IS IT GOD'S WORD?
CESSET SUPERSTITION! AND THEN?
"But if the salt have lost his savor, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men" (Matt. 5: 13 ). -- "It is neither fit for the land, nor yet for dunghill; but men cast it out. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear" (Luke 14: 35 ).
PAUL'S naive confession that he told lies that the truth of God might the more abound (Rom. 3: 7 ) we have found to be about the only true thing he is recorded as saying. A like paucity of truth is found in all his confreres, as our examination has shown. We have found, no doubt with amazement, that lies are "the mostest things there isn't nothing else but" in all Bible and Theology, to the pretended glory of God -- and to the great profit of priestcraft. Paul also spoke true when he admitted that he "profited in the Jew's religion above many" (Gal. 3: 14 ) -- showing that it was for many a profitable occupation; he lost no pelf when he apostatized to become the propagandist in chief of the new faith. But "strong delusion that men should believe lies" of religious superstition propagated by him and his confreres was not, as he avers, sent by God; it is just another of Paul's own admitted mendacities, the conscious -- and unconscionable -- work of professional priestcraft.
That otherwise intelligent thinking people should be yet under this strong delusion to believe priestly lies is because they do not know their Bible and derived theology; they take their fore- shortened beliefs about it "on faith" from the parsons and from such choice fervent texts as they hear expounded or casually read. That the vast majority of Christians are rank know-nothings of Bible and theology is evidenced by the gasps of surprise and shock which no doubt many readers of this book have made at the disclosures of what really "God's Word" is. Brought up from youth on the "strong delusion" that it is all verily "God's Word," and that "he that doubteth is damned -- suffering the vengeance of eternal fire," they do not reason or dare to doubt; they hear believingly, if they do not heed, the preached word.
Some good and scholarly "divines" too, educated to theology and its sophistries, no doubt believe even yet, in simplicity of faith, quite innocently. The distinguished Bishop Colenso, Church of England "divine," may be instanced. Being appointed, in the good mid-Victorian era, bishop of Natal, so great was his zeal to spread the saving truth in "Darkest Africa" that be learned the Zulu language, wrote a grammar and dictionary of the idiom, and then taught English to a number of bright native converts to the Christian faith. With their aid he then began the work of translating the Bible into Zulu, for the conversion of the heathen natives. Before long the good bishop's troubles began, and he began to "see a great light." His intelligent Zulu collaborators, who had been converted to Christianity by hearsay and not upon knowledge, would come to him in great amazement and point out to him things encountered in the Bible, as they worked in translating, which to their untutored minds seemed shocking contradictions of text;
absurdities and untruths in what they had been taught was the inerrant inspired Word of God. The Bishop's attention being thus for the first time challenged, he thoroughly studied the whole matter of inspiration and revelation in this new light. The result was his monumental seven-volume work The Pentateuch and Book of Joshua Critically Examined (1862-1879 ), in which the inspiration and truth of the Old Testament were denied and disproved. The bishop's "conversion" caused great sensation and scandal in England; he was excommunicated and deposed by his indignant church, and his salary stopped; but the courts held this action invalid and decreed full payment of salary with all arrears. Similar cases of conversion to reason have been known.
But many instances no doubt abound, in these more recent times, like that of the good parson in St. Louis who urged the writer to become a member of his church and congregation. In answer to the frank objection that, for the reasons now exposed in this book, be could not without hypocrisy go back into the church which he had abandoned, the good pastor as frankly replied that all that was no sound objection; "If your ideas about the Bible and mine were put into a bag and shaken up and poured out, you could not tell which were yours and which mine"! How many good parsons reading this book would not -- at least to their own inner selves -- make a like "confession of faith"!
The Christ, in the text on salt of lost savor, quoted above, was inveighing against the superstitious old Hebrew law, in himself now fulfilled, said to have been handed down by word of mouth from his own putative Father, Yahveh God of Israel. In all the Bible there is no Christian God but Yahveh, and the Christ is his Son. The description and condemnation thus voiced by the Christ are found to fit perfectly the ancient fables and superstitions both of the old and the new "revelations." The theories, long and fondly held, of the divine revelation, inspiration, and inerrant truth of these old Jewish books as the unimpeachable "Word of God" have lost their savor, and must be cast out.
