The Necessity of Atheism
by Dr. D.M. Brooks
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He is amazed to find that the little good which religion had accomplished, had occurred at the time when our race was in its infancy. Just as fear is instilled into the mind of the child to protect it from the dangers of its environment before the child has reached the age when it can use its reason for protection, just so had religion, by its implantation of fear, served its purpose in the days of our racial childhood. The child, however, as soon as it learns to reason, replaces those fears by a logical comprehension of the laws governing his environment. But in religious matters this fear has clung to man tenaciously; and while at first serving a protective function, at the present stage of civilization constitutes an embryonic impediment. The assertion of ecclesiastics that without the aid of religious learning and influence our civilization would have been retarded is a statement that a study of the development of man shows to be directly opposed to the facts; that religion has been the greatest impediment in the road to progress. This will be shown in the subsequent chapters. The oft-repeated assertion that, during the Middle Ages, ecclesiastic influence was the saving grace is well refuted by Dr. William J. Robinson:

"We are told by the Church apologists that during the Middle Ages the priests and monks kept up the torch of learning, that, being the only literate people, they brought back the study of the classics. Historically speaking, this is about the most impudent statement that one could imagine. It was the Church that retarded human progress at least one thousand years, it is the Church that put a thick, impenetrable pall over the sun of learning and science, so that humanity was enveloped in utter darkness, and if the priests and monks later learned to read and write (from the Arabs, Jews, and Greeks exiled from Constantinople after 1453), it is because they wanted to keep the power in their hands; the people they did not permit to learn either to read or write. Even the reading of the Bible, bear in mind, was considered a crime. We are told that the priests and monks built hospitals and gave alms to the poor. Having gotten enormous tracts of the best land into their hands, so that the people were starving, they were willing to throw a bone occasionally to the latter. It cost them nothing and it gave them a reputation for charity. They built enormous monasteries with well filled cellars, and lived on the fat of the land, while the people lived in wretched hovels, working their lives away for a crust of bread. The beasts, the domestic animals lived a more comfortable life than did the men, women, and children of the people. And the Church never, never raised a finger to ameliorate their condition. It kept them in superstitious darkness and helped the temporal lords—for a long period the spiritual were also the temporal lords—to keep them in fear, subjection and slavery."

The Martian being an impartial observer examined what had been done by Christianity for the intellectual and material advancement of humanity during her long reign, and what had been done by science and purely secular knowledge in its brief period of activity, the period when science and secular knowledge had partially liberated themselves from ecclesiastical domination. He came to the conclusion that in instituting a comparison he had established a contrast.



Science, then, commands our respect, not on the basis that its present assumptions and deductions are absolutely and for all time true, but on the ground that its method is for all time true—the method of discovery, the method of observation, research, experimentation, comparison, examination, testing, analysis and synthesis.

MAYNARD SHIPLEY, "The War on Modern Science."

In the bare three and one-half centuries since modern science began, the churches had conducted an unremitting crusade against it. That much of this crusade had turned into a rear-guard action was due less to the weakness of the defenders of the faith than to the invulnerability of their non-resistant victim.

HORACE M. KALLEN, "Why Religion?"

Some sixty years ago in the "Dogmatic Constitution of the Catholic Faith," the Church stated, "But never can reason be rendered capable of thoroughly understanding mysteries as it does those truths which form its proper subject. We, therefore, pronounce false every assertion which is contrary to the enlightened truth of faith.... Hence, all the Christian faithful are not only forbidden to defend as legitimate conclusions of science those opinions which are known to be contrary to the doctrine of faith, especially when condemned by the Church, but are rather absolutely bound to hold them for errors wearing the deceitful appearance of truth. Let him be anathema....

"Who shall say that human sciences ought to be pursued in such a spirit of freedom that one may be allowed to hold true their assertions even when opposed to revealed doctrine."

Can anything stronger be said to discourage research, investigation, experiment, and retard progress? And only sixty years ago! It is but the restatement of what the Church has uttered so many times and for so long—that all knowledge, material as well as spiritual, is to be found in the Bible as interpreted by the Church. It was this myth which had stultified the mind of man for 1500 years (during the period in which the Church was dominant); it was this that had killed the urge to search and seek for the truth, which is the goal of all science, the means by which humanity is set on the road to progress. This was the damnable precept foisted on the minds of men which enslaved them throughout the ages, and from which we are just emerging. This was the precept that plunged the world into the Dark Ages, and retarded the advance of mankind for centuries.

This is the reason that it is utterly impossible for the intellectually honest scientist, and for that matter any individual, to reconcile science with religion. On the one hand, that of religion, we have the forces of intolerance, superstition, and the endeavor to besmirch, repress, and ridicule every advance favorable to mankind; to cloak with meaningless words obsolete rites, to stand in the way of human progress, because it does not permit men to think boldly and logically. Science, on the other hand, does not hesitate to tear down old conceptions, and has only one motive, the ultimate truth. Religion has the purpose of keeping the masses in the narrow and false path of only accepted doctrines. The true scientist is the man with the open mind, one who will discard the worthless and accept only the proven good. The religionist closes his mind to all facts which he is unwilling to believe, everything which will endanger his creed. Religion teaches the individual to place all hope, all desire, in a problematical hereafter. The stay on earth is so short compared to the everlasting life to come, that of what interest is this life; all things are vain. The misery, the suffering, of his fellow men leave him cold; he can only think of living in the light of his narrow creed so that he may gain his future reward. How well this philosophy has fitted in with the schemes of the select few for the control of the many!

Truth to the scientific mind is something provisional, a hypothesis that for the present moment best conforms to the recognized tests. It is an evolving conception in a constantly changing universe. It is not that science has attained true conclusions; not that the evidence at hand must remain immutable; but that the scientific method of analyzing and formulating assumptions on the basis of discovery, on ascertained facts, is a superior method to the closed "infallible" method of "revelation." These assumptions, based upon the known facts, lead to a working hypothesis which in turn develops into a theory. If the theory is adopted it must account for the facts known. But the theory is not held as final, it is always changed or abandoned if necessary to conform to the new discovered data. Science welcomes the critical attitude that leads to the refinement of its theories. There may be today various theories held by scientists in which they are mistaken, but the question of the method by which they arrive at conclusions can no longer be under consideration with regard to its validity.

To the scientific mind, knowledge is something to be arrived at by study and research. To the religionist, knowledge is something that is contained in an infallible and supernatural statement or insight. Religion exalts the transcendental; science manipulates only the material. To the consistent religionist, his belief, as such, determine the fact; to the scientist it is the evidence that establishes the fact. To the religionist truth is something that is unchanging, that is fixed, final, and heretical to question. Confronted with a constantly changing universe, he would delude himself that his inner convictions give him a finality concerning his evolving environment. It is therefore not so much Science that the religionist is fighting, but the scientific method. This scientific method of approach, he rightly perceives, has so pervaded our mode of thinking that it is the subtle and most disintegrating force that is shattering the religious foundations.

Dr. James T. Shotwell, speaking of the scientific method, concludes, "But whatever strictures philosophy may pass upon the conclusions of science, as merely relative and provisional, there is no clearer fact in the history of thought, that its attitudes and methods have been at opposite poles from those of religion. It does no good to blink the fact, established as it is by the most positive proofs of history and psychology. Science has made headway by attempting to eliminate mystery so far as it can. Religion, on the other hand, has stressed mystery and accepted it in its own terms. Science is the product of bold adventure, pushing into the realm of the mysterious to interpret its phenomena in terms of the investigator; religion enters this same realm to give itself up to the emotional reactions. Science is the embodiment of the sense of control, religion yields the control to that power which moves in the shadow of the woods by night, and the glory of the morning hills....

"Science does not justify by faith, but by works. It is the living denial of that age-long acceptance which we accord to the mystery—as such. It renounces authority, cuts athwart custom, violates the sacred, rejects the myths. It adjusts itself to the process of change whose creative impulse it itself supplies. Not semper idem but semper alterum is the keynote of science. Each discovery of something new involves the discarding of something old. Above all, it progresses by doubting rather than by believing." (James T. Shotwell: "The Religious Revolution of To-day.")

There has never been an advance in science of widespread importance which in some manner or other endangered some mouldy religious concept, that the Church has not bitterly opposed; an advance which in time has proven of inestimable benefit for all mankind. A glance at the history of human progress will reveal scores of such instances.

The two rival divisions of the Christian Church, Protestant and Catholic, have always been in accord on one point, that is, to tolerate no science except such as they considered to be agreeable to the Scriptures. It was the decree of the Lateran Council of 1515 that ordered that no books should be printed but such as had been inspected by the ecclesiastical censors, under pain of excommunication and fine.

It is easily understood that having declared the Bible to contain all knowledge both scientific and spiritual, and then passing a decree ordering no books to be printed which did not agree on all points with the Church's interpretation of the Bible, the Church was in absolute control of all thought, both written and spoken.

It was to no advantage for the scholar to investigate any new fields, for all knowledge which was possible for the mind to discover had already been revealed in the Scriptures. Thus declared the Church. We understand why it was that Copernicus did not permit his book to be published until he was dying. We understand also that when Galileo and Bruno had the courage of their convictions, and gave voice to their beliefs, they were persecuted. Galileo was made to recant a discovery that the youngest of children now takes for granted. Bruno was burnt at the stake.

