IS IT GOD'S WORD?
THE GENESIS OF CHRISTIANITY
SEGMENTS:R R THE GENESIS OF CHRISTIANITY R R THE RISE OF CHRISTIANITY R R THE NEW AND THE OLDER RELIGIONS
R RPAGAN TOLERANCE AND CHRISTIAN INTOLERANCE R R THE DEADLY SANCTIONS OF RELIGION R R "LIKE KING LIKE PEOPLE"
R R"NOT DEAD BUT SLEEPETH" R R FAITH FLOURISHED ON IGNORANCE R R "CHRISTIAN CIVILIZATION" R R THE "CHRISTIAN" PEOPLES
R RRETURN TO THE INDEX OF CHAPTERS
THE GENESIS OF CHRISTIANITY
WHAT Is Truth?" asked the mystified Pilate of Jesus the Christ, as he stood before the Roman governor, accused by the priests of the Jews of having proclaimed himself King of the Jews and Messiah, thus "perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying, That he himself is Christ a king" (Luke 23: 2 ). Pilate asked Jesus, "Art thou the King of the Jews?" and a second time he queried, "Art thou a king then?" After standing some time mute, Jesus finally, and equivocally, answered: "Thou sayest that I am a king"; and he added: "To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth"; but, he averred, "My Kingdom is not of this world" (John18: 37 ).
Then Pilate's challenging Question, which has rung down the nearly twenty centuries since, and yet challenges answer concerning "this just person": Was he Christ? Was he the Son of God, Virgin- born? Was he the heralded King of the Jews? Was he King of a Kingdom not of this world? These things recorded of him, were they so?
The system of Christian theology grown up around this unique Subject, and in current acceptance bound to the concept of a true religion of the spirit, is wrought upon the basis of an implicit belief in a composite of two miraculous "revelations of God to Man." Of these the one is known as the Old Testament or will of God, revealed in olden times to the Hebrew people; the other, of the century of Jesus Christ, and revealed through himself and his Jewish propagandists, is known as the New Testament or will of God. These two revelations are committed to mankind through a compilation of sixty-six small separate brochures of "Scriptures" or writings, together called The Bible from the Greek Ta Biblia or "The Books." This Bible constitutes all that we have or know of the "revealed Word of God."
Truth, without alloy of possible error, lies in the inspired and sacred pages of this wonderful "Word of God" -- if full credence be given to its claims for itself, and to the claims made for it by the theologians.
As for its own claims of inspired and inerrant truth, they abound: "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God" (2 Tim. 3: 16 ); "For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost" (2 Peter 1: 21 ); though the Hebrew Deity himself, as quoted by Jeremiah, avers: "the prophets prophesy lies in my name" (Jer. 23: 25 ); and this prophet adds: "The false pen of the scribes hath wrought falsely" (Jer. 8: 8, Revised Version). John the Evangelist says: "He that saw it bare record, and his record is true; and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe" (John 19: 35 ). And his Divine Subject declares: "I have greater witness than that of John. ... Though I bear record of myself, yet my record is true" (John 5: 36; 8: 14 ). Paul, the chief of the propagandists, asserts, "I speak the truth in Christ; I lie not" (Rom. 9: 1 ) -- though with amazing naivete he has just admitted that he does "lie unto the glory of God" (Rom. 3: 7 ), that His truth may the more abound! The assumption of truth is usually attached to a confession.
The Scriptures Old and New, their verity thus vouched for, we well know to be a collection of many separate pieces of writing by many Different "inspired" Hebrew writers, through many ages of Hebrew history. The Bible has not thus the advantage of unity of authorship, as have the Sacred Scriptures of some other widespread faiths of the present day.
The Koran of Mohammed is fabled to have been brought down from heaven to this prophet by the archangel Gabriel, full-written on the parchment skin of the ram which was miraculously provided in the nick of time just as Father Abraham was about to cut the throat of his son Isaac as a sacrifice to Yahweh on Mt. Moriah; the later Book of Mormon, miraculously written on golden plates, and hidden in a cache on Cumorah Hill, near Palmyra, was specially revealed to the late Prophet J. Smith, here in New York State, in the year 1823, by the angel Moroni. As these latter sacred texts were written in an unknown hieroglyph, the angel loaned to Prophet Smith a pair of patent spectacles called Urim and Thummim, which had the miraculous faculty of rendering the strange script into rather faulty English words to the eye of the seer, and so enabling him, hidden from curious prying behind a kitchen screen, to translate the mystic manuscript, upon the completion of which pious work the golden plates and spectacles were taken by the angel back to heaven.
Over 600,000 people in the United States live and die in the faith of this "revelation"; and the sect has been considerably persecuted and martyred for its faith by other Americans who believed other and more ancient Hebrew revelations (though they hate and persecute the Jews). And more millions of human beings have for 1200 years believed the "revelations" of Mohammed than ever did believe the Hebrao-Christian revelations. So much for "revealed" faiths. Before forgetting Prophet J. Smith, it may be recalled, as a bit of curious American history, that in 1829, less than one hundred years ago, John the Baptist himself, he who baptized the Jewish Jesus, came down from heaven to New York State and publicly ordained Prophet Smith and his confrere Oliver Cowdery into "the Priesthood of Aaron"; and that the immortal Saints Peter, James the Brother of Jesus, and John (which one not specified) then and there conferred upon the two Prophets "the Order of the Priesthood of Melchizedek," of which Jesus Christ was himself a perpetual member (Heb. 6: 20 ).
We shall examine the truth of the Christian theology, searching the Scriptures whether the miraculous things therein recounted for faith can possibly be so. Incidentally we shall catch an occasional sidelight from sacred or secular history, but chiefly we shall keep closely in our search to Holy Writ. First we shall take a brief retrospective look at some of the secular and historic phases of Christianity as it has prevailed unto the Christian civilization of past and present.
THE RISE OF CHRISTIANITY
Judea, the birthplace of the Christ, was a small outlying province of the far-flung Pagan Roman Empire, its turbulent Jewish fanaticism curbed by Roman law and legions.