The most and worst that follows from the discovery that the Bible is not the "Word of God" -- merely Jewish fables of Yahveh and his Son -- is that God has not seen fit to deliver any written "word" or "law," either to the ancient Hebrews. or to the Christians, or to anybody else. Possibly the Supreme Architect of the universe, who framed all this wonder of the world and established its immutable laws, could, and would if he so pleased and saw fit, find some way and means to make written revelation of himself and of his will for the behoof of the human race. But he who ordered the harmony of the worlds and ordained their divine laws, would in such event, we may do him credit to believe, so reveal and state his will and laws to man that man would know veritably two things: that the God made the revelation, and what be said and meant. It would be certain and unmistakable, so that it could be known for sure to all men. It would be as simple, too, as two and two are four; so simple and sure that the wayfaring man, though a fool, could not err therein. There would be no danger of losing one's soul through the impossibility of understanding the revelation; no occasion for "heresies," and schisms, and sects, with different and discordant interpretations of it, as with the present revelations of Yahveh and Son by the mouth of priests and clergy. In such a true God-given revelation there would be no occasion for the apologetic casuistry of Peter -- himself an "ignorant and unlearned" person -- for the Jewish revelation, "in which are some things hard to understand, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest unto their own destruction" (2 Pet. 3: 16 ); and Paul would not be so put to it to make believe that "the foolishness of God [Yahveh] is wiser than men" (i Cor. 1: 25 ).
The supreme destiny of the human soul would not be left, by a true and intelligent God, to such clouded, mystic, mythic, jangling jargon of professional priests and prophets and apostles and theologians as we have found their "revelation" and theology to be. A God who could not or would not reveal his awful will for the eternal destiny of man better and more truly than in these "inspired revelations" of Bible and theology is not fit to be a God or to be entrusted with the fate of a human soul. A man's last will and testament, so dubiously authenticated, would never be admitted to probate; and with such darkened and contradictory dispositions, would by any competent court be held "void for uncertainty," and the testator declared intestate, if not insane. Since, evidently, the true, all-wise Creator God has not revealed thus autobiographically his Word, his creature man is evidently in need of no such revelation and is none the worse off without it.
The mythic Yahveh of Israel, exactly like all ancient and some more modern mythic deities, was by his professional prophets and priests pretended to have spoken and commanded through them. But in truth, as admitted, "the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means, and the people love to have it so" -- then, and all through human history. Professional priests undeniably devised all "revealed" gods and religions; professional clergy are yet the propagandists of these ancient myths as "religion" of God, as "articles of faith necessary to salvation" -- with damnation as the alternative.
Priests ruled the ancient world and kings superstitiously did their crafty bidding. For centuries priests dominated the modern world and made kings superstitiously grovel before them and don and doff their crowns at their command. Priestcraft to-day proclaims itself vicar of Yahveh God on earth, and strives yet mightily to impose itself on the minds and consciences of men, through their superstitious fears, invented and imposed by priest and clergy, and through the awful but anachronistic authority of the "keys of heaven and hell." It is all the same old priestly game, very little modernized.
The Hebrew Scriptures are seen to be an inextricable complex of ancient cosmological legends, of primitive folklore, of rude tribal chronicles, of some actual historical events, of superstitious religious fables, of pagan Hebrew concepts of their mythological tribal Yahveh, God of Israel. Later the fabled Yahveh of Israel was slowly and dubiously evolved into a -- no less mythological -- One God Yahveh of all the earth. A mythological god cannot evolve into a real living true God -- ex nihil nihil fit. A myth cannot be imagined into a reality. The "revelation" is all one, from Moses to Ezra and his priests -- they hang and fall together. False premisses cannot produce true conclusions.
Seizing upon the patent myth of Yahveh as God of all the earth for its basic point of departure, and retaining fully and without reserve all the primitive fables and mythology of ancient Jewry, the Christian "revelation" builds up a fabulous fatuous scheme of theological mystery and casuistry fondly called the sacred science of Christianity -- founded upon the Yahveh myth, Yahveh's curse on mankind for the "original sin" of the fabled "first Adam," atoned for by the sacrifice of the "last Adam," virgin-born Son of the mythic Yahveh, sent to redeem the world from Adamic sin, and culminating in the dogma of three gods in One. Such is the holy Christian faith -- "which except a man believe faithfully and firmly, he can not be saved" (Athanasian Creed, Cath. Encyc., Vol. 2: p. 34 ).
The theology of this is rather mystifying. Each of these triune persons is all Yahveh but only a part of Yahveh. According to the creed above cited, "The Father [Yahveh] is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God," "these Three Persons being truly distinct one from another"; and yet there are not three Gods but one God" (Yahveh). And the sacred deposit lays it down: "In this Trinity of Persons the Son is begotten of the Father by an eternal generation, and the Holy Spirit proceeds by an eternal procession from the Father and the Son. Yet notwithstanding this difference as to origin [Gods are supposed to be without origin, "from eternity"], the Persons are co-eternal and coequal: all alike are uncreated and omnipotent" (Cath. Encyc., Vol 15:p. 47 ). If three persons are co-eternal, all existing from eternity, it is difficult to perceive how one should be begotten by another, which implies the previous existence of the begetter, or how another could "proceed" from the other two, which implies the previous coexistence of the other two. This is too subtle for any but professional theologians. But they seem to be contradicted by the positive Yahvistic declaration of the relatively modern begetting of the Son, only about 1000 B.C.; for David quotes some one, apparently (but quite impossibly) the Son himself, on his supposed first day of existence: "Yahveh hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee" (Ps. 2: 7 ). For positive assurance of identity it is thrice asserted by Paul: "God [Yahveh] ... hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second Psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee" (Acts 13: 33; Heb. 1: 5; 5: 5 ). So Yahveh the Father and his Son can hardly, on this revealed record, or naturally, be "co-eternal"; and if the Holy Ghost "proceeds" from Yahveh and Son, the "procession" must have begun since the date the Son was begotten by Yahveh.
