Chapter 1.—The Point at Which the Discussion Has Arrived, and What Remains to Be Handled.
Some have advanced the opinion that there are both good and bad gods; but some, thinking more respectfully of the gods, have attributed to them so much honor and praise as to preclude the supposition of any god being wicked. But those who have maintained that there are wicked gods as well as good ones have included the demons under the name “gods,” and sometimes though more rarely, have called the gods demons; so that they admit that Jupiter, whom they make the king and head of all the rest, is called a demon by Homer. 334 Those, on the other hand, who maintain that the gods are all good, and far more excellent than the men who are justly called good, are moved by the actions of the demons, which they can neither deny nor impute to the gods whose goodness they affirm, to distinguish between gods and demons; so that, whenever they find anything offensive in the deeds or sentiments by which unseen spirits manifest their power, they believe this to proceed not from the gods, but from the demons. At the same time they believe that, as no god can hold direct intercourse with men, these demons hold the position of mediators, ascending with prayers, and returning with gifts. This is the opinion of the Platonists, the ablest and most esteemed of their philosophers, with whom we therefore chose to debate this question,—whether the worship of a number of gods is of any service toward obtaining blessedness in the future life. And this is the reason why, in the preceding book, we have inquired how the demons, who take pleasure in such things as good and wise men loathe and execrate, in the sacrilegious and immoral fictions which the poets have written not of men, but of the gods themselves, and in the wicked and criminal violence of magical arts, can be regarded as more nearly related and more friendly to the gods than men are, and can mediate between good men and the good gods; and it has been demonstrated that this is absolutely impossible.
See Plutarch, on the Cessation of Oracles.