It is foolish to think atheists and agnostics have nothing of value to say regarding Christianity. For the truth of the matter may be that their hostility towards belief in God or doubt of God is the fruit of what Christianity teaches about God. WLH
Ingersoll the Magnificent
Gems Concerning The Church
by Joseph Lewis
When Christianity came into power it destroyed every statue it could lay its ignorant hands upon. It defaced and obliterated every painting; it destroyed every beautiful building; it burned the manuscripts, both Greek and Latin; it destroyed all the history, all the poetry, all the philosophy it could find, and reduced to ashes every library that it could reach with its torch. And the result was, that the night of the Middle Ages fell upon the human race. But by accident, by chance, by oversight, a few of the manuscripts escaped the fury of religious zeal; and these manuscripts became the seed, the fruit of which is our civilization of to-day. A few statues had been buried; a few forms of beauty were dug from the earth that had protected them, and now the civilized world is filled with art, the walls are covered with paintings, and the niches filled with statuary. A few manuscripts were found and deciphered. The old languages were learned, and literature was again born. A new day dawned upon mankind. Every effort at mental improvement had been opposed by the church, and yet, the few things saved from the general wreck -- a few poems, a few works of the ancient thinkers, a few forms wrought in stone, produced a new civilization destined to overthrow and destroy the fabric of superstition.
What was the next blow that this church received? The discovery of America. The Holy Ghost who inspired men to write the Bible did not know of the existence of this continent, never dreamed of the Western Hemisphere. The Bible left out half the world. The Holy Ghost did not know that the earth is round. He did not dream that the earth is round. He believed it was flat, although he made it himself. At that time heaven was just beyond the clouds. It was there the gods lived, there the angels were, and it was against that heaven that Jacob's ladder leaned when the angels went up and down. It was to that heaven that Christ ascended after his resurrection. It was up there that the New Jerusalem was, with its streets of gold, and under this earth was perdition. There was where the devils lived; where a pit was dug for all unbelievers, and for men who had brains. I say that for this reason: Just in proportion that you have brains, your chances for eternal joy are lessened, according to this religion. And just in proportion that you lack brains your chances are increased. At last they found that the earth is round. It was circumnavigated by Magellan. In 1519 that brave man set sail. The church told him: "The earth is flat, my friend, don't go, you may fall off the edge." Magellan said: "I have seen the shadow of the earth upon the moon, and I have more confidence in the shadow than I have in the church." The ship went round. The earth was circumnavigated. Science passed its hand above it and beneath it, and where was the old heaven and where was the hell? Vanished forever! And they dwell now only in the religion of superstition. We found there was no place there for Jacob's ladder to lean against; no place there for the gods and angels to live; no place to hold the waters of the deluge; no place to which Christ could have ascended. The foundations of the New Jerusalem crumbled. The towers and dome fell, and in their places infinite space, some with an infinite number of stars; not with New Jerusalem, but with countless constellations.
In 1441 printing was discovered. At that time the past was a vast cemetery with hardly an epitaph. The ideas of men had mostly perished in the brain that produced them. The lips of the human race had been sealed. Printing gave opinions to thought. It preserved ideas. It made it possible for man to bequeath to the future the riches of his brain, the wealth of his soul. At first, it was used to flood the world with the mistakes of the ancients, but since that time it has been flooding the world with light.
The next thing that gave the church a blow was Statistics. We found by taking statistics that we could tell the average length of human life; that this human life did not depend upon infinite caprice; that it depended upon conditions, circumstances, laws and facts, and that these conditions, circumstances, and facts were during long periods of time substantially the same. And now, the man who depends entirely upon special providence gets his life insured. He has more confidence even in one of these companies than he has in the whole Trinity. We found by statistics that there were just so many crimes on an average committed; just so many crimes of one kind and so many of another, just so many suicides, so many deaths by drowning, so many accidents on an average, so many men marrying women, for instance, older than themselves; so many murders of a particular kind; just the same number of mistakes; and I say tonight, statistics utterly demolish the idea of special providence.
Only the other day a gentleman was telling me of a case of special providence. He knew it. He had been the subject of it. A few years ago he was about to go on a ship when he was detained. He did not go, and the ship was lost with all on board. "Yes!" I said, "Do you think the people who were drowned believed in special providence?" Think of the infinite egotism of such a doctrine. Here is a man that fails to go upon a ship with five hundred passengers and they go down to the bottom of the sea -- fathers, mothers, children, and loving husbands and wives waiting upon the shores of expectation. Here is one poor little wretch that did not happen to go! And he thinks that God, the Infinite Being, interfered in his poor little withered behalf and let the rest all go. That is special providence. Why does special providence allow all the crimes? Why are the wife-beaters protected, and why are the wives and children left defenceless if the hand of God is over us all? Who protects the insane? Why does Providence permit insanity? But the church cannot give up special providence. If there is no such thing, then no prayers, no worship, no churches, no priests. What would become of National Thanksgiving?
Then man began to grow great, and with that came Astronomy. In 1473 Copernicus was born. In 1543 his great work appeared. In 1616 the system of Copernicus was condemned by the pope, by the infallible Catholic Church, and the church was about as near right upon that subject as upon any other. The system of Copernicus was denounced. And how long do you suppose the church fought that? Let me tell you. It was revoked by Pius VII in the year of grace 1821. For two hundred and seventy-eight years after the death of Copernicus the church insisted that his system was false, and that the old Bible astronomy was true.
Astronomy is the first help that we ever received from heaven. Then came Kepler in 1609, and you may almost date the birth of science from the night that Kepler discovered his first law. That was the break of the day. His first law, that the planets do not move in circles but in ellipses; his second law, that they describe equal spaces in equal times; his third law, that the squares of their periodic times are proportional to the cubes of their distances. That man gave us the key to the heavens. He opened the infinite book, and in it read three lines.
