Ingersoll the Magnificent
by Joseph Lewis
Gems Concerning Christianity
One great objection to the Old Testament is the cruelty said to have been commanded by God. All these cruelties ceased with death. The vengeance of Jehovah stopped at the tomb. He never threatened to punish the dead; and there is not one word, from the first mistake in Genesis to the last curse of Malachi, containing the slightest intimation that God will take his revenge in another world. It was reserved for the New Testament to make known the doctrine of eternal pain. The teacher of universal benevolence rent the veil between time and eternity, and fixed the horrified gaze of man upon the lurid gulf of hell. Within the breast of non-resistance coiled the worm that never dies. Compared with this, the doctrine of slavery, the wars of extermination, the curses, the punishments of the Old Testament were all merciful and just.
The Old Testament filled this world with tyranny and injustice, and the New gives us a future filled with pain for nearly all of the sons of men.
The Old Testament describes the hell of the past, and the New the hell of the future.
The Old Testament tells us the frightful things that God has done, the New the frightful things that he will do.
These two books give us the sufferings of the past and the future -- the injustice, the agony and the tears of both worlds.
Take this Old Testament, then, with all its stories of murder and massacre; with all its foolish and cruel fables; with all its infamous doctrines; with its spirit of caste; with its spirit of hatred, and tell me whether it was written by a good God. If you will read the maledictions and curses of that book, you will think that God, like Lear, had divided heaven among his daughters, and then, in the insanity of despair, had launched his curses on the human race.
And yet, I must say -- I must admit -- that the Old Testament is better than the New. In the Old Testament, when God had a man dead, he let him alone. When he saw him quietly in his grave he was satisfied. The muscles relaxed, and the frown gave place to a smile. But in the New Testament the trouble commences at death. In the New Testament God is to wreak his revenge forever and ever. It was reserved for one who said, "Love your enemies," to tear asunder the veil between time and eternity and fix the horrified gaze of man upon the gulfs of eternal fire. The New Testament is just as much worse than the Old, as hell is worse than sleep; just as much worse, as infinite cruelty is worse than dreamless rest; and yet, the New Testament is claimed to be a gospel of love and peace.
We have, I say, a Christian system, and that system is founded upon what they are pleased to call the "New Testament." Who wrote the New Testament? I do not know. Who does know? Nobody. We have found many manuscripts containing portions of the New Testament. Some of these manuscripts leave out five or six books -- many of them. Others more; others less. No two of these manuscripts agree. Nobody knows who wrote these manuscripts. They are all written in Greek. The disciples of Christ, so far as we know, knew only Hebrew. Nobody ever saw, so far as we know, one of the original Hebrew manuscripts.
You must remember, also, one other thing. Christ never wrote a solitary word of the New Testament -- not one word. There is an account that he once stooped and wrote something in the sand, but that has not been preserved. He never told anybody to write a word. He never said: "Matthew, remember this. Mark, do not forget to put that down. Luke, be sure that in your gospel you have this. John, do not forget it." Not one word. And it has always seemed to me that a being coming from another world, with a message of infinite importance to mankind, should at least have verified that message by his own signature. Is it not wonderful that not one word was written by Christ? Is it not strange that he gave no order to have his words preserved -- words upon which hung the salvation of a world?
This Testament, as it now is, was not written for hundreds of years after the apostles were dust. Many of the pretended facts lived in the open mouth of credulity. They were in the wastebaskets of forgetfulness. They depended upon the inaccuracy of legend, and for centuries these doctrines and stories were blown about by the inconstant winds. And when reduced to writing, some gentleman would write by the side of the passage his idea of it, and the next copyist would put that in as a part of the text. And, when it was mostly written, and the church got into trouble, and wanted a passage to help it out, one was interpolated to order.
Here in our own country, only a few years ago, men claimed to have found golden plates upon which was written a revelation from God. They founded a new religion and, according to their statement, did many miracles. They were treated as outcasts, and their leader was murdered. These men made their "depositions" "in the immediate prospect of death." They were mobbed, persecuted, derided, and yet they insisted that their prophet had miraculous power and that he, too, could swing back the hingeless door of death. The followers of these men have increased, in these few years, so that now the murdered prophet has at least two hundred thousand disciples [Now over two million!] It will be hard to find a contradiction of these pretended miracles, although this is an age filled with papers, magazines, and books. As a matter of fact, the claims of Joseph Smith were so preposterous that sensible people did not take the pains to write and print denials. When we remember that eighteen hundred years ago there were but few people who could write, and that a manuscript did not become public in any modern sense, it was possible for the gospels to have been written with all the foolish claims in reference to miracles without exciting comment or denial. There is not, in all the contemporaneous literature of the world, a single word about Christ or his apostles. The paragraph in Josephus is admitted to be an interpolation, and the letters, the account of the trial, and several other documents forged by the zeal of the early fathers, are now admitted to be false.
In the estimation of good orthodox Christians I am a criminal, because I am trying to take from loving mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, and lovers the consolations naturally arising from a belief in an eternity of grief and pain. I want to tear, break and scatter to the winds the God that priests erected in the fields of innocent pleasure -- a God made of sticks called creeds, and of old clothes called myths. I shall endeavor to take from the coffin its horror, from the cradle its curse, and put out the fires of revenge kindled by an infinite fiend.
Is it necessary that Heaven should borrow its light from the glare of Hell?
Infinite punishment is infinite cruelty, endless injustice, immortal meanness. To worship an eternal gaoler hardens, debases, and pollutes even the vilest soul. While there is one sad and breaking heart in the universe, no good being can be perfectly happy.
Against the heartlessness of the Christian religion every grand and tender soul should enter solemn protest. The God of Hell should be held in loathing, contempt and scorn. A God who threatens eternal pain should be hated, not loved -- cursed, not worshiped. A heaven presided over by such a God must be below the lowest hell. I want no part in any heaven in which the saved, the ransomed and redeemed will drown with shouts of joy the cries and sobs of hell -- in which happiness will forget misery, where the tears of the lost only increase laughter and double bliss.
The idea of hell was born of ignorance, brutality, fear cowardice, and revenge. This idea testifies that our remote ancestors were the lowest beasts. Only from dens, lairs, and caves, only from mouths filled with cruel fangs, only from hearts of fear and hatred, only from the conscience of hunger and lust, only from the lowest and most debased could come this cruel, heartless and bestial of all dogmas.
I would not for my life destroy one star of human hope, but I want it so that when a poor woman rocks the cradle and sings a lullaby to the dimpled darling, she will not be compelled to believe that ninety-nine chances in a hundred she is raising kindling wood for hell.
I would not for anything blot out the faintest star that shines in the horizon of human despair, nor in the sky of human hope; but I will do what I can to get that infinite shadow out of the heart of man.
This frightful declaration, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned," has filled the world with agony and crime. Every letter of this passage has been sword and fagot; every word has been dungeon and chain. That passage made the sword of persecution drip with innocent blood through centuries of agony and crime. That passage made the horizon of a thousand years lurid with the fagot's flames.
So far as I am concerned, I most cheerfully admit that most Christians are honest, most ministers sincere. We do not attack them; we attack their creed. We accord to them the same rights that we ask for ourselves. We believe that their doctrines are hurtful. We believe that the frightful text, "He that believes shall be saved and he that believeth not shall be damned," has covered the earth with blood. It has filled the heart with arrogance, cruelty, and murder. It has caused the religious wars; bound hundreds of thousands to the stake; founded inquisitions; filled dungeons; invented instruments of torture; taught the mother to hate her child; imprisoned the mind; filled the world with ignorance; persecuted the lovers of wisdom; built the monasteries and convents; made happiness a crime, investigation a sin, and self-reliance a blasphemy. It has poisoned the springs of learning; misdirected the energies of the world; filled all countries with want; housed the people in hovels; fed them with famine; and but for the efforts of a few brave Infidels it would have taken the world back to the midnight of barbarism, and left the heavens without a star.
Is it necessary to understand Hebrew in order to know that cruelty is not a virtue, that murder is inconsistent with infinite goodness, and that eternal punishment can be inflicted upon man only by an eternal fiend? Is it really essential to conjugate the Greek verbs before you can make up your mind as to the probability of dead people getting out of their graves? Must one be versed in Latin before he is entitled to express his opinion as to the genuineness of a pretended revelation from God? Common sense belongs exclusively to no tongue. Logic is not confined to, nor has it been buried with, the dead languages.
