even for an instant. He is born without his own consent; his organization does in nowise depend upon himself; his ideas come to him involuntarily; his habits are in the power of those who cause him to contract them; he is unceasingly modified by causes, whether visible or concealed, over which he has no control, which necessarily regulate his mode of existence, give the hue to his way of thinking, and determine his manner of acting. He is good or bad, happy or miserable, wise or foolish, reasonable or irrational, without his ‘will’ being for any thing in these various states. Nevertheless, in despite of the shackles by which he is bound, it is ‘pretended’ he is a free agent, or that independent of the causes by which he is moved, he determines his own will, and regulates his own condition.”
— Baron Holbach (1770), System of Nature (pg. 88); cited by Gordon Pettit (2020) in: “Holbach on Hard Determinism” (1:11-)[21]
Christian mythology: god, by an inconceivable act of his omnipotence, created the universe out of nothing [Ex nihilo nihil fit, was considered as an axiom by ancient philosophers. The creation, as admitted by Christians of the present day, i.e. the education [induction] of all thing from nothing, is a theological invention not indeed of very remote date. The word Barah, which is used in Genesis, signifies to tempest, arrange, to dispose matter already existing]. He made the earth for the residence of man, whom he created in his own image. Scarcely had this man, the prime object of the labours of the almighty, seen the light, when his creator set a snare for him, into which god undoubtedly knew that he must fall. A serpent which speaks, seduces a woman, who is no way surprised at this phenomenon. Being persuaded by the serpent, she solicits her husband to eat of a fruit forbidden by god himself. Adam, the father of the human race, by this light fault draws upon himself and his innocent posterity innumerable evils, which are followed but not terminated by death. By the offense of only one man the whole human race incurs the wrath of god; and they are at length punished for involuntary faults with an universal deluge. God repents haying peopled the earth, and he finds it easier to drown and destroy the human race, than to change their hearts.”
— Baron Holbach (1770), Ecce Homo: a Critical Inquiry into the History of Jesus (pg. 325)[22]

End matter

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 Blom, Philipp. (2010). A Wicked Company: Holbach’s Salon and the Forgotten Radicalism of the European Enlightenment (Amz) (education, pg. 30; side image, pg. 56; master of cafe, pg. 56; seated image, pg. 92; Christianity Unveiled publication date, pg. 92; Holbach weeping, pg. 99; bust, pg. 299). McClelland, 2011.
  2. French: "maître d'hôtel de la philosophie" (Galiani, c.1765); cited by Philipp Blom (2010) in A Wicked Company (pg. 299)
  3. 3.0 3.1 Blom, Philipp. (2013). “A Dangerous Man in the Pantheon” (txt), Public Domain Review, Oct 2.
  4. Priestman, Martin. (2000). Romantic Atheism: Poetry and Freethought, 1780-1830 (pg. 40). Cambridge.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Miller, Jonathan. (2007). “A History of Atheism: Part Three” (1:08-), BBC4, May; Tony Sobrado, YouTube, 2012.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Spencer, Nick. (2014). Atheists: the Origin of the Species (60,000 livres, pg 103; pope, pg. 104). Bloomsbury.
  7. Joshi, Sunand. (2014). The Original Atheists: First Thoughts on Nonbelief (pg. 71). Prometheus Books.
  8. Wickwar, William H. (1935). Baron d’Holbach: a Prelude to the French Revolution (pgs. 62-63). Allen.
  9. Note: source in Thims' memory; but name not recalled presently.
  10. Mundt, Theodore. (c.1845). Count Mirabeau: an Historical Novel (translator: Therese Radford) (Holbach’s school, pg. 119). Publisher, 1868.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Holbach, Baron. (1766). Christianity Unveiled (Le Christianisme Devoile) (breast, pg. 214; enlightened people, pg. 233). London.
  12. Christianity Unveiled (German→ English) – Wikipedia.
  13. Diderot, Denis. (1970). Correspondence, 16-volumes (editor: Georges Roth) (Volume 6, pg. 334). Paris.
  14. Svitak , Ivan. (1968). The Dialectic of Common Sense: the Master Thinkers (pg. 139). University Press, 1979.
  15. (a) Boulainvilliers, Henri. (c.1710). “Origin of Beings and Species: Fruit of an Imperfectly Retained Conversation” (“Origine des etres et especies, fruit d’une conversation retenue imparfaitement”), Rivista di Storia della Filosofia (1994), 1:169-92.
    (b) Note: Blom says that his quote appeared in an anonymous publication; but cited Boulainvilliers in quotes.
  16. Shelley, Percy. (1813). The Necessity of Atheism and Other Essays (§: Necessity of Atheism:Revised and Expanded (Note to Queen Mab), pgs. 31-44). Prometheus, 1993.
  17. The System of Nature – Hmolpedia 2020.
  18. 18.0 18.1 Cushing, Max P. (1920). “A Forgotten Philosopher” (abs) (pdf), The Monist, 30(2):311-16.
  19. (a) Holbach, Baron. (1768). Portable Theology (Theologie Portative) (pg. #); in: Euvres Philosophiques, Tome One (editor: Jean Jackson) (pg. 609). Paris, 1998.
    (b) Devellennes, Charles. (2011). The Emergence of Self-Avowed Atheism (pg. #). Kent.
    (c) Spencer, Nick. (2014). Atheists: the Origin of the Species (pg. 105). Bloomsbury.
  20. Note: Holbach translated a "whole shelf full" of scientific and philosophical books, including Lucretius' De Rerum Natura (Blum, 2010); the term "swerve" here is code for NO Epicurean swerve, meaning certain atoms do NOT swerve (Epicurus, 300BC) to yield the property of "free will" to humans.
  21. Pettit, Gordon. (2020). “Baron d’Holbach on Hard Determinism: There is No Free Will” (YT) (1:11-), Gordon Pettit, May 6.
  22. Holbach, Baron. (1770). Ecce Homo: A Critical Enquiry into the History of Jesus Christ; Being a Rational Analysis of the Gospels (txt) (pg. 325-). Eaton, 1813.