We know that astronomy was at a standstill under Church domination, chemistry was forbidden, and the study of natural philosophy was contradicted; while anthropology, which showed on what mythical foundations the story of the fall of man rests, was squelched. The attitude of the Church on geography was hostile to the truth, as witness the persecutions of those who dared to venture that the earth was round. Botany, mathematics, and geometry, as well as the natural sciences, slumbered. Geology, which proved that the earth was more than 6000 years old, was anathematized; archeologists had the greatest difficulty to expound the truth concerning the antiquity of the human race. In purely civil matters, the clergy opposed fire and marine insurance on the ground that it was a tempting of Providence. Life insurance was regarded as an act of interference with the consequence of God's will. Medicine met the most strenuous of opposition.

It is impossible in this short study to analyze the specific forms of retardation which the Church exhibited to all of these branches of learning, whose only endeavor it was to search for the truth, to state the facts, and to alleviate and make more bearable man's sojourn on this earth. However, a few of the many instances of retardation on the part of the Church will be pointed out.



Now, when physiologists study the living brain of an ape, they have no grounds for supposing that they are dealing with a dual structure. The brain is not a tenement inhabited by a spirit or soul. The spirit or soul is but a name for the manifestations of the living brain. The leading neurologists of the world are agreed that the same is true of the human brain. It was only when they abandoned the dual conception—an inheritance from the dark ages of medicine—that they began to understand the disorders of man's mind and how to treat them.

Modern medicine thus strikes at the very root of Christian doctrine. For, if man is truly mortal, if death ends all, if the human soul is but the manifestation of the living brain, as light and heat are the manifestations of a glowing bar of steel, then there can be no resurrection of the dead. Man has the seeds of immortality in him, but the gift is for the race, not for the individual.


Medicine and religion have been closely associated from the most pristine time. Primitive medicine had its origin in conjunction with the most primitive of religious conceptions, namely, animism; an illusion that made primitive man recognize in all things, and everywhere, spirits such as his supposed spirit; a belief that the world swarms with invisible spirits which are the cause of disease and death. And thus primitive medicine is inseparable from primitive modes of religious belief. All these phenomena which we consider today natural—the rustling of leaves in a forest, the crash of thunder, the flash of lightning, winds, clouds, storms, and earthquakes—were to primitive man the outward and visible signs of angry gods, demons, and spirits. Similar spirits caused disease and death, and these evil spirits that produced disease and death were to be placated and cajoled by man, just as he did his other deities, by magic, by burnt offerings, and sacrifice.

The first holy man, the first priest, was the "shaman," and it was his duty not only to placate and cajole the spirits that were thought to control the physical well-being of the individual members of the tribe; but it was his duty also, by the exercise of his magic, to alleviate and cure illness by exorcism. The "shaman" was therefore the first medicine man, the first witch doctor, the first physician. He relied chiefly upon psychotherapy as does the modern witch doctor of Christian Science.

Medicine could not begin to be medicine until it was disassociated from magic, religion, and theology. This struggle has been going on from the time of the "shaman" to the present moment. Primitive medicine stands midway between magic and religion, as an attempt to safeguard health by control of so-called supernatural processes, and the warding off of evil influences by appeal to the gods.

In all primitive societies, priest, magician, and medicine man were one and the same; and medicine remained stationary until it could divorce itself completely from religion. Primitive medicine, then, springs from folklore, legends, credulity, and superstitions; the same forces that give rise to all forms of religious beliefs.

Huxley has stated, "Science commits suicide when it adopts a creed," and from the earliest of times those men who had a scientific trend of mind realized this, however vaguely, and have attempted to divorce science from religion. The science of medicine has been divorced from superstition, but its twin brother religion lies as firmly bogged in the mire of superstition today as it did in the days of the incantations of the first theologist, the "shaman." And it is due to this close association of religion and medicine that ideas of the greatest scientific moment have been throttled at birth or veered into a blind alley through some current theological lunacy. Medicine has advanced through its disassociation with supernaturalism, while religion still remains the last refuge of human savagery.

And so it had been that throughout those long, sterile, and barbarous ages primitive man ascribed all diseases either to the wrath of God, or the malice of an Evil Being. With the rise of the Greek philosophers, the human mind for the first time began to throw off the fogs of superstition. In Greece, 500 years before Christ, Hippocrates developed scientific thought and laid the foundations of medical science upon observation, experience, and reason. Under his guidance, medicine for the first time was separated from religion. He relieved the gods of the responsibility for disease and placed it squarely upon the shoulders of man. His findings were passed on to the School of Alexandria, and there medical science was further developed. At this stage of history all advances stopped, and for the following reason:

With the coming of Christianity this science, as well as all others, was stultified. A retrogression took place to the ideation of the most primitive of men, namely, the conception of physical disease as the result of the wrath of God, or the malice of Satan, or by a combination of both. The Old Testament attributes such diseases as the leprosy of Miriam and Uzziah, the boils of Job, the dysentery of Jehoram, the withered hand of Jeroboam, the fatal illness of Asa, and many other ills, to the wrath of God, or the malice of Satan. The New Testament furnishes such examples as the woman "bound by Satan," the rebuke of the fever, the casting out of the devil which was dumb, the healing of persons whom "the devil oftimes casteth into the fire," and various other episodes. Christian theology then evolved theories of miraculous methods of cure, based upon modes of appeasing the divine anger, or of thwarting satanic malice. The curing of disease by the casting out of devils, by prayers, were the means of relief from sickness recognized and commanded by the Bible. Thus Christianity perverted the beginning of a science of medicine to a system of attempted cure of disease by fraud.

The treatment of disease descended to the cures found in holy and healing wells, pools, and streams; in miracles and the efficacy that was to be found in the relics of saints. Instead of reliance upon observation, experience, and thought, attention was directed toward supernatural agencies. In contrast to the Greek physicians who were attempting to lay a scientific foundation, we have the Christian idea prevailing that the water in which a single hair of a saint had been dipped was to be used as a purgative; water in which St. Remy's ring had been dipped cured lunacy; oil of a lamp burning before the tomb of St. Gall cured tumors; wine in which the bones of a saint had been dipped cured fevers; St. Valentine cured epilepsy; St. Christopher cured throat disease; St. Eutropius, dropsy; St. Ovid, deafness; St. Vitus, St. Anthony, and a multitude of other saints, the maladies which bear their names.

"In the year 1585, in the town of Embrun, France, the male generative organ of St. Foutin was greatly revered. A jar was placed beneath his emblem to catch the wine with which it was generally anointed; the wine was left to sour, and then it was known as the 'Holy Vinegar.' The women drank it in order to be blessed with children." (Joseph Lewis, "Voltaire.")

Enormous revenues flowed into various monasteries and churches in all parts of Europe from relics noted for their healing powers. The ecclesiastics perceived that the physician would interfere with these revenues and gifts of the shrines, and deemed it the will of God to persecute and condemn physicians. St. Ambrose declared, "The precepts of medicine are contrary to celestial science, watching and prayer." St. Augustine declared, "All diseases of Christians are to be ascribed to these demons, chiefly do they torment fresh baptized Christians, yea, even the guiltless, new-born babe." Gregory of Nazianzus declared that bodily pains are provoked by demons, and that medicines are useless, but that they are often cured by the laying on of consecrated hands. St. Niles and St. Gregory of Tours gave examples to show the sinfulness of resorting to medicine instead of trusting to the intercession of saints.

Even as late as 1517, Pope Leo X, for a consideration, issued tickets bearing a cross and the following inscription, "This cross measured forty times makes the height of Christ in His humanity. He who kisses it is preserved for seven days from falling sickness, apoplexy, and sudden death."

The Council of Le Mons, in 1248, forbade monks to engage in surgery. At the beginning of the twelfth century, the Council of Rheims forbade monks to study medicine; and shortly after the middle of the twelfth century, Pope Alexander III forbade monks to study or practice medicine. In the thirteenth century, the Dominican Order forbade all ecclesiastics to have any connection with medicine; and when we remember that the policy of the Church had made it impossible for any learned man to enter any other profession, the only resource left for a scholar was the Church; so effectively did the Church kill all scientific endeavors.

The Reformation made no sudden change in the sacred theory of medicine. The Church of England accepted the doctrine of "royal touch," and in a prayer book of that period is found a service provided for that occasion which states that "They (the kings), shall lay their hands on the sick, and they shall recover."

Pestilences were taught to be punishments inflicted by God on society for its shortcomings. Modern man has no conception of the ravages of infections and epidemics that swept over Europe in the Middle Ages, and to a lesser extent, until less than fifty years ago. Tacitus described the plague in Rome thus: "Houses were filled with dead bodies, and the streets with funerals.... Alike, slaves and plebeians were suddenly taken off amidst lamentations of their wives and children, who, while they mourned the dead, were themselves seized with the disease, and, perishing, were burned on the same funeral pyre."