The Emperor Constantine, who lifted Christianity into power, murdered his wife Fausta, and his eldest son Crispus, the same year that he convened the Council of Nice to decide whether Jesus Christ was a man or the Son of God. The Council decided that Christ was consubstantial with the Father. This was in the year A.D. 325. We are thus indebted to a wife-murderer for settling the vexed question of the divinity of the Savior. Theodosius called a council at Constantinople in 381, and this council decided that the Holy Ghost proceeded from the Father. Theodosius, the younger, assembled another council at Ephesus to ascertain who the Virgin Mary really was, and it was solemnly decided in the year 431 that she was the Mother of God. In 451 it was decided by a council held at Chalcedon, called together by the Emperor Marcian, that Christ had two natures -- the human and divine. In 680, in another general council, held at Constantinople, convened by order of Pognatius, it was also declared that Christ had two wills, and in the year 1274 it was decided at the council of Lyons that the Holy Ghost proceeded not only from the Father, but from the Son as well. Had it not been for these councils, we might have been without a Trinity even to this day. When we take into consideration the fact that a belief in the Trinity is absolutely essential to salvation, how unfortunate it was for the world that this doctrine was not established until the year 1274. Think of the millions that dropped into hell while these questions were being discussed.
This, however, is a digression. Let us go back to Constantine. This Emperor, stained with every crime, is supposed to have died like a Christian. We hear nothing of fiends leering at him in the shadows of death. He does not see the forms of his murdered wife and son covered with the blood he shed. From his white and shrivelled lips issued no shrieks of terror. He does not cover his glazed eyes with thin and trembling hands to shut out the visions of hell. His chamber is filled with the rustle of wings -- of wings waiting to bear his soul to the thrilling realms of joy.
Against the Emperor Constantine the church has hurled no anathema. She has accepted the story of his vision in the clouds, and his holy memory has been guarded by priest and pope. All the persecutors sleep in peace, and the ashes of those who burned their brothers in the name of Christ rest in consecrated ground.
If learning had not been lost, if the people had been educated, if they had known the literature of Greece and Rome, if they had been familiar with the tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, with the philosophy of Zeno and Epicurus, with the orations of Demosthenes; if they had known the works of art, the miracles of genius, the passions in marble, the dreams in stone; if they had known the history of Rome; if they had understood Lucretius, Cicero and Cæsar; if they had studied the laws, the decisions of the Prætors; if they had known the thoughts of all the mighty dead, there would have been no soil on which the seeds of Christian superstition could have taken root and grown.
In the decline of the Roman power, in the times when prosperity died, when commerce almost ceased, when the sceptre of authority fell from the weak and nerveless hands, when arts were lost and the achievements of the past forgotten or unknown, then Christians came, and holding in contempt all earthly things, told their fellows of another world -- of joy eternal beyond the clouds.
Rome was far better when Pagan than when Catholic. It was better to allow gladiators and criminals to fight than to burn honest men. The greatest of the Romans denounced the cruelties of the arena. Seneca condemned the combats even of wild beasts. He was tender enough to say that "we should have a bond of sympathy for all sentient beings, knowing that only the depraved and base take pleasure in the sight of blood and suffering." Aurelius compelled the gladiators to fight with blunted swords. Roman lawyers declared that all men are by nature free and equal. Woman, under Pagan rule in Rome, became as free as man. Zeno, long before the birth of Christ, taught that virtue alone establishes a difference between men. We know that the Civil Law is the foundation of our codes. We know that fragments of Greek and Roman art -- a few manuscripts saved from Christian destruction, some inventions and discoveries of the Moors -- were the seeds of modern civilization. Christianity, for a thousand years, taught memory to forget and reason to believe. Not one step was taken in advance. Over the manuscripts of philosophers and poets, priests with their ignorant tongues thrust out, devoutly scrawled the forgeries of faith. For a thousand years the torch of progress was extinguished in the blood of Christ, and his disciples, moved by ignorant zeal, by insane, cruel creeds, destroyed with flame and sword a hundred million of their fellow-men. They made this world a hell. But if cathedrals had been universities -- if dungeons of the Inquisition had been laboratories -- if Christians had believed in character instead of creed -- if they had taken from the Bible all the good and thrown away the wicked and absurd -- if domes of temples had been observatories -- if priests had been philosophers -- if missionaries had taught the useful arts -- if astrology had been astronomy -- if the black art had been chemistry -- if superstition had been science -- if religion had been humanity -- it would have been a heaven filled with love, with liberty and joy.
We did not get our freedom from the church. The great truth, that all men are by nature free, was never told on Sinai's barren crags, nor by the lonely shores of Galilee.
If the Bible is true -- if Jehovah is God -- if the lot of countless millions is to be eternal pain -- better a thousand times that all the constellations of the shoreless vast were eyeless darkness and eternal space. Better that all that is should cease to be. Better that all the seeds and springs of things should fail and wither from great Nature's realm. Better that causes and effects should lose relation and become unmeaning phrases and forgotten sounds. Better that every life should change to breathless death, to voiceless blank and every world to blind oblivion and to moveless naught....
Thinking people will not hasten to admit that an infinitely good being authorized slavery in Judea, because of the atrocities of the French Revolution. They will remember the sufferings of the Huguenots. They will remember the massacre of St. Bartholomew. They will not forget the countless cruelties of priest and king. They will not forget the dungeons of the Bastille. They will know that the Revolution was an effect, and that liberty was not the cause -- that Atheism was not the cause. Behind the Revolution they will see altar and throne -- sword and fagot -- palace and cathedral -- king and priest -- master and slave -- tyrant and hypocrite. They will see that the excesses, and cruelties, and crimes were but the natural fruit of seed the church had sown. But the Revolution was not entirely evil. Upon that cloud of war, black with the myriad miseries of a thousand years, dabbled with blood of king and queen, of patriot and priest, there was this vow: "Beneath the flag of France all men are free." In spite of all the blood and crime, in spite of deeds that seem insanely base, the people placed upon a Nation's brow these stars: -- Liberty, Fraternity, Equality -- grander words than ever issued from Jehovah's lips.
In the New Testament, death is not the end, but the beginning of punishment that has no end. In the New Testament the malice of God is infinite and hunger of his revenge eternal.
The orthodox God, when clothed in human flesh, told his disciples not to resist evil, to love their enemies, and when smitten on one cheek to turn the other, and yet we are told that this same God, with the same loving lips, uttered these heartless. these fiendish words: "Depart ye cursed into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels."
These are the words of "eternal love."
The doctrine of eternal punishment is the infamy of infamies.
And yet we are told that the author of hell is a being of infinite mercy.
No Devil, no Christ, no hell. No hell, no atonement. No atonement, no preaching, no gospel.
According to the prevailing Christian belief, the Christian religion rests upon the doctrine of the atonement. If this doctrine is without foundation, if it is repugnant to justice and mercy, the fabric falls. We are told that the first man committed a crime for which all his posterity are responsible, -- in other words, that we are accountable, and can be justly punished for a sin we never in fact committed. This absurdity was the father of another, namely, that a man can be rewarded for a good action done by another. God, according to the modern theologians, made a law, with the penalty of eternal death for its infraction. All men, they say, have broken that law. In the economy of heaven, this law had to be vindicated. This could be done by damning the whole human race. Through what is known as the atonement, the salvation of a few was made possible. They insist that the law -- whatever that is -- demanded the extreme penalty, that justice called for its victims, and that even mercy ceased to plead. Under these circumstances, God, by allowing the innocent to suffer, satisfactorily settled with the law, and allowed a few of the guilty to escape. That law was satisfied with this arrangement. To carry out this scheme, God was born as a babe into this world. "He grew in stature and increased in knowledge." At the age of thirty-three, after having lived a life filled with kindness, charity and nobility, after having practiced every virtue, he was sacrificed as an atonement for man. It is claimed that he actually took our place, and bore our sins and our guilt; that in this way the justice of God was satisfied, and that the blood of Christ was an atonement, an expiation, for the sins of all who might believe on him.
Under the Mosaic dispensation, there was no remission of sin except through the shedding of blood. If a man committed certain sins, he must bring to the priest a lamb, a bullock, a goat, or a pair of turtle-doves. The priest would lay his hands upon the animal, and the sin of the man would be transferred. Then the animal would be killed in the place of the real sinner, and the blood thus shed and sprinkled upon the altar would be an atonement. In this way Jehovah was satisfied. The greater the crime, the greater the sacrifice -- the more blood, the greater the atonement. There was always a certain ratio between the value of the animal and the enormity of the sin. The most minute directions were given about the killing of these animals, and about the sprinkling of their blood. Every priest became a butcher, and every sanctuary a slaughterhouse. Nothing could be more utterly shocking to a refined and loving soul. Nothing could have been better calculated to harden the heart than this continual shedding of innocent blood. This terrible system is supposed to have culminated in the sacrifice of Christ. His blood took the place of all other. It is necessary to shed no more. The law at last is satisfied, satiated, surfeited. The idea that God wants blood is at the bottom of the atonement, and rests upon the most fearful savagery. How can sin be transferred from men to animals, and how can the shedding of the blood of animals atone for the sins of men?
