Where were these people going? They were going to the Holy Land. How large was it? Twelve thousand square miles—one-fifth the size of Illinois—a frightful country, covered with rocks and desolation. There never was a land agent in the city of Chicago that would not have blushed with shame to have described that land as flowing with milk and honey. Do you believe that God Almighty ever went into partnership with hornets? Is it necessary unto salvation? God said to the Jews "I will send hornets before you, to drive out the Canaanites." How would a hornet know a Canaanite? Is it possible that God inspired the hornets—that he granted letters of marque and reprisal to hornets? I am willing to admit that nothing in the world would be better calculated to make a man leave his native country than a few hornets attending strictly to business. God said "Kill the Canaanites slowly." Why? "Lest the beasts of the field increase upon you." How many Jews were there? Three millions. Going to a country, how large? Twelve thousand square miles. But were there nations already in this Holy Land? Yes, there were seven nations "mightier than the Jews." Say there would be twenty-one millions when they got there, or twenty-four millions with themselves. Yet they were told to kill them slowly, lest the beasts of the field increase upon them. Is there a man in Chicago that believes that! Then what does he teach it to little children for? Let him tell the truth.
So the same God went into partnership with snakes. The children of Israel lived on manna—one account says all the time, and another only a little while. That is the reason there is a chance for commentaries, and you can exercise faith. If the book was reasonable everybody could get to heaven in a moment. But whenever it looks as if it could not be that way and you believe, you are almost a saint, and when you know it is not that way and believe, you are a saint. He fed them on manna. Now manna is very peculiar stuff. It would melt in the sun, and yet they used to cook it by seething and baking. I would as soon think of frying snow and boiling icicles. But this manna had other peculiar qualities. It shrank to an omer, no matter how much they gathered, and swelled up to an omer, no matter how little they gathered. What a magnificent thing manna would be for the currency, shrinking and swelling according to the volume of business! There was not a change in the bill of fare for forty years, and they knew that God could just as well give them three square meals a day. They remembered about the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks and the onions of Egypt, and they said: "Our souls abhorreth this light bread." Then this God got mad—you know cooks are always touchy—and thereupon He sent snakes to bite the men, women and children. He also sent them quails in wrath and anger, and while they had the flesh between their teeth, he struck thousands of them dead. He always acted in that way, all of a sudden. People had no chance to explain—no chance to move for a new trial—nothing. I want to know if it is reasonable He should kill people for asking for one change of diet in forty years. Suppose you had been boarding with an old lady for forty years, and she never had a solitary thing on her table but hash, and one morning you said: "My soul abhorreth hash!" What would you say if she let a basketful of rattlesnakes upon you? Now is it possible for people to believe this? The Bible says their clothes did not wax old, they did not get shiny at the knees or elbows; and their shoes did not wear out. They grew right along with them. The little boy starting out with his first pants grew up and his pants grew with him. Some commentators have insisted that angels attended to their wardrobes. I never could believe it. Just think of one angel hunting another and saying: "There goes another button." I cannot believe it.
There must be a mistake somewhere or somehow. Do you believe the real God—if there is one—ever killed a man for making hair-oil? And yet you find in the Pentateuch that God gave Moses a recipe for making hair-oil to grease Aaron's beard; and said if anybody made the same hair-oil he should be killed. And He gave him a formula for making ointment, and He said if anybody made ointment like that he should be killed. I think that is carrying patent-laws to excess. There must be some mistake about it. I cannot imagine the infinite Creator of all the shining worlds giving a recipe for hair-oil. Do you believe that the real God came down to Mount Sinai with a lot of patterns for making a tabernacle-patterns for tongs, for snuffers, and such things? Do you believe that God came down on that mountain and told Moses how to cut a coat, and how it should be trimmed? What would an infinite God care on which side he cut the breast, what color the fringe was, or how the buttons were placed? Do you believe God told Moses to make curtains of fine linen? Where did they get their flax in the desert? How did they weave it? Did He tell him to make things of gold, silver and precious stones, when they hadn't them? Is it possible that God told them not to eat any fruit until after the fourth year of planting the trees? You see all these things were written hundreds of years afterwards, and the priests, in order to collect the tithes, dated the laws back. They did not say, "This is our law," but, "Thus said God to Moses in the wilderness." Now, can you believe that? Imagine a scene: The eternal God tells Moses "Here is the way I want you to consecrate my priests. Catch a sheep and cut his throat." I never could understand why God wanted a sheep killed just because a man had done a mean trick; perhaps it was because his priests were fond of mutton. He tells Moses further to take some of the blood and put it on his right thumb, a little on his right ear, and a little on his right big toe? Do you believe God ever gave such instructions for the consecration of His priests? If you should see the South Sea Islanders going through such a performance you could not keep your face straight. And will you tell me that it had to be done in order to consecrate a man to the service of the infinite God? Supposing the blood got on the left toe?
Then we find in this book how God went to work to make the Egyptians let the Israelites go. Suppose we wish to make a treaty with the mikado of Japan, and Mr. Hayes sent a commissioner there; and suppose he should employ Hermann, the wonderful German, to go along with him; and when they came in the presence of the mikado Herman threw down an umbrella, which changed into a turtle, and the commissioner said: "This is my certificate." You would say the country is disgraced. You would say the president of a republic like this disgraces himself with jugglery. Yet we are told God sent Moses and Aaron before Pharaoh, and when they got there Moses threw down a stick which turned into a snake. That God is a juggler—he is the infinite prestidigitator. Is that possible? Was that really a snake, or was it the appearance of a snake? If it was the appearance of a snake, it was a fraud. Then the necromancers of Egypt were sent for, and they threw down sticks, which turned into snakes, but those were not so large as Moses' snakes, which swallowed them. I maintain that it is just as hard to make small snakes as it is to make large ones; the only difference is that to make large snakes either larger sticks or more practice is required.
Do you believe that God rained hail on innocent cattle, killing them in the highways and in the field? Why should he inflict punishment on cattle for something their owners had done? I could never have any respect for a God that would so inflict pain upon a brute beast simply on account of the crime of its owner. Is it possible that God worked miracles to convince Pharaoh that slavery was wrong? Why did he not tell Pharaoh that any nation founded on slavery could not stand? Why did he not tell him, "Your government is founded on slavery, and it will go down, and the sands of the desert will hide from the view of man your temples, your altars, and your fanes?" Why did he not speak about the infamy of slavery? Because he believed in the infamy of slavery himself. Can we believe that God will allow a man to give his wife the right of divorcement and make the mother of his children a wanderer and a vagrant. There is not one word about woman in the Old Testament except the word of shame and humiliation. The God of the Bible does not think woman is as good as man. She never was worth mentioning. It did not take the pains to recount the death of the mother of us all. I have no respect for any book that does not treat woman as the equal of man. And if there is any God in this universe who thinks more of me than he thinks of my wife, he is not well acquainted with both of us. And yet they say that that was done on account of the hardness of their hearts; and that was done in a community where the law was so fierce that it stoned a man to death for picking up sticks on Sunday. Would it not have been better to stone to death every man who abused his wife and allowed them to pick up sticks on account of the hardness of their hearts? If God wanted to take those Jews from Egypt to the land of Canaan, why didn't He do it instantly? If He was going to do a miracle why didn't He do one worth talking about?
After God had killed all the first-born in Egypt, after He had killed all the cattle, still Egypt could raise an army that could put to flight six hundred thousand men. And because this God overwhelmed the Egyptian army, he bragged about it for a thousand years, repeatedly calling the attention of the Jews to the fact that he overthrew Pharaoh and his hosts. Did he help much with their six-hundred thousand men? We find by the records of the day that the Egyptian standing army at that time was never more than one hundred thousand men. Must we believe all these stories in order to get to Heaven when we die? Must we judge of a man's character by the number of stories he believes? Are we to get to Heaven by creed or by deed? That is the question. Shall we reason, or shall we simply believe? Ah, but they say the Bible is not inspired about those little things. The Bible says the rabbit and the hare chew the cud. But they do not. They have a tremulous motion of the lip. But the Being that made them says they chew the cud. The Bible, therefore, is not inspired in natural history. Is it inspired in its astrology? No. Well, what is it inspired in? In its law? Thousands of people say that if it had not been for the ten commandments we would not have known any better than to rob and steal. Suppose a man planted an acre of potatoes, hoed them all summer, and dug them in the fall; and suppose a man had sat upon the fence all the time and watched him? Do you believe it would be necessary for that man to read the ten commandments to find out who, in his judgment had a right to take those potatoes? All laws against larceny have been made by industry to protect the fruits of its labor. Why is there a law against murder? Simply because a large majority of people object to being murdered. That is all. And all these laws were in force thousands of years before that time.