The telescope destroyed the firmament, did away with the heaven of the New Testament, rendered the ascension of our Lord and the assumption of his Mother infinitely absurd, crumbled to chaos the gates and palaces of the New Jerusalem, and in their places gave to man a wilderness of worlds.
I have not had time to speak of Galileo, of Leonardo da Vinci, of Bruno, and of hundreds of others who contributed to the intellectual wealth of the world.
The church opposed inoculation -- vaccination, and the use of chloroform and ether. It was declared to be a sin, a crime for a woman to lessen the pangs of motherhood. The church declared that woman must bear the curse of the merciful Jehovah.
What has the church done?
It taught that the insane were inhabited by devils. Insanity was not a disease. It was produced by demons. It could be cured by prayers -- gifts, amulets and charms. All these had to be paid for. This enriched the church. These ideas were honestly entertained by Protestants as well as Catholics -- by Luther, Calvin, Knox and Wesley.
What has the church done?
It taught the awful doctrine of witchcraft. It filled the darkness with demons -- the air with devils, and the world with grief and shame. It charged men, women and children with being in league with Satan to injure their fellows. Old women were convicted for causing storms at sea -- for preventing rain and for bringing frost. Girls were convicted for having changed themselves into wolves, snakes and toads. These witches were burned for causing diseases -- for selling their souls and for souring beer. All these things were done with the aid of the Devil who sought to persecute the faithful, the lambs of God. Satan sought in many ways to scandalize the church. He sometimes assumed the appearance of a priest and committed crimes.
On one occasion he personated a bishop -- a bishop renowned for his sanctity -- allowed himself to be discovered and dragged from the room of a beautiful widow. So perfectly did he counterfeit the features and form of the bishop, that many who were well acquainted with the prelate, were actually deceived, and the widow herself thought her lover was the bishop. All this was done by the devil to bring reproach upon holy men.
Hundreds of like instances could be given, as the war waged between demons and priests was long and bitter.
These popes and priests -- these clergymen, were not hypocrites. They believed in the New Testament -- in the teachings of Christ, and they knew that the principal business of the Savior was casting out devils.
What has the church done?
It made the wife a slave -- the property of the husband, and it placed the husband as much above the wife as Christ was above the husband. It taught that a nun is purer, nobler than a mother. It induced millions of pure and conscientious girls to renounce the joys of life -- to take the veil woven of night and death, to wear the habiliments of the dead -- made them believe that they were the brides of Christ.
For my part, I would as soon be a widow as the bride of a man who had been dead for eighteen hundred years.
The poor deluded girls imagined that they, in some mysterious way, were in spiritual wedlock united with God. All worldly desires were driven from their hearts. They filled their lives with fastings -- with prayers -- with self-accusings. They forgot fathers and mothers and gave their love to the invisible. They were the victims, the convicts of superstition -- prisoners in the penitentiaries of God. Conscientious, good, sincere -- insane.
These loving women gave their hearts to a phantom, their lives to a dream.
A few years ago, at a revival, a fine buxom girl was "converted," "born again." In her excitement she cried, "I'm married to Christ -- I'm married to Christ." In her delirium she threw her arms around the neck of an old man and again cried, "I'm married to Christ." The old man, who happened to be a kind of skeptic, gently removed her hands, saying at the same time: "I don't know much about your husband, but I have great respect for your father-in-law."
I tell you that, by law, no girl should be allowed to take the veil and renounce the joys and beauties of this life.
I am opposed to allowing these spider-like priests to weave webs to catch the loving maidens of the world. There ought to be a law appointing commissioners to visit such places twice a year and release every person who expresses a desire to be released. I do not believe in keeping the penitentiaries of God. No doubt they are honest about it. That is not the question. These ignorant superstitions fill millions of lives with weariness and pain, with agony and tears.
Priests, theologians, have taken advantage of women -- of their gentleness -- their love of approbation. They have lived upon their hopes and fears. Like vampires, they have sucked their blood. They have made them responsible for the sins of the world. They have taught them the slave virtues -- meekness, humility -- implicit obedience. They have fed their minds with mistakes, mysteries and absurdities. They have endeavored to weaken and shrivel their brains, until, to them, there would be no possible connection between evidence and belief -- between fact and faith.
What has the church done?
It was the enemy of commerce -- of business. It denounced the taking of interest for money. Without taking interest for money, progress is impossible. The steamships, the great factories, the railroads have all been built with borrowed money, money on which interest was promised and for the most part paid.
The church was opposed to fire insurance -- to life insurance. It denounced insurance in any form as gambling, as immoral. To insure your life was to declare that you had no confidence in God -- that you relied on a corporation instead of divine providence. It was declared that God would provide for your widow and your fatherless children.
To insure your life was to insult heaven.
When a man has been "born again," all the passages of the Old Testament that appear so horrible and so unjust to one in his natural state, become the dearest, the most consoling, and the most beautiful of truths. The real Christian reads the accounts of these ancient battles with the greatest possible satisfaction. To one who really loves his enemies, the groans of men, the shrieks of women, and the cries of babes, make music sweeter than the zephyr's breath.
In the fifteenth century the following law was in force in England:
That whosoever reads the Scriptures in the mother tongue, shall forfeit land, cattle, life, and goods from their heirs forever, and so be condemned for heretics to God, enemies to the crown, and most arrant traitors to the land.
During the first year this law was in force thirty-nine were hanged for its violation and their bodies burned.
In the time of James the First, a man was executed for causing a storm at sea with the intention of drowning one of the royal family. How could he disprove it? How could he show that he did not cause the storm? All storms were at that time generally supposed to be caused by the devil -- the prince of the power of the air -- and by those whom he assisted.
I implore you to remember that the believers in such impossible things were the authors of our creeds and confessions of faith.
In New England, a woman was charged with being a witch, and with having changed herself into a fox. While in that condition she was attacked and bitten by some dogs. A committee of three men, by order of the court, examined this woman. They removed her clothing and searched for "witch spots." That is to say, spots into which needles could be thrust without giving her pain. They reported to the court that such spots were found. She denied, however, that she ever had changed herself into a fox. Upon the report of the committee she was found guilty and actually executed. This was done by our puritan fathers, by the gentlemen who braved the dangers of the deep for the sake of worshiping God and persecuting their fellowmen.
