"In Churches, men have listened for nearly two thousand years to lessons and sermons about 'the brotherhood of man,' 'the forging of swords of war into plowshares of peace,' 'man is his brother's helper,' 'peace on earth, good will toward men,' 'thou shalt not kill,' We are taught to say the Lord's Prayer, and ask for heaven on earth, and yet, at every war opportunity, with a very few noble exceptions, the Church, at the command of the war lords, has scrapped its peace sentiments and turned its back to the Prince of Peace and Heaven on Earth and has shouted itself hoarse for hell on earth. And then the spokesmen of the churches of each nation at war have had the impudence to pray to a just God and ask Him to play favorites, to use His infinite power on their side and join in the mad slaughter of His own beloved children. And those slaughtered are the workers, and their folks at home naturally wonder why the one big international peace organization on earth, the Church, at the crack of the war demon's whip, deserts its principles of 'Thou shalt not kill,' and 'Peace on earth,' and helps to stampede its followers in the very opposite direction."
Mr. Maurer points out that labor's struggle to have a Federal Child Labor amendment to the Constitution ratified by the various state legislatures, and to have such legislation enacted as the Workmen's Compensation Laws, Mothers' Pensions, and Old Age Pensions, received no support from the clergy. He concludes by citing this occurrence:
"For a good illustration of what the Church is sometimes guilty of let us take a glimpse at what happened in Detroit, during the month of October, 1926, when the American Federation of Labor was holding its annual convention there. Nearly every church in Detroit sent invitations to prominent labor officials to speak in their churches before Bible classes, Sunday schools, and Young Men's Christian Associations. Most of the invitations were accepted by the labor officials, including President Green of the A. F. of L. As soon as the big employers learned about the program they not only frowned upon the idea of allowing their sacred temples to be contaminated with representatives of the working class, but put both feet down as hard as they could on the proposition. Did the clergymen stand firm when men with dollars talked? To their everlasting shame they did not. Ninety-five percent of them bowed to the will of Mammon and the representatives of labor were barred from the sacred temples erected in the name of God and the lowly Nazarene, proving conclusively to the minds of the average citizen who controls the churches and whom they serve. Small wonder that many workers have a poor opinion of the Church, and that so many pews are empty."
J. B. S. Hardman, the editor of The Advance, the official journal of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers, gives us his opinion regarding the religion of labor. "It lulls the social underdog with a sham consolation for the oppression and exploitation which are his lot, and furnishes the exploiter and oppressor with graceful distraction and absolution from his daily practice and meanness. This is the actual basis of Church activity to-day. The religion of labor is godless, for it seeks to restore the divinity of man."
James P. Thompson, the national organizer of the Industrial Workers of the World, heads his article for Jerome Davis, "Religion is the Negation of the Truth," and in his militant manner proclaims "This organization designed to praise God and help him run the universe is known as the Church. The established Church has always been on the side of the rich and powerful. Its robed representatives, pretending to be Godlike and favorites of God, having special influence with Him, have ever functioned as the moral police agents of the ruling classes. At one time or another, they have asked God to bless nearly everything, from the slave driver's lash to murderous wars. Thus they strive to extend the blessings of God to the infamies of men.
"To-day, under Capitalism, they teach the working class the doctrine of humility: tell them that if they get a slap on one cheek to turn the other, and, 'blessed are the poor.' They tell us to bear the cross and wear the crown, that we will get back in the next world what is stolen from us in this. In other words, they try to chloroform us with stories of heaven while the robbers plunder the world. For this support the ruling classes donate liberally to the Church. The organized robbers and organized beggars support each other."
James P. Noonan, vice-president of the American Federation of Labor, asks a pertinent question, "Labor observes an increasing tendency on the part of the Church to regulate what man may eat, drink, or smoke, where and how he shall spend his Sundays, the character and kind of amusements he may participate in, and various other activities, many of which seem more or less trivial; all of which leads the average worker to ponder rather seriously just why it is that the Church can vigorously advocate and promote legislation seeking to curtail his liberty to enjoy, in his own way, the limited number of leisure hours at his disposal, and yet turn a deaf ear to the cry of tortured men, women, and children for relief from the curse of low wages, long hours, and scores of other industrial conditions and abuses which inevitably pave the way for numberless cases of moral turpitude."
James S. Woodsworth, a former minister, speaking for the Canadian Labor Party, exclaims: "The Church—a class institution—what does the Church do to help me and those like me? The Church supported by the wealthy, yes, 'He who pays the piper calls the tune.' The well-groomed parson, with his soft tones prophesying smooth things, well, I'm glad I'm not in his shoes!"
James Simpson, secretary of the Canadian Labor Party, makes this statement: "I found that the conditions which called for radical change if the social and economic security of the people was going to be established did not concern the Church. As an institution it was concerned in establishing an outlook upon life that would induce men to do the right, but, if the right was not done, there was very little distinction drawn between the wrong-doer and the right-doer. This lack of distinction did not apply so much to what were re-regarded as moral indiscretions as it did to the larger failures to recognize man's relationship to man in the industrial and commercial activities of life. Labor thinks the Church is insincere. It is an exceptional case for a minister to take a stand on the side of the workers, even when the issue between the employers and employees is a clear case of the former trying to enforce conditions upon the latter which are unfair and inhuman."
A. Fenner Brockway, the political secretary of the Independent Labor Party in England, writes in this manner: "The hymns of the Church are obsolete; the sermons are very rarely worth listening to; the forms of worship are unrelated to life; and such inspiration as comes from the devotion and beauty of some church services and buildings can be found ever more intimately and fully in the silences and beauty of nature."
George Lansbury is another Englishman speaking for British Labor, and he tells us that, "Ordinary working people in Britain think very little about Churches, or about religion. Years ago I was asked, 'Why don't people accept religion? Why don't the masses go to Church?' I said then, as I say now, 'They, the masses, believe we Christians do not believe what we say we believe."