The new religion rose there, but met with little acceptance in its native place, where the Jews could not recognize in the humble Carpenter of Nazareth the tokens of the kingly "Messiah" of their olden prophecy. It spread with readier acceptance among the
neighboring pagans, who believed all gods and had no objection to taking on another; they were familiar with virgin births and with gods coming to earth in human form. At Lystra the pagan populace even acclaimed Paul and Barnabas as pagan deities, crying, "The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men," Barnabas being called Jupiter himself, and Paul the lesser divinity, Mercury, "because be was the chief speaker" (Acts 14: 11, 12 ). This greater pagan honor to 'Barnabas seems to have offended Paul's sense of importance; for shortly afterward they quarreled, "and the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other" (Acts 15: 39 ), in a rather un-christian humor.
But the proselytizing campaigns continued, pushed with much zeal, now almost exclusively among the pagans. Naturally the new faith drifted toward imperial Rome, the head and heart of the ancient Pagan world. There, too, it took root and spread among the lowly and the slaves, its rites hidden away in the slums and in the catacombs.
This new religion, besides being purer and simpler -- at first -- than some of the older cults, was coupled with some very effective inducements. Its Founder proclaimed himself as very God; he had come to establish a kingdom on earth and in heaven. To those who would abandon their families and their poor possessions, he made the positive promise of immense immediate reward: "There is no man that hath left house ... or lands for my sake, but he shall receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses ... and lands; and in the world to come eternal life" (Mark 10: 29, 30; Matt. 19: 29; Luke 18: 30 ). He proclaimed again and again that in a very short time the existing world should end, that he would come in glory to establish his kingdom and a new earth, where he would reign forever. So soon, indeed, would this great reward be realized, the prospective king asserted, that there were some "standing here, who shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom" (Matt. 16: 28 ). The new religion assured everlasting felicity in its heaven to all who would just believe; it threatened eternal torment in the fires of its hell for all who would not believe and accept it.
Under the spell of these promises and threats and of the assurance of a quick end of the earth, the propagandists of the cult promptly established a strange new scheme of which they were the administrators -- a scheme of pure communism. As the world would quickly come to an end, there was no reason and no need to take heed of temporal affairs; they must all watch and pray and pool all their poor belongings in their leaders' hands for the common benefit. This the trembling and zealous proselytes did, under the sanction of supreme fear: "Neither was any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the price of the things that were sold, and they laid them down at the Apostles' feet; and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need" (Acts 4: 34, 35 ). And the story of what befell Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5: 1-11 ) for holding out a part of their substance from the common pool was wholesome warning to any who, with a cautious eye to a possible hitch in the "second coming," might be inclined to "lie to the Holy Ghost," who kept the score of the contributions. The history of Dowie, "Elijah 2," and his New Zion, and of "Moses 2," younger brother of Jesus Christ," here in twentieth-century United States, illustrates the truth that certain human traits are not yet extinct.
Such was the intellectual enlightenment of the classes among which the new faith was propagated, and for which the inspired Gospel biographies of the Christ and the apostolic epistles were put into circulation. The chief of the disciples and his associate propagandists were admittedly "unlearned and ignorant men" (Acts 4: 13 ) the new cult was that of fishermen and peasants, of the ignorant, the disinherited, the slave as is proved by many of their acts and sayings, recorded in the New Testament and in early church history.
Naturally the new religion gained adherents and slowly spread, as all other religions have done: Mithraism, its closest and all but successful rival; Mohammedanism, which far outspread it; Mormonism, Spiritualism, Mother-Eddyism and many another cult and superstition, including "heresies" combated and persecuted by the new faith from the very first, several of which (like some entirely "pagan" religions) all but overthrew the struggling new "orthodox" creed of the Christ. But by virtue of its superior moral merits, its exceptional system of rewards and punishments, and the great zeal of its propagandists, it grew and strengthened and finally gained the upper hold in the centuries-long struggle with paganism.
THE NEW AND THE OLDER RELIGIONS
Christianity was not so new or so novel as we generally think it. In its essentials it had hardly a new thought in it -- except hell-fire and the oft-repeated and never realized dictum, "The end of all things is at hand" (I Peter 4: 7 ). In lieu of the plurality of gods of the pagan religions, it evolved the one pagan god Yahweh, of old Hebrew mythology, into Three-in-One Christian Godhead. The other pagan gods became, in effect, the "saints" of the new cult; or, as the Catholic Encyclopedia has it, "the Saints are the successors to the Gods" (Vol. 15: p. 710 ) -- though the theory of the Psalmist tallies better with that of the new theology: "All the gods of the heathen are devils" (Psalms 96: 5, Vulgate). The incarnation of Gods in human form by virgin birth was common place myth; their death, resurrection, transition to and fro between heaven and earth, and the like, were articles of faith of many pagan creeds and of all mythologies. Monotheism, without idol- worship, is the single essential difference of the Christian religion from paganism; and when one recalls the Trinity, and the icons and sacred images of saints, even this difference seems attenuated.
The death and resurrection of pagan gods is alluded to specifically by Ezekiel. Yahweh had brought him in his vision to the north door of the Temple at Jerusalem; "and, behold, there sat women weeping for Tammuz" (Ezek. 8: 14 ). Tammuz was a so-called god of vegetation, fabled to have died and been resurrected with the returning seasons. One month of the Hebrew calendar is named Tammuz. The fable is simply a myth of the death of vegetation in the winter and its rebirth in the spring. It was a very prevalent superstition in ancient times, in Assyria, in Egypt (the myths of Isis and Osiris), in Palestine, Greece, and other pagan countries; and the Tammuz myth was one of the heathenish cults followed by the pagan Hebrews. The women referred to by Ezekiel were celebrating the annual death of their god Tammuz by weeping for him. Now they weep annually over the death of Jesus Christ, and rejoice each year on the Easter of his resurrection. This so-called Tammuz-cult was native to Babylonia; and, says the Catholic Encyclopedia, "it was unmistakably allied with the worship of Adonis and Attis, and even of Dionysus. Much might have been hoped for these religions with their yearly festival of the dying and rising Gods" (Vol. 11: p. 388 ). But they were otherwise corrupt and moribund, and gave way finally to the newer, purer religion, but identical cult, of the Christ.