  • Holbach, Baron. (1766). Christianity Unveiled: an Examination of the Principles and Effects of the Christian Religion (pseudonym: Nicolas Boulanger; translator: William Johnson) Publisher, 1835.
  • Holbach, Baron. (1766). Christianity Unveiled: a Controversy in Documents – Annotated Edition, with Nicolas Bergier’s Refutation (translator: David Holohan). Hodgson, 2008.
  • Holbach, Baron. (1766). Antiquity Unveiled By Its Uses: Critical Examination of the Principal Religious and Political Opinions, Ceremonies and Institutions of the Different Peoples of the Earth. Publisher.
  • Holbach, Baron. (1768). Letters to Eugenia: a Preservative Against Religious Prejudices (Preface: Jacques Naigeon) (pseudonym: Nicolas Freret; translator: Anthony Middleton) (Ѻ). Mendum, 1870.
  • Holbach, Baron. (1768). The Sacred Contagion: Natural History of Superstition. Publisher.
  • Holbach, Baron. (1768). Portable Theology: Abridged Dictionary of the Christian Religion (translator: David Holohan). Publisher.
  • Holbach, Baron. (1770). System of Nature: Laws of the Moral and Physical World (translator: H.D. Robinson). Mendum, 1889.
  • Holbach, Baron. (1770). Ecce Homo: A Critical Enquiry into the History of Jesus Christ; Being a Rational Analysis of the Gospels (txt). Eaton, 1813.
  • Holbach, Baron. (1770). Essay on the Prejudices: Of the Influence of the Opinions on the Manners and the Happiness of Man. Publisher.
  • Holbach, Baron. (1772). Good Sense: Natural Ideas Opposed to Supernatural. Wright, 1831.
  • Holbach, Baron. (1773). Social System: Natural Principles of Morals and Politics: with an Examination of the Influence of Government on Mores (Système Social: Principes naturels de la morale et de la politique: avec un examen de l'influence du gouvernement sur les moeurs). Neogret,1882.
  • Holbach, Baron. (1776). Universal Morality: the Duties of Man Founded on His Nature (La Morale Universelle: ou les devoirs de l'homme fondés sur sa nature). Publisher.

Further reading

  • Cushing, Max. (1914). Baron d’Holbach: a Study of Eighteenth Century Radicalism in France (txt). New Era Printing.


  • Gabe. (2012). “Book Review: the System of Nature by Baron d’Holbach” (YT), Mr. Gabe, Aug 31.
  • Anon. (2013). “Baron d’Holbach” (YT), Barydon M, Dec 18.
  • Williams, Matt. (2020). “Baron d’Holbach and Hard Determinism” (YT), Matt Williams, Apr 24.
  • Pettit, Gordon. (2020). “Baron d’Holbach on Hard Determinism: There is No Free Will” (YT), Gordon Pettit, May 6.
  • Hale, Harper. (2020). “Baron d’Holbach” (YT), Harper Hale, Nov 17.

External links

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