The condition of the world during the Dark Ages shows exactly the result of enslaving the bodies and souls of men. In those days there was no freedom. Labor was despised, and a laborer was considered but little above a beast. Ignorance, like a vast cowl, covered the brain of the world, and superstition ran riot with the imagination of man. The air was filled with angels, with demons and monsters. Credulity sat upon the throne of the soul, and Reason was an exiled king. A man to be distinguished must be a soldier or a monk. War and theology, that is to say, murder and hypocrisy, were the principal employments of man. Industry was a slave, theft was commerce, murder was war, hypocrisy was religion.
In 1208 the Inquisition was established. Seven years afterward, the Fourth Council of the Lateran enjoined all kings and rulers to swear an oath that they would exterminate heretics from their dominions. The sword of the church was unsheathed, and the world was at the mercy of ignorant and infuriated priests, whose eyes feasted upon the agonies they inflicted. Acting, as they believed, or pretended to believe, under the command of God; stimulated by the hope of infinite reward in another world -- hating heretics with every drop of their bestial blood; savage beyond description; merciless beyond conception, -- these infamous priests, in a kind of frenzied joy, leaped upon the helpless victims of their rage. They crushed their bones in iron boots; tore their quivering flesh with iron hooks and pincers; cut off their lips and eyelids; pulled out their nails, and into the bleeding quick thrust needles; tore out their tongues; extinguished their eyes; stretched them upon racks; flayed them alive; crucified them with their heads downward; exposed them to wild beasts; burned them at the stake; mocked their cries and groans; ravished their wives; robbed their children, and then prayed God to finish the holy work in hell.
The Inquisition was founded, not in the name of man, but in the name of God.
Religious persecution springs from a due admixture of love towards God and hatred towards man.
The highest crime against a creed is to change it. Reformation is treason.
Honest investigation is utterly impossible within the pale of any church, for the reason, that if you think the church is right you will not investigate, and if you think it wrong, the church will investigate you.
The church persecutes the living and her God burns the dead.
In the name of God every possible crime has been committed, every conceivable outrage has been perpetrated. Brave men, tender and loving women, beautiful girls, and prattling babes have been exterminated in the name of Jesus Christ. For more than fifty generations the church has carried the black flag. Her vengeance has been measured only by her power. During all these years of infamy no heretic has never been forgiven. With the heart of a fiend she has hated; with the clutch of avarice she has grasped; with the jaws of a dragon she has devoured; pitiless as famine, merciless as fire, with the conscience of a serpent: such is the history of the Church of God.
It was found that the penalty of death made little difference. Thieves and highwaymen, heretics and blasphemers, went on their way. It was then thought necessary to add to this penalty of death, and consequently, the convicted were tortured in every conceivable way before execution. They were broken on the wheel -- their joints dislocated on the rack. They were suspended by their legs and arms, while immense weights were placed upon their breasts. Their flesh was burned and torn with hot irons. They were roasted at slow fires. They were buried alive -- given to wild beasts -- molten lead was poured in their ears -- their eyelids were cut off and the wretches placed with their faces toward the sun -- others were securely bound, so that they could move neither hand nor foot, and over their stomachs were placed inverted bowls; under these bowls rats were confined; on top of the bowls were heaped coals of fire, so that the rats in their efforts to escape would gnaw into the bowels of the victims. They were staked out on the sands of the sea, to be drowned by the slowly rising tide -- and every means by which human nature can be overcome slowly, painfully and terribly, was conceived and carried into execution. And yet the number of so-called criminals increased.
I saw what they called the Collar of Torture. Imagine a circle of iron, and on the inside a hundred points almost as sharp as needles. This argument was fastened about the throat of the sufferer. Then he could not walk, nor sit down, nor stir without the neck being punctured by these points. In a little while the throat would begin to swell, and suffocation would end the agonies of that man. This man, it may be, had committed the crime of saying, with tears upon his cheeks, "I do not believe that God, the father of us all, will damn to eternal perdition any of the children of men."
I saw another instrument, called the Scavenger's Daughter. Think of a pair of shears with handles, not only where they now are, but at the points as well, and just above the pivot that unites the blades, a circle of iron. In the upper handles the hands would be placed; in the lower, the feet; and through the iron ring, at the centre, the head of the victim would be forced. In this condition, he would be thrown prone upon the earth, and the strain upon the muscles produced such agony that insanity would in pity end his pain.
This was done by gentlemen who said: "Whosoever smiteth thee upon one cheek turn to him the other also."
I saw the Rack. This was a box like the bed of a wagon, with a windlass at each end, with levers, and ratchets to prevent slipping; over each windlass went chains; some were fastened to the ankles of the sufferer; others to his wrists. And then priests, clergymen, divines, saints, began turning these windlasses and kept turning, until the ankles, the knees, the hips, the shoulders, the elbows, the wrists of the victim were all dislocated, and the sufferer was wet with the sweat of agony. And they had standing by a physician to feel his pulse. What for? To save his life? Yes. In mercy? No; simply that they might rack him once again.
This was done, remember, in the name of civilization; in the name of law and order; in the name of mercy; in the name of religion; in the name of the most merciful Christ.
Sometimes, when I read and think about these frightful things, it seems to me that I have suffered all these horrors myself. It seems sometimes, as though I had stood upon the shore of exile and gazed with tearful eyes toward home and native land; as though my nails had been torn from my hands, and into the bleeding quick needles had been thrust; as though my feet had been crushed in iron boots; as though I had been chained in the cell of the Inquisition and listened with dying ears for the coming footsteps of release; as though I had stood upon the scaffold and had seen the glittering axe fall upon me; as though I had been upon the rack and had seen, bending above me, the white faces of hypocrite priests; as though I had been from my fireside, from my wife and children, taken to the public square, chained; as though fagots had been piled about me; as though the flames had climbed around my limbs and scorched my eyes to blindness, and as though my ashes had been scattered to the four winds, by all the countless hands of hate. And when I so feel, I swear that while I live I will do what little I can to preserve and to augment the liberties of man, woman, and child.