The church says that the sinner is in debt to God, and that the obligation is discharged by the Savior. The best that can possibly be said of such a transaction is that the debt is transferred, not paid. The truth is that a sinner is in debt to the person he has injured. If a man injures his neighbor, it is not enough for him to get the forgiveness of God, but he must have the forgiveness of his neighbor. If a man puts his hand in the fire and God forgives him, his hand will smart exactly the same. You must, after all, reap what you sow. No god can give you wheat when you sow tares, and no devil can give you tares when you sow wheat.
There are in nature neither rewards nor punishments -- there are consequences. The life of Christ is worth its example, its moral force, its heroism of benevolence.
To make innocence suffer is the greatest sin; how then is it possible to make the suffering of the innocent a justification for the criminal? Why should a man be willing to let the innocent suffer for him? Does not the willingness show that he is utterly unworthy of the sacrifice? Certainly, no man would be fit for heaven who would consent that an innocent person should suffer for his sin. What would we think of a man who would allow another to die for a crime that he himself had committed? What would we think of a law that allowed the innocent to take the place of the guilty? Is it possible to vindicate a just law by inflicting punishment on the innocent? Would not that be a second violation instead of a vindication?
If there was no general atonement until the crucifixion of Christ, what became of the countless millions who died before that time? And it must be remembered that the blood shed by the Jews was not for other nations. Jehovah hated foreigners. The Gentiles were left without forgiveness. What has become of the millions who have died since, without having heard of the atonement? What becomes of those who have heard but have not believed? It seems to me that the doctrine of the atonement is absurd, unjust, and immoral. Can a law be satisfied by the execution of the wrong person? When a man commits a crime, the law demands his punishment, not that of a substitute; and there can be no law, human or divine, that can be satisfied by the punishment of a substitute. Can there be a law that demands that the guilty be rewarded? And yet, to reward the guilty is far nearer justice than to punish the innocent.
No human being has imagination enough to conceive of this infinite horror.
All that the human race has suffered in war and want, in pestilence and famine, in fire and flood -- all the pangs and pains of every disease and every death -- all of this is nothing compared with the agonies to be endured by one lost soul.
This is the consolation of the Christian religion. This is the justice of God -- the mercy of Christ.
This frightful dogma, this infinite lie, made me the implacable enemy of Christianity. The truth is that this belief in eternal pain has been the real persecutor. It founded the Inquisition, forged the chains, and furnished the fagots. It has darkened the lives of many millions. It made the cradle as terrible as the coffin. It enslaved nations and shed the blood of countless thousands. It sacrificed the wisest, the bravest and the best. It subverted the idea of justice, drove mercy from the heart, changed men to fiends and banished reason from the brain.
Like a venomous serpent it crawls and coils and hisses in every orthodox creed.
It makes man an eternal victim and God an eternal fiend. It is the one infinite horror. Every church in which it is taught is a public curse. Every preacher who teaches it is an enemy of mankind. Below this Christian dogma, savagery cannot go. It is the infinite of malice, hatred, and revenge.
Nothing could add to the horror of hell, except the presence of its creator, God.
While I have life, as long as I draw breath, I shall deny with all my strength, and hate with every drop of my blood, this infinite lie.
For centuries Christendom was a madhouse. Popes, cardinals, bishops, priests, monks and heretics were all insane.
Only a few -- four or five in a century -- were sound in heart and brain. Only a few, in spite of the roar and din, in spite of the savage cries, heard reason's voice. Only a few in the wild rage of ignorance, fear and zeal preserved the perfect calm that wisdom gives.
And yet we are told that we must believe such a doctrine or we are to be eternally damned! It will not do.
We are not accountable for the sins of "Adam."
Why should the suffering innocent atone for the crimes of the guilty?
Who can estimate the misery that has been caused by this most infamous doctrine of eternal punishment? Think of the lives it has blighted -- of the tears it has caused -- of the agony it has produced. Think of the millions who have been driven to insanity by this most terrible of dogmas. This doctrine renders God the basest and most cruel being in the universe. Compared with him, the most frightful deities of the most barbarous and degraded tribes are miracles of goodness and mercy. There is nothing more degrading than to worship such a god. Lower than this the soul can never sink. If the doctrine of eternal damnation is true, let me share the fate of the unconverted; let me have my portion in hell, rather than in heaven with a god infamous enough to inflict eternal misery upon any of the sons of men.
Christianity has made more lunatics than it ever provided asylums for.
My heart bleeds when I contemplate the sufferings endured by the millions now dead; of those who lived when the world appeared to be insane; when the heavens were filled with an infinite Horror who snatched babes with dimpled hands and rosy cheeks from the white breasts of mothers, and dashed them into an abyss of eternal flame.
Slowly, beautifully, like the coming of the dawn, came the grand truth, that the universe is governed by law; that disease fastens itself upon the good and upon the bad; that the tornado cannot be stopped by counting beads; that the rushing lava pauses not for bended knees, the lightning for clasped and uplifted hands, nor the cruel waves of the sea for prayer; that paying tithes causes, rather than prevents, famine; that pleasure is not sin; that happiness is the only good; that demons and gods exist only in the imagination; that faith is a lullaby sung to put the soul to sleep; that devotion is a bribe that fear offers to supposed power; that offering rewards in another world for obedience in this is simply buying a soul on credit; that knowledge consists in ascertaining the laws of nature, and that wisdom is the science of happiness. Slowly, grandly, beautifully, these truths are dawning upon mankind.
From Copernicus we learned that this earth is only a grain of sand on the infinite shore of the universe; that everywhere we are surrounded by shining worlds vastly greater than our own, all moving and existing in accordance with law. True, the earth began to grow small, but man began to grow great.
If we cannot have heaven without hell, I am in favor of abolishing heaven. I do not want to go to heaven if one soul is doomed to agony. I would rather be annihilated.
It is a great pleasure to drive the fiend of fear out of the hearts of men, women and children. It is a positive joy to put out the fires of hell.
I beg of you not to pollute the soul of childhood, not to furrow the cheeks of mothers, by preaching a creed that should be shrieked in a madhouse. Do not make the cradle as terrible as the coffin. Preach, I pray you, the gospel of Intellectual Hospitality -- the liberty of thought and speech. Take from loving hearts the awful fear. Have mercy on your fellow-men. Do not drive to madness the mothers whose tears are falling on the pallid faces of those who died in unbelief. Pity the erring, wayward, suffering, weeping world. Do not proclaim as "tidings of great joy" that an Infinite Spider is weaving webs to catch the souls of men.
I beg, I implore, I beseech you, never to give another dollar to build a church in which that lie is preached. Never give another cent to send a missionary with his mouth stuffed with that falsehood to a foreign land.
Christianity has held all other creeds and forms in infinite contempt, divided the world into enemies and friends, and verified the awful declaration of its founder -- a declaration that wet with blood the sword he came to bring, and made the horizon of a thousand years lurid with the fagots' flames.
The religion of Jesus Christ, as preached by his church, causes war, bloodshed, hatred, and all uncharitableness; and why? Because, they say, a certain belief is necessary to salvation. They do not say, if you behave yourself you will get there; they do not say, if you pay your debts and love your wife and love your children, and are good to your friends, and your neighbors, and your country, you will get there; that will do you no good; you have got to believe a certain thing. No matter how bad you are, you can instantly be forgiven; and no matter how good you are, if you fail to believe that which you cannot understand, the moment you get to the day of judgment nothing is left but to damn you, and all the angels will shout "hallelujah."
Nearly every murderer goes directly from the gallows to God. There is only one step from the gallows to God, only one jerk between the halter and heaven. That is taught by this church.
I believe there ought to be a law to prevent the giving of the slightest religious consolation to any man who has been found guilty of murder.
Should a Christian pity an unbeliever -- one who has rejected the Bible -- when he knows that God will be pitiless forever?
Let a Catholic understand that if he imbrues his hands in his brother's blood, he can have no extreme unction. Let it be understood that he can have no forgiveness through the church; and let the Protestant understand that when he has committed that crime the community will not pray him into heaven. Let him go with his victim. The victim, dying in his sins, goes to hell, and the murderer has the happiness of seeing him there. If heaven grows dull and monotonous, the murderer can again give life to the nerve of pleasure by watching the agony of his victim.