Lenin, Trotzky, Lunacharsky, and Yaroslavsky, are the speakers for Russian Labor in Soviet Russia. Their attitude toward Church and Religion is well known....
Arthur Crispien, president of the German Social Democratic Party, gives us his opinion. "Men should not look upon this earth as a vale of tears and fly from rude realities to a world of phantasms; they should embrace the beauties of the world, and realize and fulfill their social rights and duties. Our work lies in this world. As to the other, each is at liberty to decide according to his needs."
Karl Mennicke, another former minister, points out the attitude of German Labor. "For modern labor the feeling that human life is first of all a matter of eternal life, and only secondarily a matter of this world, has been entirely lost. The high-strung eschatologic mood, or expectation of Jesus, has no sounding board in the masses of the proletariat of to-day. The Christian epoch in history is obviously on its way to extinction. The eschatological mood of Christianity has been a handicap, and still is, for the Christian community has difficulty finding an organic relationship to the creative problems of social life."
Emanuel Radl speaks of labor and the Church in Czechoslovakia. "In general the churches play a far lesser part in our public life than in the United States. People are accustomed to speak of the churches as exploded institutions that are factors only among the uneducated classes. The churches are not measuring up in understanding and helping the poor."
Robert Haberman, representing the Mexican Labor Party, gives a clear-cut summation of the tyranny that the clergy of that country yoked upon the masses and the retardation that it has produced. It furnishes striking and conclusive evidence of the harm that is done when the Church and State are still integrally intertwined. There is no better example of the efforts of a reactionary clergy to keep the masses in poverty and ignorance than is this study of the church in modern Mexico. Mr. Haberman gives an account of the church activities in old Mexico and coming to the present, "By the year 1854, the Church had gained possession of about two-thirds of all the lands of Mexico, almost every bank, and every large business. The rest of the country was mortgaged to the Church. Then came the revolution of 1854, led by Benito Juarez. It culminated in the Constitution of 1857, which secularized the schools and confiscated Church property. All the churches were nationalized, many of them were turned into schools, hospitals, and orphan asylums. Civil marriages were made obligatory. Pope Pius IX immediately issued a mandate against the Constitution and called upon all Catholics of Mexico to disobey it. Ever since then, the clergy has been fighting to regain its lost temporal power and wealth. It has been responsible for civil wars and for foreign intervention." Under the rule of Diaz, the constitution was disregarded and the Church was permitted to regain most of its lost privileges. "The Church bells rang out at sunrise to call the peons out, with nothing more to eat than some tortillas and chili, to work all day long in the burning fields, until sunset when the Church bells rang again to send them home to their mud huts. During their work they were beaten. On Sundays they were lashed and sent bleeding to Mass. After Church they had to do Faenas (free work) for the Church, in the name of some saint or other—either to build a new church or do some special work for the priests. It is no wonder then, that after the revolution against Diaz, in many places, as soon as the peons were told they were free, their first act was to climb up the church steeples and smash the bells. After that, they rushed inside the churches and destroyed the statues and paintings of the saints. During the whole period of havoc and exploitation, not once was the voice of the Church heard in behalf of the downtrodden. Illiteracy amounted to eighty-six percent. But the Church helped the further enslavement of the workers. There was not a church ceremony, birth, marriage, or death, that did not cost money. The worker had to borrow for each; and the more he borrowed, the more closely he riveted upon himself the chains of peonage.... The present conflict started in February, 1926, when Archbishop Jose Mora del Rio, head of the Church in Mexico, issued a statement in the press declaring war against the Constitution."
Gideon Chen, speaking for Chinese Labor asserts: "The Christian Church in China, brought up in a Western greenhouse, with all its achievements and shortcomings, does not speak a language intelligible to the labor world."
Karl Kautsky, the Austrian representative of labor, takes the attitude that, "The less Labor as a whole has to do with Church questions and the less it is interested in the churches, the more successful will be its strife for emancipation."
Otto Bauer, another representative of Austrian labor, makes the assertion: "Capitalism forces the worker into the class struggle. In this class struggle he comes across the clergy and finds it the champion of his class adversary. The worker transfers his hate from the clergyman to religion itself, in whose name this clergyman is defending the social order of the middle classes. In Austria the bourgeois parties take advantage of the belief of hundreds of thousands of proletarians in a Lord in Heaven to keep them in subjection to their earthly masters."
Ernest H. Barker, the general secretary of the Australian Labor Party, holds forth in an article entitled, "The Church is Weighed and Found Wanting." He is quite emphatic in his statements. "The attitude of the Labor Movement in Australia to the Church is one of supreme indifference. There is little or no point of contact between the two and apparently neither considers the other in its activities and plan of campaign.... The Church preaches the brotherhood of man. What brotherhood can exist between the wealthy receiver of interest, profit, and rent and the struggling worker who sees his wife dragged down by poverty and overwork, and his children stunted and dwarfed physically and intellectually—between the underworked and overfed commercial or industrial magnate and the underfed, overworked denizen of the slums? ... The Church is put on trial in the minds of men. They ask, 'What did the Church do when we sought a living wage, shorter hours of work, safer working conditions, abolition of Sunday work, abolition of child labor?' The answer is an almost entirely negative one. The few instances when church officials have helped are so conspicuous as to emphasize the general aloofness.... In how many of the advanced ideas of our time has the Church taken the lead? Is it not renowned for being a long way in the rear rather than in the vanguard of progressive thought and action? It resents any challenge to its ideas, doctrines, or authority."
Emile Vandervelde, the leader of the Belgian Labor Party, discusses the personal religious convictions of the Labor leaders in France and Belgium. "Today as yesterday the immense majority are atheists, old-fashioned materialists, or at least agnostics, to whom it would never occur to profess any creed, no matter how liberal it might be."
Toyohiko Kogawa, the secretary of the Japan Labor Federation, says: "Labor considers the Church too other-worldly. It thinks it has no concern with the interests of labor; and that the Church has lost her aim in this world and is looking up only into heaven. And labor forgets where to go, loses its sense of direction. So labor stops thinking about religion, and religion stops thinking about industry. The Church has no principle of economics, and labor has no religious aspiration."