In 80 A.D. an epidemic swept Rome causing 10,000 deaths daily. During the ages until the present century, wave after wave of pestilence swept over Europe. The plague in 1384 A.D. took no less than 60 million lives. It was estimated that twenty-five per cent. of the population of the then known world perished in that one epidemic. Between 1601 and 1603, 127,000 died of the plague in Moscow. The epidemic of 1630 took 500,000 lives in the Venetian republic; Milan alone lost 88,000. In 1605, London lost 69,000; 70,000 died in Vienna in 1679; the following year Prague lost 83,000, all from this disease. The horrors of such visitations are beyond description, and can scarcely be imagined. For a time, attempts were made to collect and bury the dead. Wagons would pass through the streets at night collecting the victims. The drivers, benumbed with drink, frequently failed to ascertain whether death had occurred. Living patients, desperately ill, were piled into the wagons with corpses beneath, about, and on them. These gruesome loads were dumped pell-mell into huge pits hastily dug for the purpose. In some instances, living victims crawled out of these pits and survived to tell the tale. As the epidemics progressed, attempts to dispose of the dead were abandoned. Putrefying bodies were everywhere. Whole cities were left desolate, the few survivors having fled.

It is not to be wondered at that such epidemics swept over Europe when it was taught that these were the vengeance of God. How could it be discovered that the real causes were the crowded conditions and bad sanitation of the cities, the squalor, the misrule, and gross immorality occasioned by the Holy Wars, when hordes of soldier-bandits plagued the countryside? The devout continued to live in their squalor, to trust in the Lord, and to die by the millions.

In all pestilences down to the present time, the Church authorities, instead of aiding and devising sanitary measures, have preached the necessity of immediate atonement for offenses against the Almighty. The chief cause of the immense sacrifice of lives in these plagues was of course the lack of hygienic precautions. But how could this be discovered when, for ages, living in filth was regarded by great numbers of holy men as an evidence of sanctity!

St. Hilarion lived his whole life long in utter physical uncleanliness. St. Athanasius glorifies St. Anthony because he had never washed his feet. St. Abraham's most striking evidence of holiness was that for fifty years he washed neither his hands nor his feet; St. Sylvia never washed any part of her body save her fingers; St. Euphraxia belonged to a convent in which the nuns religiously abstained from bathing; St. Mary of Egypt was eminent for filthiness; St. Simeon Stylites was in this respect unspeakable—the least that can be said is that he lived in ordure and stench intolerable to his visitors. For century after century the idea prevailed that filthiness was akin to holiness.

Another stumblingblock hindering the beginnings of modern medicine and surgery, was the theory regarding the unlawfulness of meddling with the bodies of the dead. The dissection of the human body was prohibited since the injury to the body would prevent its resurrection on the Last Day. Andreas Vesalius was the pioneer in the movement for increased knowledge of anatomy, and in 1543, when his work appeared, he was condemned to death by the Inquisition as a magician. He escaped this fate by undertaking a pilgrimage to Jerusalem only to be shipwrecked on the Island of Zante when he attempted to return, and there died in misery and destitution.

In the year 1853, cholera, after having committed serious ravages in many parts of Europe, visited Scotland. It was evident to most thinking people that, due to the extreme poverty and squalor of most of the Scottish towns at that time, a great number of people would necessarily succumb to this disease unless stringent sanitary measures were instituted immediately. Instead, the Scotch clergy proposed to combat this scourge with prayer and fasting, which would have lowered the resistance to this disease by producing physical exhaustion and mental depression. They proposed the ordering of a national fast day in which the people were to sit the whole day without nourishment in their churches and retire to their beds at night weeping and starved. Then it was hoped that the Deity would be propitiated, and the plague stayed. To give greater effect to this fast day, they called upon England to help them, and the Presbytery of Edinburgh dispatched a letter to the English minister, requesting information as to whether the queen would appoint a national fast day. The English minister, to his credit, advised the Presbytery of Edinburgh that it was better to cleanse than to fast, and cleanse they must swiftly or else, in spite of all prayers and fastings of a united but inactive nation, the cholera would devastate them.

There are today, in this twentieth century, two pestilences which could be wiped from the face of the earth. "There are two pestilences which thus unfortunately involve moral conceptions. They are the plagues of Syphilis and Gonorrhea. Against them medicine has developed methods of control. They could be eradicated, but as yet civilization has not advanced entirely beyond the ancient idea that disease is imposed by God as a measure of vengeance for our sins. It still rejects protection, when without it these plagues will continue to exact death and suffering on a scale which probably exceeds that of any one of the medieval plagues. Those who today look upon Syphilis and Gonorrhea as punishment for sin have not progressed beyond the ideas of medieval Europe.

"Ignorance and bigotry are the twin allies of the plagues of Syphilis and Gonorrhea. Medicine and civilization advance and regress together. The conditions essential to advance are intellectual courage and a true love for humanity. It is as true today as always in the past that further advances or even the holding of what has already been won, depend upon the extent to which intellectual courage and humanity prevail against bigotry and obscurantism." (Haggard, "Devils, Doctors, and Drugs.")

As a result of the lack of control of these plagues there are in the world at the present moment thousands of children suffering from congenital syphilis who would never have been born but for the desire of Christians to see sinners punished. With regard to the spread of sex knowledge, the clergy's attitude is dangerous to human welfare. The artificial ignorance of sex subjects which orthodox Christians attempt to enforce upon the young is extremely dangerous to mental and physical health. The young are much less likely to act wisely when they are ignorant, than when they are instructed.

These two venereal diseases are no more controlled under the moral standards of today than they were two centuries ago, and yet medical science offers for these diseases what it can offer for few others; both a prevention and a cure. And it is due to the ignorance and the bigotry of the theists that the spread of sex knowledge is hampered so that a sane conception of sex and the prevention of venereal disease does not eradicate these diseases. The theists have, therefore, without sense or justice, founded their morality on disease; neglecting the fact that all disease is immoral in the widest sense, since it is detrimental to the happiness of man, and that no one disease is more so than another. The morality of the body is health—not disease. So much for the actual facts and reality. In passing to the theoretical, we again see the truth of the statement that religion is the last resort of human savagery.

To postulate that a supreme being is omnipotent, omniscient, and all-loving, and then to assume that he inflicts disease on his children as punishment for sin is a sadistic mental aberration. In his omniscience he full well knows beforehand what each of his children will do. He foreordains their sins and then punishes his children for sins that he wills them to commit. It is just as if a syphilitic father should punish his syphilitic child because the child has that congenital disease for which the father is responsible. If the theist insists that his deity is all that he claims him to be, then it is only logical that instead of man asking his god for forgiveness, what actually should be is that God should ask the forgiveness of man for his bungling and error.

Christianity has attempted from its inception to eradicate the sexual instinct and in so doing has antagonized an instinct that is as fundamental as that of self-preservation. All it has accomplished is a distortion. The church, by claiming that it alone was privileged to regulate sexual desires, has done one of two things to each of its adherents. It has either made him a hypocrite or driven him insane. Much of the insanity in this country could be overcome were religion and sex permanently divorced; and an immediate amount of inestimable good could be accomplished when one considers that fifteen per cent of all mental disease is caused by syphilis.

Physical disease having been considered as a malicious trick of Satan, it was but natural that the disease of the mind was also attributed to satanic intervention. The conception that insanity was a brain disease, and that gentleness and kindness were necessary for its treatment, was throttled by Christian theology for fifteen centuries. Instead the ecclesiastic burdened humanity with a belief that madness was largely possession by the Devil. Hundreds of thousands of men and women were inflicted with tortures both physical and mental. It was not until 1792 that the great French physician Penel, and William Tuke in England, placed the treatment of mental disease on a rational and scientific basis. And this, in spite of such ecclesiastical attacks as were seen in the Edinburgh Review of that period. These two men, Penel and Tuke, were the first acknowledged victors in a struggle of science for humanity which lasted nearly two thousand years.

The clergy resisted Jenner when he introduced vaccination, and yet the application of this measure of defense against disease has probably saved more lives than the total of all the lives lost in all wars. The clergy maintained that "Smallpox is a visitation from God, and originates in man, but Cowpox is produced by presumptious, impious men. The former, heaven ordained, the latter is perhaps a daring and profane violation of our holy order."

In the seventeenth century, the Jesuit missionaries in South America learned from the natives the value of the so-called Peruvian Bark in the treatment of ague. In 1638, quinine, derived from this bark, was introduced into Europe as a cure for malaria. It was stigmatized as "an invention of the Devil." The ecclesiastical opposition to this drug was so strong that it was not introduced into England until 1653.

The medieval Christians saw in childbirth the result of a carnal sin to be expiated in pain as defined in Genesis. Accordingly the treatment given the child-bearing woman was vastly worse than the mere neglect among the primitive peoples. Her sufferings were augmented by the fact that she was no longer a primitive woman and child-bearing had become more difficult. In these "Ages of Faith" which could be better called the "Ages of Filth," nothing was done to overcome the enormous mortality of the mother and child at birth. Attempts, however, were made to form intra-uterine baptismal tubes by which the child, when it was locked by some ill chance in its mother's womb, could be baptized and its soul saved before the mother and child were left to die together. But nothing was done to save their lives. No greater crimes were ever committed in the name of civilization, religious faith, and smug ignorance than the sacrifice of the lives of countless mothers and children in the first fifteen centuries after Christ among civilized mankind.

Approaching our own time, we have the example of Dr. James Y. Simpson, professor of obstetrics at the University of Glasgow about 1850, first administering an anesthetic to alleviate the pain of childbirth. He was bitterly opposed by the clergy on the ground that it was impious to attempt to escape from the curse pronounced against all women in Genesis. It was Dr. Simpson who, in defending this humanitarian practice, asserted that opposition, particularly on theological grounds, had been presented against every humane innovation in the past.