It would be interesting to develop the records of the adoption by Christianity of the pagan myths and ceremonies. It is a large subject, and we cannot go into it at length here, where our task is limited to a study of the sacred texts for the proofs or disproofs of their own validity which they so abundantly afford. But some brief extracts from authoritative works may be included, for their own significance and to point the way for further inquiry.
True, practically every tenet and ceremonial of the Christian religion has its counterpart in, and was adapted from, the beliefs and ceremonies of the pagan religions which preceded it and for centuries lived alongside it. We have just noticed the "Yearly festival of the dying and rising God" in the ceremonials of paganism. This is very like the death and resurrection of the Christian God, Jesus Christ; and it is the resurrection of Jesus which is the cornerstone of the Christian religion: "If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain" (I Cor. 15: 14 ). To be as brief as may be in outlining this very suggestive subject, I will quote a paragraph from a well-known recent work, 'The Next Step in Religion,' by Ray Wood Sellars, [Ray Wood Sellers, The Next Step in Religion: An Essay toward the Coming Renaissance. (New York: The Macmillan Co., 1918 )] supplemented by extracts from the Catholic Encyclopedia, the best brief outlines of Christian adoptions and adaptations of paganism. Says Mr. Sellars:
"The Orphic cults in Greece, the Osiris and Isis cult in Egypt, the worship of Attis and Adonis in Syria [of which Palestine is part], the purification and communion ceremonies of Mithraism, all turned about the idea of a secret means of salvation. The God dies and is resurrected; the Virgin Goddess gives birth to a Son; the members of the religious community eat of their God and gain strength from the sacred meal. The Church Fathers were aware of these similarities, and sought to explain away their resemblances by means of the theory that the Devil had blasphemously imitated Christian rites and doctrines." -- I may pause to point out that these pagan rites long antedated the Christian analogies, and therefore the theory loses force. -- "The death and resurrection of a Savior-God was very prevalent in Tarsus, Paul's own city. The Attis Mysteries were celebrated in a season which corresponded to the end of our Lenten season and the beginning of Easter. They were preceded by fasting and began with lamentations; the votaries gathered in sorrow around the bier of the dead divinity; then followed the resurrection; and the risen God gave hope of salvation to the mystic brotherhood; and the whole service closed with the feast of rejoicing, the Hilaria." (Sellars, pp. 23-24.)
Much more comprehensive, and constituting a very notable admission, are the following passages from the Catholic Encyclopedia. By way of introductory, it says: "Speaking from the standpoint of pure history, no one will deny that much in the antecedent and environing aspirations and ideals of paganism formed, to use the Church phrase, a praeparatio evangelica of high value. 'Christo jam tum venient1: crede, parata via est.' sings the Hymn of Prudentius. The pagan world 'saw the road,' Augustine could say, 'from its hill-top.' 'Et ipse Pitaetus Christianus est.' said the Priest of Attis; while, of Heraclitus and the old Philosophers, Justin avers that 'there were Christians before Christ.' Indeed, the earlier apologists for Christianity go far beyond anything we should wish to say, and indeed made difficulties for their successors" (Vol. 11, p. 393 ). And again: "It has indeed been said that the 'Saints are the successors to the Gods.' Instances have been cited of pagan feasts becoming Christian; of pagan temples consecrated to the worship of the true God; of statues of pagan Gods baptized and transformed into Christian Saints" (Vol. 15:p. 710 ).
A few instances out of the great number of these analogies between pagan and Christian rites follow:
"The Christian ritual developed when, in the third century, the Church left the Catacombs. Many forms of self-expression must needs be identical, in varying times, places, cults, as long as human nature is the same. Water, oil, light, incense, singing, procession, prostration, decoration of altars, vestments of priests, are naturally at the service of universal religious instinct. Little enough, however, was directly borrowed by the Church -- nothing, without being 'baptized,' as was the Pantheon. In all these things the spirit is the essential: the Church assimilates to herself what she takes, or, if she cannot adapt, she rejects it.
"Even pagan feasts may be 'baptized': certainly our processions of April 25th are the Robigalia; the Regation Days may replace the Ambarualia; the date of Christmas Day may be due to the same instinct which placed on December 25th the Natalis Invictis of the Solar Cult (Vol. 11, p. 390 ).
"The Roman Virtues, Fides, Castitas, Virtus (manliness) were canonized [p. 391]. The Mysteries had already fostered, though not created, the conviction of immortality. It was thought that 'initiation' insured a happy after-life and atoned for sins, that else had been punished, if not in this life, in some place of expiation (Plato, Rep. 366; cf. Pindar, Sophocles, Plutarch). These Mysteries usually began with the selection of Initiand1: their preliminary baptism, fasting, and confession. After many sacrifices, the Mysteries proper were celebrated, including tableaux showing heaven, hell, purgatory, the soul's destiny, the gods. Apuleius (in Metamorphoses) tells us his thrilling and profoundly religious experiences.
"There was often seen the 'Passion' of the god Osiris; the rape and return of Kore and the sorrows of Demeter (Eleusis) -- the sacred marriage and divine births (Zeus, Brimos). Finally, there was usually the Meal of mystic food; grains of all sorts at Eleusis, bread and water in the cult of Mithra, wine (Dionysus), milk and honey (Attis), raw bull's flesh in the Orphic Dionysus- Zagreus cult. Sacred formukae were certainly imparted, of magical value (Vol. 11: pp. 391-2 ). In the Tauroboliuml the Initiandi were baptized by dipping in the bull's blood, whence the dipped emerged renatus in aeternum ('reborn into Eternity'). In the sacred Meal (which was not a sacrifice), the worshippers communicated in the God and with one another.