The opinions of these men who are daily in contact with the problem of social justice the world over surely furnish a tremendous amount of information regarding both the unconcern of religion upon the furtherance of social justice and its actual negative and harmful influence. The devout Sherwood Eddy, a sincere and noble exponent of social justice, is forced to exclaim; "But I saw that there would be much more opposition from professing Christians if I preached a gospel of social justice, than ever there had been from so called 'heathen' nations in calling them to turn from their idols. Indeed, Mammon is a much more potent idol, it is more cruel, smeared with more human blood, than Kali of Siva. They sacrifice goats to Kali and we shudder; we sacrifice men to Mammon and justify our 'rights.' In simple fact, though they are not worthy of mention, I have met with more opposition and misrepresentation, ten times over, in 'Christian' America, than I ever met in fifteen years in India, or in repeated visits to China, Turkey, or Russia." (Sherwood Eddy: "Religion and Social Justice.")
Religious philosophy is slave philosophy; it teaches of a God who is personally interested in the individual and who will reward present misery with future bliss. The demoralizing effect of this infamous fraud is apparent everywhere. If a worker is constantly assailed with this nonsense from the pulpit, the result is the production in him of a mental as well as a physical slavery; it aggravates his mental inertia, and the force of repetition achieving its effects, he soon resigns himself to his present miserable state drugged with the delusion of a better life in the hereafter. He believes that his destiny is predetermined by God and that he will be rewarded in heaven for his sufferings on earth.
What a marvelous opiate the ecclesiastics have been injecting into the minds of the masses! It is not to be wondered at, therefore, that capital has aided throughout the ages and has stood by religion. The irony of the situation lies in the fact that the slave will fight so valiantly for his tyrannical master, that the unscrupulous few who derive all the benefits, can, like a malignant parasite, suck the life-blood of its victims while their still living prey submits without a struggle! The worker, inebriated with his religious delusion, calmly allows his very substance to be the means through which his parasitic employer grows fat.
"That was the net result of Christianity, and of the activity of the Christian Church in spreading abroad a spirit of kindliness, humanity and brotherhood! The coquetry of Christianity with Labor within the last generation or two is only what one would expect. But it is clear that the one constant function of Christianity has been to encourage loyalty to existing institutions, no matter what their character so long as they were not unfriendly to the Church. Slavery and the oppression of labor continued while Christianity was at its strongest and wealthiest; its own wealth derived from the oppression it encouraged. Slavery died out when social and economic conditions rendered its continuance more and more difficult. And the conditions of labor improved when men ceased to talk of a 'Providential Order,' of 'God's Decree,' and dismissed the evangelical narcotic served out by the Church, and began to realize that social conditions were the products of understandable and modifiable natural forces." (C. Cohen: "Christianity, Slavery and Labor.")
RELIGION AND WOMAN
She was the first in the transgression therefore keep her in subjection.
* * * * *
Fierce is the dragon and cunning the asp; but woman has the malice of both.
ST. GREGORY OF NAZIANZUM.
Thou art the devil's gate, the betrayer of the tree, the first deserter of the Divine Law.
What does it matter whether it be in the person of mother or sister; we have to beware Eve in every woman.
How much better two men could live and converse together than a man and a woman.
No gown worse becomes a woman than the desire to be wise.
The Bible and the Church have been the greatest stumbling blocks in the way of women's emancipation.
ELIZABETH CADY STANTON.
It is noticed in most calculations of churchgoers that women have remained attached to the churches in a far higher proportion than men. The proportion of women in the churches is vastly greater than their proportion in the general population. Most of the men who still passively attend their churches do so under the pressure of professional interest or social or domestic influence.
The degree of religiosity has always been associated with the free play of the emotions and woman being more imaginative and emotional than man, it seems clear that this strong emotional factor in woman accounts, at least partly, for the greater proportion of women as churchgoers. And this, be it noted, lies not in any inherent inferiority in the mental make-up of woman, but rather in the environmental influences that until very recently shaped woman's education in such a manner that it was little adapted to strengthening her reason, but rather calculated to enhance her emotionalism.
Ecclesiastic historians have a notorious habit of viewing pre-Christian times for the single biased purpose of only stating the aspects of that civilization which they deemed inferior to that exerted by Christianity. Researches have established fairly well the position of women in the Egyptian community of 4000 years ago. It is no exaggeration to state that she was free and more honored in Egypt 4000 years ago, than she was in any country of the earth until only recently. Scholars assure us that, at a period which the Bible claims the Earth was just coming into being, the Egyptian matron was mistress of her home, she inherited equally with her brothers, and had full control of her property. She could go where she liked and speak to whom she pleased. She could bring actions in the courts and even plead in the courts. The traditional advice to the husband was, "Make glad her heart during the time that thou hast."
Contrast this position of woman in the community and society in general with the statement given in Mrs. E. Cady Stanton's "History of Woman's Suffrage," in which she speaks of the status of the female of the species in Boston about the year 1850. "Women could not hold any property, either earned or inherited. If unmarried, she was obliged to place it in the hands of a trustee, to whose will she was subject. If she contemplated marriage, and desired to call her property her own, she was forced by law to make a contract with her intended husband by which she gave up all title or claim to it. A woman, either married or unmarried, could hold no office or trust or power. She was not a person. She was not recognized as a citizen. She was not a factor in the human family. She was not a unit, but a zero in the sum of civilization.... The status of a married woman was little better than that of a domestic servant. By the English Common Law her husband was her lord and master. He had the sole custody of her person and of her minor children. He could punish her 'with a stick no bigger than his thumb' and she could not complain against him.... The common law of the State [Massachusetts] held man and wife to be one person, but that person was the husband. He could by will deprive her of every part of his property, and also of what had been her own before marriage. He was the owner of all her real estate and earnings. The wife could make no contract and no will, nor, without her husband's consent, dispose of the legal interest of her real estate.... She did not own a rag of her clothing. She had no personal rights and could hardly call her soul her own. Her husband could steal her children, rob her of her clothing, neglect to support the family: she had no legal redress. If a wife earned money by her own labor, the husband could claim the pay as his share of the proceeds." With such a contrast in mind, it is indeed difficult to see where the truth of the assertion lies when it is stated that the status of woman was indeed pitiful until Christianity exerted its influence for her betterment. And it is again curious to note that after a period of nearly 2000 years of Christian influence it was left for a sceptic such as Mrs. Stanton and her sceptical co-workers to bring about an amelioration of the degrading position of woman in Christian society.