When Paul Ehrlich, in 1910, announced his discovery of salvarsan for the treatment of syphilis, the clergy again were horror-struck that man should interfere with a visitation of the Lord.

The resistance to the spread of information concerning contraception, commonly known as birth control, is an example of the Church's dominance of government today; and yet this information is as vital to the welfare of humanity as is the control of cancer.

In 1926, our newspapers carried conspicuous headlines, "Episcopal Church Joins Catholic to Gag Birth Control"; four years later, 320 bishops of the Episcopal Church met in London, and by a majority of 3 to 1 voted in favor of contraception when "there is morally sound reason for avoiding complete abstinence." The bishops had by this time become well aware of the insistence of secular opinion towards this movement, and having done their best to prevent this progressive movement for the past one hundred years, they finally accepted defeat, proving once again that religion has never accepted anything that science has shown to be a fact or of benefit to humanity until it was compelled to do so to save its face. The infallible Church, however, still persists in its opposition and in the Encyclical of Pope Pius XI, published in January, 1931, it is said, "The conjugal act is destined primarily by nature for the begetting of children. Those who, in exercising it, deliberately frustrate its natural power, and purpose, are against nature and commit a deed which is shameful and intrinsically vicious." So speaks the infallible Pope, but the great majority of physicians hold that there are few things more perilous to mental health, intellectual efficiency, moral equanimity, and physical well-being than prolonged denial of the sex urge for the average, normal human being. Every physician can furnish numerous case histories to substantiate the statement that continual sexual abstinence is prejudicial to the health and happiness of the man and woman, and is the causation of hundreds of semiderelicts and psychoneurotics. Furthermore, the rising tide of insanity in this country would be stemmed were religion and sex permanently divorced.

Today the modern clergy still endeavor to explain natural phenomena by supernatural theories, and while they do not assign preternatural powers to witches and demons, they yet persist in attempting to pervert facts of science, and delude themselves with faith in some supernatural force. The clergy state that the physician cures disease through the mediation of God, the physician merely playing the part of the agent of God, through whom the real cure is effected. Is anything more ridiculous and at the same time more contradictory, than to suppose that an all-powerful god should have to appoint an intermediary to perform his work? And if it is only by God's will and aid that a cure takes place, then it follows that God must be willing for the individual to be cured; why in the name of reason, did He not prevent the initial step, the contracting of the disease? What a mass of suffering, of mental anguish might thus have been spared us! Thus, this omnipotent being either did not desire to spare us this misery and suffering, in which case he must surely be a monster incarnate; or, on the other hand, he is powerless to halt it, and thus cannot be omnipotent.

While the clergy maintain that a cure is only effected by God's will, the physician knows otherwise. The physician accomplishes his cures alone, and definitely cures and saves the lives of human beings by his own skill, intelligence, and application of methods which have been developed by the exercise of secular knowledge, not theological nonsense. When man is so unfortunate as to contract an infection of the appendix, and that inflammation succeeds to pus-formation so that this diseased and non-essential part of the human anatomy is on the point of rupturing and causing a fatal peritonitis, it is not by God's will and intervention that a cure is effected, but by the intervention of the surgeon who removes the diseased part. If man depended upon God's will to save him, as he did in the past, the appendix would rupture, peritonitis would set in, and despite prayers and sacrificial offerings, the Deity would exact his life.

When an innocent infant, in the first few weeks of life, develops an intussusception (an infolding of the bowel which causes an acute obstruction), the prayers and supplication of the parents avail not a particle; if the surgeon did not save the infant's life by operating and removing the obstruction, the benevolent being would allow the child to die.

The adult who develops a hernia, which is due to a defect in the construction of the human body, which is assigned to an omniscient being who still persists in forming bodies that are defective, and this hernia becomes strangulated (twisted), the deity sits calmly by in omnipotent inaction, while the prompt interference of the surgeon saves the individual's life.

When the surgeon observes a superficial cancerous growth, or an internal growth which can be removed in its entirety, does he trust to the Lord to halt this pernicious development? No, the surgeon does not consult God, but resorts to his own knowledge and skill to save a human life.

The diphtheritic child who is strangling to death with a diphtheritic membrane in its throat is not permitted by the physician to be left to the benevolent being's will, nor to the prayers of the parents. The physician's prayer is the diphtheria antitoxin, which in his hands is the life-saving device.

When the physician administers quinine for malaria, or salvarsan for syphilis, he effects cures for these diseases by using agents to which the clergy strenuously objected when they were first introduced. And when the ecclesiastic attributes to the Deity whatever laws man has been able to evolve out of his own experience and wisdom, he establishes, fallaciously, the corollary that if God is responsible for the cures, He is also responsible for the non-cures. Then what of the countless number that died of disease before man evolved those cures, and what of the wholesale murder of His children in the past ages?

Do certain diseases still baffle the physician? Surely it is less often than the pestilences of old which baffled sacrifice and prayer. The cruelest laws ever devised by man have more equity and benevolence in them than the appalling and irrational jurisprudence of the Deity.

Do certain diseases as yet remain to plague man? Then it is only because religion has for the past 2000 years been the greatest obstacle in the development of cures for these diseases. Every single individual, in the past 2000 years, who has succumbed to a disease for which medical science has no cure, has died directly at the hands of religion. The obstruction which religion has placed on the development of medical science has laid at its feet the responsibility for the deaths of countless millions throughout the ages.

The religionist replies that man's mind cannot fathom the will of God. Which is an irrational statement for it is a well established fact, and indeed, a criterion of insanity, that when the deranged are confronted with facts which are conclusive and with creations of the imagination, they cannot differentiate fact from fancy, and maintain, instead, that fancy is the real fact. The religionists are guilty of the same breach of reason. They suffer with what may be termed, "dementia religiosa." The remarkable feature of the latter disease is its wide prevalence.

Dr. Haggard in his book, "Devils, Drugs, and Doctors," declares, "The early and Medieval Christians accepted the doctrine of the power of demons in the lives of men; they saw this power particularly in the demoniac production of diseases. They believed in miracles and especially in the miraculous healing of diseases. The demonological belief of the Christians was inherited from the doctrine of the Jews, who were believers in demons and the 'possession by the devil.' Jesus himself cured by casting out of devils. Following his example, Christians everywhere became exorcists. Jewish demonology was continued among Christian converts, and the belief in supernatural interpositions in human affairs was widely accepted. Nothing has retarded the growth of scientific medicine during the past 2000 years so much as the iron grip of theology in maintaining practices based on belief in this supernatural origin of disease." The fabled curing of disease by casting out devils, and the New Testament recordings of Jesus's conviction that disease was caused by evil spirits, have had an inestimable detrimental result on the development of medical science. The fact that Jesus believed in the demoniacal production of diseases and cured them by exorcism was deemed so important by the author of the Gospel according to Mark that he has actually recorded the Aramaic words Jesus was reported to have used in addressing his patients. In Mark V:41, Jesus is reported to have given the command "Talitha cumi" to a little Jewish girl whom her parents believed dead. In Mark VII:34, Jesus is reported as uttering the magical word "Ephphatha," as he "put his fingers into his ears, and he spit, and touched his tongue" in behalf of "one that was deaf, and had an impediment in his speech."

An excellent and timely illustration of what occurs when secular knowledge has not yet replaced ecclesiastical ignorance and bigotry, particularly in the field of medicine, is furnished by an article from one of Philadelphia's leading newspapers, The Evening Bulletin, of December 23, 1932. We quote it verbatim:

"Faith Healers Arrested; Two Charged with Choking to Death 5-Year-Old Girl, Linden, Texas, Dec. 23, 1932. Despite a purported confession, officers to-day continued an investigation of the death of a five-year-old girl, allegedly at the hands of two itinerant preachers who sought to 'drive out the devil' they believed responsible for her partial paralysis. Murder charges were filed against Paul Oaks and his brother, Coy Oaks, and precautions taken to prevent possible mob vengeance. Sheriff Nat Curtright said the accused men admitted they had choked the child to death in an attempt to cure her. Officers said the preachers had been conducting meetings in rural communities and had preached on the subject of faith healing. George Wilson, a neighbor, officers said, found the two men kneeling over the prostrate form of the child. They ordered him to leave, declaring he was a 'devil.' He said the child's father was in the room."

Medieval exorcism still practised in one of the leading nations of the world! In America, which prides itself on its scientific advances, towards whom the rest of the world looks for guidance in scientific discoveries and practices!

To have retarded the growth of medicine for the past 2000 years! Think of the strides made in medicine in the past hundred years, and dwell on the comfort humanity derives from it, in contrast to the filth, misery, and pestilences of the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth centuries. Would so much progress have been possible had man still persisted in the belief that disease was due to demoniac intervention, and that the sum total of all knowledge humanly possible was contained in the Bible?