One of the commandments said they should not make any graven images, and that was the death of art in Palestine. No sculptor has ever enriched stone with the divine forms of beauty in that country; and any commandment that is the death of art is not a good commandment. But they say the Bible is morally inspired; and they tell me there is no civilization without this Bible. Then God knows that just as well as you do. God always knew it, and if you can't civilize a nation without a Bible, why didn't God give every nation just one Bible to start with? Why did God allow hundreds of thousands and billions of billions to go down to hell just for the lack of a Bible? They say that it is morally inspired. Well, let us examine it. I want to be fair about this thing, because I am willing to stake my salvation or damnation upon this question—whether the Bible is true or not. I say it is not and upon that I am willing to wager my soul. Is there a woman here who believes in the institution of polygamy? Is there a man here who believes in that infamy? You say: "No, we do not." Then you are better than your God was four thousand years ago. Four thousand years ago he believed in it, taught it and upheld it. I pronounce it and denounce it the infamy of infamies. It robs our language of every sweet and tender word in it. It takes the fire-side away forever. It takes the meaning out of the words father, mother, sister, brother, and turns the temple of love into a vile den where crawl the slimy snakes of lust and hatred. I was in Utah a little while ago, and was on the mountain where God used to talk to Brigham Young. He never said anything to me. I said that it was just as reasonable that God in the nineteenth century should talk to a polygamist in Utah as it was that four thousand years ago, on Mount Sinai, he talked to Moses upon that hellish and damnable question.
I have no love for any God who believes in polygamy. There is no heaven on this earth save where the one woman loves the one man and the one man loves the one woman. I guess it is not inspired on the polygamy question. May be it is inspired about religious liberty. God says if anybody differs with you about religion, "kill him." He told His peculiar people, "If any one teaches a different religion, kill him!" He did not say, "Try and convince him that he is wrong," but "kill him." He did not say, "I am in the miracle business, and I will convince him," but "kill him." He said to every husband, "If your wife, that you love as you love your own soul, says, 'let us go and worship other gods,' then 'Thy hand shall be first upon her and she shall be stoned with stones until she dies.'" Well, now, I hate a God of that kind, and I cannot think of being nearer heaven than to be away from Him. A God tells a man to kill his wife simply because she differs with him on religion! If the real God were to tell me to kill my wife, I would not do it. If you had lived in Palestine at that time, and your wife—the mother of your children—had woke up at night and said "I am tired of Jehovah. He is always turning up that board-bill. He is always telling about whipping the Egyptians. He is always killing somebody. I am tired of Him. Let us worship the sun. The sun has clothed the world in beauty; it has covered the earth with green and flowers; by its divine light I first saw your face; its light has enabled me to look into the eyes of my beautiful babe. Let us worship the sun, father and mother of light and love and joy." Then what would it be your duty to do—kill her? Do you believe a real God ever did that? Your hand should be first upon her, and when you took up some ragged rock and hurled it against the white bosom filled with love for you, and saw running away the red current of her sweet life, then you would look up to heaven and receive the congratulations of the infinite fiend whose commandments you had to obey. I guess the Bible was not inspired about religious liberty. Let me ask you right here: Suppose, as a matter of fact, God gave those laws to the Jews and told them "whenever a man preaches a different religion, kill him," and suppose that afterwards the same God took upon Himself flesh, and came to the world and taught and preached a different religion, and the Jews crucified Him—did He not reap exactly what He sowed?
May be this book is inspired about war. God told the Israelites to overrun that country, and kill every man, woman and child for defending their native land. Kill the old men? Yes. Kill the women? Certainly. And the little dimpled babes in the cradle, that smile and coo in the face of murder—dash out their brains; that is the will of God. Will you tell me that any God ever commanded such infamy? Kill the men and the women, and the young men and the babes! "What shall we do with the maidens?" "Give them to the rabble murderers!" Do you believe that God ever allowed the roses of love and the violets of modesty that shed their perfume in the heart of a maiden to be trampled beneath the brutal feet of lust? If there is any God, I pray Him to write in the book of eternal remembrance opposite to my name, that I denied that lie.
Whenever a woman reads a Bible and comes to that passage, she ought to throw the book from her in contempt and scorn. Do you tell me that any decent god would do that? What would the devil have done under the same circumstances? Just think of it, and yet that is the God that we want to get into the Constitution. That is the God we teach our children about so that they will be sweet and tender, amiable and kind! That monster—that fiend—I guess the Bible is not inspired about religious liberty, nor about war.
Then, if it is not inspired about these things, may be it is inspired about slavery. God tells the Jews to buy up the children of the heathen round about and they should be servants for them. What is a "servant?" If they struck a "servant" and he died immediately, punishment was to follow; but if the injured man should linger a while, there was no punishment, because the servant represented their money! Do you believe that it is right—that God made one man to work for another and to receive pay in rations? Do you believe God said that a whip on the naked back was the legal tender for labor performed? Is it possible that the real God ever gave such infamous, blood-thirsty laws? What more does He say? When the time of a married slave expired, he could not take his wife and children with him. Then if the slave did not wish to desert his family, he had his ears pierced with an awl, and became his master's property forever. Do you believe that God ever turned the dimpled cheeks of little children into iron chains to hold a man in slavery? Do you know that a God like that would not make a respectable devil? I want none of his mercy. I want no part and no lot in the heaven of such a God. I will go to perdition, where there is human sympathy. The only voice we have ever had from either of those other worlds came from hell. There was a rich man who prayed his brothers to attend to Lazarus so that they might "not come to this place." That is the only instance, so far as we know, of souls across the river having any sympathy. And I would rather be in hell, asking for water, than in heaven denying that petition. Well, what is this book inspired about? Where does the inspiration come from? Why was it that so many animals were killed? It was simply to make atonement for man—that is all. They killed something that had not committed a crime, in order that the one who had committed the crime might be acquitted. Based upon that idea is the atonement of the Christian religion. That is the reason I attack this book—because it is the basis of another infamy, viz: that one man can be good for another, or that one man can sin for another. I deny it. You have got to be good for yourself; you have got to sin for yourself. The trouble about the atonement is, that it saves the wrong man. For instance, I kill some one. He is a good man. He loves his wife and children and tries to make them happy; but he is not a Christian, and he goes to hell. Just as soon as I am convicted and cannot get a pardon I get religion, and I go to heaven. The hand of mercy cannot reach down through the shadows of hell to my victim.
There is no atonement for the saint—only for the sinner and the criminal. The atonement saves the wrong man. I have said that I would never make a lecture at all without attacking this doctrine. I did not care what I started out on. I was always going to attack this doctrine. And in my conclusion I want to draw you a few pictures of the Christian heaven. But before I do that I want to say the rest I have to say about Moses. I want you to understand that the Bible was never printed until 1488. I want you to know that up to that time it was in manuscript, in possession of those who could change it if they wished; and they did change it, because no two ever agreed. Much of it was in the waste basket of credulity, in the open mouth of tradition, and in the dull ear of memory. I want you also to know that the Jews themselves never agreed as to what books were inspired, and that there were a lot of books written that were not incorporated in the Old Testament. I want you to know that two or three years before Christ, the Hebrew manuscript was translated into Greek, and that the original from which the translation was made, has never been seen since. Some Latin Bibles were found in Africa but no two agreed; and then they translated the Septuagint into the languages of Europe, and no two agreed. Henry VIII. took a little time between murdering his wives to see that the Word of God was translated correctly. You must recollect that we are indebted to murderers for our Bibles and our creeds. Constantine, who helped on the good work in its early stage, murdered his wife and child, mingling their blood with the blood of the Savior.
The Bible that Henry VIII. got up did not suit, and then his daughter, the murderess of Mary, Queen of Scots, got up another edition, which also did not suit; and finally, that philosophical idiot, King James, prepared the edition which we now have. There are at least one hundred thousand errors in the Old Testament, but everybody sees that it is not enough to invalidate its claim to infallibility. But these errors are gradually being fixed, and hereafter the prophet will be fed by Arabs instead of "ravens," and Samson's three hundred foxes will be three hundred "sheaves" already bound, which were fired and thrown into the standing wheat. I want you all to know that there was no contemporaneous literature at the time the Bible was composed, and that the Jews were infinitely ignorant in their day and generation—that they were isolated by bigotry and wickedness from the rest of the world. I want you to know that there are fourteen hundred millions of people in the world; and that with all the talk and work of the societies, only one hundred and twenty millions have got Bibles. I want you to understand that not one person in one hundred in this world ever read the Bible, and no two ever understood it alike who did read it, and that no one person probably ever understood it aright. I want you to understand that where this Bible has been, man has hated his brother—there have been dungeons, racks, thumbscrews, and the sword. I want you to know that the cross has been in partnership with the sword, and that the religion of Jesus Christ was established by murderers, tyrants and hypocrites. I want you to know that the church carried the black flag. Then talk about the civilizing influence of this religion!