The degrading picture of womankind as depicted in the Old Testament is well known to anyone who has glanced through this storehouse of mythology. It would be well for the multitude of devout female adherents of all creeds to take the time, just a little of the time they give to the plight of the poor, benighted heathen and read some of the passages in the Old Testament dealing with their lot. The entire history of woman under the administration of these "heaven-made" laws is a record of her serviture and humility.
In the 24th chapter of Deuteronomy we find the right of divorce given to the husband. "Let him write her a bill of divorcement and give it in her hand and send her out of his house." The discarded wife must acquiesce to "divine justice." But if the wife is displeased, is there any justice? Under no clause of the Divorce Law could the wife have a divorce on her part. None but the husband could put her asunder from him.
In the 22d chapter of Deuteronomy is enacted the law for "Test of Virginity," which states that, "If any man take a wife, and is disappointed in her, and reports, 'I found her not a maid,' then, her father and mother shall bring forth the tokens of the damsel's virginity unto the elders of the city in the gate." The gynecological elders then go into a "peeping Tom's" conference and "If virginity be not found for the damsel: Then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father's house, and the men of the city shall stone her with stones that she die." Most probably the male partner in her "crime" was the first to cast the largest stone.
The law laid down in the 12th chapter of Leviticus may have been intended for hygienic purposes but it is cruel and degrading to women because it assumes that the parturient woman who has borne a female child is twice as impure as one who has borne a male child.
The "law of jealousies" as described in the 5th chapter of Numbers is a good example of the mentality of the writers of this "divine revelation." God in His infinite wisdom had caused to be written for Him, that to test whether a woman has laid carnally with another man, the priest shall, "take holy water in an earthen vessel, and of the dust that is on the floor of the tabernacle the priest shall take and put it in the water ... the bitter water that causeth the curse, and shall cause the woman to drink the water." The divine revelation then continues with, "if she be defiled, her belly shall swell and her thigh shall rot."
But after all, God did not know that in the dust of the Tabernacle sprawled the germs of Dysentery, Cholera, and Tuberculosis, and a few other such mild infections. Or did the Divine Father know that even a self-respecting germ could not inhabit the filthy floor of the Tabernacle?
Consequently, it is not to be wondered at that in the "good old days of the old-fashioned woman," the acme of hospitality was the giving of wife or daughter to a visitor for the night. It was not religion that put an end to this barbarous custom; it was the advance of civilization; not the religious force, but the place rational thinking assumed in the life of people.
The following is a description of a religious riot which took place in Alexandria during the early days of the Church: "Among the many victims of these unhappy tumults was Hypatia, a maiden not more distinguished for her beauty than for her learning and her virtues. Her father was Theon, the illustrious mathematician who had early initiated his daughter in the mysteries of philosophy. The classic groves of Athens and the schools of Alexandria equally applauded her attainments and listened to the pure music of her lips. She respectfully declined the tender attentions of lovers, but, raised to the chair of Gamaliel, suffered youth and age, without preference or favor, to sit indiscriminately at her feet. Her fame and increasing popularity ultimately excited the jealousy of St. Cyril, at that time the Bishop of Alexandria, and her friendship for his antagonist, Orestes, the prefect of the city, entailed on her devoted head the crushing weight of his enmity. In her way through the city, her chariot was surrounded by his creatures, headed by a crafty and savage fanatic named Peter the Reader, and the young and innocent woman was dragged to the ground, stripped of her garments, paraded naked through the streets, and then torn limb from limb on the steps of the Cathedral. The still warm flesh was scraped from her bones with oyster-shells, and the bleeding fragments thrown into a furnace, so that not an atom of the beautiful virgin should escape destruction." The cruelty of man when spurred on by the mania of religious zeal!
In more historic times there are numerous instances of the tyranny exercised over women by the feudal system. Feudalism, composed as it was of military ideas and ecclesiastical traditions, exercised the well known "rights of seigniory." These "rights" comprised a jurisdiction which is now unprintable, and had even the power to deprive woman of life itself.
A history of the licentiousness of the monks and the early popes would fill a great number of volumes; and indeed, many are the volumes which have been devoted to this subject. It will suffice to point out only a few representative incidents. In 1259, Alexander IV tried to disrupt the shameful union between concubines and the clergy. Henry III, Bishop of Liege, was such a fatherly sort of individual that he had sixty-five "natural children!" William, Bishop of Padreborn, in 1410, although successful in reducing such powerful enemies as the Archbishop of Cologne, and the Count of Cloves by fire and sword, was powerless against the dissolute morals of his own monks, who were chiefly engaged in the corruption of women. Indeed, the Swiss clergy in 1230, frankly stated that they "were flesh and blood, unequal to the task of living like angels." The Council of Cologne, in 1307, tried in vain to give the nuns a chance to live virtuous lives; to protect them from priestly seduction. Conrad, Bishop of Wurzburg, in 1521, accused his priests of habitual "gluttony, drunkenness, gambling, quarrelling, and lust." Erasmus warned his clergy against concubinage. The Abbot of St. Pilazo de Antealtarin was proved by competent witnesses to have no less than seventy concubines. The old and wealthy Abbey of St. Albans was little more than a den of prostitutes, with whom the monks lived openly and avowedly. The Duke of Nuremburg, in 1522, was concerned with the clerical immunity of monks who night and day preyed upon the virtue of the wives and daughters of the laity.