It is no longer necessary for children to choke to death with diphtheria. Yellow fever, and small pox in civilized countries are, or could be, wiped from the face of the earth. Malaria is controlled; tuberculosis will shortly be a rarity; typhoid fever and cholera have been eradicated wherever there is sanitation; erysipelas can be controlled; hydrophobia prevented; childbirth fever has lost its tremendous mortality; tetanus can be checked; syphilis and gonorrhea can be controlled; diabetes and pernicious anemia can be controlled; surgery is reclaiming vast multitudes and restoring to useful and happy lives thousands who would have hitherto died. So much has been done; but it is especially true that there is as much, at least, yet to be done. But all this has been achieved so recently. What might not have been won had not the minds of men been polluted from infancy, warped by the first professional holy men, the religionists, the priests? Had the idea of a supernatural force been allowed to die in the Dark Ages, as it surely would have, as man's mind expanded and developed, humanity would today find itself more advanced on the road to progress. But as it was, the myth of religion was foisted on the superstitious brain, and man resigned himself to his fate, and lived in such a manner as to please this hypothetical supernatural being. The inevitable result was the abject misery, both material and spiritual, of Europe during the period when the Church was in absolute control.

If this myth and mystification had died with the dead ages, as it should have done, what a fitter place to live in this world would be today! Consider the needless misery and the agony of those who died of the various plagues; and think of the advanced stage of medicine of Alexandria, three hundred years before the Christian era, where the physicians were welcomed to the famous library by the emperors. The state gave them their livelihood and their duties were to advance medicine by study and research. Anatomy was studied and dissection was allowed. With the coming of Christianity, the remnants of this library were destroyed, and with them went all progress in that field. If such had been the enlightened state in Egypt three hundred years before Christianity appeared, then why had not science made the same progress then as it does now? Because, to the knowledge stored in the library at Alexandria had not been added a progression of learning, a continued process of research; if this had not been halted by Christianity, how much vaster would our achievements be today?

It was not necessary for all of those millions to have been the victims of plagues, of inquisitions, of witchcraft burnings, of religious persecutions and wars. The sorrow and pain brought to untold numbers throughout the centuries could have been prevented; and would have been if man had been interested in the welfare of his fellowmen instead of the glorification of an almighty being. Future generations may well declare religion to have been the curse of humanity. The Church had cursed the human intellect by cursing the doubts which are the necessary consequence of its exercise. She had cursed even the moral faculty by asserting the guilt of honest error.

Medicine which has for its sole objects the alleviation of man's sufferings, to cure them when possible, to relieve more often the pains and ills which make this life a living hell, what might it not have accomplished ages ago had religion not interfered with its progress? Whatever cures are known, and preventions that are practiced now, could have been common knowledge centuries ago. And what of the multitudes that perished who might have been saved, and what of the misery which might have been prevented, had not this curse fallen upon man?

Since 1906, there have been only five deaths from yellow fever in the United States. Outbreaks of cholera and plague are unknown. In former years, puerperal fever took the lives of from five to fifty of each one hundred parturient mothers. At present, an average of one out of 1250 mothers dies of this infection following childbirth. Deaths from many diseases are less than one-tenth of their former number. These include wound infections, diphtheria, scarlet fever, malaria, dysentery, typhoid, small pox, and many dietary and metabolic diseases. Since 1880, the medical sciences have accomplished a total net saving of human life from all diseases which, if equally distributed among the population, would add sixteen years to the life span of each person. In 1880, the average duration of human life, that is, the average age at which death occurred, was 41.78 years. In 1925, the average duration of life was 58.29 years. In other words, those born at this time live on the average 16.5 years longer than those born at any time prior to 1880. In a population of 120,000,000 this would mean a total of 1,920,000,000 additional years of life. Such a figure is as difficult to conceive of as are the interstellar spaces. This is one contribution, numerically expressed, which medical science and its offspring, preventive medicine, have made to humanity in the short space of fifty years.

Indeed if, as the religionists believe, there is a god, he could not have punished his subjects more than by instilling in them the "dementia religiosa." If the Church had not taught that the sum total of all knowledge was contained in the Bible, and prohibited, on pain of death and confiscation of property, the promulgation of any discoveries, men would have reasoned as they are accustomed to at the present day, and we would not be 2000 years behind in all branches of learning.

But there has never been an advance in science of widespread importance, which in some manner endangered some mouldy religious concept, that the Church has not bitterly opposed; an advance which in time has proven of inestimable good for all mankind. (A glance at the history of human progress will reveal scores of such instances.) The opposition to medicine, as previously noted, is only one of many examples which might have been chosen. In proportion, as the grasp of theology upon education tightened, medicine declined, and in proportion, as the grip relaxed, medicine developed.



In the early Church, astronomy, like other branches of science, was looked upon as futile, since the New Testament taught that the earth was soon to be destroyed and new heavens created.

The heavenly bodies were looked upon by the theologians as either living beings possessing souls, or as the habitation of the angels. However, as time passed, the geocentric doctrine, the doctrine that the earth is the center of the universe and that the sun and planets revolve about it, was the theory that held the highest respect.

Copernicus, in 1543, was first to bring clearly before the world the then astounding theory that the earth and planets revolve about the sun. But not until he was on his deathbed did he dare to publish it, for he well knew the opposition with which it would be met. Even then he published it with an apologetic lie by a friend Osiander, that Copernicus had propounded the doctrine of the earth's movement not as a fact, but as a hypothesis.

"Thus was the greatest and most ennobling, perhaps, of scientific truths—a truth not less ennobling to religion than to science—forced in coming before the world, to sneak and crawl." (White: "History of Warfare of Science with Theology.")

During the next seventy years the matter slumbered, until Galileo upheld the Copernican doctrine as the truth, and proved it to be the truth by his telescope. Immediately the Church condemned the statements of Copernicus and forbade Galileo to teach or discuss them. All books which affirmed the motion of the earth were forbidden, and to read the work of Copernicus was declared to risk damnation. All branches of the Protestant Church, Lutheran, Calvinist, Anglican, vied with each other in denouncing the Copernican doctrine.

One man, Giordano Bruno dared to assert the truth in the hearing of the Papacy. For this heresy he was hunted from land to land, finally trapped in Venice, imprisoned at Rome, burned alive, and his ashes scattered to the winds!

Against Galileo, the war against the Copernican theory was concentrated. His discoveries were declared to be deceptions, and his announcements blasphemy when, in 1610, he announced that his telescope had revealed the moons of the planet Jupiter.

In 1615, Galileo was summoned before the Inquisition at Rome, and forced to promise that he would "relinquish altogether the opinion that the sun is the center of the world, and immovable, and that the earth moves, nor henceforth to hold, teach, or defend it in any way whatsoever verbally or in writing."

Pope Paul V solemnly rendered the decree that "the doctrine of the double motion of the earth about its axis and about the sun is false and entirely contrary to Holy Scripture."

The climax of this instance of the infallibility of the Church occurred when in his seventieth year Galileo was again brought before the Inquisition; he was forced to abjure under threats of torture and imprisonment by command of Pope Urban a truth which, in this day, is taken for granted by the youngest of children. Galileo was then kept in exile for the rest of his days, died, and was buried ignobly, apart from his family, without fitting ceremony, without monument or epitaph.

As late as 1873 there was published, in St. Louis, a work by a president of a Lutheran teachers' seminary in which he stated that the earth is the principal body of the universe, that it stands fixed, and that the sun and moon only serve to light it.

Astronomy brings forth a noble array of men who have, by their intense desire for the truth, persevered against the Church, and in spite of the vilest opposition of that Church, brought to the attention of man laws that have given a meaning and order to our universe.

Copernicus escaping persecution only by death; Bruno burned alive; Galileo imprisoned; Kepler reviled, and Newton bitterly attacked. In this manner has religion aided astronomy!



The ancient Greeks, especially the Pythagoreans, Plato, and Aristotle, had evolved theories of the earth's sphericity, which, while vague, were basic for subsequent accurate ideas that developed later.

When Christianity sprang into existence Eusebius, St. John Chrysostom, and Cosmos evolved a complete description of the earth. They considered the earth as a parallelogram, flat, and surrounded by four seas, as a kind of house, with heaven as its upper story and the earth as its ground floor. To the north of the earth was a great mountain; at night the sun was pushed into a pit and pulled out again in the morning, with heaven as a loft and hell as a cellar. In the Atlantic Ocean, at some unknown distance from Europe, was one of the openings into hell, into which a ship sailing to this point, would tumble. The terror of this conception was one of the chief obstacles of the great voyage of Columbus. Luther, Melanchthon, Calvin, and Zwingli held to the opinion that a great firmament, or floor, separated the heavens from the earth; that above it were the waters and angels, and below it, the earth and man.

During the time that the sphericity of the earth was still undecided, another question arose that was considered of far greater importance, namely, the conception of the antipodes and the problem of deciding whether human beings existed on the earth's opposite side. It was Lactantius who asked, "Is there any one so senseless as to believe that there are men whose footsteps are higher than their heads? That the crops and trees grow downward? That the rains and snow and hail fall upwards toward the earth? I am at a loss as to what to say of those, who, when they have once erred, steadily persevere in their folly, and defend one vain thing by another."

St. Augustine insisted that men could not be allowed by the Almighty to live there, since, if they did, they could not see Christ at His second coming, descending through the air.

In the eighth century, a Bishop Virgil of Salzburg dared to assert that there were men living in the antipodes. He was strongly attacked by St. Boniface of Germany, who appealed to Pope Zachary for a decision. The Pope, as the infallible teacher of Christendom, made the following response: He declared it, "Perverse, iniquitous, and against Virgil's soul." And again another infallible statement by the infallible Pope Zachary became a doctrine of the Church.

