Here is, unquestionably, the true reason why atheism, whose principles have not hitherto been sufficiently developed, appears to alarm even those persons who are the most destitute of prejudice. They find too great an interval between vulgar superstition and absolute lack of religion; they imagine they take a wise medium in compounding with error; they therefore reject the consequences, while admitting the principle; they preserve the shadow without foreseeing that, sooner or later, it must produce the same effects and, little by little, hatch the same follies in human minds. The majority of skeptics and reformers do no more than prune a cankered tree, to whose root they dare not apply the axe; they do not perceive that this tree will in the end produce the same fruit. Theology or religion will always b be a heap of combustible matter brooded in the imagination of mankind; it will always finish by causing the most terrible explosions. As long as the sacerdotal order shall have the right to infect youth, to accustom them to tremble before mere words, to alarm nations with the name of a terrible God, so long will fanaticism be master of the human mind; imposture will, at its pleasure, cause discord in the nation. The simplest delusion, perpetually fed, modified, exaggerated by the imagination of men, will by degrees become a colossus, sufficiently powerful to overturn minds and overthrow empires. Deism is a system at which the human mind cannot make a long sojourn; founded upon error, it will, sooner or later, degenerate into the most absurd, the most dangerous superstition.
And here, in 1770, I find an insightful exposition on the infectious nature of religion, centuries before the advent of meme theory; I find agreement with my idea, rooted in meme theory, that even an apparently benign religion will always be dangerous; and I find a rebuttal to "Non Overlapping Magesteria", long before Dr. Gould proposed his special weasel. Bravo, Baron, Bravo!
(BTW, this essay is currently at the top of my "what to share with a believer" list)