"The sacred Fish of Atargatis have nothing to do with the origin of the Eucharist, nor with the Ichthys Anagram of the Catacombs. The Anagram -- (Ichthys, the Greek word for Fish), does indeed represent 'Iesous Christos Theou Uios Soter' -- (Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior); the propagation of the symbol was often facilitated owing to the popular Syrian Fish-cult (from Dagon, Syrian Fish-god). That the terminology of the Mysteries was largely transported into Christian use is certain (Paul, Ignatius, Origen, Clement, etc.); that the liturgy, especially of baptism, organization of the Catechumenate, Disciplina Arcana, etc., were affected by them, is highly probable. Always the Church has forcefully molded words, and even concepts (as Savior, Epiphany, Baptism, Illumination (photismos), Mysteries (teletes), Logos, to suit her own Dogma and its expression. Thus it was that John could take the expression 'Logos,' mould it to his Dogma, cut short all perilous speculation among Christians, and assert once for all that the "Word was made Flesh' and was Jesus Christ" (Cath. Encyclopedia, Vol. 11, p. 392 ).
The fish anagram above referred to was an ancient pagan symbol of fecundity, of great vogue and veneration throughout pagandom, and was adopted by Christendom for the double reason that the initials acrostically formed the name and title of Jesus Christ and that in ancient science fish were supposed to be generated in the water without carnal copulation, and were thus peculiarly symbolic of the virgin-born Christ. The pagan origin and Christian significance of the symbol are attained by the authority just quoted: "The most remarkable example of such a poem [acrostic or anagram] is attributed by Lactantius and Eusebius to the Erythrean Sibyl, the initial letters forming the words 'Iesous Xristos Theou Uios Soter (stauros).' Omitting the doubtful parenthesis (cross), these words form a minor acrostic: Ichthys, fish, the mystical symbol of our Lord" (Cath. Encyc. Vol. 1:p. 111 ).
The pagan origin of the two greatest Christian festivals, Christmas and Easter, may be emphasized by brief extracts. "Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the Church. The first evidence of the feast is from Egypt. ... [about 200 A.D.] ... There is no month in the year to which respectable authorities have not ascribed Christ' birth. ... At Rome, then, the Nativity was celebrated on 25 December before 354; in the East, at Constantinople, not before 379. ... The well-known solar feast, however, of Natalis Invictis, celebrated on 25 December, has a strong claim on the responsibility for our December date. ... It would be impossible here to even outline the history of solar symbolism and language as applied to God, the Messiah, and Christ in Jewish or Christian canonical, patristic, or devotional works. Hymns and Christmas offices abound in instances. The earliest rapprochement of the births of Christ and the Sun is in Cyprian (De pasch. comp.19 ): 'O, how wonderfully acted Providence that on that day on which the Sun was born ... Christ should be born.' In the fourth century Chrysostom (De Solst. et AEquin., 2: p. 118 ) says: 'But our Lord too is born in the month of December (25 ). ... But they call it the "Birthday of the Unconquered." Who is so unconquered as our Lord? Or, if they say that it is the birthday of the Sun, He is the Sun of Justice.' ... Pope Leo I bitterly reproves solar survivals -- Christians on the very door-step of the Apostles' Basilica turn to adore the rising Sun. ... But even should a deliberate and legitimate 'baptism? of a pagan feast be seen here, no more than the transference of the date need be supposed. The abundance of midwinter festivals may have helped the choice of the December date, the same instinct which set Natalis Invictis at the winter solstice will have sufficed, apart from deliberate adaptation or curious calculation, to set the Christians feast there too" (Cath. Encyc., Vol. 3: pp. 724-727 ).
This "baptism" of the most popular pagan festival of the Sun as the birthday of the Son of God is thus evidently admitted to be as the secular histories clearly prove it was -- a sop to the pagan masses to conciliate them with Christianity by permitting them to continue to enjoy their great festivals and ceremonies the more readily to entice them into the paganized Christian Church.
As Christmas is a "baptized" pagan festival of the solar cult, celebrating the birth of the sun at the winter solstice, so is Easter a pagan solar festivity, celebrated at the spring equinox in all the Eastern pagan lands as the renewal of vegetal life and the resurrection of nature from the long death of winter. The name Easter, according to the Venerable Bede, "relates to Eostre, a Teutonic goddess of the rising light of day and spring" (Cath. Encyc., Vol. 5: p. 224 ). It is identically the Jewish passover; "in fact, the Jewish feast was taken over into the Christian Easter celebration" (Id. p: 225 ). But it is of even more pagan origin than Judaism, with its festivals of "new moons"; its pagan solar character is shown by the time of its celebration: "Easter was celebrated in Rome and Alexandria on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox. ... Already in the third century 25 March, was considered the day of the crucifixion" (Id. p. 225 ). "A great number of pagan customs, celebrating the return of spring, gravitated to Easter" (Id., p. 227 ).
The foregoing is as comprehensive a statement of the admitted "borrowings" or "adaptations" by Christianity from paganism as can well be made in brief quotations. They are authoritative, and they completely prove that there is nothing new in the Christian religion except Hebrew monotheism, with threats of hell and damnation, and temporal torture and death for the unbeliever.
It may surprise and grieve many good Christians to know that all their pious observances, prayers, hymns, baptism, communion at the altar, redemption, salvation, the celebration of Christmas as the birth of their God in mid-winter, and of Easter, his resurrection as spring breaks, all, all, are pagan practices and myths, thousands of years antedating their Jesus-religion.
The simple truth is that paganism was outworn; its myths were too childish to be believed by the enlightened minds of those days. Four centuries before Christ, Socrates was put to death for disbelief in the gods of Greece. Paganism, too, had become corrupt in many of its practices; the time was ripe for a reform in religion, and for a purer system based on belief in one God. One of the many pretended Messiahs of Israel served as the occasion for this reform. His own people did not largely accept him; his propaganda found readier acceptance among the pagans, who had a freer form of worship and were very prone to believe in any god and in every fable. So the new cult made its way slowly through the pagan Roman world.