In 1553 a man was tried at Vienne by the Catholic church for heresy. He was convicted and sentenced to death by burning. It was apparently his good fortune to escape. Pursued by the sleuth hounds of intolerance he fled to Geneva for protection. A dove flying from hawks, sought safety in the nest of a vulture. This fugitive from the cruelty of Rome asked shelter from John Calvin, who had written a book in favor of religious toleration. Servetus had forgotten that this book was written by Calvin when in the minority; that it was written in weakness to be forgotten in power; that it was produced by fear instead of principle. He did not know that Calvin had caused his arrest at Vienne, in France, and had sent a copy of his work, which was claimed to be blasphemous, to the archbishop. He did not then know that the Protestant Calvin was acting as one of the detectives of the Catholic church, and had been instrumental in procuring his conviction for heresy. Ignorant of all this unspeakable infamy, he put himself in the power of this very Calvin. The maker of the Presbyterian creed caused the fugitive Servetus to be arrested for blasphemy. He was tried. Calvin was his accuser. He was convicted and condemned to death by fire. On the morning of the fatal day, Calvin saw him, and Servetus, the victim, asked forgiveness of Calvin, the murderer. Servetus was bound to the stake, and the fagots were lighted. The wind carried the flames somewhat away from his body, so that he slowly roasted for hours. Vainly he implored a speedy death. At last the flames climbed round his form; through smoke and fire his murderers saw a white heroic face. And there they watched until a man became a charred and shriveled mass.
Liberty was banished from Geneva, and nothing but Presbyterianism was left. Honor, justice, mercy, reason and charity were all exiled, but the five points of predestination, particular redemption, irresistible grace, total depravity, and the certain perseverance of the saints remained instead.
Calvin founded a little theocracy, modeled after the Old Testament, and succeeded in erecting the most detestable government that ever existed, except the one from which it was copied.
Against all this intolerance, one man, a minister, raised his voice. The name of this man should never be forgotten. It was Castalio. This brave man had the goodness and the courage to declare the innocence of honest error. He was the first of the so-called reformers to take this noble ground. I wish I had the genius to pay a fitting tribute to his memory. Perhaps it would be impossible to pay him a grander compliment than to say, Castalio was in all things the opposite of Calvin. To plead for the right of individual judgment was considered a crime, and Castalio was driven from Geneva by John Calvin. By him he was denounced as a child of the devil, as a dog of Satan, as a beast from hell, and as one who, by this horrid blasphemy of the innocence of honest error, crucified Christ afresh, and by him he was pursued until rescued by the hand of death.
Upon the name of Castalio, Calvin heaped every epithet, until his malice was nearly satisfied and his imagination entirely exhausted. It is impossible to conceive how human nature can become so frightfully perverted as to pursue a fellowmen with the malignity of a fiend, simply because he is good) just, and generous.
[John] Calvin was of a pallid, bloodless complexion, thin, sickly, irritable, gloomy, impatient, egotistic, tyrannical, heartless, and infamous. He was a strange compound of revengeful morality, malicious forgiveness, ferocious charity, egotistic humility, and a kind of hellish justice. In other words, he was as near like the God of the Old Testament as his health permitted.
The best thing, however, about the Presbyterians of Geneva was, that they denied the power of the Pope, and the best thing about the Pope was, that he was not a Presbyterian.
The church has always abhorred wit, -- that is to say, it does not enjoy being struck by the lightning of the soul. The foundation of wit is logic, and it has always been the enemy of the supernatural, the solemn and absurd.
I read the other day an account of a meeting between John Knox and John Calvin. Imagine a dialogue between a pestilence and a famine! Imagine a conversation between a block and an ax! As I read their conversation it seemed to me as though John Knox and John Calvin were made for each other; that they fitted each other like the upper and lower jaws of a wild beast. They believed happiness was a crime; they looked upon laughter as blasphemy; and they did all they could to destroy every human feeling, and to fill the mind with the infinite gloom of predestination and eternal death. They taught the doctrine that God had a right to damn us because he made us. That is just the reason that he has not a right to damn us. There is some dust. Unconscious dust! What right has God to change that unconscious dust into a human being, when he knows that human being will sin; when he knows that human being will suffer eternal agony? Why not leave him in the unconscious dust? What right has an infinite God to add to the sum of human agony?
No church has done more to fill the world with gloom than the Presbyterian. Its creed is frightful, hideous, and hellish. The Presbyterian God is the monster of monsters. He is an eternal executioner, jailer and turnkey. He will enjoy forever the shrieks of the lost, -- the wails of the damned.
Hell is the festival of the Presbyterian god.
I have kindness and candor enough to say that Calvin and Edwards were both insane.
But, in spite of all, a few men began to think. They became interested in the affairs of this world -- in the great panorama of nature. They began to seek for causes, for the explanations of phenomena. They were not satisfied with the assertions of the church. These thinkers withdrew their gaze from the skies and looked at their own surroundings. They were unspiritual enough to desire comfort here. They became sensible and secular, worldly and wise.
What was the result? They began to invent, to discover, to find the relation between facts, the conditions of happiness and the means that would increase the well-being of their fellowmen.