Yahveh was wholly a mythological deity, existent only in a very primitive pagan imagination; a mythological deity could by no possibility, except imaginative, have had an actual begotten and incarnate son, and it is a very attenuated Ghost that could "proceed" from such mythic sources. This simple consideration, with its unescapable logic, leaves nothing of the Triune-Yahveh but myth and a pious perplexity at the dogma of the theologians, once accepted by faith.
It may be mentioned, in passing, that the "Three Persons" of the Yahvistic godhead -- or at least two of them, these being the only ones recorded as ever saying anything -- are, on all Bible authority, to be taken as "being truly distinct one from another," and therefore difficult to regard as "not three Gods but one God." Yahveh assured his Son: "This day have I begotten thee"; a thousand years later the Son comes to earth while the Father Yahveh remains in heaven; the Father Yahveh calls from heaven: "This is my beloved Son," and the Son prays to the Father -- all which is odd if both are the same Person. The Son is specially said to be "an advocate with the Father" (1 John 2: 1 ), who "is even at the right hand of God [Yahveh], who also maketh intercession for us" (Rom. 8: 34 ), as also "the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered" (Rom. 8: 26 ). We are often told that the Son sitteth or standeth "on the right hand of the Father" (Yahveh). The Bible speaks of "God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost," but never once does it say that these three distinctly named and designated Gods are all One God or a Triune God. The word "Trinity" is totally unknown in Holy Writ. All this clearly corroborates the fact of three Gods "truly distinct one from another"; but their distinctive functions and activities leave more questionable the theory of "not three Gods but One God" (Yahveh alone). As fact this seems inexplicable; as fable it needs no explanation: it is theology.
As the Bible is altogether superstitious falsities and its Yahveh-God wholly mythological, no less so must be the elaborate and intricate theology founded on them; the stream can rise no higher than its source. This simple truth quite destroys the whole congeries of conflicting creeds and wrecks their exhaustless fount, the "sacred deposit of faith." The disclosed undeniable want of inspiration and truth in the Bible makes grimly humorous the dogmatic assurances of the inspired truth of the deposit, for which it is claimed: "All revealed truth is not consigned to Holy Scripture, but Christ gave to his apostles to be transmitted to his Church -- or they received from inspiration or revelation -- divine instructions which they transmitted to the Church and which were not committed to the inspired writings. Thus Christ instituted his Church as the official and authentic organ to transmit and explain in virtue of divine authority the revelation made to men. Holy Scripture is therefore not the only theological source of the revelation made by God [i.e., Yahveh] to his Church. Side by side with scripture there is tradition, side by side with the written revelation is the oral revelation. This granted, it is impossible to be satisfied with the Bible alone for the solution of all dogmatic questions" (Cath. Encyc., Vol. 15:pp. 6, 7, art. Tradition). The premisses of the above ratiocination not being now so readily granted, there may be appreciably less satisfaction with either Bible or tradition in respect to the verity of theological dogmas.
The Bible, though thus all true, is not all the truth -- so says the sacred deposit. Let us now again -- in the light of our study of Bible and deposit -- read a couple of precious excerpts from the deposit vouching for the Bible, both put forth as ex cathedra utterances of the Holy Ghost of Yahveh God (the italics being mine): "These books are sacred and canonical because they contain revelation without error, and because written by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, they have God [Yahveh] for their Author" (Vatican Council, Sess. 3: ch. 2: 1870; Cath. Encyc., Vol. 2: p. 543 ). And: "It will never be lawful to restrict inspiration merely to certain portions of the Holy Scriptures, or to grant that the sacred writers could have made a mistake ... They render in exact language, with infallible truth, all that God [Yahveh] commanded, and nothing else"! "Wherever the sacred writer makes a statement as his own, that statement is the word of God and infallibly true, whatever be the subject-matter of the statement"! (Pope Leo 13:Encyclical Prov. Deus, 1893; Cath. Encyc., Vol. 2: p. 543 ). To be impartial, take this example of the stark presumption of uninspired bunkum from the thirteenth of the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion: "Good works done before the grace of Christ are not pleasant to God; but they have the nature of sin"! Sancta simplicitas!
