It may be observed, that upon this occasion I consider religion in no other light, than in respect of the influence it may have on the happiness of the present life. As to the effects it may have in assuring us of and preparing us for a better life to come, this is a matter which comes not within the cognizanoe of the legislator. See tit. [Offences against religion].
I say offences against religion, the fictitious entity: not offences against God, the real being. For, what sort of pain should the act of a feeble mortal occasion to a being unsusceptible of pain? How should an offence affect him? Should it be an offence against his person, his property, his reputation, or his condition?
It has commonly been the way to put offences against religion foremost. The idea of precedence is naturally enough connected with that of reverence. Ek Dios archomestha. But for expressing reverence, there are other methods enough that are less equivocal. And in point of method and perspicuity it is evident, that with regard to offences against religion, neither the nature of the mischief which it is their tendency to produce, nor the reason there may be for punishing them, can be understood, but from the consideration of the several mischiefs which result from the several other sorts of offences. In a political view, it is only because those others are mischievous, that offences against religion are so too.IPML Chapter 16 Section 2 Part 2