Now, I want to give an idea or two in regard to the Christian's heaven. Of all the selfish things in this world, it is one man wanting to get to heaven, caring nothing what becomes of the rest of mankind. "If I can only get my little soul in." I have always noticed that the people who have the smallest souls make the most fuss about getting them saved. Here is what we are taught by the church today. We are taught by it that fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters can all be happy in heaven, no matter who may be in hell; that the husband can be happy there with the wife that would have died for him at any moment of his life, in hell. But they say, "We don't believe in fire. What we believe in now is remorse." What will you have remorse for? For the mean things you have done when you are in hell? Will you have any remorse for the mean things you have done when you are in heaven? Or will you be so good then that you won't care how you used to be? Don't you see what an infinitely mean belief that is? I tell you today that, no matter in what heaven you may be, no matter in what star you are spending the summer, if you meet another man whom you have wronged you will drop a little behind in the tune. And, no matter in what part of hell you are, and you meet some one whom you have succored, whose nakedness you have clothed, and whose famine you have fed, the fire will cool up a little. According to this Christian doctrine, when you are in heaven you won't care how mean you were once. What must be the social condition of a gentleman in heaven who will admit that he never would have been there if he had not got scared? What must be the social position of an angel who will always admit that if another had not pitied him he ought to have been damned? Is it a compliment to an infinite God to say that every being He ever made deserved to be damned the minute He got him done, and that He will damn everybody He has not had a chance to make over. Is it possible that somebody else can be good for me, and that this doctrine of the atonement is the only anchor for the human soul?
For instance: here is a man seventy years of age, who has been a splendid fellow and lived according to the laws of nature. He has got about him splendid children whom he has loved and cared for with all his heart. But he did not happen to believe in this Bible; he did not believe in the Pentateuch. He did not believe that because some children made fun of a gentleman who was short of hair, God sent two bears and tore the little darlings to pieces. He had a tender heart, and he thought about the mothers who would take the pieces, the bloody fragments of the children, and press them to their bosom in a frenzy of grief; he thought about their wails and lamentations, and could not believe that God was such an infinite monster. That was all he thought, but he went to Hell. Then, there is another man who made a hell on earth for his wife, who had to be taken to the insane asylum, and his children were driven from home and were wanderers and vagrants in the world. But just between the last sin and the last breath, this fellow got religion, and he never did another thing except to take his medicine. He never did a solitary human being a favor, and he died and went to heaven. Don't you think he would be astonished to see that other man in hell, and say to himself, "Is it possible that such a splendid character should bear such fruit, and that all my rascality at last has brought me next to God?"
Or, let us put another case. You were once alone in the desert—no provisions, no water, no hope, just when your life was at its lowest ebb a man appeared, gave you water and food and brought you safely out. How you would bless that man. Time rolls on. You die and go to heaven; and one day you see through the black night of hell, the friend who saved your life, begging for a drop of water to cool his parched lips. He cries to you, "Remember what I did in the desert—give me to drink." How mean, how contemptible you would feel to see his suffering and be unable to relieve him. But this is the Christian heaven. We sit by the fireside and see the flames and the sparks fly up the chimney—everybody happy, and the cold wind and sleet are beating on the window, and out on the doorstep is a mother with a child on her breast freezing. How happy it makes a fireside, that beautiful contrast. And we say, "God is good," and there we sit, and she sits and moans, not one night but forever. Or we are sitting at the table with our wives and children, everybody eating, happy and delighted; and Famine comes and pushes out its shriveled palms, and, with hungry eyes, implores us for a crust. How that would increase the appetite! And yet that is the Christian heaven. Don't you see that these infamous doctrines petrify the human heart? And I would have everyone who hears me, swear that he will never contribute another dollar to build another church in which is taught such infamous lies. I want everyone of you to say, that you never will, directly or indirectly, give a dollar to any man to preach that falsehood. It has done harm enough. It has covered the world with blood. It has filled the asylums for the insane. It has cast a shadow in the heart, in the sunlight of every good and tender man and woman. I say let us rid the heavens of this monster, and write upon the dome "Liberty, love and law."
No matter what may come to me or what may come to you, let us do exactly what we believe to be right, and let us give the exact thought in our brains. Rather than have this Christianity true, I would rather all the gods would destroy themselves this morning. I would rather the whole universe would go to nothing, if such a thing were possible, this instant. Rather than have the glittering dome of pleasure reared on the eternal abyss of pain, I would see the utter and eternal destruction of this universe. I would rather see the shining fabric of our universe crumble to unmeaning chaos, and take itself where oblivion broods and memory forgets. I would rather the blind Samson of some imprisoned force, released by thoughtless chance, should so rack and strain this world that man in stress and strain, in astonishment and fear, should suddenly fall back to savagery and barbarity. I would rather that this thrilled and thrilling globe, shorn of all life, should in its cycles rub the wheel, the parent star, on which the light should fall as fruitlessly as falls the gaze of love on death, than to have this infamous doctrine of eternal punishment true; rather than have this infamous selfishness of a heaven for a few and a hell for the many established as the word of God.
One world at a time is my doctrine. Let us make some one happy here. Happiness is the interest that a decent action draws, and the more decent actions you do, the larger your income will be. Let every man try to make his wife happy, his children happy. Let every man try to make every day a joy, and God cannot afford to damn such a man. I cannot help God; I cannot injure God. I can help people; I can injure people. Consequently humanity is the only real religion.
I cannot better close this lecture than by quoting four lines from Robert Burns:
"To make a happy fireside clime To weans and wife— That's the true pathos and sublime Of human life."
INGERSOLL'S LECTURE ON SKULLS,—And His Replies To Prof. Swing, Dr. Collyer, And Other Critics—Reprinted from "The Chicago Times."
Ladies and Gentlemen: Man advances just in the proportion that he mingles his thoughts with his labor—just in the proportion that he takes advantage of the forces of nature; just in proportion as he loses superstition and gains confidence in himself. Man advances as he ceases to fear the gods and learns to love his fellow-men. It is all, in my judgment, a question of intellectual development. Tell me the religion of any man and I will tell you the degree he marks on the intellectual thermometer of the world. It is a simple question of brain. Those among us who are the nearest barbarism have a barbarian religion. Those who are nearest civilization have the least superstition. It is, I say, a simple question of brain, and I want, in the first place, to lay the foundation to prove that assertion.
A little while ago I saw models of nearly everything that man has made. I saw models of all the water craft, from the rude dug-out in which floated a naked savage—one of our ancestors—a naked savage, with teeth twice as long as his forehead was high, with a spoonful of brains in the back of his orthodox head—I saw models of all the water craft of the world, from that dug-out up to a man-of-war that carries a hundred guns and miles of canvas; from that dug-out to the steamship that turns its brave prow from the port of New York with a compass like a conscience, crossing three thousand miles of billows without missing a throb or beat of its mighty iron heart from shore to shore. And I saw at the same time the paintings of the world, from the rude daub of yellow mud to the landscapes that enrich palaces and adorn houses of what were once called the common people. I saw also their sculpture, from the rude god with four legs, a half dozen arms, several noses, and two or three rows of ears, and one little, contemptible, brainless head, up to the figures of today,—to the marbles that genius has clad in such a personality that it seems almost impudent to touch them without an introduction. I saw their books—books written upon the skins of wild beasts—upon shoulder-blades of sheep—books written upon leaves, upon bark, up to the splendid volumes that enrich the libraries of our day. When I speak of libraries I think of the remark of Plato: "A house that has a library in it has a soul."
I saw at the same time the offensive weapons that man has made, from a club, such as was grasped by that same savage when he crawled from his den in the ground and hunted a snake for his dinner; from that club to the boomerang, to the sword, to the cross-bow, to the blunderbuss, to the flintlock, to the caplock, to the needle-gun, up to a cannon cast by Krupp, capable of hurling a ball weighing two thousand pounds through eighteen inches of solid steel. I saw too, the armor from the shell of a turtle that one of our brave ancestors lashed upon his breast when he went to fight for his country, the skin of a porcupine, dried with the quills on, which this same savage pulled over his orthodox head, up to the shirts of mail that were worn in the middle ages, that laughed at the edge of the sword and defied the point of the spear; up to a monitor clad in complete steel. And I say orthodox not only in the matter of religion, but in everything. Whoever has quit growing, he is orthodox, whether in art, politics, religion, philosophy—no matter what. Whoever thinks he has found it all out he is orthodox. Orthodoxy is that which rots, and heresy is that which grows forever. Orthodoxy is the night of the past, full of the darkness of superstition, and heresy is the eternal coming day, the light of which strikes the grand foreheads of the intellectual pioneers of the world. I saw their implements of agriculture, from the plow made of a crooked stick, attached to the horn of an ox by some twisted straw, with which our ancestors scraped the earth, and from that to the agricultural implements of this generation, that make it possible for a man to cultivate the soil without being an ignoramus.
In the old time there was but one crop; and when the rain did not come in answer to the prayer of hypocrites a famine came and people fell upon their knees. At that time they were full of superstition. They were frightened all the time for fear that some god would be enraged at his poor, hapless, feeble and starving children. But now, instead of depending upon one crop they have several, and if there is not rain enough for one there may be enough for another. And if the frosts kill all, we have railroads and steamship—enough to bring what we need from some other part of the world. Since man has found out something about agriculture, the gods have retired from the business of producing famines.