The old Roman augurs, when they performed the sacred mysteries of the auspices upon the livers and entrails of the sacrifices and delivered to the superstitious their solemn oracular mummeries of the awful will of the god so revealed, were wont to stick their tongues in their cheeks and wink at one another, in mirthful appreciation of their own ingenuity in "getting away with it," thanks to the crass ignorance of their pious dupes. The pagan augurs must have felt as self-conscious of base imposture as are, of Yahveh's own power of miracle, the Christian priests who with mystic signs and mutterings "make God with four Latin words," and metamorphose ordinary bread and wine into the veritable bod and blood of a God who never was -- and who, being a "spirit" (John 4: 24 ), could not have body and blood or other "corporeal elements" to be thus anthropophagously consumed, thousands of millions of times a year through twenty centuries. When the theologians and "divines," in full twentieth century, read in their Bibles the self-same things we have just wonderingly reviewed, and then give utterance to the above quoted and other like outpourings of the Holy Ghost, and stand forth to proclaim all this to intelligent modern men as God's own truth -- to disbelieve which is eternal death and damnation -- probably they restrain themselves from outward visible indications of their inner reactions; or maybe, knowing no better, they have none. The charitable imputation of ignorance is all that saves them from the guilt of conscious imposition, though ethically it is all one to assert as true what one does not know to be true and to assert as true what one knows to be untrue. Whether ignorant or conscious, theology and dogma savor none the less inevitably of imposture and superstition.
Superstition is thus defined by a high lexicographic authority:
"A belief founded in irrational feelings, especially of fear, and characterized by credulity; also any practice originating in such belief; excessive and unreasonable scruples due to ignorant dread of the supernatural. Specifically, a belief in a religious system regarded by others than the believer as unreasonable and without support; a false religion, or any of its rites" (New Standard Dictionary of the English Language).
With this accurate definition of superstition, and with the preceding revelations of Holy Writ fresh in mind, are not the Hebrao-Christian creeds, dogmas, and theologies, of Bible as of "deposit," superstitions all? The question is submitted in all candor to every candid mind.
The supernatural myths and superstitions of Bible and theology are no part of real religion; they have no portion in the inheritance of righteousness which exalts a man and a nation. Rather are they a degrading concept of God and his intelligence, and betray a strange contempt for the dignity of mind and common sense of men in imposing such nonsense for their belief.
Full faith in Adam, the talking snake, and Yahveh's curse is not in these modern days necessary to an abiding faith in the Creator God and in the creature man, though the Catholic Encyclopedia says that "the first three chapters of Genesis contain facts touching the foundations of the Christian religion" (Vol. 7: p. 313 ). That the "law" was not given by word of mouth of Yahveh, tribal God of Israel, to Moses on Sinai, does not hinder one from heeding the better principles of the ten commandments, valid in every moral code. To discredit the virgin-birth by mortal woman of a Son of Yahveh does not nullify the good in anything the reputed Son may have said of truth and righteousness, nor destroy a manly reverence for woman and motherhood. To throw hell into the discard does not impair man's ability or will to "do good, for good is good to do," spurning "bribe of heaven and threat of hell." To relegate angels, devils, witches, and miracles to the limbo of childish fancy along with Santa Claus yet leaves place -- freer, better place -- in the hearts and lives of men for truth, honor, and justice, by freeing their minds from "complete paralysis of the intelligence, resulting from irrational surrender to the blight of theological dogma."
As the distinguished doctor of divinity quoted in the last line earnestly says (the italics are mine)
"The work of the Church in bringing Christ to men [notable -- not men to Christ, in the old pulpit cant] is enormously handicapped by associating it with the imposed belief in the veracity and historicity of what are patently early myths and naive, childish, primitive folklore. "It is of supreme importance to remember that a proper understanding of these Jewish stories, while necessarily working havoc with the ideas of Paul and the elaborate theology that is based on them, in no wise affects in the slightest manner the Christianity of Christ, the religion of Jesus, the eternal principles by which he lived and for which he died" (Fagnani, The Beginnings of History According to the Jews, pp. 23-24 ).
Again this erudite doctor of divinity and professor of Hebrew Scripture asserts Yahveh, God of Israel, to have been "an imagined, aboriginal, primitive deity, ... not the God of the New Testament" (Ibid., p. 18 ). But the God is Yahveh in Old and New Testaments alike.
While this saving clause yet savors a bit of the original sin of theological dogma, however well diluted, these two frank, pregnant utterances destroy alike in toto the Bible fables of Yahveh as true God and the false theology of Paul and the Church regarding everything based on these Bible fables. They leave untouched, except to mention and to magnify them, and instinct with all then pristine worth, the "eternal principles," all that is good and true and pure and worthy of all acceptation in the recorded words and life of him who is called the Christ, and who gave to all "power to become the sons of God" (John 1: 12 ) -- in the same sense as was the Christ himself.