In Italy, in 1316, Peter of Abano, famous as a physician, promulgated the opposite view to that of the Church, for which he was persecuted by the Inquisition, and barely escaped with his life. In 1327, Cecco d'Ascoli, an astronomer, was burned alive at Florence for daring to assert that men lived in the antipodes.

The difficulties that beset Columbus are well known. How he was hounded both in Portugal and in Spain by the clergy; and even after his discovery of America, the Papacy still maintained its theory of the flatness of the earth and the nonsense of the antipodes. Pope Alexander VI and Pope Julius II attempted to settle the disputes between Spain and Portugal by drawing some remarkable maps that may still be found; but no one dares to disturb the quiet of the ridiculous bulls that the popes issued on this dispute.

In 1519 Magellan made his famous voyage and proved the earth to be round and that men actually lived in the antipodes. But the force of ecclesiastical stultification was so great, as it is today, that men still believed the opposite view for two hundred years after the voyage of Magellan.



The establishment of Christianity, beginning a new evolution of theology, arrested the normal development of the physical sciences for more than 1500 years. The work begun by Aristotle and carried on to such a high state of relative perfection by Archimedes, was stifled by the early Christians. An atmosphere was then created in which physical science could not grow. The general belief derived from the New Testament was that the end of the world was at hand, and the early Church Fathers poured contempt upon all investigators of the science of nature.

Then, too, for science there was established an insurmountable barrier, in that the most careful inductions of science from ascertained facts must conform to the view of nature given in the myth and legends of the Bible. For 1500 years science was forced to confine itself to a system of deducing scientific truth from scriptural texts. It was the accepted word of the clergy that science was futile and dangerous which led to the discrediting of Roger Bacon's works.

In 1163 Pope Alexander III forbade the study of physics to all ecclesiastics, which of course, in that age, meant prohibition of all such scientific studies to the only persons likely to follow them.

Roger Bacon was first to practice extensively the experimental method of science. Through his researches the inventions of clocks, lenses, and the formula for extracting phosphorus, manganese, and bismuth were brought to light. Bitterly attacked by the clergy, he attempted to defend himself by stating that much which was ascribed to demons resulted from natural means. This statement but added fuel to the flame. For in 1278 the authorities of the Franciscan Order assembled at Paris, solemnly condemned Bacon's teachings, and the general of the Franciscans, Jerome of Ascoli, afterwards Pope, threw him into prison, where he remained for fourteen years. At the age of eighty, he was released from prison declaring, "Would that I had not given myself so much trouble for the love of science."

"Sad is it to think of what this great man might have given to the world had ecclesiasticism allowed the gift. He held the key to treasures which would have freed mankind from ages of error and misery. With his discoveries as a basis, with his method as a guide, what might not the world have gained! Nor was the wrong done to that age alone; it was done to this age also.... Thousands of precious lives shall be lost, tens of thousands shall suffer discomfort, privations, sickness, poverty, ignorance, for lack of discoveries and methods which, but for this mistaken dealing with Roger Bacon and his compeers, would now be blessing the earth." (White: "Warfare of Science.")

Centuries afterwards, for stating the same claim, namely, that much which was attributed to demons, resulted from natural causes, Cornelius Agrippa, Weyer, Flade, Loos, Bekker, and a multitude of other investigators and thinkers, suffered confiscation of property, loss of position, and even torture and death.

In the latter half of the sixteenth century, John Baptist Porta, who was the first to show how to reduce the metallic oxides and thus laid the foundation of several important industries, was summoned to Rome by Pope Paul II, and forbidden to continue his researches.

Both in Protestant and Catholic countries instruction in chemistry and physics was discouraged by Church authorities, and in England the theologians strenuously opposed the Royal Society and the Association for the Advancement of Science.

Francis Bacon and Boyle were denounced by the clergy, and Lavoisier was sent to the scaffold by the Parisian mob. Priestley had his home, his library, instruments, and papers containing the results of long years of scientific research burned by a Birmingham mob that had been instigated by Anglican clergymen. He was driven into exile, and the mob would have murdered him if they could have laid their hands upon him.

Yet, in spite of the opposition of the clergy, an opposition of such force that one may well wonder how these tender embryonic sciences could have withstood the terrific ecclesiastical onslaughts, the truths of chemistry and physics continued to diffuse themselves among the intelligent observers. The value to humanity of these two sciences is now established as inestimable.



The human race has suffered three grave humiliations: when Copernicus showed that the earth was not the center of the universe; when Darwin proved that man's origin was not the result of direct creation; when Freud explained that man was not the master of his own thoughts or actions.


In the writings of the Greek and Roman philosophers are found the germinal concepts of geological truths. But as Christianity took control of the world instead of a steady progression of knowledge in this field there was a distinct retrogression. According to the prevailing belief the earth was soon to be destroyed and the collecting of knowledge was futile and any study of its nature was vain.

St. Jerome stated that the broken and twisted crust of the earth exhibited the wrath of God against sin. Tertullian asserted that fossils resulted from the flood of Noah. A scientific explanation of fossil remains was attempted by De Clave, Bitaud, and De Villon in the seventeenth century. The theological faculty of Paris protested against the scientific doctrine as unscriptural, destroyed their treatises, and banished their authors from Paris.

In the middle of the eighteenth century Buffon, in France, produced a thesis attempting to state simple geological truths. The theological faculty of the Sorbonne dismissed him from his high position and forced him to print a recantation stating, "I declare that I had no intention to contradict the text of the Scripture; that I believe most firmly all therein related about the creation, both as to order of time and matter of fact. I abandon everything in my book respecting the formation of the earth and generally all which may be contrary to the narrative of Moses!"

The doctrine which Buffon abandoned is now as firmly established as that of the earth's rotation upon its axis. Yet, in his day, it was heatedly asserted by ecclesiastics that the scientific doctrine that fossils represent animals which died before Adam contradicts the theological doctrine of Adam's fall, and the statement that death entered the world by sin—and this objection was further strengthened when the ecclesiastics became cognizant that geology had proved that the earth was vastly older than the 6000 years determined by Archbishop Ussher's interpretation of the Old Testament.

About 1580, there was published by authority of Pope Gregory XIII, the Roman Martyrology, revised in 1640 under Pope Urban VIII, which declared that the creation of man took place 5199 years before Christ. In 1650, Archbishop Ussher announced after careful study that man was created 4004 years before the Christian era. But, this proving too vague, Dr. John Lightfoot, vice-chancellor of the University of Cambridge, assured the world that, "Heaven and earth, centre and circumference, were created together, in the same instant, and clouds full of water ... and this work took place and man was created by the Trinity on the 23d of October, 4004 B.C. at nine o'clock in the morning."

When the Egyptologists, Assyriologists, archeologists, and anthropologists showed that man had reached a far advanced stage of civilization long before the 6000 years given as the age of the earth, their efforts were ridiculed by the clergy, and these scientists were forced to bring their findings before the world in the face of the well known methods of ecclesiastical opposition.

At a very early period in the evolution of civilization men began to ask questions regarding language, and the answers to these questions were naturally embodied in the myths, legends, and chronicles of their sacred books. Language was considered God-given and complete. The diversity of language was firmly held to be explained by the story of the Tower of Babel; and since the writers of the Bible were merely pens in the hand of God the conclusion was reached that not only the sense, but the words, letters, and even the punctuation proceeded from the Holy Spirit.

At the end of the seventeenth century, the ecclesiastical contention that the Hebrew punctuation was divinely inspired seemed to be generally disproven. The great orthodox body of "religiosa dementia" fell back upon the remainder of the theory that the Hebrew language was the first of all languages which was spoken by the Almighty, given by Him to Adam, transmitted through Noah to the world after the deluge, and that the confusion of tongues was the origin of all other tongues.

It has only been in comparatively recent time, and in spite of the opposition of the clergy, that language has been accepted as the result of evolutionary processes in obedience to laws more or less clearly ascertained. Babel thus takes its place quietly among the other myths of the Bible.

In a purely civil matter, the infallible Church from its inception had displayed a marked hostility to loans at interest. From the earliest period the whole weight of the Church was brought to bear against the taking of interest for money. Pope Leo the Great solemnly adjudged it a sin worthy of severe punishment. In the thirteenth century, Pope Gregory IX dealt an especially severe blow at commerce by his declaration that even to advance on interest the money necessary in maritime trade was damnable usury. The whole evolution of European civilization was greatly hindered by this policy.


Darwinism, which at first was declared by the clergy to be brutal, degrading, atheistic, and anti-Christian, is now included as part of the Bible teaching.

In a similar manner, the Copernican theory, the theory of gravitation, the nebular hypothesis, the theory of uniformity in geology, and every scientific advance has been opposed on the same grounds; that is, that these are against the teachings of the Christian Church. And how many Galileos, Brunos, and Darwins, and other would-be benefactors to the human race have died mute because of this opposition and fear of persecution by the Church?

In 1877, an eminent French Catholic physician, Dr. Constantin James, published an elaborate answer to Darwin's book. He called it, "On Darwinism, or the Ape Man." A copy was sent to Pope Pius IX, who was so pleased with it that he sent the author a reply in which he stated that it "refutes so well the aberrations of Darwinism, a system which is repugnant at once to history, to the traditions of all peoples, to exact science, to observed facts, and even to reason itself, would seem to need no refutation did not alienation from God and the leaning toward materialism, due to depravity, eagerly seek support in all this tissue of fables."