The Church openly carried on a sale of indulgences in lust to ecclesiastics which finally took the form of a tax. The Bishop of Utrecht in 1347 issued an order prohibiting the admittance of men to nunneries. In Spain, conditions became so intolerable that the communities forced their priests to select concubines so that the wives and daughters would be safe from the ravages of the clergy.
"The torture, the maiming, and the murder of Elgira by Dunstan illustrates further, amongst thousands and thousands of similar bloody deeds, the diabolical brutality of superstition perpetuated in the name of Christianity upon women in the earlier centuries of our epoch. Indeed, religious superstition always has contrived to rob, to pester, to deceive, and to degrade women." (Bell: "Women from Bondage to Freedom.")
During the Middle Ages, the ages in which the Church was in complete domination of all forms of endeavor, the status of woman was no better than the general conditions of the time. This Age of Faith is characterized by "the violence and knavery that covered the whole country, the plagues and famines that decimated towns and villages every few years, the flood of spurious and indecent relics, the degradation of the clergy and monks, the slavery of the serfs, the daily brutalities of the ordeal and the torture, the course and bloody pastimes, the insecurity of life, the triumphant ravages of disease, the check of scientific inquiry and a hundred other features of medieval life." (Joseph McCabe: "Religion of Woman.")
The Church was chiefly responsible for the terrible persecutions inflicted on women on the ground of witchcraft and this must be taken into calculation when one considers what woman owes to religion. The Reformation reduced woman to the position of a mere breeder of children. During the sway of Puritanism woman was a poor, benighted being, a human toad under the harrow of a pious imbecility.
The pioneers in the Modern Woman Movement in this country were, of course, Mrs. Stanton, Mrs. Gage, and Miss Susan B. Anthony. In their "History of Woman Suffrage" they comment on the vicious opposition which the early workers encountered in New York. "Throughout this protracted and disgraceful assault on American womanhood the clergy baptised every new insult and act of injustice in the name of the Christian religion, and uniformly asked God's blessing on proceedings that would have put to shame an assembly of Hottentots."
And while the clergy either remained silent or heaped abuse on this early movement, such freethinkers as Robert Owen, Jeremy Bentham, George Jacob Holyoake, and John Stuart Mill in England entered the fray wholeheartedly in behalf of the emancipation of woman. In France it was Michelet and George Sand that came to their aid. In Germany it was Max Sterner, Buechner, Marx, Engels, and Liebknecht. In Scandinavia it was Ibsen and Bjoernson.
The battle was begun by freethinkers in defiance of the clergy and it was only when the inevitable conquest of this movement was manifest that any considerable number of clergy came to the aid of this progressive movement. The righting of the wrongs imposed on womankind therefore had been started not only without the aid of the churches but in face of their determined opposition. It was not the clergy that discovered the injustice that had been done to women throughout the centuries, and when it was finally pointed out to them by sceptics, it was the rare ecclesiastic that could see it so and attempt to right the wrong.
R. H. Bell, in tracing this struggle of woman in her publication, "Woman from Bondage to Freedom," has this pertinent remark to make. "If there are any personal rights in this world over which Church and State should have no control, it is the sexual right of a woman to say, 'Yes' or 'No.' These and similar rights are so deeply imbedded in natural morality that no clear-headed, clean-hearted person would wish to controvert them.... Enforced motherhood, through marriage or otherwise, is a mixed form of slavery, voluntary motherhood is the glory of a free soul."
In the age-long struggle for freedom, woman's most rigorous antagonist has always been the Church.
THE PHILOSOPHERS AND THE GREAT ILLUSION
But the powers of man, so far as experience and analogy can guide us, are unlimited; nor are we possessed of any evidence which authorizes us to assign even an imaginary boundary at which the human intellect will, of necessity, be brought to a stand.
There has been an effort made in certain religious publications to imply that there is a dearth of thought and thinkers beyond the pale of theism. The subsequent examination of the theological beliefs of great minds will show that there has never been a lack of brilliant thinkers who have not sought truth apart from the dominant faith of their age. It was Socrates, I believe, who first asked if it was not a base superstition that mere numbers will give wisdom. Granting this truth, it certainly cannot be claimed that the philosophers of any time constituted a majority of any population, nor that the philosopher, as such, was not greatly in advance of the mental status of the populace of his particular age. It would seem appropriate to briefly comment on the opinions of the philosophers, both ancient and modern, concerning their views on "man's giant shadow, hailed divine."
In former ages, philosophy was the handmaiden of theology. From the time of Socrates and Plato, and throughout the medieval ages, the foremost task of the philosopher seemed to be to attempt the proof of the existence and nature of God, and the immortality of the soul. The leading thinkers of the seventeenth century, Hobbes, Descartes, Spinoza, Leibnitz, and Malebranche, liberated philosophy from its bondage to theology. The criticism of Kant of the philosophical foundations of belief destroyed the "theological proofs," and modern thinkers now spend little time on the question of the existence and nature of God and the soul.
Modern philosophy has been completely secularized, and it is a rare occasion to find a philosopher dwelling on the problems of God and immortality. This question in philosophy, as in all other branches of thought, is utterly irrelevant and at present there is less insistence on God and more on the world, man, morals, and the conditions of social life.
It cannot be denied that we are under a heavy obligation intellectually to the Greek philosophers. And it may be that the fruitful efforts of those minds were largely due to their unhampered intellectual freedom. They had no "holy books" and few authorities to check their free speculation and hence these Greek thinkers furnish the first instance of intellectual freedom, from which arose their intelligent criticism and speculation. "They discovered skepticism in the higher and proper significance of the word, and this was their supreme contribution to human thought." (James Harvey Robinson: "The Mind In The Making.")