In 1797-8, a score of years after the American Revolution for political and religious liberty, a celebrated state trial was held in England against a bookseller for the crime of blasphemy -- for selling a copy of the Age of Reason, by the immortal American patriot, Thomas Paine. The distinguished attorney general of the kingdom conducted the prosecution and made a very remarkable argument to the trial jury. He expressed in fervent words "the regret and indignation I feel, that any man in this country should dare to disseminate such pernicious doctrines"; and he declaimed:
"What have we to expect if those long-established feelings and principles be expelled from the minds and hearts of men? What reliance have I to receive from you, gentlemen of the jury, an honest verdict on the evidence which has been laid before you? On what were you sworn that you would act conscientiously? To what were you referred when you swore that you would return a true verdict, 'so help me God'? You swore
on that Holy Book. ... "What reason have you to believe that the witnesses will speak the truth, except from the operation of those religious principles which I have described to you? Are they not sworn on that sacred volume? ... "What hold have we on the mind of His Honor that he will administer the law with strict justice, uprightness, and impartiality? What security has the defendant himself that pure justice will be rendered to him on his trial, except the oath of His Honor? ... "When any individual assumes a station of trust or power in the government, the constitution prescribes an oath; ... that oath is on the holy gospels of God. ... "I have only, therefore, to remind you, gentlemen, that this information was not preferred from any idea that the Christian religion could be affected in its character or irresistible progress by this disgusting and contemptible book; but to prevent its circulation amongst the industrious poor, too much engaged in the support of their families by their labor, and too uninformed to be secure against artful wickedness. Of all human beings they stand most in need of the consolations of religion, and the country has the deepest stake in their enjoying it, not only from the protection which it owes them, but because no man can be expected to be against the government of God! Gentlemen, I leave it to you as twelve Christian men to decide whether this is not a most blasphemous and impious libel." (William's Case, 26 Howard's State Trials, 1798-9; pp. 654-719 )
On this specious, fantastic plea of His Majesty's attorney general that justice could not be administered nor government maintained among men but for the sanction of a superstitious oath on a book of fables, the "pure justice" of a verdict of "guilty" of blasphemy -- against the mythologic Yahveh -- was returned in a "Christian court of justice" against the disseminator of the truth. Let our English friends remember this eminent English precedent when disposed to sneer too critically at the "monkey case" in the hill-country of Tennessee!
That sixty per cent or more of the people of these United States are not galled by the yoke of dogmatic theological religion of any brand of itself belies the pretentious casuistry that justice cannot or would not be done between state and citizen, between man and man, but for the sanction of a religious oath with the fear of hell fire behind it -- as often violated by perjury as observed from an honest regard for truth; and belies especially, the unveiled assertion that it is the poor particularly who stand in need of the restraints, and assumed consolations, of this priest-forged rod of authority, without which they would be quite ungovernable. Every intelligent person versed in history knows that it is not true that justice cannot be done, or order in government be maintained, without the Christian threat of hell and damnation to restrain the false witness or the insubordinate subject or to constrain the righteous judgment of the judge.
Times have changed. Not a state of this Union but still retains the oath "So help me God"; and in New York the greasy old tome of Holy Writ must usually be dragged out and tagged by the witness as he swears upon it. But such oath is not always required; the witness may simply "affirm" that he or she will speak the truth; or may break a saucer, or jump over a broomstick, or swear by "the beard of the prophet" or whatever other freak he may regard as of most sacred compulsion for him to tell the truth. It's a piddling performance at best; no oath prevents perjury. A thousand hands are held to heaven or laid on the musty book each day, to speak the truth, "So help me God"; and a large part of all the solemnly vouched testimony given is lies. it would be better to abolish the whole superstitious farce; let a man affirm that be speaks the truth, and if he lies, jail him for perjury, and perjury will cease to be so much in vogue as a means to "justice."
Justice can be done without swearing by fables. The noblest, most admirable system of law, the sternest, fairest scheme of human justice, which the world has ever known -- under which the whole civilized world lives to-day -- is pagan Roman law. It is to-day the basis of every legal system of Europe, as of Japan's; it largely supplements the crudities of the common law of England; the whole system of English and American equity is derived from and instinct with the spirit of the stern, impartial justice of pagan Rome. Many American judges are Jews; many others no doubt quite disbelieve the Christian faith; American juries are composed in large part of Jews and disbelievers; still justice is rendered between men; still government, the best on earth, is maintained, protecting men in life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. It will yet persist, and human happiness be no doubt more nearly perfect when strife and dissentions engendered by religious differences have been relegated to oblivion.
The glory that was Greece, the grandeur that was Rome, they know, have filled the world with beauty and with law, ages before the Christian superstition existed or the torch of its crude theology had been applied to the brimstone of hell and its holy fires kindled for the unbelieving soul. Those learned in the law will recall the maxims of the jurisprudence of ancient Rome, mistress and lawgiver of the world; maxims gathered by Justinian into the Digest, culled from the olden precepts of the noblest of the old Roman jurisconsults and legal philosophers, which still rule the civilized world to-day. It was Ulpian, pagan that be was, who described the Roman lawyers as "priests of justice, engaged in the pursuit of a philosophy that is truly such and no counterfeit"; and pagan Ulpian it was who gave the living definition: "Jurisprudence is the knowledge of things human and divine, the science of the just and unjust" -- almost a translation of the much more ancient pagan Greek Stoic concept of "sophia." The very first sentence of the Digest is this: "The precepts of the law are these: to live honorably, to injure no one, to render to every one his due." The pagan Cicero declared: "Law is nothing else than right reason, enlightened by the gods, commanding what is honest and forbidding what is dishonest."