The truth is, Christianity has not made friends; it has made enemies. It is not, as taught, the religion of peace, it is the religion of war. Why should a Christian hesitate to kill a man that his God is waiting to damn? Why should a Christian not destroy an infidel who is trying to assassinate his soul? Why should a Christian pity an unbeliever -- one who has rejected the Bible -- when he knows that God will be pitiless forever?
When cunning collects tolls from fear, the church prospers.
Religion got most of its power from the terror of death.
The educated man is his own priest, his own pope, his own church.
Catholic priests are exhibiting a piece of one of the bones of Saint Anne, the supposed mother of the Virgin Mary. Some of these priests may be credulous imbeciles and some may be pious rogues. If they have any real intelligence they must know that there is no possible way of proving that the piece of bone ever belonged to Saint Anne. And if they have any real intelligence they must know that even the bones of Saint Anne were substantially like the bones of other people, made of substantially the same material, and that the medical and miraculous qualities of all human bones must be substantially the same. And yet these priests are obtaining from their credulous dupes thousands and thousands of dollars for the privilege of seeing this bone and kissing the box that contains the "sacred relic."
Archbishop Corrigan knows that no one knows who the mother of the Virgin Mary was, that no one knows about any of the bones of this unknown mother, knows that the whole thing is a theological fraud, knows that his priests, or priests under his jurisdiction, are obtaining money under false pretenses. Cardinal Gibbons knows the same, but neither of these pious gentlemen has one word to say against this shameless crime. They are willing that priests for the benefit of the church should make merchandise of the hopes and fears of ignorant believers; willing that fraud that produces revenue should live and thrive.
This is the honesty of the theologian. If these gentlemen should be taken sick they would not touch the relic. They would send for a physician.
A loved one dies and we wish to meet again; and from the affection of the human heart grew the great oak of the hope of immortality. Around that oak has climbed the poisonous vines of superstition. Theologians, pretenders, soothsayers, parsons, priests, popes, bishops, have taken advantage of that. They have stood by graves and promised heaven. They have stood by graves and prophesied a future filled with pain. They have erected their tollgates on the highway of life and have collected money from fear.
What consolation has the orthodox religion for the widow of the unbeliever, the widow of a good, brave, kind man? What can the orthodox minister say to relieve the bursting heart of that woman? What can he say to relieve the aching hearts of the orphans as they kneel by the grave of that father, if that father did not happen to be an orthodox Christian? What consolation have they? When a Christian loses a friend the tears spring from his eyes as quickly as from the eyes of others. Their tears are as bitter as ours. Why? The echoes of the words spoken eighteen hundred years ago are so low, and the sounds of the clods upon the coffin are so loud the promises are so far away, and the dead are so near.
I find that people who believe in immortality -- or at least those who say they do -- are just as afraid of death as anybody else. I find that the most devout Christian weeps as bitterly above his dead, as the man who says that death ends all.
If Christ was in fact God, why did he not plainly say there is another life? Why did he not tell us something about it? Why did he not turn the tear-stained hope of immortality into the glad knowledge of another life?
Does it not seem to you infinitely absurd to call orthodox Christianity "a consolation?" Here in this world, where every human being is enshrouded in cloud and mist, -- where all lives are filled with mistakes, -- where no one claims to be perfect, is it "a consolation" to say that "the smallest sin deserves eternal pain?" Is it possible for the ingenuity of man to extract from the doctrine of hell one drop, one ray, of "consolation?" If that doctrine be true, is not your God an infinite criminal? Why should he have created uncounted billions destined to suffer forever? Why did he not leave them unconscious dust? Compared with this crime, any crime that man can by any possibility commit is a virtue.
If there could be no suffering, there could be no sin. To unjustly cause suffering is the only possible crime.
In the days of the disciples, and for many centuries after, the world was filled with the supernatural. Nearly everything that happened was regarded as miraculous. God was the immediate governor of the world. If the people were good, God sent seed time and harvest; but if they were bad he sent flood and hail, frost and famine. If anything wonderful happened it was exaggerated until it became a miracle.
Of the order of events -- of the unbroken and the unbreakable chain of causes and effects -- the people had no knowledge and no thought.
A miracle is the badge and brand of fraud. No miracle ever was performed. No intelligent, honest man ever pretended to perform a miracle, and never will.
If Christ had wrought the miracles attributed to him; if he had cured the palsied and insane; if he had given hearing to the deaf, vision to the blind; if he had cleansed the leper with a word, and with a touch had given life and feeling to the withered limb; if he had given pulse and motion, warmth and thought, to cold and breathless clay; if he had conquered death and rescued from the grave its pallid prey -- no word would have been uttered, no hand raised, except in praise and honor. In his presence all heads would have been uncovered -- all knees upon the ground.
Is it not strange that at the trial of Christ no one was found to say a word in his favor? No man stood forth and said: "I was a leper, and this man cured me with a touch." No woman said: "I am the widow of Nain and this is my son whom this man raised from the dead."
No man said: "I was blind, and this man gave me sight."
Millions assert that the philosophy of Christ is perfect -- that he was the wisest that ever uttered speech.
Let us see:
Resist not evil. If smitten on one cheek turn the other.
Is there any philosophy, any wisdom in this? Christ takes from goodness, from virtue, from the truth, the right of self-defense. Vice becomes the master of the world, and the good become the victims of the infamous.
No man has the right to protect himself, his property, his wife and children. Government becomes impossible, and the world is at the mercy of criminals. Is there any absurdity beyond this?
Love your enemies.
Is this possible? Did any human being ever love his enemies? Did Christ love his, when he denounced them as whited sepulchers, hypocrites and vipers?
We cannot love those who hate us. Hatred in the hearts of others does not breed love in ours. Not to resist evil is absurd; to love your enemies is impossible.
Take no thought for the morrow.
The idea that God would take care of us as he did of sparrows and lilies. Is there the least sense in that belief?
Does God take care of anybody?
Can we live without taking thought for the morrow? To plow, to sow, to cultivate, to harvest, is to take thought for the morrow. We plan and work for the future, for our children, for the unborn generations to come. Without this forethought there could be no progress, no civilization. The world would go back to the caves and dens of savagery.
If they right eye offend thee, pluck it out. If thy right hand offend thee, cut it off.
Why? Because it is better that one of our members should perish than the whole body should be cast into hell.
Is there any wisdom in putting out your eyes or cutting off your hands? Is it possible to extract from these extravagant sayings the smallest grain of common sense?
No Christian when smitten on one cheek turns the other. Most Christians do take a little thought for the morrow. They do not depend entirely upon the providence of God. Most Christians now have greater confidence in the average life insurance company than in God -- feel easier when dying to know that they have a policy, through which they expect the widow will receive ten thousand dollars, than when thinking of all the Scripture promises. Even church members do not trust in God to protect their own property. They insult heaven by putting lightning rods on their temples. They insure the churches against the act of God. The experience of man has shown the wisdom of relying on something that we know something about, instead of upon the shadowy supernatural.
[* NOTE: The following paragraph was mis-placed in the first edition, being placed before the previous paragraph. We take the liberty to move it here, where it obviously belongs. -- Cliff Walker]
Swear not at all, neither by Heaven, for it is God's throne; nor by the Earth, for it is his footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is his holy city.*
Here we find the astronomy and geology of Christ. Heaven is the throne of God, the monarch; the earth is his footstool. A footstool that turns over at the rate of a thousand miles an hour, and sweeps through space at the rate of over a thousand miles a minute.
Where did Christ think heaven was? Why was Jerusalem a holy city? Was it because the inhabitants were ignorant, cruel and superstitious?
If any man will sue thee at the law and take away thy coat let him have thy cloak also.
Is there any philosophy, any good sense, in that commandment? Would it not be just as sensible to say: "If a man obtains a judgment against you for one hundred dollars, give him two hundred."
Only the insane could give or follow this advice.
Think not that I am come to send peace on earth. I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother.
If this is true, how much better it would have been had he remained away.
Is it possible that he who said, "Resist not evil," came to bring a sword? That he who said, "Love your enemies," came to destroy the peace of the world?
To set father against son, and daughter against father -- what a glorious mission!
That is the trouble with this Christian religion. Leave your father, leave your mother, leave your wife, leave your children, leave everything and follow Jesus Christ. I will not. I will stay with my people. I will not sacrifice on the altar of selfish fear all the grandest and noblest promptings of my heart.