We know the teachings of Socrates only through his disciple Plato, as Socrates wrote nothing himself. From this source we gather that Socrates firmly upheld the right and necessity of free thought. He was mainly a moralist and reformer, and attempted to prove the existence of God by finding evidence of design in nature. He rejected the crude religious ideas of his nation, was opposed to anthropomorphism, but considered it his duty to conform publicly to this belief. In his old age, he was charged with rejecting the gods of the state, and was sentenced to death.
The philosophy of Plato has given rise to diverse interpretations and there are those who, on reading the Dialogues, believe that it is not amiss to state that in certain utterances there is ground to hold that Plato argued for the pragmatic value of a belief in God and personal immortality; that he does not stress the truth of the matter, but argues mainly for the benefit which the State derives from the belief; that such theistic beliefs cannot be demonstrated, and may well be but a craving and a hope, yet it will be of no harm to believe. He inferred the existence of God from what he considered the intelligence and design manifested in natural objects. Mainly, however, Plato's theism was founded upon his doctrine of a universe of ideas, and as no one today holds that ideas are self-existing realities, the foundation of his theism is destroyed. James Harvey Robinson, in his "Mind in The Making," discusses the influence of Plato, and remarks, "Plato made terms with the welter of things, but sought relief in the conception of supernal models, eternal in the heavens, after which all things were imperfectly fashioned. He confessed that he could not bear to accept a world which was like a leaky pot or a man running at the nose. In short, he ascribed the highest form of existence to ideals and abstractions. This was a new and sophisticated republication of savage animism. It invited lesser minds than his to indulge in all sorts of noble vagueness and impertinent jargon which continue to curse our popular discussions of human affairs. He consecrated one of the chief foibles of the human mind, and elevated it to a religion."
The philosophy of Aristotle is commonly known to be the reverse of Plato's. Plato started with universals, the very existence of which was a matter of faith, and from these he descended to particulars. Aristotle, on the other hand, argued from particulars to universals, and this inductive method was the true beginning of science. The accumulated knowledge of his age did not furnish him facts enough upon which to build and he had to resort to speculation. It does not detract from the stupendous achievement of this man that the clergy of the Middle Ages, in control of the few isolated centers of learning, looked upon the philosophy of Aristotle as final and considered his works as semi-sacred, and in their immersion in un-reason and unreality, exalted as immutable and infallible the absurdities in the speculations of a mind limited to the knowledge of centuries before theirs.
In the attempt to explain plant and animal life, Aristotle formulated the theory that a special form of animating principle was involved. The "elan vital" of Bergson and the theory of Joad are modern reiterations of this conception. Aristotle is not quite consistent when he attempts to give us his theistic beliefs. At times God is, for him, a mysterious spirit that never does anything and has not any desire or will. Elsewhere, he conceives God as pure energy; a prime mover unmoved. Certain modern physicists still cling to this Aristotelian god. This conception of a deity was far from the beliefs of his age, and it is not strange that Aristotle was charged with impiety and with having taught that prayer and sacrifice were of no avail. He fled from Athens and shortly afterwards died in exile.
These three supreme Greek thinkers, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, have not contributed a single argument for the existence of a supreme being which is now not discredited. Socrates relied on the now outmoded argument from design; and only in a greatly modified form are the arguments of Plato and Aristotle accepted by modern theists. Holding such heretical views in an age when history was a frail fabric of legends, and the scientific explanation of nature in its extreme infancy, what would their views be today?
In the consideration of the Greek thinkers of lesser importance one finds that they were continually storming against the religious conceptions of the populace. The philosophers were ever unpopular with the credulous. "Damon and Anaxagoras were banished; Aspasia was impeached for blasphemy and the tears of Pericles alone saved her; Socrates was put to death; Plato was obliged to reserve pure reason for a chosen few, and to adulterate it with revelation for the generality of his disciples; Aristotle fled from Athens for his life, and became the tutor of Alexander." (Winwood Reade: "The Martyrdom of Man.")
Anaxagoras, the friend and master of Pericles, Euripides, and Socrates, was accused by the superstitious Athenians of atheism and impiety to the gods. He was condemned to death and barely escaped this fate through the influence of Pericles; which resulted in the accusation of atheism against Pericles. Euripides was accused of heresy, and Aeschylus was condemned to be stoned to death for blasphemy and was saved from this fate by his brother Aminias. The philosophy of Parmenides was distinctly pantheistic, and Pythagoras, who attempted to purify the religion of the Greeks and free it from its absurdities and superstitions, was exiled for his scepticism.
Democritus, a materialist and atheist of 2500 years ago, formulated a mechanical view of phenomena in accordance with which everything that happens is due to physical impacts. "Such a materialism was a great liberation from superstition; and had it survived in its integrity, the path of European wisdom would have been vastly different from what it was. What the path would have been, we are beginning to see to-day, for since the nineteenth century we have been treading it more or less consistently but by no means so gallantly and courageously as Democritus." (G. Boas: "The Adventures of Human Thought.")
Democritus and the Epicureans strove to deliver men from their two chief apprehensions: the fear of the gods, and the fear of death; and in so doing rejected the religious beliefs and substituted a rational and scientific conception of the universe.
It was Xenophanes, the Voltaire of Greece, who brought to the attention of his countrymen the discovery that man created the gods in his own image. He attacked the conceptions of the Greek deities with these words, "Mortals deem that the gods are begotten as they are, and have clothes like theirs, and voice and form ... Yes, and if oxen and horses or lions had hands, and could paint with their hands, and produce works of art as men do, horses would paint the forms of the gods like horses, and oxen like oxen, and make their bodies in the image of their several kinds.... The Ethiopians make their gods black and snub-nosed; the Thracians say theirs have blue eyes and red hair."
Considering Greek philosophy in its entirety, we see that it was naturalistic rather than supernaturalistic, and rationalistic rather than mystical. These gifted men saw no clear indication for the existence of a supreme being; very few of them speak of the deity in the role of Providence and fewer still believed in personal immortality.