There are to-day some 243,000 churches, temples, synagogues, and whatever they may be called scattered throughout these United States, to minister to some 47,000,000 members of them all. No doubt they are a force for good in the land. A far greater force they will be for far greater good when once they turn from propagating worn-out superstitions and strive to further personal and civic righteousness for its own high sake. Recently a very well-known "liberal" minister in the metropolis declared through the public press that his own sons refused to attend church because, they said, they "did not want to have to listen to a lot of bunk." Nor do hundreds of thousands of other men gifted with fair, reasonable minds. I find the question, so often heard, again seriously put "whether the pulpit is any longer useful in modern life"; and on this the Dean of St. Paul's, London, thus comments:
"The crumbling of certain parts of the dogmatic structure has undoubtedly increased the difficulty of preaching. There is much uncertainty as to what may be, and should be, said from the pulpit. The people themselves are impatient with dogma. Accordingly, many preachers try to interest their congregations by topical discussions of newspaper controversies, new books, or, worst of all, burning economic problems, in which their ill-informed tirades generate much more heat than light. There seems to be a kind of fatality that the Church always begins to champion a political party at the moment when it is preparing to abuse its power. The Church never goes into polities without coming out badly smirched, and few sermons are more unprofitable than rambling comments or declamations on secular affairs" (Literary Digest, November 21, 1925, pp. 31-32 ).
Churches are to-day largely social gathering places, where the social gradations are as marked and as rigidly observed as at the king's court, the rich in the best pews, the poor in the rear and side ones, and little recognition or fraternity between them. On Sundays the sacred edifices are solemnly open, and maybe on an evening during the week; the rest of the time they are mostly closed and dark, and as cold as is their spirit when open.
Every "house of God," of whatever god (and there are many), throughout the land should be kept open and habitable and every day and evening, and should be active centers of spiritual and social and civic interests, where, most of all, the homeless should find a shelter if not a home. Churches are in a large and important sense supported by the State, by the public, being free from all taxation, to the extent all told of thousands of millions of dollars yearly; they should be brought to some real return of service to the public, beyond preaching fables and singing psalms a couple of times a week. Church houses should be community centers, open to every responsible and respectable society and organization, religious, social, civic, political, freely or at only the actual expense of service for the occasion.
Make the churches public forums, where the public may forgather for every kind of social and civic occasion and innocent diversion, from the instructive scenes on the "silver screen" to the healthful, joyful dance; public lectures, political gatherings, social and literary societies -- all are quite as socially and spiritually useful and uplifting, and as innocuous and little "desecrating" to the sacred edifices as church "rummage sales" and parish "grab-bag" parties and "rates." The talk about "sacredness" and "consecration" of churches, which must not be "desecrated" or "profaned" by honest uses for worthy purposes, is sanctimonious silliness. All human service is sacred, all human effort that makes for right and for righteousness is holy, consecrated.
Let the churches then, if they would attract and hold intelligent modern men and women, leave off preaching and teaching the fables of the Bible as the truthful Word of God, about Adam's talking snake, and Balaam's talking ass, and Jonah's marvelous whale, and men raised from the dead, and men living in heaven or hell after they are dead -- of devils, and angels. Let the ministers quit "sky-piloting" for the very dubious hereafter and devote themselves to spreading the knowledge of God's real truths of life and nature here on earth; ethical and educational truths, God in his wonders of nature, the bands of Orion, or the bandaging of wounds in first aid to the injured; the cruel hatefulness of war and its ostracism from earth; the beauty and duty of charity to all men, of whatever race or tongue or creed, and the loathsomeness of prejudices of race or color or creed -- and speed the abolition of creed. Thousands of truths of knowledge and use and beauty, to the true glory of God and benefit of man, may be taught and spread abroad from the pulpit with never a hint of superstition or a whiff of fire and brimstone.
Then may people, in growing numbers, come to hear and remain to be instructed in things worth while; the vast numbers driven from the Church to-day by the vacuous myth-mongering of its preachings may return with joy to its teaching of wholesome truths, of knowledge in all its scope, of science in popular form. Then will the influence of the churches be real and potent for good to all the people; not restricted as now to miracle-mongering for a credulous few, and to social display for worldly wise but very indifferently believing and behaving Christians.
If the churches will not with good grace make this return of public utility and service for valuable public support by tax exemption on their billions of dollars' worth of deadhead property, then tax them like rich men's clubs or poor men's cottages, and let them share the common burden of support of the government which protects all alike under the law, and Christians from each other.