The saints have poisoned life with piety. They have soured the mother's milk. They have insisted that joy is crime -- that beauty is a bait with which the Devil captures the soul of men -- that laughter leads to sin -- that pleasure, in its every form, degrades, and that love itself is but the loathsome serpent of unclean desire. They have tried to compel men to love shadows rather than women -- phantoms rather than people.
The saints have been the assassins of sunshine, -- the skeletons at feast. They have been the enemies of happiness. They have hated the singing birds, the blossoming plants. They have loved the barren and the desolate -- the croaking raven and the hooting owl -- tombstones, rather than statues.
And yet, with a strange inconsistency, happiness was to be enjoyed forever in another world. There, pleasure, with all its corrupting influences, was to be eternal. No one pretended that heaven was to be filled with self-denial, with fastings, and scourgings, with weepings and regrets, with solemn and emaciated angels, with sad-eyed seraphim, with lonely parsons, with mumbling monks, with shriveled nuns, with days of penance and with night of prayer.
Yet all this self-denial on the part of the saints was founded in the purest selfishness. They were to be paid for all their sufferings in another world. They were "laying up treasures in heaven." They had made a bargain with God. He had offered eternal joy to those who would make themselves miserable here. The saints gladly and cheerfully accepted the terms. They expected pay for every pang of hunger, for every groan, for every tear, for every temptation resisted; and this pay was to be an eternity of joy. The selfishness of the saints was equaled only by the stupidity of the saints.
If Christ, in fact, said "l came not to bring peace but a sword," it is the only prophecy in the New Testament that has been literally fulfilled.
He did bring a sword, and the sword was wet for a thousand years with innocent blood. In millions of hearts he sowed the seeds of hatred and revenge. He divided nations and families, put out the light of reason, and petrified the hearts of men.
And everyone that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.
According to the writer of Matthew, Christ, the compassionate, the merciful, uttered these terrible words. Is it possible that Christ offered the bribe of eternal joy to those who would desert their fathers, their mothers, their wives and children? Are we to win the happiness of heaven by deserting the ones we love? Is a home to be ruined here for the sake of a mansion there?
And yet it is said that Christ is an example for all the world. Did he desert his father and mother? He said, speaking to his mother: "Woman, what have I to do with thee?"
The Pharisees said unto Christ: "Is it lawful to pay tribute unto Cæsar?"
Christ said: "Show me the tribute money." They brought him a penny. And he saith unto them: "Whose is the image and the superscription?" They said: "Cæsar's." And Christ said: "Render unto Cæsar the things that are Cæsar's."
Did Christ think that the money belonged to Cæsar because his image and superscription were stamped on it? Did the penny belong to Cæsar or to the man who earned it? Had Cæsar the right to demand it because it was adorned with his image?
Does it appear from this conversation that Christ understood the real nature and use of money?
Can we now say that Christ was the greatest of philosophers?
Would it not have been better if Christ told his disciples that they must not persecute; that they had no right to destroy their fellow-men; that they must not put heretics in dungeons, or destroy them with flames; that they must not invent and use instruments of torture; that they must not appeal to brutality, nor endeavor to sow with bloody hands the seeds of peace? Would it not have been far better had he said: "I come not to bring a sword, but peace"? Would not this have saved countless cruelties and countless lives?
Over the wild waves of battle rose and fell the banner of Jesus Christ. For sixteen hundred years the robes of the church were red with innocent blood. The ingenuity of Christians was exhausted in devising punishment severe enough to be inflicted upon other Christians who honestly and sincerely differed with them upon any point whatever.
If Christ performed the miracles recorded in the New Testament, why would the Jews put to death a man able to raise their dead? Why should they attempt to kill the Master of Death? How did it happen that a man who had done so many miracles was so obscure, so unknown, that one of his disciples had to be bribed to point him out? Is it not strange that the ones he had cured were not his disciples? Can we believe, upon the testimony of those about whose character we know nothing, that Lazarus was raised from the dead? What became of Lazarus? We never hear of him again. It seems to me that he would have been an object of great interest. People would have said: "He is the man who was once dead." Thousands would have inquired of him about the other world; would have asked him where he was when he received the information that he was wanted on earth. His experience would have been vastly more interesting than everything else in the New Testament. A returned traveler from the shores of Eternity -- one who had walked twice through the valley of the shadow -- would have been the most interesting of human beings. When he came to die again, people would have said: "He is not afraid; he has had experience; he knows what death is." But, strangely enough, this Lazarus fades into obscurity with "the wise men of the East," and with the dead who came out of their graves on the night of the crucifixion. How is it known that it was claimed, during the life of Christ, that he had wrought a miracle? And if the claim was made, how is it known that it was not denied? Did the Jews believe that Christ was clothed with miraculous power? Would they have dared to crucify a man who had the power to clothe the dead with life? Is it not wonderful that no one at the trial of Christ said one word about the miracles he had wrought? Nothing about the sick he had healed, nor the dead he had raised?
What possible good did it do the world for Christ to go without food for forty days? Why should we follow such an example? As a rule, hungry people are cross, contrary, obstinate, peevish and unpleasant. A good dinner puts a man at peace with all the world -- makes him generous, good-natured and happy. He feels like kissing his wife and children. The future looks bright. He wants to help the needy. The good in him predominates, and he wonders that any man was ever stingy or cruel.
Lent is a mistake, fasting is a blunder.
The pulpit has always been saying that, although the virtuous and good, the kind, the tender, and the loving, may have a very bad time here, yet they will have their reward in heaven -- having denied themselves the pleasures of sin, the ecstasies of crime, they will be made happy in a world hereafter; but that the wicked, who have enjoyed larceny, and rascality in all its forms, will be punished hereafter.
All of this rests upon the idea that man should sacrifice himself, not for his fellow-men, but for God -- that he should do something for the Almighty -- that he should go hungry to increase the happiness of heaven -- that he should make a journey to Our Lady of Loretto, with dried peas in his shoes; that he should refuse to eat meat on Friday; that he should say so many prayers before retiring to rest; that he should do something that he hated to do, in order that he might win the approbation of the heavenly powers.
For my part, I think it much better to feed the hungry, than to starve yourself.
I believe in the gospel of Good Living.
You cannot make any god happy by fasting.
Let us have good food, and let us have it well cooked -- and it is a thousand times better to know how to cook than it is to understand any theology in the world.
Comfort is health. Do not imagine anything is unhealthy simply because it is pleasant. That is an old and foolish idea.
The inventor of a good soup did more for his race than the maker of any creed. The doctrines of total depravity and endless punishment were born of bad cooking and dyspepsia.
A good law, one springing from the nature of things, cannot demand, and cannot accept, and cannot be satisfied with the punishment, or the agony of the innocent. A god could not accept his own sufferings in justification of the guilty. -- This is a complete subversion of all ideas of justice and morality. A god could not make a law for man, then suffer in the place of the man who had violated it, and say that the law had been carried out, and the penalty duly enforced. A man has committed murder, has been tried, convicted and condemned to death. Another man goes to the governor and says that he is willing to die in place of the murderer. The governor says: "All right, I accept your offer, a murder has been committed, somebody must be hung and your death will satisfy the law."
But that is not the law. The law says, not that somebody shall be hanged, but that the murderer shall suffer death.
Even if the governor should die in the place of the criminal, it would be no better. There would be two murders instead of one, two innocent men killed, one by the first murderer and one by the State, and the real murderer free.
This, Christians call, "satisfying the law."
Strange! that a world cursed by God, filled with temptations and thick with fiends, should be the only place where hope exists, the only place where man can repent, the only place where reform is possible! Strange! that heaven, filled with angels and presided over by God, is the only place where reformation is utterly impossible! Yet these are the teachings of all the believers in the eternity of punishment.
Masters frightened slaves with the threat of hell, and slaves got a kind of shadowy revenge by whispering back the threat. The poor have damned the rich and the rich the poor. The imprisoned imagined a hell for their gaolers; the weak built this place for the strong; the arrogant for their rivals; the vanquished for their victors; the priest for the thinker, religion for reason, superstition for science.
All the meanness, all the revenge, all the selfishness, all the cruelty, all the hatred, all the infamy of which the heart of man is capable, grew, blossomed and bore fruit in this one word -- Hell.
For the nourishment of this dogma cruelty was soil, ignorance was rain, and fear was light.
Christians have placed upon the throne of the universe a God of eternal hate. I cannot worship a being whose vengeance is boundless, whose cruelty is shoreless, and whose malice is increased by the agonies he inflicts.