Professor Boas, in contrasting Asiatic mythology with Greek philosophy, remarks: "The Asiatic myths assumed the existence of beings beyond the world, not subject to mundane laws, who made and controlled the course of events. There was no reason why they should have made a world. They seemed to be living as divine a life without it as with it. The question was one which persisted in Asiatic thought, and when Christianity became dominant in Europe, much of its theologians' time was spent in answering it. The only plausible answer then was that God made the world because He felt like it. For no reason could be given sufficiently compelling to sway the will of the Omnipotent. But such an answer was unsatisfactory to the Greek. In his philosophy all this is changed. No god steps out of the machine to initiate cosmic history. The First Cause is a physical substance, some material thing, which operates by the laws of its own nature. Its every movement is theoretically open to the scrutiny of reason. And hence, a scientific rather than a religious answer can be given to every question."
At the beginning of the Christian era, the cultured Romans were stoics or epicureans. The poet Lucretius was an epicurean who regarded the belief in the gods as a product of the terrors of primitive man and recommended that the mind should be emancipated from the fear of the gods and argued against the immortality of the soul. Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius were stoics. Cicero insinuates that the gods are only poetical creations, that the popular doctrine of punishment in a world to come is only an idle fable, and is uncertain whether the soul is immortal. Seneca wrote against the religion of his country, and the philosophy of cultured Romans of the time of the physician Galen tended towards atheism.
The prime factor of Greek philosophy was the insistence on intelligence and knowledge, and by these means it reached its pinnacle of reasoning. The blight that exterminated all scientific progress, with the fall of the Roman Empire, carried with it the neglect of the Greek thinkers. Similar to the retrogression of scientific thought, traced in former chapters, is the corresponding retrogression in philosophic thought. In place of the free inquiry of the Greeks we see arising the theology of Clement of Alexandria, Origen, St. Augustine, and finally that of St. Thomas Aquinas. At the time of St. Augustine most of the cultural Greek writings had disappeared in western Europe. The greatest store of Greek thought was in the hands of the Arab scholars and led to a marked scepticism, as we see manifested in the writings of the Spanish Moors.
It is significant that during the "age of faith" in Europe no philosopher of merit arose, and the only philosophy permitted was the puerile Scholastic-Aristotelic. This scholastic philosophy, hemmed in between metaphysics and theology, sought to reconcile Plato, Plotinus, and Aristotle with the needs of orthodoxy, and split hairs over subtle essences and entities. Francis Bacon impeaches, in this manner, the medieval philosophers: "Having sharp and strong wits, and abundance of leisure, and small variety of reading, but their wits being shut up in the cells of a few authors, as their persons were shut up in the cells of monasteries and colleges, and knowing little history, either of nature or time, did out of no great quantity of matter and infinite agitation of wit spin out unto us those laborious webs of learning which are extant in their books."
The sole preoccupation of medieval philosophy seemed to be conjectures as to what would happen to man after death, and the entire system of thought was based on authority. The medieval philosopher turned in disdain from the arduous path of investigation of actual phenomena and confidently believed that he could find truth by easy reliance upon revelation and the elaboration of dogmas. A few brave minds rebelled against this unnatural imprisonment of the intellect, with the usual consequences. Peter Abelard was condemned for his scepticism at a council at Sens in 1140; the philosophy of John Scotus Erigena was condemned for its pantheistic ideas by a council at Sens in 1225; and the pantheistic views of Bruno had much to do with his martyrdom in the year 1600.
Montaigne, the pioneer of modern scepticism, gave voice to his repugnance for dogmas in his brilliant Essays, in which he stated that all religious opinions are the result of custom; and that he doubted if, out of the immense number of religious opinions, there were any means of ascertaining which were accurate. Bacon, Hobbes, Locke, and Descartes were the inaugurators of a school of thought which is characterized by its practical spirit; and while these men professed theistic beliefs, their systems of thought had done much, when applied and amplified by their followers, to undermine that belief. These men furnished the source of a later agnosticism.
Thomas Hobbes agreed with Bacon and Galileo that all knowledge starts from experience, and, carrying out the inductive method of Bacon, he produced his "Leviathan" in 1651. It was promptly attacked by the clergy of every country in Europe. Hobbes says of the immortality of the soul, "It is a belief grounded upon other men's sayings that they knew it supernaturally; or that they knew those who knew them, that knew others that knew it supernaturally."
Locke concerned himself with a philosophic inquiry into the nature of the mind itself, and was looked upon as a destroyer of the faith. Descartes based his philosophy on the rejection of authority in favor of human reason for which his works were honored by being placed on the Index in 1663. Hume, with the publication of the highly heretical "Treatise on Human Nature," threw consternation into the ranks of the theists. His theory of knowledge played havoc with the old arguments for belief in God and immortality of the soul. His works were widely read and were instrumental in leading to the philosophical agnosticism of the nineteenth century.
Spinoza's religious views seemed in his time little short of atheism and brought him the hostility of both Jews and Christians, to which was added the excommunication from the synagogue. In his philosophy God and nature are equivalent terms and it is pantheistic only in the sense that if man is to have a god at all, nature must be that god, and whatever man considers godlike must be found in nature. Spinoza recognizes no supernatural realm and denies the survival of personal memory. Professor G. Boas, in his "Adventures of Human Thought," discusses the attitude of public opinion of the time of Spinoza. "He was the arch-atheist, the materialist, the subverter of all that was held most dear by the reigning powers. It was only after the French Revolution that he came into his own when certain Germans, captivated by Neo-Platonism, emphasized the pantheistic element in him. But by then Christianity had ceased to be a dominant intellectual force and had become what it is today, a folk belief." In the "Tractus Theologico-Politicus," Spinoza states: "When people declare, as all are ready to do, that the Bible is the Word of God teaching men true blessedness and the way of salvation, they evidently do not mean what they say, for the masses take no pains at all to live according to Scripture, and we see most people endeavoring to hawk about their own commentaries as the word of God, and giving their best efforts, under the guise of religion, to compelling others to think as they do. We generally see, I say, theologians anxious to learn how to wring their inventions and sayings out of the sacred text, and to fortify them with divine authority."