The new religion was at first tolerated throughout the Empire, and at Rome. As it grew and spread, it interfered with the business of many "Demetrius silversmiths," who violently opposed it as destroying their idol-trade (Acts 19: 24 ). By their evil reports, maybe, its votaries became suspected of criminal practices and conspiracies against the Empire, and it suffered intermittent persecutions, but it persisted. It met persecution and attempted suppression, not as a religion, but as an interference with the policy of the State. After three hundred years, during which paganism flourished decadently and was the religion of "the best peoples and best portions of the earth," the new religion gained the adherence of the pagan Emperor Constantine, who became sole emperor of the pagan world through a victory due, as he was made by Christian priests superstitiously to believe, to a miraculous Sign of the Cross, with the legend In Hoc Signo Vinces, hung out in heaven for him during the battle at the Milvian Bridge by the Christian's God himself. The emperor, in gratitude or as a shrewd policy of state, adopted the new god and creed, and at the instigation of the priests set up this creed as the state religion and enthroned its priests in place and power in the state. In the spirit of pagan tolerance, which one would think should be the spirit of Christianity, Constantine decreed religious liberty throughout the Empire. The terms of his Edict of Milan, in 313, are worth recalling; they shame the very sect which was its intended beneficiary.
PAGAN TOLERANCE AND CHRISTIAN INTOLERANCE
The proselytized emperor decreed: "It seems to us proper that the Christians and all others should have liberty to follow that mode of religion which to each of them appears best; for it befits the well-ordered State and the tranquillity of our times that each individual be allowed, according to his own choice, to worship the Divinity."
But no sooner had the priests of the new religion foisted themselves securely into power, and by their threats of hell fire dominated the superstitious minds of the emperors, than the old decrees of persecution under which they themselves had previously suffered were revamped and turned into engines of torture and destruction of both pagans and "heretic" Christians alike, and religious intolerance became the corner-stone of the Church apostolic. Without mentioning earlier laws, in which the new persecutors cautiously felt their way, it was enacted, at priestly instigation, in the famous Codex Theodosianus, about A.D. 384: "We desire that all the people under the rule of our clemency should live by that religion which divine Peter the apostle is said to hive given the Romans. ... We desire that heretics and schismatists be subjected to various fines. ... We decree also that we shall cease from making sacrifices to the gods. And if any one has committed such a crime, let him be stricken with the avenging sword" (Cod. Theod. 16: 1, 2; 5: 1; 10: 4 ). What a contrast to the Edict of Milan, granting tolerance to all! In these laws of the now "Christian" empire priestly intolerance is made the law of the land; and the accursed words "Inquisition of the Faith" and "inquisitors" first appear in this code.
THE DEADLY SANCTIONS OF RELIGION
But the priests should not alone bear the infamy of these laws of persecution and death, instigated by them. To the Devil his due! The "Holy Ghost" itself, it is claimed by the Bible and the Church, inspired and decreed by positive command all the bloody murders and tortures by the priests from Moses to the last one committed; and the spirit of them lives and is but hibernating to-day. The Holy God of Israel, whose name is Merciful, thus decreed on Sinai: "He that sacrificeth to any gods [elohim], save unto Yahweh only, he shall be utterly destroyed" (Ex. 22: 20 ). And hear this, which the ancient priests attribute to their God:
"If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go serve other gods, and ... Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him: But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people. And thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die" (Deut. 13: 6--10 )!
Words are inadequate to comment on this murderous decree of a barbarian God! And not only must all under penalty of a fiendish death worship the Holy Yahweh of Israel, but listen to this other fatal, infamous decree of the priests in the name of this God:
"The man that will do presumptuously, and will not hearken unto the priest, even that man shall die" (Deut. 17: 12 ).
And the tergiversant slaughter-breathing persecutor for pay of the early Christians, now turned for profit their chief apostle of persecution, pronounces time and again the anathema of the new dispensation against all dissenters from his superstitious, tortuous doctrines and dogmas, all such "whom I have delivered unto Satan" (I Tim. 1: 20 ), as he writes to advise his adjutant Timothy. He flings at the scoffing Hebrews this question: "He that despised Moses, law died without mercy ...: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God?" (Heb. 10: 28, 29 ). All such "are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire" (Jude 7 ); "that they might all be damned who believed not the truth" (2 Thess. 2: 12 ); and even "he that doubteth is damned" (Rom. 14: 23 ). This Paul, who with such bigoted presumption "deals damnation 'round the land on all he deems the foe" of his dogmas, is first seen "consenting to the death" of the first martyr Stephen (Acts 8: 1 ); then he blusters through the country "breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord" (Acts 9: 1 ), the new converts to the new faith. Then, when he suddenly professed miraculous "conversion" himself, his old masters turned on him and sought to kill him, and he fled to these same disciples for safety, to their great alarm (Acts 9: 23-26 ), and straightway began to bully and threaten all who would not now believe his new preachments. To Elymas, who "withstood them," the doughty new dogmatist "set his eyes on him," and thus blasted him with inflated vituperation: "O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord"? (Acts 13: 8-10 ). Even the "meek and loving Jesus" is quoted as giving the fateful admonition: "Fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matt. 10: 28 ) -- here first invented and threatened by Jesus the Christ himself, for added terror unto belief. Paul climaxes the terror: "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Heb. 10: 31 ).
Thus "breathing out threatenings and Slaughter" against all who would not believe their gospel of miracles and damnation, the founders of the new faith forged and fastened the fetters of the new superstition upon the already superstitious pagans about them, and gradually throughout the Roman world. By fear of hell, pagan individuals, and in later times, by the choice proffered by "Christian" conquerors between the Cross and the sword, whole pagan peoples fell under the domination of the new militant faith. Whole tribes and nations were given the choice between Christianity and death; early history abounds in instances. The Hungarians adopted Christianity as the alternative to extermination in A.D. 1000; also the pagan Wends when conquered in 1144, and most of the pagan Teutonic tribes. Charlemagne required every male subject of the Holy Roman Empire above the age of twelve to renew his oath of allegiance and swear to be not only a good subject but also a good Christian. To refuse baptism and to retract after baptism were crimes punishable with death. It was indeed fearful danger and death by torture, rack, and fire to show the faintest symptoms of doubt of the faith of the Holy Church.
