This chapter considers the idea that the whole business of pagan oracles was a sham, perpetrated for money or political gain. It discusses the so-called “imposture thesis”—that pagan religions were built on an edifice of priestly fraud, maintained by the laity's fear of divine authority. This thesis has been widely studied as an element of the Enlightenment and its immediate precursors, especially French libertinism eérudit and English Deism. Many thinkers associated with these movements applied the imposture thesis to the pagan oracles, and indeed, the oracles slotted into their narratives as neatly as they had into those of Catholic theologians.
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