Broaden and enforce the laws against "superstitious uses," and make illegal and void the rich legacies, and the painfully earned pittances of the poor, for the already over-swollen "treasury of the Lord," obtained by the false pretence of "lending to the Lord," or for praying the souls of the superstitious out of non-existent purgatory -- than both which there is no nearer grand larceny in the annals of priestly avarice. Make it by the penal code grand larceny de jure as grand larceny it surely is de facto. Consider for a moment the countless millions filched through the centuries from the credulous through this pious confidence game! Justice to a man and to his surviving family comes before superstitious generosity to the Devil to buy surcease of pains for a dead man's soul gone wrong, or tainted only with Adam's original sin. Purgatory not only does not exist, for the souls "go down immediately into hell" (Decree Unionis) -- but if it did exist, paid prayers are utterly worthless to get the souls out, for it is "revealed" that they writhe there until "the first resurrection" or until "the last judgment," which is exactly when they would get out anyhow, to pass to heaven or hell -- if such places existed.
For two thousand years mankind in Christendom has been the victim of these priest-invented superstitions imposed on it as the holy will of Almighty God; has from infancy been priest-taught to believe fishermen's tales as inspired truth; has been duped into reverencing, obeying, and supporting for life a horde of parasitic, hypocritic, indolent, insolent soul-savers who have dealt damnation to all who eluded their thraldom. Numberless millions of the most intelligent and independent human beings have been tortured by fiendish devices, murdered, and sent to everlasting torment in the fires of hell for daring to doubt, to question, to deride, and to despise the priests and their deadly superstitions. The human intellect has been atrophied and debauched, the mind paralyzed and debased, God-given reason crumbed or confined into puerile and worthless channels, by enforced bondage to priestcraft. Freedom of thought had been martyred; learning, discovery, science have been cramped and thwarted; the progress of civilization itself has been hindered and delayed by priestly oppression.
Gulliver is beginning to break the multiplied threads which so long have bound him prostrate before padre and parson; let the Lilliputians beware. Divinely endowed men, turned swine-minded by the hateful enchantments of the scarlet Circle could, when freed, trample their seducers under foot, and turn again and rend them. A better and holier than they heard the fearful cry "Crucify him! crucify him!" Like Samson rendered impotent by the shearing, they may be caught and crushed in the crash of the temple when its tottering supports are knocked from under. Verbum sat sapienti.
Once free the mind and soul from the debasing thrall of "imposed belief in the veracity and historicity" of these Bible fables, and from the "blight of theological dogma," as God's Word necessary to salvation, and what a flood of spiritual light and truth may illumine man's mind and conscience from the book of God's work in nature! True, an unknown God not revealed in writing, but still the true Creator God, revealed through his wondrous works. Nor need the Bible be altogether disregarded as ennobling truth. Full as is the Bible, Old and New Testaments, of crude, cruel, immoral, revolting fables and concepts of the mythic Yahveh as God, it abounds, too, in truly inspired outbursts of the highest fervor of spirit, of the purest morality, of eternal principles of right and wrong, of that righteousness that exalts men and nations, and of denunciations of those sins which are a reproach to any people. Amid the chaff and trash and filth in Holy Writ there are infinite gems of purest ray serene to illumine mind and soul with true godliness whereby to light the way to death. All such gems of ancient devotion are to be cherished as part of the great spiritual treasures of life, to be found in the Bible as in many another work of highest worth in many literatures and religions, valid and true wholly apart from the fables and myths. With all the crude, gross Bible fables eliminated, there yet remains much of truth and beauty; verses which are the gems, and contain the germs, of true religion of the human spirit. This is the religion of clean hands and pure hearts; of fact, not of faith; of good deeds, not of credulity. Revolting is the doctrine of theology that not by the doing of good and by right living, but only by credulous faith, is there profit to man or God. As we have read: "Except which a man believe faithfully and firmly he cannot be saved"! "Good works done before the grace of Christ are not pleasant to God; but they have the nature of sin"! Better far to so sin and die in such sin than live in debasing belief in such theological "confidence" stuff!