Movable types were invented, paper was borrowed from the Moors, books appeared, and it became possible to save the intellectual wealth so that each generation could hand it to the next. History began to take the place of legend and rumor. The telescope was invented. The orbits of the stars were traced, and men became citizens of the universe. The steam engine was constructed, and now steam, the great slave, does the work of hundreds of millions of men. The Black Art, the impossible, was abandoned, and chemistry, the useful, took its place. Astrology became astronomy. Kepler discovered the three great laws, one of the greatest triumphs of human genius, and our constellation became a poem, a symphony. Newton gave us the mathematical expression of the attraction of gravitation. Harvey discovered the circulation of the blood. He gave us the fact, and Draper gave us the reason. Steamships conquered the seas and railways covered the land. Houses and streets were lighted with gas. Through the invention of matches fire became the companion of man. The art of photography became known; the sun became an artist. Telegraphs and cables were invented. The lightning became a carrier of thought, and the nations became neighbors. Anæsthetics were discovered and pain was lost in sleep. Surgery became a science. The telephone was invented -- the telephone that carries and deposits in listening ears the waves of words. The phonograph, that catches and retains in marks and dots and gives again the echoes of our speech.
Then came electric light that fills the night with day, and all the wonderful machines that use the subtle force -- the same force that leaps from the summer cloud to ravage and destroy.
The Spectrum Analysis that tells us of the substance of the sun; the Röntgen rays that change the opaque to the transparent. The great thinkers demonstrated the indestructibility of force and matter -- demonstrated that the indestructible could not have been created. The geologist, in rocks and deposits and mountains and continents, read a little of the story of the world -- of its changes, of the glacial epoch -- the story of vegetable and animal life.
The biologists, through the fossil forms of life, established the antiquity of man and demonstrated the worthlessness of Holy Writ. Then came evolution, the survival of the fittest and natural selection. Thousands of mysteries were explained and science wrested the sceptre from superstition. The cell theory was advanced, and embryology was studied; the microscope discovered germs of disease and taught us how to stay the plague. These great theories and discoveries, together with countless inventions, are the children of intellectual liberty.
The world has really been civilized by discoveries -- by thinkers. The man who invented powder, and by that means released hundreds of thousands of men from the occupations of war, did more for mankind than religion. The inventor of paper -- and he was not a Christian -- did more than all the early fathers for mankind. The inventors of plows, of sickles, of cradles, of reapers; the inventors of wagons, coaches, locomotives; the inventors of skiffs, sail-vessels, steamships; the men who have made looms -- in short, the inventors of all useful things -- they are the civilizers taken in connection with the great thinkers, the poets, the musicians, the actors, the painters, the sculptors. The men who have invented the useful, and the men who have made the useful beautiful, are the real civilizers of mankind.
The moment science succeeds in rendering the church powerless for evil, the real thinkers will be outspoken. The little flags of truce carried by timid philosophers will disappear, and the cowardly parley will give place to victory -- lasting and universal.
The truth is that the church has always -- unconsciously, perhaps -- offered rewards for falsehood. It was founded upon the supernatural, the miraculous, and it welcomed all statements calculated to support the foundation. It rewarded the traveller who found evidences of the miraculous, who had seen the pillar of salt into which the wife of Lot had been changed, and the tracks of Pharaoh's chariots on the sands of the Red Sea. It heaped honors on the historian who filled his pages with the absurd and impossible. It had geologists and astronomers of its own who constructed the earth and the constellations in accordance with the Bible. With sword and flame it destroyed the brave and thoughtful men who told the truth. It was the enemy of investigation and of reason. Faith and fiction were in partnership.
To-day the intelligence of the world denies the miraculous. Ignorance is the soil of the supernatural. The foundation of Christianity has crumbled, has disappeared, and the entire fabric must fall. The natural is true. The miraculous is false.
Is it not a little curious that no priest of one religion has ever been able to astonish a priest of another religion by telling a miracle? Our missionaries tell the Hindoos the miracles of the Bible, and the Hindoo priests, without the movement of a muscle, hear them and then recite theirs, and theirs do not astonish our missionaries in the least! Is it not a little curious that the priests of one religion never believe the priests of another? Is it not a little strange that the believers in sacred books regard all except their own as having been made by hypocrites and fools?
Some tell us that it is the desire of God that we should worship him. What for? Why does he desire worship? Others tell us that we should sacrifice something to him. What for? Is he in want? Can we assist him? Is he unhappy? Is he in trouble? Does he need human sympathy? We cannot assist the Infinite, but we can assist our fellow-men. We can feed the hungry and clothe the naked, and enlighten the ignorant, and we can help, in some degree at least, toward covering this world with the mantle of joy.
I do not believe there is any being in this universe who gives rain for praise, who gives sunshine for prayer, or who blesses a man simply because he kneels.
The Infinite cannot receive praise or worship.
The Infinite can neither hear nor answer prayer.
An infinite personality is an infinite impossibility.
During that frightful period known as the "Dark Ages," Faith reigned, with scarcely a rebellious subject. Her temples were "carpeted with knees," and the wealth of nations adorned her countless shrines. The great painters prostituted their genius to immortalize her vagaries, while the poets enshrined them in song. At her bidding, man covered the earth with blood. The scales of Justice were turned with her gold, and for her use were invented all the cunning instruments of pain. She built cathedrals for God, and dungeons for men. She peopled the clouds with angels and the earth with slaves. For centuries the world was retracing its steps -- going steadily back toward barbaric night! A few infidels -- a few heretics cried, "Halt!" to the great rabble of ignorant devotion, and made it possible for the genius of the nineteenth century to revolutionize cruel creeds and superstitions of mankind.
Fear paralyzes the brain. Progress is born of courage. Fear believes -- courage doubts. Fear falls upon the earth and prays -- courage stands erect and thinks. Fear retreats -- courage advances. Fear is barbarism -- courage is civilization. Fear believes in witchcraft, in devils and in ghosts. Fear is religion -- courage is science.
Through all the years, those who plowed divided with those who prayed. Wicked industry supported pious idleness, the hut gave to the cathedral, and frightened poverty gave even its rags to buy a robe for hypocrisy.
Fear is the dungeon of the mind, and superstition is a dagger with which hypocrisy assassinates the soul. Courage is liberty. I am in favor of absolute freedom of thought. In the realm of mind every one is monarch; every one is robed, sceptered, and crowned, and every one wears the purple of authority. I belong to the republic of intellectual liberty, and only those are good citizens of that republic who depend upon reason and upon persuasion, and only those are traitors who resort to brute force.