The Protestant clergy were no less vigorous in their opposition. In our own country it was opposed by Dr. Noah Porter, president of Yale College, and most bitterly by the Rev. Dr. Hodge and the Rev. Dr. Duffield, both leading authorities at Princeton University.

Fundamentalism in the United States furnished the spectacle of the trial, in 1925, of a school teacher named Scopes, for teaching the theory of evolution. Dayton, Tennessee, became the laughingstock of the educated world, and the derision with which this effort to obstruct knowledge at this late date was met with by the comments of the press in this country and abroad is at least encouraging. But it is an excellent example of what effect religious obscurantism may exert in backward sections of our country.

Dr. Max Carl Otto, considering the implications of evolution, calls attention to the following: "Take the evolution of living forms. The more we learn about biological history the clearer it becomes that the process has been, from the human point of view, incredibly bungling and wasteful. There have been futile experiments without number; highly successful achievements have been thrown aside; one type of life after another has arisen and has pushed up a blind alley to extinction. If there is a God whose method has been Evolution, then seemingly his slogan was 'We'll fight it out along this line if it takes a billennium' but, unlike Grant, he has always surrendered. In this maelstrom, the human species, as Thomas Huxley said—'plashed and floundered amid the general stream of evolution, keeping its head above water as best it might, and thinking neither of whence nor whither.' Many volumes have been written to give a purposive interpretation of the rise and evolutionary ramifications of living forms. The course of evolution itself is their refutation."

When the Churches could no longer ignore the rising tide of secular opinion, they resorted to compromise and called to their aid a certain number of intellectually dishonest scientists. The attempt to harmonize Christianity and Evolution can only be accounted for in terms of either dishonesty or stupidity.

"And that is true of the whole range of science. Science is, in fact, atheistic or nothing. It knows nothing of God, it does not bother about God, its triumphs are achieved by leaving God out of account." (C. Cohen.)

What has heretofore been mentioned is but a mere trifle when one considers the vast number of similar incidents in which religion has played the role of barrier to progress. These examples, though few, are sufficient to impress the mind of any clear-minded, intelligent individual with the conviction, in spite of all the sophistry and casuistry of the ecclesiastical apologies, that progress in this world has taken place in direct proportion to the degree that the mind of man has liberated itself from the control of theology and the myth of religion.



Better that a man's body should be destroyed than his soul. The worst death of the soul is freedom to err.


It would be hard to calculate the perilous import of so treacherous an utterance, an utterance the latent sentiment of which has been responsible for I know not how much human agony. Menacing indeed to human happiness was such a claim, and in the course of time when the corporate body of the church became all-powerful in Christendom, it put into tyrannical practice what had been but a theological theory.


It is the purpose of this chapter to trace the origin of witches, wizards, and devils, the widespread belief in them at the time of pagan Rome, and the manner in which these were incorporated into Christian theology.

With the rise of Christianity and the gain of political power by its adherents, the perverted pagan idea of witchcraft became the source of the most terrible persecutions in the bloody history of religion. The numerous references to witches and devils in both the Old and New Testaments established the authority for the organized religious mania that scourged both Roman Catholic and Protestant Europe, and extended its tentacles into the New England colonies.

Instigated by ecclesiastics, and carried into effect by the intellectual serfs, their adherents, hundreds of thousands of "witches" were tortured and burned during the sway of the Witchcraft Delusion. With the Bible as an inspiration, the clergy inflamed the superstitious minds of the masses of that time with the conception of a ceaseless strife between the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Satan for possession of their souls and their bodies.

We of the present age may readily wonder how such a belief could have had so firm a grasp on the minds of our ancestors. Perhaps we will be tempted to attribute it to the ignorance of that time, particularly to the ignorance of the untutored masses. On the contrary, this does not approximate the actual situation. History reveals that the greatest minds of that age, men eminent in law, letters, and philosophy, not only defended this conception strenuously, but even engaged in the extermination of "witches."

That men of such superior intellect could defend such a barbaric institution, which today is revolting to our senses, necessitates the conclusion formulated at the end of this chapter.

* * * * *

The ancient Greeks and Romans believed that it was possible by supernatural means to inflict evil on their fellowmen, and all the sects of philosophers admitted this, with the exception of the Epicureans, who denied the existence of evil spirits. The magicians, in Greece and Rome, were at times punished because they injured men and not because they offended the gods. During the latter period of pagan Rome, some of the emperors passed laws against the magicians, if it was proven that by casting the horoscope the magicians had ascertained what was, according to their belief, the most auspicious time to start a rebellion against their rule. The emperors, however, notably Marcus Aurelius and Julian, were the patrons of magicians who foretold coming events to them. The public methods of foretelling the future, such as the oracle of the gods, formed part of their religion.

When the first Christians came into Rome and spread Christianity throughout the empire, they were inspired by an intense religious enthusiasm. They thought much less of the civil than of the religious consequence of magic, and sacrilege seemed much more terrible in their eyes than anarchy.

The Christians found in Rome a vast polytheistic religion in contrast to their own in which the entire world was divided into the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Satan. For them the world seemed to be teeming with malignant demons, who had in all ages persecuted and deluded mankind. "According to these Christians, the immediate objects of the devotions of the pagan world were subsidiary spirits of finite power and imperfect morality; angels, or, as they were then called, demons, who acted the part of mediators, and who, by permission of the Supreme and Inaccessible Deity, regulated the religious government of mankind. The Christians had adopted this conception of subsidiary spirits, but they maintained them to be not the willing agents, but the adversaries of the Deity; and the word demon, which among the pagans, signified only a spirit below the level of a Divinity, among the Christians signified a devil." (Lecky.)

"This notion seems to have existed in the very earliest period of Christianity; and in the second century, we find it elaborated with the most minute and detailed care. Tertullian, who wrote in that century, assures us that the world was full of these evil spirits, whose influence might be descried in every portion of the pagan creed. If a Christian in any respect deviated from the path of duty, a visible manifestation of the devil sometimes appeared to terrify him. The terror which such a doctrine must have spread among the early Christians may be easily conceived. They seemed to breathe an atmosphere of miracles. Wherever they turned they were surrounded and beleaguered by malicious spirits, who were perpetually manifesting their presence by supernatural arts. Watchful fiends stood beside every altar, they mingled with every avocation of life, and the Christians were the special objects of their hatred. All this was universally believed, and was realized with an intensity which, in this secular age, we can scarcely conceive. The bearing of this view upon the conception of magic is very obvious. Among the more civilized pagans, magic was mainly a civil, and in the last days of the empire, a political crime. In the early church, on the other hand, it was esteemed the most horrible form of sacrilege effected by the direct agency of evil spirits. It included the whole system of paganism, explained all its prodigies, and gave a fearful significance to all its legends. When the Church obtained the direction of the civil power, she soon modified or abandoned the tolerant maxims she had formerly inculcated; and in the course of a few years, restrictive laws were enacted, both against Jews and heretics." (Lecky.)

Constantine, after his conversion to Christianity, enacted laws against the magicians. These were made more rigid under Constantius, his son, but suspended under Julian. These persecutions were renewed by Valentinian, spasmodically carried on to a slight extent, and then lapsed. During the period that elapsed between the sixth and thirteenth centuries the executions for sorcery were comparatively rare.

It is to be borne in mind, then, that magic as existing in pagan Rome was part of the religious conceptions of the Romans. The oracle as well as the various demons, which to them signified what the word "angel" signifies to us now, formed an elaborate system of mythology and idolatry. The early Christians coming into contact with these conceptions, at first found an insurmountable difficulty in spreading their beliefs among the rural inhabitants of the Roman empire. Polytheism was dominant while their monotheism was as yet a persecuted belief. The road of least resistance was compromise, and so this vast system of polytheism was perverted, while seemingly accepted into their beliefs, by making these "angels," "demons," as we now understand the word. Since the early Christians were dominated by a belief in constant Satanic presence, these demons were said to be the "Hosts of Satan." It was firmly believed that the arch-fiend (Satan) was forever hovering about the Christians, but it was also believed that the sign of the cross, or a few drops of holy water, or the name of Mary, could put him to an immediate and ignominious flight.

"In the twelfth century, however, the subject passed into an entirely new phase. The conception of a witch, as we now conceive it, that is to say of a woman who had entered into a deliberate compact with Satan, who was endowed with the power of working miracles whenever she pleased, and who was continually transported through the air to the Sabbath, where she paid her homage to the Evil One—first appeared. The panic created by the belief at first advanced slowly, but after a time with a fearfully accelerated rapidity. Thousands of victims were sometimes burnt alive in a few years. Every country in Europe was stricken with the wildest fever. Hundreds of the ablest judges were selected for the extirpation of this crime. A vast literature was created on the subject, and it was not until a considerable portion of the eighteenth century had passed away that the executions finally ceased. The vast majority of those accused of witchcraft were women, and again the Bible furnished the authority for the belief that women were inherently wicked. That the Fathers of the Church believed this is exemplified by the statement of Chrysostom in which he said that women were a 'necessary evil, a natural temptation, a desirable calamity, a domestic peril, a deadly fascination, and a painted ill.'" (Lecky.)