I saw at the same time their musical instruments, from the tomtom—that is, a hoop with a couple of strings of rawhide drawn across it—from that tom-tom, up to the instruments we have today, that make the common air blossom with melody, and I said to myself there is a regular advancement. I saw at the same time a row of human skulls, from the lowest skull that has been found, the Neanderthal skull—skulls from Central Africa, skulls from the bushmen of Australia—skulls from the farthest isles of the Pacific Sea—up to the best skulls of the last generation—and I noticed that there was the same difference between those skulls that there was between the products of those skulls, and I said to myself: "After all, it is a simple question of intellectual development." There was the same difference between those skulls, the lowest and highest skulls, that there was between the dug-out and the man-of-war and the steamship, between the club and the Krupp gun, between the yellow daub and the landscape, between the tom-tom and an opera by Verdi. The first and lowest skull in this row was the den in which crawled the base and meaner instincts of mankind, and the last was a temple in which dwelt joy, liberty and love. And I said to myself, it is all a question of intellectual development.
Man has advanced just as he has mingled his thought with his labor. As he has grown he has taken advantage of the forces of nature; first of the moving wind, then of the falling water and finally of steam. From one step to another he has obtained better houses, better clothes, and better books, and he has done it by holding out every incentive to the ingenious to produce them. The world has said, give us better clubs and guns and cannons with which to kill our fellow Christians. And whoever will give us better weapons and better music, and better houses to live in, we will robe him in wealth crown him in honor, and render his name deathless. Every incentive was held out to every human being to improve these things, and that is the reason we have advanced in all mechanical arts. But that gentleman in the dugout not only had his ideas about politics, mechanics, and agriculture; he had his ideas also about religion. His idea about politics was "Might makes right." It will be thousands of years, may be, before mankind will believe in the saying that "right makes might." He had his religion. That low skull was a devil factory. He believed in Hell, and the belief was a consolation to him. He could see the waves of God's wrath dashing against the rocks of dark damnation. He could see tossing in the whitecaps the faces of women, and stretching above the crests the dimpled hands of children; and he regarded these things as the justice and mercy of God. And all today who believe in this eternal punishment are the barbarians of the nineteenth century. That man believed in a devil, that had a long tail terminating with a fiery dart; that had wings like a bat—a devil that had a cheerful habit of breathing brimstone, that had a cloven foot, such as some orthodox clergymen seem to think I have. And there has not been a patentable improvement made upon that devil in all the years since. The moment you drive the devil out of theology, there is nothing left worth speaking of. The moment they drop the devil, away goes atonement. The moment they kill the devil, their whole scheme of salvation has lost all of its interest for mankind. You must keep the devil and, you must keep Hell. You must keep the devil, because with no devil no priest is necessary. Now, all I ask is this—the same privilege to improve upon his religion as upon his dug-out, and that is what I am going to do, the best I can. No matter what church you belong to, or what church belongs to us. Let us be honor bright and fair.
I want to ask you: Suppose the king, if there was one, and the priest if there was one at that time, had told these gentlemen in the dug-out: "That dug-out is the best boat that can be built by man; the pattern of that came from on high, from the great God of storm and flood, and any man who says he can improve it by putting a stick in the middle of it and a rag on the stick, is an infidel, and shall be burned at the stake;" what, in your judgment—honor bright—would have been the effect upon the circumnavigation of the globe? Suppose the king, if there was one, and the priest, if there was one—and I presume there was a priest, because it was a very ignorant age—suppose the king and priest had said: "The tomtom is the most beautiful instrument of music of which any man can conceive; that is the kind of music they have in Heaven; an angel sitting upon the edge of a glorified cloud, golden in the setting sun, playing upon that tom-tom, became so enraptured, so entranced with her own music, that in a kind of ecstasy she dropped it—that is how we obtained it; and any man who says it can be improved by putting a back and front to it, and four strings, and a bridge, and getting a bow of hair with rosin, is a blaspheming wretch, and shall die the death,"—I ask you, what effect would that have had upon music? If that course had been pursued, would the human ears, in your judgment, ever have been enriched with the divine symphonies of Beethoven? Suppose the king, if there was one, and the priest, had said "That crooked stick is the best plow that can be invented, the pattern of that plow was given to a pious farmer in an exceedingly holy dream, and that twisted straw is the ne plus ultra of all twisted things, and any man who says he can make an improvement upon that plow, is an atheist;" what, in your judgment, would have been the effect upon the science of agriculture?
Now, all I ask is the same privilege to improve upon his religion as upon his mechanical arts. Why don't we go back to that period to get the telegraph? Because they were barbarians. And shall we go to barbarians to get our religion? What is religion? Religion simply embraces the duty of man to man. Religion is simply the science of human duty and the duty of man to man—that is what it is. It is the highest science of all. And all other sciences are as nothing, except as they contribute to the happiness of man. The science of religion is the highest of all, embracing all others. And shall we go to the barbarians to learn the science of sciences? The nineteenth century knows more about religion than all the centuries dead. There is more real charity in the world today than ever before. There is more thought today than ever before. Woman is glorified today as she never was before in the history of the world. There are more happy families now than ever before—more children treated as though they were tender blossoms than as though they were brutes than in any other time or nation. Religion is simply the duty a man owes to man; and when you fall upon your knees and pray for something you know not of, you neither benefit the one you pray for nor yourself. One ounce of restitution is worth a million of repentances anywhere, and a man will get along faster by helping himself a minute than by praying ten years for somebody to help him. Suppose you were coming along the street, and found a party of men and women on their knees praying to a bank, and you asked them, "Have any of you borrowed any money of this bank?" "No, but our fathers, they, too, prayed to this bank." "Did they ever get any?" "No, not that we ever heard of." I would tell them to get up. It is easier to earn it, and it is far more manly.
Our fathers in the "good old times,"—and the best that I can say of the "good old times" is that they are gone, and the best I can say of the good old people that lived in them is that they are gone, too—believed that you made a man think your way by force. Well, you can't do it. There is a splendid something in man that says: "I won't; I won't be driven." But our fathers thought men could be driven. They tried it in the "good old times." I used to read about the manner in which the early Christians made converts—how they impressed upon the world the idea that God loved them. I have read it, but it didn't burn into my soul. I didn't think much about it—I heard so much about being fried forever in Hell that it didn't seem so bad to burn a few minutes. I love liberty and I hate all persecutions in the name of God. I never appreciated the infamies that have been committed in the name of religion until I saw the iron arguments that Christians used. I saw, for instance, the thumb-screw, two little innocent looking pieces of iron, armed with some little protuberances on the inner side to keep it from slipping down, and through each end a screw, and when some man had made some trifling remark, for instance, that he never believed that God made a fish swallow a man to keep him from drowning, or something like that, or, for instance, that he didn't believe in baptism. You know that is very wrong. You can see for yourself the justice of damning a man if his parents happened to baptize him in the wrong way—God cannot afford to break a rule or two to save all the men in the world. I happened to be in the company of some Baptist ministers once—you may wonder how I happened to be in such company as that—and one of them asked me what I thought about baptism. Well, I told them I hadn't thought much about it—that I had never sat up nights on that question. I said: "Baptism—with soap—is a good institution." Now, when some man had said some trifling thing like that, they put this thumb-screw on him, and in the name of universal benevolence and for the love of God—man has never persecuted man for the love of man; man has never persecuted another for the love of charity—it is always for the love of something he calls God, and every man's idea of God is his own idea. If there is an infinite God, and there may be—I don't know—there may be a million for all I know—I hope there is more than one—one seems so lonesome. They kept turning this down, and when this was done, most men would say: "I will recant." I think, I would. There is not much of the martyr about me. I would have told them: "Now you write it down, and I will sign it. You may have one God or a million, one Hell or a million. You stop that—I am tired."
Do you know, sometimes I have thought that all the hypocrites in the world are not worth one drop of honest blood. I am sorry that any good man ever died for religion. I would rather let them advance a little easier. It is too bad to see a good man sacrificed for a lot of wild beasts and cattle. But there is now and then a man who would not swerve the breadth of a hair. There was now and then a sublime heart willing to die for an intellectual conviction, and had it not been for these men we would have been wild beasts and savages today. There were some men who would not take it back, and had it not been for a few such brave, heroic souls in every age we would have been cannibals, with pictures of wild beasts tattooed upon our breasts, dancing around some dried-snake fetish. And so they turned it down to the last thread of agony, and threw the victim into some dungeon, where, in the throbbing silence and darkness, he might suffer the agonies of the fabled damned. This was done in the name of love, in the name of mercy, in the name of the compassionate Christ. And the men that did it are the men that made our Bible for us.