The thoughts of man, in order to be of any real worth, must be free. Under the influence of fear the brain is paralyzed.
As long as every question is answered by the word "God," scientific inquiry is simply impossible.
The fear of punishment may deter some, the fear of exposure others; but there is no real reforming power in fear or punishment. Men cannot be tortured into greatness, into goodness.
Through the web and woof of human legislation began to run and shine and glitter the golden thread of justice.
During these years of darkness it was believed that rather than see an act of injustice done; rather than see the innocent suffer; rather than see the guilty triumph, some ghost would interfere. This belief, as a rule, gave great satisfaction to the victorious party, and as the other man was dead, no complaint was heard from him.
Orthodoxy dies hard, and its defenders tell us that this fact shows that it is of divine origin. Judaism dies hard. It has lived several thousand years longer than Christianity. The religion of Mohammed dies hard.
Buddhism dies hard. Why do all these religions die hard? Because intelligence increases slowly.
Let me whisper in the ear of the Protestant: Catholicism dies hard. What does that prove? It proves that the people are ignorant and that the priests are cunning.
Let me whisper in the ear of the Catholic: Protestantism dies hard. What does that prove? It proves that the people are superstitious and the preachers stupid.
Let me whisper in all your ears: Infidelity is not dying -- it is growing -- it increases every day. And what does that prove? It proves that the people are learning more and more -- that they are advancing -- that the mind is getting free, and that the race is being civilized.
The clergy know that I know that they know that they do not know.
Only a few years ago a man had to believe in the total depravity of the human heart in order to be respectable. Only a few years ago, people who thought God too good to punish in eternal flames an unbaptized child were considered infamous.
Where there was one infidel twenty-five years ago, there are one hundred now. I can remember when I would be the only infidel in the town. Now I meet them thick as autumn leaves; they are everywhere. In all the professions, trades, and employments, the orthodox creeds are despised. They are not simply disbelieved; they are execrated. They are regarded, not with indifference, but with passionate hatred. Thousands and hundreds of thousands of mechanics in this country abhor orthodox Christianity. Millions of educated men hold in immeasurable contempt the doctrine of eternal punishment. The doctrine of atonement is regarded as absurd by millions. So with the dogma of imputed guilt, vicarious virtue, and vicarious vice.
Is it a small thing to quench the flames of hell with the holy tears of pity -- to unbind the martyr from the stake -- break all the chains -- put out the fires of civil war -- stay the sword of the fanatic, and tear the bloody hands of the Church from the white throat of Science?
Is it a small thing to make men truly free -- to destroy the dogmas of ignorance, prejudice and power -- the poisoned fables of superstition, and drive from the beautiful face of the earth the fiend of fear?
Take from the orthodox church of to-day the threat and fear of hell, and it becomes an extinct volcano.
Take from the church the miraculous, the supernatural, the incomprehensible, the unreasonable, the impossible, the unknowable, and the absurd, and nothing but a vacuum remains.
Notwithstanding all the infamous things justly laid to the charge of the church, we are told that the civilization of to-day is the child of what we are pleased to call the superstition of the past.
Religion has not civilized man -- man has civilized religion. God improves as man advances.
There was a time when the curse of the church whitened the face of a race, but now its anathema is the food of laughter.
Creeds cannot remain permanent in a world in which knowledge increases. Science and superstition cannot peaceably occupy the same brain. This is an age of investigation, of discovery and thought. Science destroys the dogmas that mislead the mind and waste the energies of man. It points out the ends that can be accomplished; takes into consideration the limits of our faculties; fixes our attention on the affairs of this world, and erects beacons of warning on the dangerous shores. It seeks to ascertain the conditions of health, to the end that life may be enriched and lengthened.
Science is the enemy of fear and credulity. It invites investigation, challenges the reason, stimulates inquiry, and welcomes the unbeliever. It seeks to give food and shelter, and raiment, education and liberty to the human race. It welcomes every fact and every truth. It has furnished a foundation of morals, a philosophy for the guidance of man. From all books it selects the good, and from all theories, the true. It seeks to civilize the human race by the cultivation of the intellect and heart. It refines, through art, music and the drama -- giving voice and expression to every noble thought. The mysterious does not excite the feeling of worship, but the ambition to understand. It does not pray -- it works. It does not answer inquiry with the malicious cry of "blasphemy." Its feelings are not hurt by contradiction, neither does it ask to be protected by law from the laughter of heretics. It has taught man that he cannot walk beyond the horizon -- that the questions of origin and destiny cannot be answered -- they an infinite personality cannot be comprehended by a finite being, and that the truth of any system of religion based on the supernatural cannot by any possibility be established -- such a religion not being within the domain of evidence. And, above all, it teaches that all our duties are here -- that all our obligations are to sentient beings; that intelligence, guided by kindness, is the highest possible wisdom; and that "man believes not what he would, but what he can."
When the church had power, hypocrisy was crowned and honesty imprisoned. Fraud wore the tiara and truth was a convict. Liberty was in chains, Theology has always sent the worst to heaven, the best to hell.
The church has always been willing to swap off treasures in heaven for cash down.
Ministers say that they teach charity. This is natural. They live on alms. All beggars teach that others should give.
Religion supports nobody. It has to be supported. It produces no wheat, no corn; it ploughs no land; it fells no forests. It is a perpetual mendicant. It lives on the labor of others, and then has the arrogance to pretend that it supports the giver.
The church has no right to speak of charity, because it is an object of charity itself. It gives nothing; all it can do is to receive. At best, it is only a respectable beggar.
Whoever steps between a priest and his salary, will find that he has committed every crime.
Whenever the church cannot answer the arguments of an opponent, she attacks his character. She resorts to falsehood, and in the domain of calumny she has stood for fifteen hundred years without a rival.