"LIKE KING LIKE PEOPLE"
Following the truism of Isaiah, "like king like people," very great sections of the people throughout the Empire, especially the official and subservient classes, hastened to adopt the name and outward indicia of Christianity, now become official and popular. But so "joined to their idols" were the masses of pagan "converts" for convenience, and so addicted to its showy forms and ceremonies, that the now officially recognized Church of Christ was not slow to popularize itself with the pagan-Christian masses by taking over bodily and "baptizing" to itself the temples, idols, rituals, ceremonials, the whole pomp and glorious circumstance of paganism, as we have just seen admitted by the paragraphs of church history quoted from the work of Sellars and the authoritative Catholic Encyclopedia. Christianity became thus scarcely more than a refined veneer of paganism. A devout pagan becoming, either from convenience or conviction, a Christian, no doubt felt quite comfortable and at home in a "baptized" pagan-Christian temple, aglow with all the trappings and ceremonials and resonant with all the old familiar rituals and litanies of his just-recanted paganism, with merely the name of Zeus or Jupiter replaced by that of Jehovah, and of Adonis or Tammuz by that of Jesus, and with "Mary, Mother of God," for Isis (with the child Horus), as the new "Queen of Heaven." As the missionaries of Rome carried the new cult into yet other countries, and various kings and rulers fell to the appeal and pomp of the priests, whole tribes and nations of heathens followed their leaders into the Church, veneering their paganism with the name, forms, and ceremonials of Roman Christianity. This is the testimony of early ecclesiastical and secular history.
Later instances more generally known, but the significance of which is as generally overlooked, further confirm Isaiah's maxim. For a millennium the Western Empire was more or less Roman Christian; the Eastern Empire had the Greek Church with its own Patriarch, but, with considerable vicissitudes of constancy, it recognized the supremacy of papal Rome, and the formulas of faith and creed were the same, with the exception of the age-long controversy over the "filioque" clause of the Nicene Creed, and the bitter feuds over image-worship known as iconoclasm. The rancours engendered from these differences of belief, together with the bigoted pretensions of patriarch and pope, led to the final rupture between Greek and Roman Churches in the year 1053. All the West followed their leader the pope; the East clung with equal tenacity to the tenets of the patriarch. So bitter were the hatreds thus perpetuated, that the Western popes and emperorsa refused all aid to the beleaguered emperors and Church of the East in the fatal conflicts with the Turks, till in 1453 Constantinople and the whole Eastern empire fell before the Crescent, and Europe became Turkish and Mohammedan up to the very gates of Vienna.
But western and northern Europe remained of the Roman faith until the Reformation begun by Luther in 1517. Here a most signal vindication of "Like king like people" is witnessed. The Christian kings and rulers who had political grievances against the pope quickly took up the quarrel of Luther with the Roman Church; those who were politically friendly to the pope seized arms to defend him and the Church; their respective peoples flocked to their standards and followed them in their rival faiths, and Europe was a welter of blood and strife during the ensuing fierce wars between Catholic and Protestant Christians. The strife of hostile Christian faiths yet endures, abated some-what in degree.
England was wholly Romish before the Reformation; so staunch a supporter of the True Faith was the lecherous Henry 8 that the pope bestowed on him the title Fidei Defensor, Defender of the Faith. Papal sanction being refused to his scandalous project of divorce from Catharine, in order to marry Anne Boleyn, Henry broke with the pope and became Protestant; carried England with him into the Protestant ranks; founded the Church of England; and became its supreme spiritual head. The old Romish practice of burning dissenters at the stake was turned against the English Catholics to suppress that sect entirely. Henry's Romish daughter "Bloody Mary" succeeded him, and she was in turn succeeded by her Protestant bar- sinister sister Elizabeth: each in turn kept the fires of Smithfield blazing with the burning of the "heretics" of the opposite faith. Finally, with the revolution against the Catholic Stuarts, Protestantism won and England became what she is to-day, the staunch bulwark of the reformed Faith and the Established Church.
On such chances and caprices of vanity and spite in Providence doth the religious complexion of whole nations of loyal Christians turn and depend. It is curious to remember that the Protestant sovereigns of England yet bear the popish title "Fidei Defensor," which is blazoned on the national escutcheon and stamped on the coin of the realm to-day,
And so, through the long dark ages of faith, and so long as the priest-prostituted State would use its civil power in superstitious aid of the Holy Church, the Holy Church has zealously fulfilled its Bible's commands and has murdered and tortured men, women, and tender children by fire and sword through its special agency of faith, the Holy Inquisition. This priest-ordained institution was only abolished by the infidel Napoleon in Italy in 1808; but the moment his dreaded power fell, the "Scourge of God" was eagerly re-established in the Papal States by God's Vicar Pope Pius VII in 1814, and in Tuscany and Sardinia in 1835. It was only finally abolished, along with the usurped "temporal power" of God's vicars on earth, as one of the first glorious acts of the new Kingdom of Italy, in 1870, -- just at the time when the Holy Ghost came to the "Vatican prisoner" to reassert that the torture and murder of dissenters from theological dogma was a God-imposed duty and divine right of his Holy Church. We shall see how this is.
"NOT DEAD BUT SLEEPETH"
It would appear, from what is quoted below, that Holy Church does not accept complaisantly this deprivation of power to execute these bloody features of the divine commands committed to it. It recognizes perforce its temporal impotence, and seems, like the modern Hun, to bide if not to toast "The Day," as it often suggests? "Today the temporal penalties formerly inflicted on apostates and heretics cannot be enforced, and have fallen into abeyance"; -- abeyance, temporary suspension, reluctant disuse, if you please, as may be read in Vol. 1: p. 625, of the Catholic Encyclopedia, published under the imprimatur of Holy Church but a few years ago (1907 ), in New York City, and as is several times repeated in its volumes. Its whole system for suppression even to extermination yet exists intact, ready for instant resort when and should "changed conditions" again permit. From Vol. 14: p. 761, et seq., commended to very thoughtful perusal, are quoted several precious, pregnant paragraphs (the italics are mine):
"Nearly all ecclesiastical legislation in regard to the repression of heresy proceeds upon the assumption that Heretics are in wilful revolt against lawful authority; that they are, in fact, Apostates who by their own culpable act have renounced the True Faith. ... It is easy to see that in the Middle Ages this was not an unreasonable assumption. ... "No one could be ignorant of the claims of the Church; and if certain people repudiated her authority, it was by an act of rebellion inevitably carrying with it a menace to the sovereignty which the rest of the world accepted. ... "The Canon Law deals very largely with the enunciation of principles of right and wrong which are in their own nature irreformable; the direct repeal of its provisions has never or very rarely been resorted to; but there remain upon the statute book a number of enactments which owing to changed conditions are to all practical intents and purposes obsolete. ... "The custom of burning heretics is really not a question of justice, but a question of civilization (p. 769 ). ... "'The gravest obligation,'" says Pope Leo 11II in his Encyclical "Immortals Dei" of Nov. 1, 1885, "requires the acceptance and practice not of the religion which one may choose, but of that which God prescribes and which is known by certain and indubitable marks to be the only true, one'"! (p.764 ).