I saw, too, at the same time, 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." And that was done to convince the world that God so loved the world that He died for us. That was in order that people might hear the glad tidings of great joy to all people.
I saw another instrument, called the scavenger's daughter. Imagine 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, and in that position the man would be thrown upon the earth, and the strain upon the muscle would produce such agony that insanity took pity. And this was done to keep people from going to Hell—to convince that man that he had made a mistake in his logic—and it was done, too, by Protestants—Protestants that persecuted to the extent of their power, and that is as much as Catholicism ever did. They would persecute now if they had the power. There is not a man in this vast audience who will say that the church should have temporal power. There is not one of you but what believes in the eternal divorce of church and state. Is it possible that the only people who are fit to go to heaven are the only people not fit to rule mankind?
I saw at the same time the rack. This was a box like the bed of a wagon, with a windlass at each end, and ratchets to prevent slipping. Over each windlass went chains, and when some man had, for instance, denied the doctrine of the trinity, a doctrine it is necessary to believe in order to get to Heaven—but, thank the Lord, you don't have to understand it. This man merely denied that three times one was one, or maybe he denied that there was ever any Son in the world exactly as old as his father, or that there ever was a boy eternally older than his mother—then they put that man on the rack. Nobody had ever been persecuted for calling God bad—it has always been for calling him good. When I stand here to say that, if there is a Hell, God is a fiend, they say that is very bad. They say I am trying to tear down the institutions of public virtue. But let me tell you one thing: there is no reformation in fear—you can scare a man so that he won't do it sometimes, but I will swear you can't scare him so bad that he won't want to do it. Then they put this man on the rack and priests began turning these levers, and kept turning until the ankles, the hips, the shoulders, the elbows, the wrists, and all the joints of the victim were dislocated, and he was wet with agony, and standing by was a physician to feel his pulse. What for? To save his life? Yes. In mercy? No. But in order that they might have the pleasure of racking him once more. And this was the Christian spirit. This was done in the name of civilization, in the name of religion, and all these wretches who did it died in peace. There is not an orthodox preacher in the city that has not a respect for every one of them. As, for instance, for John Calvin, who was a murderer and nothing but a murderer, who would have disgraced an ordinary gallows by being hanged upon it. These men when they came to die were not frightened. God did not send any devils into their death-rooms to make mouths at them. He reserved them for Voltaire, who brought religious liberty to France. He reserved them for Thomas Paine, who did more for liberty than all the churches. But all the inquisitors died with the white hands of peace folded over the breast of piety. And when they died, the room was filled with the rustle of the wings of angels, waiting to bear the wretches to Heaven.
When I read these frightful books it seems to me sometimes as though I had suffered all these things myself. It seems sometimes as though I had stood upon the shore of exile, and gazed with tearful eyes toward home and native land; it seems to me as though I had been staked out upon the sands of the sea, and drowned by the inexorable, advancing tide; 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 Inquisition, and listened with dying ears for the coming footsteps of release; as though I had stood upon the scaffold and saw 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 taken 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, while I so feel, I swear that while I live I will do what little I can to augment the liberties of man, woman and child. I denounce slavery and superstition everywhere. I believe in liberty, and happiness, and love, and joy in this world. I am amazed that any man ever had the impudence to try and do another man's thinking. I have just as good a right to talk theology as a minister. If they all agreed I might admit it was a science, but as all disagree, and the more they study the wider they get apart, I may be permitted to suggest, it is not a science. When no two will tell you the road to Heaven,—that is, giving you the same route—and if you would inquire of them all, you would just give up trying to go there, and say I may as well stay where I am, and let the Lord come to me.
Do you know that this world has not been fit for a lady and gentleman to live in for twenty-five years, just on account of slavery. It was not until the year 1808 that Great Britain abolished the slave trade, and up to that time her judges, her priests occupying her pulpits, the members of the royal family, owned stock in the slave ships, and luxuriated upon the profits of piracy and murder. It was not until the same year that the United States of America abolished the slave trade between this and other countries, but carefully preserved it as between the states. It was not until the 28th day of August, 1833, that Great Britain abolished human slavery in her colonies; and it was not until the 1st day of January, 1863, that Abraham Lincoln, sustained by the sublime and heroic North, rendered our flag pure as the sky in which it floats. Abraham Lincoln was, in my judgment, in many respects, the grandest man ever president of the United States. Upon his monument these words should be written: "Here sleeps the only man in the history of the world, who, having been clothed with almost absolute power, never abused it, except upon the side of mercy."
For two hundred years the Christians of the United States deliberately turned the cross of Christ into a whipping-post. Christians bred hounds to catch other Christians. Let me show you what the Bible has done for mankind: "Servants, be obedient to your masters." The only word coming from that sweet Heaven was, "Servants, obey your masters." Frederick Douglas told me that he had lectured upon the subject of freedom twenty years before he was permitted to set his foot in a church. I tell you the world has not been fit to live in for twenty-five years. Then all the people used to cringe and crawl to preachers. Mr. Buckle, in his history of civilization, shows that men were even struck dead for speaking impolitely to a priest. God would not stand it. See how they used to crawl before cardinals, bishops and popes. It is not so now. Before wealth they bowed to the very earth, and in the presence of titles they became abject. All this is slowly, but surely changing. We no longer bow to men simply because they are rich. Our fathers worshiped the golden calf. The worst you can say of an American now is, he worships the gold of the calf. Even the calf is beginning to see this distinction.
The time will come when no matter how much money a man has, he will not be respected unless he is using it for the benefit of his fellow-men. It will soon be here. It no longer satisfies the ambition of a great man to be king or emperor. The last Napoleon was not satisfied with being the emperor of the French. He was not satisfied with having a circlet of gold about his head. He wanted some evidence that he had something of value within his head. So he wrote the life of Julius Caesar, that he might become a member of the French academy. The emperors, the kings, the popes, no longer tower above their fellows. Compare, for instance, King William and Helmholtz. The king is one of the anointed by the Most High, as they claim—one upon whose head has been poured the divine petroleum of authority. Compare this king with Helmholtz, who towers an intellectual Colossus above the crowned mediocrity. Compare George Eliot with Queen Victoria. The queen is clothed in garments given her by blind fortune and unreasoning chance, while George Eliot wears robes of glory woven in the loom of her own genius. And so it is the world over. The time is coming when a man will be rated at his real worth, and that by his brain and heart. We care nothing now about an officer unless he fills his place. No matter if he is president, if he rattles in the place nobody cares anything about him. I might give you an instance in point, but I won't. The world is getting better and grander and nobler every day.
Now, if men have been slaves, if they have crawled in the dust before one another, what shall I say of women? They have been the slaves of men. It took thousands of ages to bring women from abject slavery up to the divine height of marriage. I believe in marriage. If there is any Heaven upon earth, it is in the family by the fireside and the family is a unit of government. Without the family relation that is tender, pure and true, civilization is impossible. Ladies, the ornaments you wear upon your persons tonight are but the souvenirs of your mother's bondage. The chains around your necks; and the bracelets clasped upon your white arms by the thrilled hand of love, have been changed by the wand of civilization from iron to shining, glittering gold. Nearly every civilization in this world accounts for the devilment in it by the crimes of woman. They say woman brought all the trouble into the world. I don't care if she did. I would rather live in a world full of trouble with the women I love, than to live in Heaven with nobody but men. I read in a book an account of the creation of the world. The book I have taken pains to say was not written by any God. And why do I say so? Because I can write a far better book myself. Because it is full of barbarism. Several ministers in this city have undertaken to answer me—notably those who don't believe the Bible themselves. I want to ask these men one thing. I want them to be fair.
Every minister in the City of Chicago that answers me, and those who have answered me had better answer me again—I want them to say, and without any sort of evasion—without resorting to any pious tricks—I want them to say whether they believe that the Eternal God of this universe ever upheld the crime of polygamy. Say it square and fair. Don't begin to talk about that being a peculiar time, and that God was easy on the prejudices of those old fellows. I want them to answer that question and to answer it squarely, which they haven't done. Did this God, which you pretend to worship, ever sanction the institution of human slavery? Now, answer fair. Don't slide around it. Don't begin and answer what a bad man I am, nor what a good man Moses was. Stick to the text. Do you believe in a God that allowed a man to be sold from his children? Do you worship such an infinite monster? And if you do, tell your congregation whether you are not ashamed to admit it. Let every minister who answers me again tell whether he believes God commanded his general to kill the little dimpled babe in the cradle. Let him answer it. Don't say that those were very bad times. Tell whether He did it or not, and then your people will know whether to hate that God or not. Be honest. Tell them whether that God in war captured young maidens and turned them over to the soldiers; and then ask the wives and sweet girls of your congregation to get down on their knees and worship the infinite fiend that did that thing. Answer! It is your God I am talking about, and if that is what God did, please tell your congregation what, under the same circumstances, the devil would have done. Don't tell your people that is a poem. Don't tell your people that is pictorial. That won't do. Tell your people whether it is true or false. That is what I want you to do.