To allow a crime to be committed, even against yourself, when you can prevent it, is next to committing the crime yourself. The church has preached the doctrine of nonresistance, and under that banner has shed the blood of millions. In the folds of her sacred vestments have gleamed for centuries the daggers of assassination. With her cunning hands she wove the purple for hypocrisy and placed the crown upon the brow of crime. For more than a thousand years larceny held the scales of justice, hypocrisy wore the mitre and tiara, while beggars scorned the royal sons of toil, and ignorant fear denounced the liberty of thought.
Forgiveness cannot form a breastwork between act and consequence.
Has the promise and hope of forgiveness ever prevented the commission of a sin? Can men be made better by being taught that sin gives happiness here; that to live a virtuous life is to bear a cross; that men can repent between the last sin and the last breath; and that repentance washes every stain of the soul away? Is it good to teach that the serpent of regret will not hiss in the ear of memory; that the saved will not even pity the victims of their crimes; and that sins forgiven cease to affect the unhappy wretches sinned against?
You believe that Christ was God, that he was infinite in power. While in Jerusalem he cured the sick, raised a few from the dead, and opened the eyes of the blind. Did he do these things because he loved mankind, or did he do these miracles simply to establish the fact that he was the very Christ? If he was actuated by love, is he not as powerful now as he was then? Why does he not open the eyes of the blind now? Why does he not with a touch make the leper clean? If you had the power to give sight to the blind, to cleanse the leper, and would not exercise it, what would be thought of you? What is the difference between one who can and will not cure, and one who causes disease?
Only the other day I saw a beautiful girl -- a paralytic, and yet her brave and cheerful spirit shone over the wreck and ruin of her body like morning on the desert. What would I think of myself, had I the power by a word to send the blood through all her withered limbs freighted again with life, should I refuse?
If Christianity were only stupid and unscientific, if its God was ignorant and kind, if it promised eternal joy to believers and if the believers practiced the forgiveness they teach, for one I should let the faith alone.
But there is another side to Christianity. It is not only stupid, but malicious. It is not only unscientific, but it is heartless. Its god is not only ignorant, but infinitely cruel. It not only promises the faithful an eternal reward, but declares that nearly all of the children of men, imprisoned in the dungeons of God will suffer eternal pain. This is the savagery of Christianity. This is why I hate its unthinkable God, its impossible Christ, its inspired lies, and its selfish, heartless heaven.
Christians believe in infinite torture, in eternal pain.
All the meanness of which the heart of man is capable is in that one word -- Hell.
That word is a den, a cave, in which crawl the slimy reptiles of revenge.
That word certifies to the savagery of primitive man.
That word is the depth, the dungeon, the abyss, from which civilized man has emerged.
That word is the disgrace, the shame, the infamy, of our revealed religion.
That word fills all the future with the shrieks of the damned.
That word brutalizes the New Testament, changes the Sermon on the Mount to hypocrisy and cant, and pollutes and hardens the very heart of Christ.
That word adds an infinite horror to death, and makes the cradle as terrible as the coffin.
That word is the assassin of joy, the mocking murderer of hope. That word extinguishes the light of life and wraps the world in gloom. That word drives reason from his throne, and gives the crown to madness.
That word drove pity from the hearts of men, stained countless swords with blood, lighted fagots, forged chains, built dungeons, erected scaffolds, and filled the world with poverty and pain.
That word is a coiled serpent in the mother's breast, that lifts its fanged head and hisses in her ear: -- "Your child will be the fuel of eternal fire."
That word blots from the firmament the star of hope and leaves the heavens black.
That word makes the Christian's God an eternal torturer, an everlasting inquisitor -- an infinite wild beast.
This is the Christian prophecy of the eternal future:
No hope in hell.
No pity in heaven.
No mercy in the heart of God.
The doctrine that future happiness depends upon belief is monstrous. It is the infamy of infamies. The notion that faith in Christ is to be rewarded by an eternity of bliss, while a dependence upon reason, observation, and experience merits everlasting pain, is too absurd for refutation, and can be relieved only by that unhappy mixture of insanity and ignorance called "faith."
What man, who ever thinks, can believe that blood can appease God? And yet, our entire system of religion is based upon that belief. The Jews pacified Jehovah with the blood of animals, and according to the Christian system, the blood of Jesus softened the heart of God a little, and rendered possible the salvation of a fortunate few. It is hard to conceive how the human mind can give assent to such terrible ideas, or how any sane man can read the Bible and still believe in the doctrine of inspiration.
Whether the Bible is true or false, is of no consequence in comparison with the mental freedom of the race.
Salvation through slavery is worthless. Salvation from slavery is inestimable.
The civilization of this century is not the child of faith, but of unbelief -- the result of Freethought.
All I insist is, if there is another life, the basest soul that finds its way to that dark or radiant shore will have the everlasting chance of doing right. Nothing but the most cruel ignorance, the most heartless superstition, the most ignorant theology, ever imagined that the few days of human life spent here, surrounded by mists and clouds of darkness, blown over life's sea by storms and tempests of passion, fixed for all eternity the condition of the human race. If this doctrine be true this life is but a net, in which Jehovah catches souls for hell.
The idea that a certain belief is necessary to salvation unsheathed the swords and lighted the fagots of persecution. As long as heaven is the reward of creed instead of deed, just so long will every orthodox church be a bastille, every member a prisoner, and every priest a turnkey.
It is far better that we should all go down "with souls unsatisfied" to the dreamless grave, to the tongueless silence of the voiceless dust, than that countless millions of human souls should suffer forever.
Eternal sleep is better than eternal pain. Eternal punishment is eternal revenge, and can be inflicted only by an eternal monster.
It never can be necessary to throw away your reason to save your soul.
To render benefits for injuries is to ignore all distinctions between actions. He who treats his friends and enemies alike has neither love nor justice.
I do believe that life and property will be safer, that liberty will be surer, that homes will be sweeter, and life will be more joyous, and death less terrible, if the myth called Jehovah can be destroyed from the human mind.
It seems to me that the heart of the Christian ought to burst into an efflorescence of joy when he becomes satisfied that the Bible is only the work of man; that there is no such place as perdition -- that there are no eternal flames -- that men's souls are not to suffer everlasting pain -- that it is all insanity and ignorance and fear and horror. I should think that every good and tender soul would be delighted to know that there is no Christ who can say to any human being -- to any father, mother, or child -- "Depart ye cursed into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels."
Christianity has sold, and continues to sell, crime on a credit. It has taught, and it still teaches, that there is forgiveness for all. Of course it teaches morality. It says: "Do not steal, do not murder"; but it adds, "but if you do both, there is a way of escape: believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved." I insist that such a religion is no restraint. It is far to teach that there is no forgiveness, and that every human being must bear the consequences of his acts.
Christianity sells rascality on time and tells all the devils they can have the benefit of the gospel bankrupt act.
If I rob Mr. Smith and God forgives me, how does that help Smith? If I, by slander, cover some poor girl with the leprosy of some imputed crime, and she withers away like a blighted flower and afterward I get the forgiveness of God, how does that help her? If there is another world, we have got to settle with the people we have wronged in this. No bankrupt court there. Every cent must be paid.
Christianity teaches that all offences can be forgiven. Every church unconsciously allows people to commit crimes on credit. On the other hand, what is called infidelity says: There is no being in the universe who rewards, and there is no being who punishes -- every act has its consequences. If the act is good, the consequences are good; if the act is bad, the consequences are bad; and these consequences must be borne by the actor. It says to every human being: You must reap what you sow. There is no reward, there is no punishment, but there are consequences, and these consequences are the invisible and implacable police of nature. They cannot be avoided. They cannot be bribed. No power can awe them, and there is not gold enough in the world to make them pause. Even a God cannot induce them to release for one instant their victim.
This great truth is, in my judgment, the gospel of morality. If all men knew that they must inevitably bear the consequences of their own actions -- if they absolutely knew that they could not injure another without injuring themselves, the world, in my judgment, would be far better than it is.
If Christ had given us the laws of health; if he had told us how to cure disease by natural means; if he had set the captive free; if he had crowned the people with their rightful power; if he had placed the home above the church; if he had broken all the mental chains; if he had flooded all the caves and dens of fear with light, and filled the future with a common joy, he would in truth have been the Savior of this world.
If Christ had wrought the miracles attributed to him -- if he had cured the maimed, the leprous, and the halt -- if he had changed the night of blindness into blessed day -- if he had wrested from the fleshless hand of avaricious death the stolen jewel of a life, and clothed again with throbbing flesh the pulseless dust, he would have won the love and adoration of mankind. If ever there shall stand upon this earth the king of death, all human knees will touch the ground.