At this period the conception of a witch is radically different from that which was prevalent in the era prior to this one. The popular belief of the witchcraft ages, a belief sanctioned by most of the learned men of the time, was that the earth swarmed with millions upon millions of demons. They multiplied by reproduction in the usual way, by the accession of the souls of wicked men, of women dying in childbirth, of children still-born, of men killed in duels. The air was filled with them, and one was always in danger of inspiring them with the air, of swallowing them in food and drink. Most Christian writers and legendists said that there were so many of them they could not be counted, but Wierus took a census of them and reported that there were only 7,505,926 divided into seventy-two companies, each commanded by a captain or prince. They could make themselves hideous, or beautiful, as suited their purposes, and assume any shape. While capable of appearing at any time, they preferred the night between Friday and Saturday. Any human being who gave up to them his immortal soul could command their services for a certain time. Occasionally general conferences took place, at the pleasure of Satan, which were attended by all the demons and all the witches.

"These 'sabbaths' were held on the Brocken or other high mountain. Upon the spot where they met, nothing would ever grow afterwards, as their hot feet burnt all the fecundity out of the soil. In France, England, and the American Colonies, it was supposed that witches made their trips on broomsticks; in Spain and Italy it was believed that they twirled on the back of the Devil himself, who, for the occasion, transformed himself into male goat. On no account would a witch, when starting for a sabbath, go out through the open door or window; she would pass through the keyhole or up the chimney. While they were gone, inferior demons assumed their shape, and lay in their beds, feigning illness. Assembled on the Brocken, the Devil, as a double-headed goat, took his seat on the throne. His subjects paid their respects to him, kissing his posterior face. With a master of ceremonies appointed for the occasion, he made a personal examination of all the wizards and witches, to see if they had the secret mark about them by which they were stamped as the Devil's own. This mark was always insensible to pain, and it was the sure proof of witchery when found by the inquisitor. Any witches found by the Devil not so marked received the mark from him then and there, also a nickname. Then they all sang and danced furiously. If a stranger came to be admitted, silence reigned while he denied his salvation, spat upon the Bible, kissed the Devil, and swore absolute obedience to him. Singing and dancing was resumed, a mythical formula being used in the singing. When tired, they sat down and told of their evil deeds; those who had not been bad enough were scourged by Satan himself with thorns and scorpions until they could neither sit nor stand. Then came a dance by thousands of toads who were conjured out of the ground and standing on their hind legs kept time to the music Satan evoked from bagpipes or a trumpet. They could all talk, and asked the witches to give them the flesh of unbaptized babes for food. The witches promised to do so. The Devil told them to remember and keep their word and then stamped his foot, and the frogs disappeared instantly into the earth. Next came a most disgusting banquet, except for a few of the most wicked witches, to whom were given rich viands on golden plates and expensive wines in crystal goblets. Then came more dancing; those who did not care for that amused themselves by mocking the sacrament of baptism. For this purpose the toads were again called up and sprinkled with filthy water, the Devil making the sign of the cross, while the witches repeated a formula as absurd as that used in ordinary baptisms. Sometimes the Devil made the witches take off their clothes and dance before him, each with a cat tied around her neck, and another dangling behind as a tail. Sometimes, again, there were lascivious orgies. At cock-crow, all disappeared; the sabbath was over." ("The Story of the Inquisition"—Freethought Press Association.)

This conception of a witch continued from the twelfth century to the time witch-burning ceased. With this idea of a witch being constantly instilled into the minds of their listeners, the clergy set loose fervidly religious mobs to scourge the countries of innocent women. With the entire world divided into the "Hosts of Heaven" and the "Hosts of Satan," with witches abounding in the air, in the water, and in the food, and with their immortal souls at stake, the frenzied population found evidences of witchcraft in all manner of happenings.

"Pope after pope set the seal of his infallibility upon the bloody persecutions. At length came Innocent VIII who, on the 7th of December, 1484, sent forth his bull Summis Desiderantis. Of all documents ever issued from Rome, imperial and papal, this, doubtless, first and last, caused the greatest shedding of innocent blood. Yet no document was ever more clearly dictated by conscience. Inspired by the scriptural command, 'Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live,' Pope Innocent exhorted the clergy of Germany to leave no means untried to detect sorcerers, and especially, those who by evil practice destroy vineyards, gardens, meadows, and growing crops. These precepts were based upon various texts of scripture, especially upon the famous statement in the Book of Job; and to carry them out, witch-finding inquisitors were authorized by the Pope to scour Europe, especially Germany, and a manual was prepared for their use, the Witch-Hammer, Malleus Maleficarum." (White: "Warfare of Science.")

Another important and much discussed department was the connection between evil spirits and animals. That the Devil could assume the form of any animal he pleased, seems to have been generally admitted, and it presented no difficulty to those who remembered that the first appearance of that personage on earth was as a serpent, and that on one occasion a legion of devils had entered into a herd of swine. Saint Jerome also assures us that in the desert St. Anthony had met a centaur and a faun, a little man with horns growing from his forehead, who were possibly devils, and at all events, at a later period, the "Lives of the Saints" represent evil spirits in the form of animals as not infrequent. Lycanthropy, however, or the transformation of witches into wolves, presented more difficulty. The history of Nebuchadnezzar and the conversion of Lot's wife were, it is true, eagerly alleged in support of its possibility; but it was impossible to forget that St. Augustine appeared to regard lycanthropy as a fable, and a canon of the Council of Ancyra had emphatically condemned the belief. On the other hand, that belief has been very widely diffused among the ancients. It had been accepted by many of the greatest and most orthodox theologians, by the inquisitors who were commissioned by the popes, and by the law courts of most countries. The evidence on which it rested was very curious and definite. If the witch was wounded in the form of an animal, she retained that wound in her human form, and hundreds of such cases were alleged before tribunals. Sometimes the hunter, having severed the paw of his assailant, retained it as a trophy; but, when he opened his bag, he discovered in it only a bleeding hand, which he recognized as the hand of his wife.

A French judge named Boguet, at the end of the sixteenth century, devoted himself especially to the subject and burnt multitudes of lycanthropes. He wrote a book about them and drew up a code in which he permitted ordinary witches to be strangled before they were burnt, but excepted lycanthropes who were to be burnt alive.

Now let us examine on what authority the popes and afterwards the reformers so rigorously persecuted the "witches." Both the Old and the New Testaments are riddled with references to witches, wizards, and devils. For example, this passage from Exodus XXII 18, "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live."

From Matthew VIII 28-32, "There met him two possessed with devils coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way. And, behold, they cried out, saying, 'What have we to do with thee, Jesus, Son of God? Art thou come hither to torment us before the time?' And there was a good way off from them a herd of many swine feeding. So the devils besought him, saying, 'If thou cast us out, suffer us to go away into the herd of swine. And he said unto them, 'Go!' And when they were come out, they went into the herd of swine. And behold, the whole herd of swine ran violently down a steep place into the sea and perished in the waters."

The Old Testament, therefore, definitely commands its adherents to kill, and the New Testament gives a brilliant example of its chief magician, Jesus, exorcising devils from men and driving them into swine. There are numerous passages of the Bible which speak of the Devil, the Devil and his angels, spirit of an unclean devil, dumb spirit, foul spirit, unclean spirit, evil spirit, witch, witchcraft, wizards, necromancers, satan, the tempter, prince of the power of the air, prince of devils, etc.

These passages in the Bible were at once the chief source and sanction of the terrible atrocities which extended over several centuries and have come to be known, taken collectively, as the "Witchcraft Persecutions." The Devil, with his subordinate demons and the human beings who sold their souls to him, were supposed to be both capable and guilty of blighting the crops; causing the lightning; bringing destructive storms; withholding the rain; drying up cows; killing domestic and wild beasts; afflicting the nations with pestilence, famine, and war; causing all manner of diseases; betwitching men, women, and children; planting doubts in the mind and weeds in the fields; and in brief, doing about everything that was disagreeable to man in general, or that offended the priests as a caste.

Thus buttressed by the Bible, and with the nearly entire current of Church literature setting in the same direction, it is no wonder that the witchcraft delusion became one of the most appalling, if not the most appalling, fact in the development of the Christian religion.

There is extant no other record of destruction and cruel slaughter growing out of such beliefs in supernatural persons and powers that can ever begin to tell such a story of degradation and mercilessness as the record made by the Christian Church. Theologians laid stress especially upon the famous utterances of the Psalmist that "All the gods of the Heathens are devils," and St. Paul, "The things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to the devils."

Those suspected of heresy and witchcraft must confess; they were to be tortured until they did confess. This made suspicion equivalent to confession and conviction. In the witch "trial" the victim must not only incriminate herself but her accomplices, or all whom she "knew" to be in partnership with the Devil. She was bound to be tortured until she had given the names or described the persons of those she had seen at the "witches' sabbath." Then they would be put to the torture and the process repeated. It was not in human nature long to bear the awful pain; soon the leading questions of the inquisitors would be answered as they wanted them answered. It would be incredible were it not attested by such a multitude of witnesses, that men could honestly believe that testimony so extorted had the slightest value. But it is indisputable that hundreds of thousands of human beings were sent to a cruel death on this utterly worthless "evidence."

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