In this book I read about God's making the world and one man. That is all He intended to make. The making of woman was a second thought, though I am willing to admit that as a rule second thoughts are best. This God made a man and put him in a public park. In a little while He noticed that the man got lonesome; then He found He had made a mistake, and that He would have to make somebody to keep him company. But having used up all the nothing He originally used in making the world and one man, He had to take a part of a man to start a woman with. So He causes sleep to fall on this man—now understand me, I do not say this story is true. After the sleep had fallen on this man the Supreme Being took a rib, or, as the French would call it, a cutlet, out of him, and from that He made a woman; and I am willing to swear, taking into account the amount and quality of the raw material used, this was the most magnificent job ever accomplished in this world. Well, after He got the woman done she was brought to the man, not to see how she liked him, but to see how he liked her. He liked her and they started housekeeping, and they were told of certain things they might do and of one thing they could not do—and of course they did it. I would have done it in fifteen minutes, I know it. There wouldn't have been an apple on that tree half an hour from date, and the limbs would have been full of clubs. And then they were turned out of the park and extra policemen were put on to keep them from getting back. And then trouble commenced and we have been at it ever since. Nearly all the religions of this world account for the existence of evil by such a story as that.
Well, I read in another book what appeared to be an account of the same transaction. It was written about four thousand years before the other. All commentators agree that the one that was written last was the original, and the one that was written first was copied from the one that was written last. But I would advise you all not to allow your creed to be disturbed by a little matter of four or five thousand years. It is a great deal better to be mistaken in dates than to go to the devil. In this other account the Supreme Brahma made up his mind to make the world and a man and woman. He made the world and he made the man and then the woman, and put them on the Island of Ceylon. According to the account it was the most beautiful island of which man can conceive. Such birds, such songs, such flowers, and such verdure! And the branches of the trees were so arranged that when the wind swept through them every tree was a thousand aeolian harps. Brahma, when he put them there, said: "Let them have a period of courtship, for it is my desire and will that true love should forever precede marriage." When I read that, it was so much more beautiful and lofty than the other, that I said to myself: "If either one of these stories ever turns out to be true, I hope it will be this one."
Then they had their courtship, with the nightingale singing and the stars shining and the flowers blooming, and they fell in love. Imagine that courtship! No prospective fathers or mothers-in-law; no prying and gossiping neighbors; nobody to say, "Young man, how do you expect to support her?" Nothing of that kind, nothing but the nightingale singing its song of joy and pain, as though the thorn already touched its heart. They were married by the Supreme Brahma, and he said to them, "Remain here; you must never leave this island." Well, after a little while the man—and his name was Adami, and the woman's name was Heva—said to Heva: "I believe I'll look about a little." He wanted to go West. He went to the western extremity of the island where there was a little narrow neck of land connecting it with the mainland, and the devil, who is always playing pranks with us, produced a mirage, and when he looked over to the mainland, such hills and vales, such dells and dales, such mountains crowned with snow, such cataracts clad in bows of glory did he see there, that he went back and told Heva: "The country over there is a thousand times better than this, let us migrate." She, like every other woman that ever lived, said: "Let well enough alone we have all we want; let us stay here." But he said: "No, let us go;" so she followed him, and when they came to this narrow neck of land, he took her on his back like a gentleman, and carried her over. But the moment they got over, they heard a crash, and, looking back, discovered that this narrow neck of land had fallen into the sea. The mirage had disappeared, and there was naught but rocks and sand, and the Supreme Brahma cursed them both to the lowest Hell.
Then it was that the man spoke—and I have liked him ever since for it—"Curse me, but curse not her; it was not her fault, it was mine." That's the kind of a man to start a world with. The Supreme Brahma said: "I will save her but not thee." And she spoke out of her fullness of love, out of a heart in which there was love enough to make all her daughters rich in holy affection, and said: "If thou wilt not spare him, spare neither me. I do not wish to live without him, I love him." Then the Supreme Brahma said—and I have liked him ever since I read it—"I will spare you both, and watch over you and your children forever." Honor bright, is that not the better and grander story?
And in that same book I find this "Man is strength, woman is beauty; man is courage, woman is love. When the one man loves the one woman, and the one woman loves the one man, the very angels leave Heaven, and come and sit in that house, and sing for joy." In the same book this: "Blessed is that man, and beloved of all the gods, who is afraid of no man, and of whom no man is afraid." Magnificent character! A missionary certainly ought to talk to that man. And I find this: "Never will I accept private, individual salvation, but rather will I stay and work, strive and suffer, until every soul from every star has been brought home to God." Compare that with the Christian that expects to go to Heaven while the world is rolling over Niagara to an eternal and unending Hell. So I say that religion lays all the crime and troubles of this world at the beautiful feet of woman. And then the church has the impudence to say that it has exalted women. I believe that marriage is a perfect partnership; that woman has every right that man has—and one more—the right to be protected. Above all men in the world I hate a stingy man—a man that will make his wife beg for money. "What did you do with the dollar I gave you last week? And what are you going to do with this?" It is vile. No gentleman will ever be satisfied with the love of a beggar and a slave—no gentleman will ever be satisfied except with the love of an equal. What kind of children does a man expect to have with a beggar for their mother? A man can not be so poor but that he can be generous, and if you only have one dollar in the word and you have got to spend it, spend it like a lord—spend it as though it were a dry leaf, and you the owner of unbounded forests—spend it as though you had a wilderness of your own. That's the way to spend it.
I had rather be a beggar and spend my last dollar like a king, than be a king and spend my money like a beggar. If it has got to go, let it go. And this is my advice to the poor. For you can never be so poor that whatever you do you can't do in a grand and manly way. I hate a cross man. What right has a man to assassinate the joy of life? When you go home you ought to go like a ray of light—so that it will, even in the night, burst out of the doors and windows and illuminate the darkness. Some men think their mighty brains have been in a turmoil; they have been thinking about who will be Alderman from the Fifth Ward; they have been thinking about politics, great and mighty questions have been engaging their minds, they have bought calico at five cents or six, and want to sell it for seven. Think of the intellectual strain that must have been upon that man, and when he gets home everybody else in the house must look out for his comfort. A woman who has only taken care of five or six children, and one or two of them sick, has been nursing them and singing to them, and trying to make one yard of cloth do the work of two, she, of course, is fresh and fine and ready to wait upon this gentleman—the head of the family—the boss. I was reading the other day of an apparatus invented for the ejecting of gentlemen who subsist upon free lunches. It is so arranged that when the fellow gets both hands into the victuals, a large hand descends upon him, jams his hat over his eyes—he is seized, turned toward the door, and just in the nick of time an immense boot comes from the other side, kicks him in italics, sends him out over the sidewalk and lands him rolling in the gutter. I never hear of such a man—a boss—that I don't feel as though that machine ought to be brought into requisition for his benefit.
Love is the only thing that will pay ten per cent of interest on the outlay. Love is the only thing in which the height of extravagance is the last degree of economy. It is the only thing, I tell you. Joy is wealth. Love is the legal tender of the soul—and you need not be rich to be happy. We have all been raised on success in this country. Always been talked with about being successful, and have never thought ourselves very rich unless we were the possessors of some magnificent mansion, and unless our names have been between the putrid lips of rumor we could not be happy. Every little boy is striving to be this and be that. I tell you the happy man is the successful man. The man that has won the love of one good woman is a successful man. The man that has been the emperor of one good heart, and that heart embraced all his, has been a success. If another has been the emperor of the round world and has never loved and been loved, his life is a failure. It won't do. Let us teach our children the other way, that the happy man is the successful man, and he who is a happy man is the one who always tries to make some one else happy.
The man who marries a woman to make her happy; that marries her as much for her own sake as for his own; not the man that thinks his wife is his property, who thinks that the title to her belongs to him—that the woman is the property of the man; wretches who get mad at their wives and then shoot them down in the street because they think the woman is their property. I tell you it is not necessary to be rich and great and powerful to be happy.