Give the church a place in the Constitution, let her touch once more the sword of power, and the priceless fruit of all the ages will turn to ashes on the lips of men.
I will not say the church has been an unmitigated evil in all respects. Its history is infamous and glorious. It has delighted in the production of extremes. It has furnished murderers for its own martyrs. It has sometimes fed the body, but has always starved the soul. It has been a charitable highwayman -- a profligate begger -- a generous pirate. It has produced some angels and a multitude of devils. It has built more prisons than asylums. It made a hundred orphans while it cared for one. In one hand it has carried the alms dish and in the other a sword. It has founded schools and endowed universities for the purpose of destroying true learning. It filled the world with hypocrites and zealots, and upon the cross of its own Christ it crucified the individuality of man. It has sought to destroy the independence of the soul and put the world upon its knees. This is its crime. The commission of this crime was necessary to its existence. In order to compel obedience it declared that it had the truth, and all the truth; that God had made it the keeper of his secrets; his agent and his viceregent. It declared that all other religions were false and infamous. It rendered all compromise impossible and all thought superfluous. Thought was its enemy, obedience was its friend. Investigation was fraught with danger; therefore investigation was suppressed. The holy of holies was behind the curtain. All this was upon the principle that forgers hate to have the signature examined by an expert, and that imposture detests curiosity.
After reading the history of the world, it is somewhat difficult to find which side the Lord is really on. He has allowed Catholics to overwhelm and destroy Protestants, and then he has allowed Protestants to overwhelm and destroy Catholics. He has allowed Christianity to triumph over Paganism, and he allowed Mohammedans to drive back the hosts of the cross from the sepulchre of his son. It is curious that this God would allow the slave trade to go on, and yet punish the violators of the Sabbath. It is simply wonderful that he would allow kings to wage cruel and remorseless war, to sacrifice millions upon the altar of heartless ambition, and at the same time strike a man dead for taking his name in vain. It is wonderful that he ... cares nothing for the innocent languishing in prisons, nothing for the patriots condemned to death, nothing for the heart-broken widows and orphans, nothing for the starving, and yet has ample time to note a sparrow's fall. If he would only strike dead the would-be murderers; if he would only palsy the hands of husbands uplifted to strike their wives; if he would render speechless the cursers of children, he could afford to overlook the swearers and breakers of his Sabbath.
For one, I am not satisfied with the government of this world, and I am going to do what little I can to make it better. I want more thought and less fear, more manhood and less superstition, less prayer and more help, more education, more reason, more intellectual hospitality, and above all, and over all, more liberty and kindness.
God created man, and that man is totally depraved. It has always seemed to me that an infinite being has no right to make imperfect things. I may be mistaken; but this is the only planet I have ever been on; I live in what might be called one of the rural districts of this universe.
For my part, I have infinitely more confidence in the discoveries of to-day, than in the records of a barbarous people. It will not now do to say that man has existed upon this earth for only about six thousand years. One can hardly compute in his imagination the time necessary for man to emerge from the barbarous state, naked and helpless, surrounded by animals far more powerful than he, to progress and finally create the civilizations of India, Egypt and Athens. The distance from savagery to Shakespeare must be measured not by hundreds, but by millions of years.
Every religion has for its foundation a miracle -- that is to say, a violation of nature -- that is to say, a falsehood.
No one, in the world's whole history, every attempted to substantiate a truth by a miracle. Truth scorns the assistance of a miracle. Nothing but falsehood ever attested itself by signs and wonders. No miracle ever was performed, and no sane man ever thought he had performed one, and until one is performed, there can be no evidence of the existence of any power superior to, and independent of, nature.
We have heard talk enough. We have listened to all the drowsy, idealess, vapid sermons that we wish to hear. We have read your Bible and the works of your best minds. We have heard your prayers, your solemn groans and your reverential amens. All these amount to less than nothing. We want one fact. We beg at the doors of your churches for just one little fact. We pass our hats along your pews and under your pulpits and implore you for just one fact. We know all about your mouldy wonders and your stale miracles. We want a This year's fact. We ask only one. Give us one fact for charity. Your miracles are too ancient. The witnesses have been dead for nearly two thousand years.
We demand a new miracle, and we demand it now. Let the church furnish at least one, or forever after hold her peace.
Christianity has been thoroughly tried, and it is a failure.
Down, forever down, with any religion that requires upon its ignorant altar the sacrifice of the goddess Reason, that compels her to abdicate forever the shining throne of the soul, strips from her form the imperial purple, snatches from her hand the sceptre of thought and makes her the bond-woman of a senseless faith!
The church used painting, music and architecture, simply to degrade mankind. But there are men that nothing can awe. There have been at all times brave spirits who dared even the gods. Some proud head has always been above the waves. In every age some Diogenes has sacrificed to all the gods. True genius never cowers, and there is always some Samson feeling for the pillars of authority.
Cathedrals and domes, and chimes and chants -- temples frescoed and groined and carved, and gilded with gold -- altars and tapers, and paintings of virgin and babe -- censer and chalice -- chasuble, paten and alb -- organs, and anthems and incense rising to the winged and blest -- maniple, amice, and stole -- crosses and crosiers, tiaras and crowns -- mitres and missals and masses -- rosaries, relics and robes -- martyrs and saints, and windows stained as with the blood of Christ -- never, never for one moment awed the brave, proud spirit of the Infidel. He knew that all the pomp and glitter had been purchased with Liberty -- that priceless jewel of the soul. In looking at the cathedral he remembered the dungeon. The music of the organ was not loud enough to drown the clank of fetters. He could not forget that the taper had lighted the fagot. He knew that the cross adorned the hilt of the sword, and so where others worshiped, he wept and scorned.
The doubter, the investigator, the Infidel, have been the saviors of liberty. This truth is beginning to be realized, and the truly intellectual are honoring the brave thinkers of the past.
But the church is as unforgiving as ever, and still wonders why any Infidel would be wicked enough to endeavor to destroy her power.