I cannot believe that an infinitely good God would make anybody a wanderer. Neither can I believe that he would keep millions of people without country and without home, and allow them to be persecuted for thousands of years, simply that they might be used as witnesses. Nothing could be more absurdly cruet than this.
The Christians justify their treatment of the Jews on the ground that they are simply fulfilling prophecy. The Jews have suffered because of the horrid story that their ancestors crucified the Son of God. Christianity, coming into power, looked with horror upon the Jews, who denied the truth of the gospel. Each Jew was regarded as a dangerous witness against Christianity. The early Christians saw how necessary it was that the people who lived in Jerusalem at the time of Christ should be convinced that he was God, and should testify to the miracles he wrought. Whenever a Jew denied it, the Christian was filled with malignity and hatred, and immediately excited the prejudice of other Christians against the man simply because he was a Jew. They forgot, in their general hatred, that Mary, the mother of Christ, was a Jewess; that Christ himself was of Jewish blood; and with an inconsistency of which, of all religions, Christianity alone could have been guilty, the Jew became an object of especial hatred and aversion.
When we remember that Christianity pretends to be a religion of love and kindness, of charity and forgiveness, must not every intelligent man be shocked by the persecution of the Jews? Even now, in learned and cultivated Germany, the Jew is treated as though he were a wild beast. The reputation of this great people has been stained by a persecution springing only from ignorance and barbarian prejudice. So in Russia, the Christians are anxious to shed every drop of Jewish blood, and thousands are to-day fleeing from their homes to seek a refuge from Christian hate. And Mr. Talmage believes that all these persecutions are kept up by the perpetual intervention of God, in order that the homeless wanderers of the seed of Abraham may testify to the truth of the Old and New Testaments. He thinks that every burning Jewish home sheds light upon the gospel, -- that every gash in Jewish flesh cries out in favor of the Bible, -- that every violated Jewish maiden shows the interest that God still takes in the preservation of his Holy Word.
I am endeavoring to do away with religious prejudice. I wish to substitute humanity for superstition, the love of our fellow-men, for the fear of God. In the place of ignorant worship, let us put good deeds. We should be great enough and grand enough to know that the rights of the Jew are precisely the same as our own. We cannot trample upon their rights, without endangering our own; and no man who will take liberty from another, is great enough to enjoy liberty himself.
Day by day Christians are laying the foundation of future persecution. In every Sunday school little children are taught that Jews killed the God of this universe. Their little hearts are filled with hatred against the Jewish people. They are taught as a part of the creed to despise the descendants of the only people with whom God is ever said to have had any conversation whatever.
When we take into consideration what the Jewish people have suffered, it is amazing that every one of them does not hate with all his heart and soul and strength the entire Christian world. But in spite of the persecutions they have endured, they are to-day, where they are permitted to enjoy reasonable liberty, the most prosperous people on the globe. The idea that their condition shows, or tends to show, that upon them abides the wrath of Jehovah, cannot be substantiated by the facts.
I cannot convince myself that an infinitely good and wise God holds a Jewish babe in the cradle of to-day responsible for the crimes of Caiaphas the high priest. I hardly think that an infinitely good being would pursue this little babe through all its life simply to get revenge on those who died two thousand years ago. An infinite being ought certainly to know that the child is not to blame; and an infinite being who does not know this, is not entitled to the love or adoration of any honest man.
I did say that to deny the existence of evil spirits, or to deny the existence of the devil, is to deny the truth of the New Testament; and that to deny the existence of these imps of darkness is to contradict the words of Jesus Christ. I did say that if we give up the belief in devils we must give up the inspiration of the Old and New Testaments, and we must give up the divinity of Christ. Upon that declaration I stand, because if devils do not exist, then Jesus Christ was mistaken, or we have not in the New Testament a true account of what he said and of what he pretended to do. If the New Testament gives a true account of his words and pretended actions, then he did claim to cast out devils. That was his principal business. That was his certificate of divinity, casting out devils. That authenticated his mission and proved that he was superior to the hosts of darkness.
Now, take the devil out of the New Testament, and you also take the veracity of Christ; with that veracity you take the divinity; with that divinity you take the atonement, and when you take the atonement, the great fabric known as Christianity becomes a shapeless ruin.
The Christians now claim that Jesus was God. If he was God, of course the devil knew that fact, and yet, according to this account, the devil took the omnipotent God and placed him upon a pinnacle of the temple, and endeavored to induce him to dash himself against the earth....
Think of it! The devil -- the prince of sharpers -- the king of cunning -- the master of finesse, trying to bribe God with a grain of sand that belonged to God!
Casting out devils was a certificate of divinity.
Is there in all the religious literature of the world anything more grossly absurd than this?
These devils, according to the Bible, were of various kinds -- some could speak and hear, others were deaf and dumb. All could not be cast out in the same way. The deaf and dumb spirits were quite difficult to deal with. St. Mark tells of a gentleman who brought his son to Christ. The boy, it seems, was possessed of a dumb spirit, over which the disciples had no control. "Jesus said unto the spirit: 'Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee come out of him, and enter no more into him.'" Whereupon, the deaf spirit (having heard what was said) cried out (being dumb) and immediately vacated the premises. The ease with which Christ controlled this deaf end dumb spirit excited the wonder of his disciples, and they asked him privately why they could not cast that spirit out. To whom he replied: "This kind can come forth by nothing but prayer and fasting." Is there a Christian in the whole world who would believe such a story if found in any other book? The trouble is, these pious people shut up their reason, and then open their Bible.
According to the gospels, Christ healed diseases, cast out devils, rebuked the sea, cured the blind, fed multitudes with five loaves and two fishes, walked on the sea, cursed a fig tree, turned water into wine and raised the dead.
How is it possible to substantiate these miracles?
The Jews, among whom they were said to have been performed, did not believe them. The diseased, the palsied, the leprous, the blind who were cured, did not become followers of Christ. Those that were raised from the dead were never heard of again.
Can we believe that Christ raised the dead?
A widow living in Nain is following the body of her son to the tomb. Christ halts the funeral procession and raises the young man from the dead and gives him back to the arms of his mother.
This young man disappears. He is never heard of again. No one takes the slightest interest in the man who returned from the realm of death. Luke is the only one who tells the story. Maybe Matthew, Mark and John never heard of it, or did not believe it and so failed to record it.
John says that Lazarus was raised from the dead.
It was more wonderful than the raising of the widow's son. He had not been laid in the tomb for days. He was only on his way to the grave, but Lazarus was actually dead. He had begun to decay.
Lazarus did not excite the least interest. No one asked him about the other world. No one inquired of him about their dead friends.
When he died the second time no one said: "He is not afraid. He has traveled that road twice and knows just where he is going."
We do not believe in the miracles of Mohammed, and yet they are as well attested as this. We have no confidence in the miracles performed by Joseph Smith, and yet the evidence is far greater, far better.
If a man should go about now pretending to raise the dead, pretending to cast out devils, we would regard him as insane. What, then, can we say of Christ? If we wish to save his reputation we are compelled to say that he never pretended to raise the dead; that he never claimed to have cast out devils.
We must take the ground that these ignorant and impossible things were invented by zealous disciples, who sought to deify their leader.
In those ignorant days these falsehoods added to the fame of Christ. But now they put his character in peril and belittle the authors of the gospels.
Christianity cannot live in peace with any other form of faith. If that religion be true, there is but one savior, one inspired book, and but one little narrow grass-grown path that leads to heaven.
Why did he not again enter the temple and end the old dispute with demonstration? Why did he not confront the Roman soldiers who had taken money to falsely swear that his body had been stolen by his friends? Why did he not make another triumphal entry into Jerusalem? Why did he not say to the multitude: "Here are the wounds in my feet, and in my hands, and in my side. I am the one you endeavored to kill, but death is my slave"? Simply because the resurrection is a myth. The miracle of the resurrection I do not and cannot believe.
We know nothing certainly of Jesus Christ. We know nothing of his infancy, nothing of his youth, and we are not sure that such a person ever existed.
Suppose it should turn out that no such person as Christ ever lived. What harm would that do justice or mercy? Wouldn't the tear of pity be as pure as now, and wouldn't justice, holding aloft her scales, from which she blows even the dust of prejudice, be as noble, as admirable as now? Is it not better to love justice and mercy than to love a name, and when you put a name above justice, above mercy, are you sure that you are benefiting your fellowmen?
There was in all probability such a man as Jesus Christ. He may have lived in Jerusalem. He may have been crucified; but that he was the Son of God, or that he was raised from the dead, and ascended bodily to heaven, has never been, and, in the nature of things, can never be, substantiated.