A little while ago I stood by the grave of the old Napoleon—a magnificent tomb of gilt and gold, fit almost for a dead deity—and gazed upon the sarcophagus of black Egyptian marble, where rest at last the ashes of the restless man. I leaned over the balustrade and thought about the career of the greatest soldier of the modern world. I saw him walk upon the banks of the Seine, contemplating suicide—I saw him at Toulon—I saw him putting down the mob in the streets of Paris—I saw him at the head of the army of Italy—I saw him crossing the bridge of Lodi with the tri-color in his hand—I saw him in Egypt in the shadows of the pyramids—I saw him conquer the Alps and mingle the eagles of France with the eagles of the crags. I saw him at Marengo—at Ulm and Austerlitz. I saw him in Russia, where the infantry of the snow and the cavalry of the wild blast scattered his legions like Winter's withered leaves. I saw him at Leipzig in defeat and disaster—driven by a million bayonets back upon Paris—clutched like a wild beast—banished to Elba. I saw him escape and retake an empire by the force of his genius. I saw him upon the frightful field of Waterloo, where chance and fate combined to wreck the fortunes of their former king. And I saw him at St. Helena, with his hands crossed behind him, gazing out upon the sad and solemn sea. I thought of the orphans and widows he had made—of the tears that had been shed for his glory, and of the only woman who ever loved him, pushed from his heart by the cold hand of ambition. And I said I would rather have been a French peasant and worn wooden shoes. I would rather have lived in a hut with a vine growing over the door, and the grapes growing purple in the kisses of the Autumn sun; I would rather have been that poor peasant with my loving wife by my side, knitting as the day died out of the sky, with my children upon my knees and their arms about me; I would rather have been that man and gone down to the tongueless silence of the dreamless dust than to have been that imperial impersonation of force and murder, known as Napoleon the Great. It is not necessary to be rich in order to be happy. It is only necessary to be in love. Thousands of men go to college and get a certificate that they have an education, and that certificate is in Latin and they stop studying, and in two years, to save their life, they couldn't read the certificate they got.
It is mostly so in marrying. They stop courting when they get married. They think, we have won her and that is enough. Ah! the difference before and after! How well they look! How bright their eyes! How light their steps, and how full they were of generosity and laughter! I tell you a man should consider himself in good luck if a woman loves him when he is doing his level best! Good luck! Good luck! And another thing that is the cause of much trouble is that people don't count fairly. They do what they call putting their best foot forward. That means lying a little. I say put your worst foot forward. If you have got any faults admit them. If you drink say so and quit it. If you chew and smoke and swear, say so. If some of your kindred are not very good people, say so. If you have had two or three that died on the gallows, or that ought to have died there, say so. Tell all your faults and if after she knows your faults she says she will have you, you have got the dead wood on that woman forever. I claim that there should be perfect equality in the home, and I can not think of anything nearer Heaven than a home where there is true republicanism and true democracy at the fireside. All are equal.
And then, do you know, I like to think that love is eternal; that if you really love the woman, for her sake, you will love her no matter what she may do; that if she really loves you, for your sake, the same; that love does not look at alterations, through the wrinkles of time, through the mask of years—if you really love her you will always see the face you loved and won. And I like to think of it. If a man loves a woman she does not ever grow old to him. And the woman who really loves a man does not see that he is growing older. He is not decrepit to her. He is not tremulous. He is not old. He is not bowed. She always sees the same gallant fellow that won her hand and heart. I like to think of it in that way, and as Shakespeare says: "Let Time reach with his sickle as far as ever he can; although he can reach ruddy cheeks and ripe lips, and flashing eyes, he can not quite reach love." I like to think of it. We will go down the hill of life together, and enter the shadow one with the other, and as we go down we may hear the ripple of the laughter of our grandchildren, and the birds, and spring, and youth, and love will sing once more upon the leafless branches of the tree of age. I love to think of it in that way—absolute equals, happy, happy, and free, all our own.
But some people say: "Would you allow a woman to vote?" Yes, if she wants to; that is her business, not mine. If a woman wants to vote, I am too much of a gentleman to say she shall not. But, they say, woman has not sense enough to vote. It don't take much. But it seems to me there are some questions, as for instance, the question of peace or war, that a woman should be allowed to vote upon. A woman that has sons to be offered on the altar of that Moloch, it seems to me that such a woman should have as much right to vote upon the question of peace and war as some thrice-besotted sot that reels to the ballot box and deposits his vote for war. But if women have been slaves, what shall we say of the little children, born in the sub-cellars, children of poverty, children of crime, children of wealth, children that are afraid when they hear their names pronounced by the lips of their mother, children that cower in fear when they hear the footsteps of their brutal father, the flotsam and jetsam upon the rude sea of life, my heart goes out to them one and all.
Children have all the rights that we have and one more, and that is to be protected. Treat your children in that way. Suppose your child tells a lie. Don't pretend that the whole world is going into bankruptcy. Don't pretend that that is the first lie ever told. Tell them, like an honest man, that you have told hundreds of lies yourself, and tell the dear little darling that it is not the best way; that it soils the soul. Think of the man that deals in stocks whipping his children for putting false rumors afloat! Think of an orthodox minister whipping his own flesh and blood, for not telling all it thinks! Think of that! Think of a lawyer for beating his child for avoiding the truth! when the old man makes about half his living that way. A lie is born of weakness on one side and tyranny on the other. That is what it is. Think of a great big man coming at a little bit of a child with a club in his hand! What is the little darling to do? Lie, of course. I think that mother Nature put that ingenuity into the mind of the child, when attacked by a parent, to throw up a little breastwork in the shape of a lie to defend itself. When a great general wins a battle by what they call strategy, we build monuments to him. What is strategy? Lies. Suppose a man as much larger than we are as we are larger than a child five years of age, should come at us with a liberty pole in his hand, and in tones of thunder want to know "who broke that plate," there isn't one of us, not excepting myself, that wouldn't swear that we never had seen that plate in our lives, or that it was cracked when we got it.
Another good way to make children tell the truth is to tell it yourself. Keep your word with your child the same as you would with your banker. If you tell a child you will do anything, either do it or give the child the reason why. Truth is born of confidence. It comes from the lips of love and liberty. I was over in Michigan the other day. There was a boy over there at Grand Rapids about five or six years old, a nice, smart boy, as you will see from the remark he made—what you might call a nineteenth century boy. His father and mother had promised to take him out riding. They had promised to take him out riding for about three weeks, and they would slip off and go without him. Well, after while that got kind of played out with the little boy, and the day before I was there they played the trick on him again. They went out and got the carriage, and went away, and as they rode away from the front of the house, he happened to be standing there with his nurse, and he saw them. The whole thing flashed on him in a moment. He took in the situation, and turned to his nurse and said, pointing to his father and mother, "There go the two d—t liars in the State of Michigan!" When you go home fill the house with joy, so that the light of it will stream out the windows and doors, and illuminate even the darkness. It is just as easy that way as any in the world.
I want to tell you tonight that you can not get the robe of hypocrisy on you so thick that the sharp eye of childhood will not see through every veil, and if you pretend to your children that you are the best man that ever lived—the bravest man that ever lived—they will find you out every time. They will not have the same opinion of father when they grow up that they used to have. They will have to be in mighty bad luck if they ever do meaner things than you have done. When your child confesses to you that it has committed a fault, take that child in your arms, and let it feel your heart beat against its heart, and raise your children in the sunlight of love, and they will be sunbeams to you along the pathway of life. Abolish the club and the whip from the house, because, if the civilized use a whip, the ignorant and the brutal will use a club, and they will use it because you use the whip.
Every little while some door is thrown open in some orphan asylum, and there we see the bleeding back of a child whipped beneath the roof that was raised by love. It is infamous, and a man that can't raise a child without the whip ought not to have a child. If there is one of you here that ever expect to whip your child again, let me ask you something. Have your photograph taken at the time and let it show your face red with vulgar anger, and the face of the little one with eyes swimming in tears, and the little chin dimpled with fear, looking like a piece of water struck by a sudden cold wind. If that little child should die, I can not think of a sweeter way to spend an Autumn afternoon than to take that photograph and go to the cemetery, when the maples are clad in tender gold, and when little scarlet runners are coming from the sad heart of the earth, and sit down upon that mound, and look upon that photograph, and think of the flesh, now dust, that you beat. Just think of it. I could not bear to die in the arms of a child that I had whipped. I could not bear to feel upon my lips, when they were withered beneath the touch of death, the kiss of one that I had struck. Some Christians act as though they really thought that when Christ said, "Suffer little children to come unto me," He had a rawhide under His coat. They act as though they really thought that He made that remark simply to get the children within striking distance.
I have known Christians to turn their children from their doors, especially a daughter, and then get down on their knees and pray to God to watch over them and help them. I will never ask God to help my children unless I am doing my level best in that same wretched line. I will tell you what I say to my girls: "Go where you will; do what crime you may; fall to what depth of degradation you may; in all the storms and winds and earthquakes of life, no matter what you do, you never can commit any crime that will shut my door, my arms or my heart to you. As long as I live you have one sincere friend." Call me an atheist; call me an infidel because I hate the God of the Jew—which I do. I intend so to live that when I die my children can come to my grave and truthfully say: "He who sleeps here never gave us one moment of pain."