I will tell the church why.
You have imprisoned the human mind; you have been the enemy of liberty; you have burned us at the stake -- wasted us upon slow fires -- torn our flesh with iron; you have covered us with chains -- treated us as outcasts; you have filled the world with fear; you have taken our wives and children from our arms; you have confiscated our property; you have denied us the right to testify in courts of justice; you have branded us with infamy; you have torn out our tongues; you have refused us burial. In the name of your religion, you have robbed us of every right; and after having inflicted upon us every evil that can be inflicted in this world, you have fallen upon your knees, and with clasped hands implored your God to torment us forever.
Can you wonder that we hate your doctrines -- that we despise your creeds -- that we feel proud to know that we are beyond your power -- that we are free in spite of you -- that we can express our honest thought, and that the whole world is grandly rising into the blessed light?
Can you wonder that we point with pride to the fact that Infidelity has ever been found battling for the rights of man, for the liberty of conscience, and for the happiness of all?
Can you wonder that we are proud to know that we have always been disciples of Reason, and soldiers of Freedom; that we have denounced tyranny and superstition, and have kept our hands unstained with human blood?
We deny that religion is the end or object of this life. When it is so considered it becomes destructive of happiness -- the real end of life. It becomes a hydra-headed monster, reaching in terrible coils from the heavens, and thrusting its thousand fangs into the bleeding, quivering hearts of men. It devours their substance, builds palaces for God, (who dwells not in temples made with hands,) and allows his children to die in huts and hovels. It fills the earth with mourning, heaven with hatred, the present with fear, and all the future with despair.
Virtue is a subordination of the passions to the intellect. It is to act in accordance with your highest convictions. It does not consist in believing, but in doing. This is the sublime truth that the Infidels in all ages have uttered. They have handed the torch from one to the other through all the years that have fled. Upon the altar of Reason they have kept the sacred fire, and through the long midnight of faith they fed the divine flame.
Infidelity is liberty; all religion is slavery. In every creed man is the slave of God -- woman the slave of man and the sweet children are the slaves of all.
We do not want creeds; we want knowledge -- we want happiness.
And yet we are told by the church that we have accomplished nothing; that we are simply destroyers; that we tear down without building again.
Is it nothing to free the mind? Is it nothing to civilize mankind? Is it nothing to fill the world with light, with discovery, with science? Is it nothing to dignify man and exalt the intellect? Is it nothing to grope your way into the dreary prisons, the damp and dropping dungeons, the dark and silent cells of superstition, where the souls of men are chained to floors of stone; to greet them like a ray of light, like the song of a bird, the murmur of a stream; to see the dull eyes open and grow slowly bright; to feel yourself grasped by the shrunken and unused hands, and hear i yourself thanked by a strange and hollow voice?
Is it nothing to conduct these souls gradually into the blessed light of day -- to let them see again the happy fields, the sweet, green earth, and hear the everlasting music of the waves? Is it nothing to make men wipe the dust from their swollen knees, the tears from their blanched and furrowed cheeks? Is it a small thing to reave the heavens of an insatiate monster and write upon the eternal dome, glittering with stars, the grand word -- Freedom?
There has never been upon the earth a generation of free men and women. It is not yet time to write a creed. Wait until the chains are broken -- until dungeons are not regarded as temples. Wait until solemnity is not mistaken for wisdom -- until mental cowardice ceases to be known as reverence. Wait until the living are considered the equals of the dead -- until the cradle takes precedence of the coffin. Wait until what we know can be spoken without regard to what others may believe. Wait until teachers take the place of preachers -- until followers become investigators. Wait until the world is free before you write a creed --
Education is the most radical thing in the world.
To teach the alphabet is to inaugurate a revolution.
To build a schoolhouse is to construct a fort.
Every library is an arsenal filled with the weapons and ammunition of Progress, and every fact is a monitor with sides of iron and a turret of steel.
Nothing is greater, nothing is of more importance, than to find amid the errors and darkness of this life, a shining truth.
The man who finds a truth lights a torch.
When he who has given the world a truth passes from the earth, the truth is left. A truth dies only when forgotten by the human race. Justice, love, mercy, forgiveness, honor, all the virtues that ever blossomed in the human heart, were known and practiced for uncounted ages before the birth of Christ.
This, in my judgment, is real religion. To do all the good you can is to be a saint in the highest and in the noblest sense. To do all the good you can; this is to be really and truly spiritual. To relieve suffering, to put the star of hope in the midnight of despair, this is true holiness. This is the religion of science. The old creeds are too narrow, they are not for the world in which we live. The old dogmas lack breadth and tenderness; they are too cruel, too merciless, too savage. We are growing grander and nobler.
The firmament inlaid with suns is the dome of the real cathedral. The interpreters of nature are the true and only priests. In the great creed are all the truths that lips have uttered, and in the real litany will be found all the ecstacies and aspirations of the soul, all dreams of joy, all hopes for nobler, fuller life. The real church, the real edifice, is adorned and glorified with all that Art has done. In the real choir is all the thrilling music of the world, and in the star-lit aisles have been, and are, the grandest souls of every land and clime.
"There is no darkness but ignorance."
Let us flood the world with intellectual light.
When every church becomes a school, every cathedral a university, every clergyman a teacher, and all their hearers brave and honest thinkers, then, and not until then, will the dream of poet, patriot, philanthropist and philosopher, become a real and blessed truth.
We are standing on the shore of an infinite ocean whose countless waves, freighted with blessings, are welcoming our adventurous feet. Progress has been written on every soul. The human race is advancing.
Forward, oh sublime army of progress, forward until law is justice, forward until ignorance is unknown, forward while there is a spiritual or temporal throne, forward until superstition is a forgotten dream, forward until the world is free, forward until human reason, clothed in the purple of authority, is king of kings.
Return to:The Spiritual Duality of the Bible
Return to the writings of Wayne Lamar Harrington
Return to:HARRINGTON SITES
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.