No follower of Christ knew the shape of the earth.
For many centuries this great Peasant of Palestine has been worshiped as God.
Millions and millions have given their lives to his service. The wealth of the world was lavished on his shrines. His name carried consolation to the diseased and dying. His name dispelled the darkness of death, and filled the dungeon with light. His name gave courage to the martyr, and in the midst of fire, with shriveling lips the sufferer uttered it again and again. The outcasts, the deserted, the fallen, felt that Christ was their friend, felt that he knew their sorrows and pitied their sufferings.
All this is true, and if it were all, how beautiful, how touching, how glorious it would be. But it is not all. There is another side.
In his name millions and millions of men and women have been imprisoned, tortured and killed. In his name millions and millions have been enslaved. In his name the thinkers, the investigators, have been branded as criminals, and his followers have shed the blood of the wisest and best. In his name the progress of many nations was stayed for a thousand years. In his gospel was found the dogma of eternal pain, and his words added an infinite horror to death. His gospel filled the world with hatred and revenge; made intellectual honesty a crime; made happiness here the road to hell, denounced love as base and bestial, canonized credulity, crowned bigotry and destroyed the liberty of man.
It would have been far better had the New Testament never been written -- far better had the theological Christ never lived. Had the writers of the Testament been regarded as uninspired, had Christ been thought of only as a man, had the good been accepted and the absurd, the impossible, and the revengeful thrown away, mankind would have escaped the wars, the tortures, the scaffolds, the dungeons, the agony and tears, the crimes and sorrows of a thousand years.
At first Christ was a man -- nothing more. Mary was his mother, Joseph his father. The genealogy of his father, Joseph, was given to show that he was of the blood of David.
Then the claim was made that he was the son of God, and that his mother was a virgin, and that she remained a virgin until her death.
The claim was made that Christ rose from the dead and ascended bodily to heaven.
It required many years for these absurdities to take possession of the minds of men.
If he really ascended, why did he not do so in public, in the presence of his persecutors? Why should this, the greatest of miracles, be done in secret, in a corner?
Is Christ our example? He never said a word in favor of education. He never even hinted at the existence of any science. He never uttered a word in favor of industry, economy or of any effort to better our condition in this world. He was the enemy of the successful, of the wealthy. Dives was sent to hell, not because he was bad, but because he was rich. Lazarus went to heaven, not because he was good, but because he was poor.
Christ cared nothing for painting, for sculpture, for music -- nothing for any art. He said nothing about the duties of nation to nation, of king to subject; nothing about the rights of man; nothing about intellectual liberty or the freedom of speech. He said nothing about the sacredness of home; not one word for the fireside; not a word in favor of marriage, in honor of maternity.
He never married. He wandered homeless from place to place with a few disciples. None of them seem to have been engaged in any useful business, and they seem to have lived on alms.
All human ties were held in contempt; this world was sacrificed for the next; all human effort was discouraged. God would support and protect.
At last, in the dusk of death, Christ, finding that he was mistaken, cried out: "My God! My God! Why hast thou forsaken me?"
We have found that man must depend on himself. He must clear the land; he must build the home; he must plow and plant; he must invent; he must work with hand and brain; he must overcome the difficulties and obstructions; he must conquer and enslave the forces of nature to the end that they may do the work of the world.
Why should we place Christ at the top and summit of the human race? Was he kinder, more forgiving, more self-sacrificing than Buddha? Was he wiser, did he meet death with more perfect calmness, than Socrates? Was he more patient, more charitable, than Epictetus? Was he a greater philosopher, a deeper thinker, than Epicurus? In what respect was he the superior of Zoroaster? Was he gentler than Lao-tsze, more universal than Confucius? Were his ideas of human rights and duties superior to those of Zeno? Did he express grander truths than Cicero? Was his mind subtler than Spinoza's? Was his brain equal to Kepler's or Newton's? Was he grander in death -- a sublimer martyr than Bruno? Was he in intelligence, in the force and beauty of expression, in breadth and scope of thought, in wealth of illustration, in aptness of comparison, in knowledge of the human brain and heart, of all passions, hopes and fears, the equal of Shakespeare, the greatest of the human race?
If Christ was in fact God, he knew all the future. Before him like a panorama moved the history yet to be. He knew how his words would be interpreted. He knew what crimes, what horrors, what infamies, would be committed in his name. He knew that the hungry flames of persecution would climb around the limbs of countless martyrs. He knew that thousands and thousands of brave men and women would languish in dungeons in darkness, filled with pain. He knew that his church would invent and use instruments of torture; that his followers would appeal to whip and fagot, to chain and rack. He saw the horizon of the future lurid with the flames of the auto da fe. He knew what creeds would spring like poisonous fungi from every text. He saw the ignorant sects waging war against each other. He saw thousands of men, under the orders of priests, building prisons for their fellow-men. He saw thousands of scaffolds dripping with the best and bravest blood. He saw his followers using the instruments of pain. He heard the groans -- saw the faces white with agony. He heard the shrieks and sobs and cries of all the moaning, martyred multitudes. He knew that commentaries would be written on his words with swords, to be read by the light of fagots. He knew that the Inquisition would be born of the teachings attributed to him.
He saw the interpolations and falsehoods that hypocrisy would write and tell. He saw all wars that would be waged, and he knew that above these fields of death, these dungeons, these rackings, these burnings, these executions, for a thousand years would float the dripping banner of the cross.
He knew that hypocrisy would be robed and crowned -- that cruelty and credulity would rule the world; knew that liberty would perish from the earth; knew that popes and kings in his name would enslave the souls and bodies of men; knew that they would persecute and destroy the discoverers, thinkers and inventors; knew that his church would extinguish reason's holy light and leave the world without a star.
He saw his disciples extinguishing the eyes of men, flaying them alive, cutting out their tongues, searching for all the nerves of pain.
He knew that in his name his followers would trade in human flesh; that cradles would be robbed and women's breasts unbabed for gold.
And yet he died with voiceless lips.
Why did he fail to speak? Why did he not tell his disciples, and through them the world: "You shall not burn, imprison and torture in my name. You shall not persecute your fellow-men."
Why did he not plainly say: "I am the Son of God," or, "l am God"? Why did he not explain the Trinity? Why did he not tell the mode of baptism that was pleasing to him? Why did he not write a creed? Why did he not break the chains of slaves? Why did he not say that the Old Testament was or was not the inspired word of God? Why did he not write the New Testament himself? Why did he leave his words to ignorance, hypocrisy and chance? Why did he not say something positive, definite and satisfactory about another world? Why did he not turn the tear-stained hope of heaven into the glad knowledge of another life? Why did he not tell us something of the rights of man, of the liberty of hand and brain?
Why did he go dumbly to his death, leaving the world to misery and to doubt?
I will tell you why. He was a man, and did not know.
They found that Christ was a new name for an old biography; that he was not a life, but a legend; not a man, but a myth.
Suppose after all that death does end all. Next to eternal joy, next to being forever with those we love and those who have loved us, next to that, is to be wrapt in the dreamless drapery of eternal peace. Next to eternal life is eternal sleep. Upon the shadowy shore of death the sea of trouble casts no wave. Eyes that have been curtained by the everlasting dark, will never know again the burning touch of tears. Lips touched by eternal silence will never speak again the broken words of grief. Hearts of dust do not break. The dead do not weep. Within the tomb no veiled and weeping sorrow sits, and in the rayless gloom is crouched no shuddering fear.
I had rather think of those I have loved, and lost, as having returned to earth, as having become a part of the elemental wealth of the world -- I would rather think of them as unconscious dust, I would rather dream of them as gurgling in the streams, floating in the clouds, bursting in the foam of light upon the shores of worlds, I would rather think of them as the lost visions of a forgotten night, than to have even the faintest fear that their naked souls have been clutched by an orthodox god. I will leave my dead where nature leaves them. Whatever flower of hope springs up in my heart I will cherish, I will give it breath of sighs and rain of tears. But I cannot believe that there is any being in this universe who has created a human soul for eternal pain. I would rather that every god would destroy himself; I would rather that we all should go to eternal chaos, to black and starless night, than that just one soul should suffer eternal agony.
I have made up my mind that if there is a God, he will be merciful to the merciful.
Upon that rock I stand. --
That he will not torture the forgiving. --
Upon that rock I stand. --
That every man should be true to himself, and that there is no world, no star, in which honesty is a crime.
Upon that rock I stand.
The honest man, the good woman, the happy child, have nothing to fear, either in this world or the world to come.
Upon that rock I stand.