There we have the incubating germs of potential hell on earth again in the name of God and the Christian religion. It is not the Roman Church alone which is guilty; now, and throughout this book, I make no imputations against it as Catholic, but only as Christian; for 1500 years it was the only, as it claims yet to be the only true, "Christian" Church, -- "fons et origo malorum," of religious superstitions and persecutions innumerable. Its greater guilt lies only in its being the father of all these priestly dogmas which have been and are the blight of civilization. The dissenters were, and well might be again, their Providence permitting, all that this same article above quoted imputes to them; for in a typical tu quoque conclusion (which admits its own guilt) Holy Church thus recites history: "On the other hand, the ferocity of the leading Reformers more than equalled that of the most fiercely denounced Inquisitors. Even the 'gentle' Melanchthon wrote to Calvin to congratulate him on the burning of Servetus: 'The Church, both now and in all generations, owes and will owe you a debt of gratitude.' And, says Luther, 'Let there be no pity; it is a time of wrath, not of mercy. Therefore, dear Lords, let him who can slay, smite, destroy.' John Knox 'thought that every Catholic in Scotland ought to be put to death.'" -- And the authorized and authoritative Encyclopedia article just quoted asserts solemnly that the inspired canon laws, including those prescribing the torture and burning to death of "heretics," are in their divine nature "irreformable," have accordingly never been repealed and merely lie "in abeyance" or are "for practical purposes obsolete," only because of "changed conditions"; and that the infernal "custom of burning heretics is really not a question of justice [i.e. of right or wrong], but a question of civilization" -- which has gradually brought about these "changed conditions," so that "burning heretics," while yet a divinely sanctioned and unrepealed law of God and Church, cannot in these days be enforced because of this secular "civilization" which renders the burning laws of God and Church unpopular and impotent.
Revolting and truly significant as this is, it is also a confession which suggests the truth of the assertion often made that "Christian civilization" is a misnomer, and that such civilization as the world to-day enjoys exists, not because of the Christian religion, but in despite and defiance of that religion and its ministers. Only so far as the world has broken away from the superstition and thrall of the theological dogmas of this religion and its Holy Church and has caught something of its better spirit, making "obsolete" the fires of the Church on earth and in hell, has civilization slowly and painfully progressed, and have human liberty of thought and conscience and political and civil liberty become possible and been slowly and painfully realized in some parts of the "Christian" world.
FAITH FLOURISHED ON IGNORANCE
With the decline an fall of the Roman Empire the Christian religion spread and grew, among the Barbarian destroyers of Rome. The Dark Ages contemporaneously spread their intellectual pall over Europe. Scarcely any but priests and monks could read. Charlemagne learned to wield the pen only to the extent of scrawling his signature. The barons who wrested Magna Carta from John Lackland signed with their marks and seals. The worst criminals, provided they were endowed with the rare and magic virtue of knowing how to read even badly, enjoyed the "benefit of clergy" (i.e., of clerical learning), and escaped immune or with greatly mitigated punishment. There were no books save painfully-written manuscripts, worth the ransom of princes, and utterly unattainable except by the very wealthy and by the Church; not till about 1450 was the first printed book known in Europe. The Bible existed only in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, and the ignorant masses were totally ignorant of it other than what they heard from the priests, who told them that they must believe it or be tortured and killed in life and damned forever in the fires of hell after death. It is no wonder that faith flourished under conditions so exceptionally favorable.
During the long dark ages of faith, the Holy Church and benightedness were at their apogee and holy heyday. Miracles of superstition happened every day by the conjuration of unwashed saints and the exorcisms of motley priests, just as they do to-day in the jungles of Africa and the arctic regions of America, through the conjurings of Hottentot medicine-men and Eskimo shamans; but never a single true miracle such as the modern ones of medicine, of surgery, of sanitation, of the physical sciences!
Any who may question the accuracy -- or desire astonishing details -- of this reference to the miracles and superstitions of saints and Holy Church, is cheerfully recommended to the exhaustless fount of authentic lore and accredited vouchers for it all, in the sixteen volume Catholic Encyclopedia, under the names of the myriad various saints and the articles Magic, Exorcism, Necromancy, Sorcery, Witchcraft, and scores of other such, all vouched for under the imprimatur of authority. And none of this, with such sanction, can possibly be impeached of error; for the same high source states: "Error is in one way or another the product of ignorance." The priestly maxim of those dark ages of faith is the accredited axiom of Hugo of St. Victor: "Disce premum quod credendum est" -- "Learn first what is to be believed"! -- though amongst the churchmen it is said to have been a privileged maxim for themselves, that they might "hold anything so long as they hold their tongues."
Under the sway and dominion of such "sacred science," genius was dead; the human intellect atrophied; credulity was rampant. All this followed swiftly upon the grafting of the Christian religion upon the splendid though decadent civilization of the Roman Empire in East and West. These all are simple facts of history.
Dickens's Child's History of England, in speaking of the early pagan inhabitants of that island at the time of the Roman invasion, 55 years before the era of the so-called "Prince of peace," says: "The ancient Britons, being divided into as many as thirty or forty tribes, each commanded by its own little king, were constantly fighting with each other, as savage people usually do."
That single sentence epitomizes the whole history of "Christian-civilized" Europe from that day to this: the Christian has been no whit different from the savage as regards the savage pastime of "constantly fighting with each other, as savage people usually do." Read any history of Europe as a whole, or of any particular people of Europe: its pages are replete with next to nothing but fighting and wars, internecine and international, in almost every single year of its bloody annals. And wars about what?