Micah, prophet of old Israel, denouncing the credulous beliefs and superstitious practices of his people, struck for once in the Hebrew Scriptures the high key-note of true religion:
"He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord [Yahveh] require of thee, but to do justly, and to mlove mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" (Micah 6: 8 )
This is not Christian; it was written ages before Christ. It is not sectarian; it is catholic, universal. It is not superstitious, but sensible. It is the key-note of the universal religion of the sincere mind and heart, striving after spiritual godlikeness. It is identical with the universal, highly religious concept of the very first of the Praecepta of the pagan Institutes of the law of nature and of world law of Rome:
Juris praecepta sunt haec: Honeste vivere, alterum non laedere, suum cuique tribuere. The precepts of the law are these: To live honorably, to injure no man, to render to everyone his due." (Institutes, 1: 1, 3 )
Under the new dispensation of superstition, there sounds out, too, one pure note in harmonious unison with the same true religion; uttered by the own brother after the flesh of the Master of the new faith of miracles and credulity:
"Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world." (James 1: 27 )
These three golden precepts of religion pure and undefiled by crass superstitions are the utterances of three lofty-minded, high- visioned men: an Old Hebrew prophet crying against the grossly superstitious creeds and practices of the Chosen People of Yahveh; a noble pagan prophet and priest of justice and law, human and divine; a Hebrew of the new dispensation, brother of its Founder, who believed but a modicum of its superstitions, but stressed to its utmost its substance of love and charity and truth, as his beautiful Epistle shows. To these may be added the noble exhortation of fiery Paul:
"Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; think on these things." (Phil. 4: 8 )
The sum total and golden substance of truth of them all is synthesized by a creedless modern seer in the tocsin couplet of the Kasidah:
"Do good, for good is good to do: Spurn bribe of heaven and threat of hell."
These all are words which utter the doom of superstition, the apotheosis of godly reason. They are the golden rule of highest human righteousness. They spell the noblest terms of religion, of true pure spirituality. They exclude not God; they embrace the innate sense of God, of walking humbly with thy God, in Micah's golden phrase. God we know not except through his wondrous works of universal creation, save in the unstillable strivings of the human soul for righteousness, for godlikeness. Whoever, whatever God be, we feel him instinct within us; with the pagan poet quoted by Paul on Mars' Hill, we feel that "in him we live, and move, and have our being"; in a very high, real sense "we are also his offspring" (Acts 17: 28 ). In our souls we feel the impelling stirring of the truth of Festus: "Nothing but God can satisfy the soul that he made great" -- the greatest gift of God to his masterpiece man.
But this God is not the crude tribal Yahveh, the superstitious, psychopathic Jesus, and the inane Holy Ghost -- the cerberus Trinity -- "revealed" in the oriental fancy of the Hebrao- Christian Bible. God is not to be worshipped, as I conceive it, by superstitious creeds, but in golden deeds wrought in the heart for the good of the soul and of man.
The Bible is not the inspired infallible "Word of God"; it is the very human record of the human fallible striving of man's soul after an Unknown but very conscious God-in-man, urging its realization in men's lives, unconcerned with the unknowable hereafter.
That the Bible has been shown to be, IS, wholly human, fearfully immoral, false, and cruel for the most part, detracts naught from its immense value to mankind as a veritable treasury, not of "God's outpourings through Moses," but of man's outpourings, of man's upliftings of spirit towards righteousness, towards godliness. That it is over-full of primitive, puerile superstitions; that priests and hierarchies of priests have forged out of its crude myths a cruel, blighting system of "theology" for dominating men's minds and souls by priestly schemes of graft and aggrandizeinent, of rule and ruin, is, unhappily for mankind, all too true, as several thousand years of history and the imperfect, inadequate sketches of this book prove. But when this demonstration is brought home to the minds and realization of men, the damage is ended forever. Knowing the truth, men will be free from the dominion of error; the priestly era and occupation will be gone -- gone as the ghosts of yesteryear.
But the Bible, in its better parts will endure, to the real benefit of humanity, once it is rated at its true worth. Inestimable evils, far more than from Pandora's box, have come from this Bible: because misguided, mistaught, priest-taught men have mistaken it for an inerrant book of facts of God, instead of, as it is, a book of wondrous, fallible fables of man, carrying tremendous morals of mighty spiritual truth. Once realize its fables as fables frankly, its inspiration as the genius of man's fervent spirit groping up towards the truths of spiritual life, with its gross chaff winnowed away by the discernment of the spirit, then its "apples of gold in pictures of silver" will become more beautiful to the mind's eye, more palatable to the spirit's taste, more vitally nourishing to the soul's salvation from error and superstition.
The Bible has always been a wonderful work of literature. Held as a purely human, spiritual literary work; as such cherished, reverently regarded, spiritually and reasonably lived; with its superstitions, prolific cause of religious hatreds and intolerance, of wars and woes unnumbered, banished from men's minds and souls; with its lofty ideal truths of spirit impressed on men's hearts, not its fatal mystic texts "engraven on their reeking swords" for murderous strifes over its vain fables; and with its fine assurance that "of one flesh hath God made all men under the sun" and that all men are brothers under the universal fatherhood of God -- then, then only, then indeed, will the humanized, revitalized Bible be potent, omnipotent perhaps, to perfect the true civilization of mankind; then triumphantly may be realized the burden of the angels' storied song over the birth of the new era of the storied Christ:
"On earth peace to men of good will." Or better yet: "Peace to all mankind."
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Revealing the Spiritual duality of the Bible, for it serves neither God nor truth to try and rationalize irrational things the Bible has said of God.