When I was a boy there was one day in each week too good for a child to be happy in. In these good old times Sunday commenced when the sun went down on Saturday night and closed when the sun went down on Sunday night. We commenced Saturday to get a good ready. And when the sun went down Saturday night there was a gloom deeper than midnight that fell upon the house. You could not crack hickory nuts then. And if you were caught chewing gum, it was only another evidence of the total depravity of the human heart. Well, after a while we got to bed sadly and sorrowfully after having heard Heaven thanked that we were not all in Hell. And I sometimes used to wonder how the mercy of God lasted as long as it did, because I recollected that on several occasions I had not been at school, when I was supposed to be there. Why I was not burned to a crisp was a mystery to me. The next morning we got ready for church—all solemn, and when we got there the minister was up in the pulpit, about twenty feet high, and he commenced at Genesis about "The fall of man," and he went on to about twenty thirdly; then he struck the second application, and when he struck the application I knew he was about half way through. And then he went on to show the scheme how the Lord was satisfied by punishing the wrong man. Nobody but a God would have thought of that ingenious way. Well, when he got through that, then came the catechism—the chief end of man. Then my turn came, and we sat along on a little bench where our feet came within about fifteen inches of the floor, and the dear old minister used to ask us:
"Boys, do you know that you ought to be in Hell?"
And we answered up as cheerfully as could be expected under the circumstances.
"Well, boys, do you know that you would go to Hell if you died in your sins?"
And we said: "Yes, sir."
And then came the great test:
"Boys"—I can't get the tone, you know. And do you know that is how the preachers get the bronchitis. You never heard of an auctioneer getting the bronchitis, nor the second mate on a steamboat—never. What gives it to the minister is talking solemnly when they don't feel that way, and it has the same influence upon the organs of speech that it would have upon the cords of the calves of your legs to walk on your tip-toes, and so I call bronchitis "parsonitis." And if the ministers would all tell exactly what they think they would all get well, but keeping back a part of the truth is what gives them bronchitis.
Well the old man—the dear old minister—used to try and show us how long we would be in Hell if we would only locate there. But to finish the other. The grand test question was:
"Boys, if it was God's will that you should go to Hell, would you be willing to go?"
And every little liar said:
Then, in order to tell how long we would stay there, he used to say:
"Suppose once in a billion ages a bird should come from a far distant clime and carry off in its bill one little grain of sand, the time would finally come when the last grain of sand would be carried away. Do you understand?"
"Boys, by that time it would not be sun-up in Hell."
Where did that doctrine of Hell come from? I will tell you; from that fellow in the dug-out. Where did he get it? It was a souvenir from the wild beasts. Yes, I tell you he got it from the wild beasts, from the glittering eye of the serpent, from the coiling, twisting snakes with their fangs mouths; and it came from the bark, growl and howl of wild beasts; it was born of a laugh of the hyena and got it from the depraved chatter of malicious apes. And I despise it with every drop of my blood and defy it. If there is any God in this universe who will damn his children for an expression of an honest thought I wish to go to Hell. I would rather go there than go to heaven and keep the company of a God that would thus damn his children. Oh it is an infamous doctrine to teach that to little children, to put a shadow in the heart of a child to fill the insane asylums with that miserable, infamous lie. I see now and then a little girl—a dear little darling, with a face like the light, and eyes of joy, a human blossom, and I think, "is it possible that little girl will ever grow up to be a Presbyterian?" Is it possible, my goodness, that that flower will finally believe in the five points of Calvinism or in the eternal damnation of man? Is it possible that that little fairy will finally believe that she could be happy in Heaven with her baby in Hell? Think of it! Think of it! And that is the Christian religion!
We cry out against the Indian mother that throws her child into the Ganges, to be devoured by the alligator or crocodile, but that is joy in comparison with the Christian mother's hope, that she may be in salvation while her brave boy is in Hell.
I tell you I want to kick the doctrine about Hell—I want to kick it out every time I go by it. I want to get Americans in this country placed so they will be ashamed to preach it. I want to get the congregations so that they won't listen to it. We cannot divide the world off into saints and sinners in that way. There is a little girl, fair as a flower, and she grows up until she is twelve, thirteen, or fourteen years old. Are you going to damn her in the fifteenth, sixteenth or seventeenth year, when the arrow from Cupid's bow touches her heart and she is glorified—are you going to damn her now? She marries and loves, and holds in her arms a beautiful child? Are you going to damn her now? When are you going to damn her? Because she has listened to some Methodist minister and after all that flood of light failed to believe? Are you going to damn her then? I tell you God can not afford to damn such a woman.
A woman in the State of Indiana forty or fifty years ago who carded the wool and made rolls and spun them, and made the cloth and cut out the clothes for the children, and nursed them, and sat up with them nights and—gave them medicine, and held them in her arms and wept over them—cried for joy and wept for fear, and finally raised ten or eleven good men and women with the ruddy glow of health upon their cheeks, and she would have died for any one of them any moment of her life, and finally she, bowed with age and bent with care and labor, dies, and at the moment the magical touch of death is upon her face, she looks as though she never had had a care, and her children burying her cover her face with tears. Do you tell me God can afford to damn that kind of a woman? One such act of injustice would turn Heaven itself into Hell. If there is any God, sitting above him in infinite serenity we have the figure of justice. Even a God must do justice; even a God must worship justice; and any form of superstition that destroys justice is infamous! Just think of teaching that doctrine to little children! A little child would go out into the garden, and there would be a little tree laden with blossoms, and the little fellow would lean against it, and there would be a bird on one of the boughs, singing and swinging, and thinking about four little speckled eggs, warmed by the breast of its mate—and singing and swinging, and the music in in happy waves rippling out of the tiny throat, and the flowers blossoming, the air filled with perfume, and the great white clouds floating in the sky, and the little boy would lean up against the tree and think about Hell and the worm that never dies. Oh! the idea there can be any day too good for a child to be happy in!
Well, after we got over the catechism, then came the sermon in the afternoon, and it was exactly like the one in the forenoon, except the other end to. Then we started for home—a solemn march—"not a soldier discharged his farewell shot"—and when we got home, if we had been really good boys, we used to be taken up to the cemetery to cheer us up, and it always did cheer me, those sunken graves, those leaning stones, those gloomy epitaphs covered with the moss of years always cheered me. When I looked at them I said: "Well, this kind of thing can't last always." Then we came back home, and we had books to read which were very eloquent and amusing. We had Josephus, and the "History of the Waldenses," and Fox's "Book of Martyrs," Baxter's "Saint's Rest," and "Jenkyn on the Atonement." I used to read Jenkyn with a good deal of pleasure, and I often thought that the atonement would have to be very broad in its provisions to cover the case of a man that would I write such a book for boys. Then I would look to see how the sun was getting on, and sometimes I thought it had stuck from pure cussedness. Then I would go back and try Jenkyn's again. Well, but it had to go down, and when the last rim of light sank below the horizon, off would go our hats and we would give three cheers for liberty once again.
I tell you, don't make slaves of your children on Sunday.
The idea that there is any God that hates to hear a child laugh! Let your children play games on Sunday. Here is a poor man that hasn't money enough to go to a big church and he has too much independence to go to a little church that the big church built for charity. He doesn't want to slide into Heaven that way. I tell you don't come to church, but go to the woods and take your family and a lunch with you, and sit down upon the old log and let the children gather flowers and hear the leaves whispering poems like memories of long ago, and when the sun is about going down, kissing the summits of far hills, go home with your hearts filled with throbs of joy. There is more recreation and joy in that than going to a dry goods box with a steeple on top of it and hearing a man tell you that your chances are about ninety-nine to one for being eternally damned. Let us make this Sunday a day of splendid pleasure, not to excess, but to everything that makes man purer and grander and nobler. I would like to see now something like this: Instead of so many churches, a vast cathedral that would hold twenty or thirty thousands of people, and I would like to see an opera produced in it that would make the souls of men have higher and grander and nobler aims. I would like to see the walls covered with pictures and the niches rich with statuary; I would like to see something put there that you could use in this world now, and I do not believe in sacrificing the present to the future; I do not believe in drinking skimmed milk here with the promise of butter beyond the clouds. Space or time can not be holy any more than a vacuum can be pious. Not a bit, not a bit; and no day can be so holy but what the laugh of a child will make it holier still.
Strike with hand of fire, on, weird musician, thy harp, strung with Apollo's golden hair! Fill the vast cathedral aisles with symphonies sweet and dim, deft toucher of the organ's keys; blow, bugler, blow until thy silver notes do touch and kiss the moonlit waves, and charm the lovers wandering 'mid the vine-clad hills. But know your sweetest strains are discords all compared with childhood's happy laugh—the laugh that fills the eyes with light and every heart with joy! O, rippling river of laughter, thou art the blessed boundary line between the beasts and men, and every wayward wave of thine doth drown some fretful fiend of care. O Laughter, rose lipped daughter of joy, there are dimples enough in thy cheeks to catch and hold and glorify all the tears of grief.
Don't plant your children in long, straight rows like posts. Let them have light and air and let them grow beautiful as palms. When I was a little boy children went to bed when they were not sleepy, and always got up when they were. I would like to see that changed, but they say we are too poor, some of us, to do it. Well, all right. It is as easy to wake a child with a kiss as with a blow; with kindness as with curse. And, another thing; let the children eat what they want to. Let them commence at whichever end of the dinner they desire. That is my doctrine. They know what they want much better than you do. Nature is a great deal smarter than you ever were.