Without an exception they have all been of one of three inveterate classes: wars instigated by lust of conquest and power on the part of "divine right" kings or even more popular rulers, seeking to rob and steal each other's territories or to force their will upon others; wars, and the most terrible and brutal of all, incited by this Holy Christian religion before the Reformation, with the holy purpose of exterminating unbelievers, as in the Crusades and the Spanish butcheries of the Moors, or with the pious object of exterminating, at Popish instigation, dissenting "heretics," such as the Albigenses, Waldenses, Netherlanders,
Cathari, Huguenots, Jews, and scores of others; and after the Reformation, furious exterminating wars of one fanatical faction of Christians against another, all blasphemously in the name of God! Such pious infamies, for a thousand years and more, from its earliest usurpation of power until skeptic anti-clericalism made it impotent, have been the chief occupation of the Church Persecutr9: -- that
"... saintly, murderous brood, To carnage and the Bible* given, Who think through unbelievers' blood Lies their directest path to heaven." *The original reads "the Koran."
A third, and redeeming, class of European wars has been those glorious and righteous struggles for liberty by oppressed and debased peoples, ground to misery and desperation by Holy Church and divine right kings -- both which institutions are thoroughly Biblical and Christian -- to throw off their galling yokes and to win political freedom and liberty of conscience for themselves and their posterity. But the Christian religion, while instigating and waging many of the most cruel wars, has never once prevented a single accursed war, of which over fifty have plunged "civilized Christian Europe" into a welter of blood and misery in the past century alone; while the world to-day yet staggers under the devastation of the greatest and most destructive war of all history, which desolated humanity and all but overthrew civilization. And no war has been in which the name of God was not inscribed upon the bloody banners of the aggressor; assailants and defenders alike swamp high heaven with frantic and fatuous prayers to God to give victory to each against the other -- prayers which God has never heard or attended to, for God, as Napoleon cynically and truly said, "is always on the side of the heaviest guns" -- or of the deadliest poison-gas and most ruthless butchery of men.
Until wicked, brutal, damned war is ended on earth, there is and can be no true civilization; for all war -- unless defensive -- is uncivilized, brutish barbarism. And to this holy consummation the Christian religion, as such, will never lead or even contribute. He whom the Christians fondly call "The Prince of Peace" -- for what reason and with what reason God only knows -- is not to be counted on to aid; for himself explicitly avers: "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, And a man's foes shall be they of his own household" (Matt. 10: 34-36 )! Far from preventing war, truly has his theology, or creedal religion, throughout his era been the prolific cause and miserable pretext of wars and woes unnumbered: of human misery degradation, ignorance, intolerance, persecution, pogroms, murders by fire and sword -- in a word, of most of the ills and sorrows which humanity, subject to its thrall, has suffered from the days of Constantine's league with the Church, A.D., 313, to this very year of Christ and his religion. Gainsay this no man who knows history can.
The Christian religion has been the fearful sanction of human slavery, of "divine right" rulers, of "God-anointed" priestly domination of the mind and soul of man, of the imposed inferiority of woman. The deadly dogma of divine right of kings and of the sin of resistance to oppression is positively ordained: "The powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they, that resist shall receive to themselves damnation" (Romans 13: 1. 2 ). But the Declaration of Independence reads otherwise. As for the priestly dominance, we will take ancient Scripture for authority -- More modern instances may occur to some: "The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so" (Jer. 5: 31 ); apd the pertinent query follows: "What will ye do in the end the end thereof?" That is for this age to answer unequivocally.
THE "CHRISTIAN" PEOPLES
The best and most highly civilized portion of the human race is within the pale of Christendom; but are these peoples so because they profess the Christian religion? Just as well and truly say that they are the most intelligent of mind, the fairest of complexion, the most comely of form and face because they are Christian.
But as pagans, before ever they heard of Christianity, they were the same: because they were of the Caucasian race, Aryan -- which means "noble." All know the story of the youthful priest, later Gregory the Great, seeing a group of "barbarian" captives exposed for sale in the Christian slave-market of Rome; struck with their personal beauty, he asked of what country they were. Being told "They are Angles," he exclaimed: "No, they are angels," and was thus moved to send missionaries to their Teutonic homeland to "convert" their nation from paganism to the true faith. Deathless in history, in song and story, are "the glory that was Greece, the grandeur that was Rome" -- the two highest civilizations of antiquity as well as of the early Christian era: the glory and the power were of pagan Greece, of pagan Rome long before and long after the Christian religion came, and that glory, that high civilization was eclipsed, swamped, by the night of the Christian dark ages -- which were the ages of faith.
Not only these greatest civilizations, but the greatest minds of the ages, the best of men, were pagans: Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, Epictetus, Demosthenes, Cicero, Seneca, the Plinys, the Antonines, Marcus Aurelius, the philosophers, the poets, Pilate himself -- the catalogue is long and illustrious: Justin had to explain it thus -- "there were Christians before Christ." The Augustan Age, just at the time of the advent of the Man of Sorrows, was the glorious golden age of the ancient world -- and purely pagan. And for centuries after Christ the greater part of Europe remained pagan, and but slowly, and bloodily, gave way to Christianity after the league of State with Church under Constantine, as we may again notice in this sketch.
Having given a rapid retrospect of some of the phases of Christian history, and sought to clear away some popular misconceptions, I shall proceed, in the following chapters, in all conscience and truth of statement, easily verifiable by all, to "search the Scriptures," Hebrew and Hebrao-Christian, whether these things which they contain for our faith are worthy of faith and credit. This search will truly "reveal" the Bible and its God in the very words of inspiration. If they be found inspired of truth, the first and highest duty of man is reverently to cherish and obey them -- "for therein ye think ye have eternal life." If inspiration and truth, divine and human, are found lacking, for God's sake and humanity's, may intelligent people renounce forevermore the vain priest-imposed "hope to merit heaven by making earth a hell" for superstition's sake; let us cease wrangling and being intolerant over moronic myths, and let us have peace from "idle tales" and fables.
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