In France, Pierre Bayle cleverly satirized the absurdity of dogma, and La Mettrie, an army physician, was exiled for the publication of his "Man a Machine." He insisted that if atheism were generally accepted society would be happier. His views were taken up and expanded by such atheists as Helvetius, d'Holbach, d'Alembert, and Diderot, who taught that morality should be founded on sociology and not on theology. The publication of their Encyclopaedia incurred the fierce opposition of the Church. Of Voltaire's anti-clericism little need be said, except to recall our debt to his victory over ecclesiasticism and superstition. His assertion that "a fanaticism composed of superstition and ignorance has been the sickness of all the centuries," still holds too great an extent of truth. His denial of miracles, the supernatural efficacy of prayer, and the immortality of the soul earned for him the undying enmity of the clergy. Condorcet, another deist, was the successor of Voltaire in the Encyclopaedic warfare.
The "Critique of Pure Reason" of Kant demolished the ontological and the cosmological arguments for the existence of God and showed the weakness in the teleological argument. He demonstrated that all the current arguments for God and immortality; the entire basis of rational proof of religious beliefs; were invalid. The theists protested vehemently, and showed their superiority by calling their dogs "Immanuel Kant." In his "Critique of Practical Reason," however, he went on to restore the credit of religion through the moral sense, the "Categorical Imperative," and, as certain commentators have stated, after having excluded God from the cosmos, he attempted to find Him again in ethics. Holding that the moral sense is innate and not derived from experience, he reduced the truth of religion to moral faith. Kant believed that he found a divine command in his own conscience; but the science of ethics now gives a natural account of moral laws and sentiments. The study of the evolution of our moral ideas has, today, destroyed Kant's theory of an innate and absolute moral sense.
When Franklin showed the nature of lightning, the voice of God was displaced from that of thunder. The sciences of ethics and psychology, like modern Franklins, show plainly that conscience is no more the voice of God than is thunder. Schopenhauer, commenting on Kantian theology, offers the suggestion that Kant was really a sceptic, but became frightened when he contemplated what he thought would happen to public morals if belief were to be denied to the masses. Nietzsche speaks of Kant: "With the aid of his concept of 'Practical Reason,' he produced a special kind of reason, for use on occasions when reason cannot function: namely, when the sublime command, 'Thou shalt,' resounds." In his old age Kant became more bold, and perhaps voiced his true views, for we find that in "Religion Within the Limits of Pure Reason," he is actively antagonistic to ecclesiasticism, so much so that, for publishing this work, he was censured by the Prussian king, who wrote, "Our highest person has been greatly displeased to observe how you misuse your philosophy to undermine and destroy many of the most important and fundamental doctrines of the Holy Scriptures and of Christianity." Indeed, many a man approaching Kant with a firm theistic belief finds his belief somewhat shaken by Kantian logic.
Schopenhauer's "Will" has nothing in common with the God-idea as commonly held, and he was bitterly anti-theistic. In a dialogue entitled "Religion," he places these words in the mouth of his character Philalethes: "A certain amount of general ignorance is the condition of all religions, the element in which alone they can exist. And as soon as astronomy, natural science, geology, history, the knowledge of countries and peoples, have spread their light broadcast, and philosophy finally is permitted to say a word, every faith founded on miracles and revelation must disappear; and philosophy takes its place."
Hegel's deification of thought or reason left no room for personal immortality, and his query, "Do you expect a tip for having nursed your ailing mother, and refrained from poisoning your brother?" is well known. A vague conception of a deity whose existence can be proved, if it can be proved at all, only by the abstruse arguments of a Hegel is not a god of practical service to the theists.
Schelling was pantheistic, and Feuerbach played havoc with the philosophic evidence for God and immortality and treated all religions as a dream and an illusion.
Herbert Spencer, James Mill, J. S. Mill, and Huxley popularized the agnostic standpoint. Spencer in his "First Principles" argues in this manner: "Those who cannot conceive of a self-existent Universe, and therefore assume a creator as the source of the Universe, take for granted that they can conceive a self-existent creator. The mystery which they recognize in this great fact surrounding them on every side, they transfer to an alleged source of this great fact, and then suppose that they have solved the mystery. But they delude themselves. Self-existence is inconceivable; and this holds true whatever be the nature of the object of which it is predicated. Whoever agrees that the atheistic hypothesis is untenable because it involves the impossible idea of self-existence, must perforce admit that the theistic hypothesis is untenable if it contains the same impossible idea.... If religion and science are to be reconciled, the basis of reconciliation must be this deepest, widest, and most certain of all facts, that the Power which the Universe manifests to us is inscrutable."
Nietzsche, the great liberator of modern thought, vigorously opposed religious morality, the influence of Christianity, and all religious beliefs. "When the natural consequences of an action," he wrote, "are no longer looked upon as natural, but are considered to be produced by the phantasms of superstition, by 'God,' 'Ghosts,' and 'Souls,' and appear as 'moral' consequences, as rewards, punishments, guidance and revelation, then the whole basis of knowledge is destroyed; and the greatest possible crime against humanity has been committed."
William James, claimed as a supporter of religion, argues that our inner experience makes us cognizant of a spiritual world. The advance of psychological research does not deal kindly with this contention, and such works as Leuba's "Psychology of Religious Mysticism" give a rational explanation of the mystic state. Moreover, James did not give his support to monotheism. "That vast literature of proofs of God's existence," he stated, "drawn from the order of nature, which a century ago seemed so overwhelmingly convincing, today does little more than gather dust in the libraries, for the simple reason that our generation has ceased to believe in the kind of God it argued for. Whatever sort of God may be, we know today that he is nevermore that mere external inventor of 'contrivances' intended to make manifest his 'glory' in which our great-grandfathers took such satisfaction."
James claimed to be a pluralist in the sense that there are several or many spiritual beings above us, and his writings lead one to believe that he was not convinced that man, as a distinct personality, survives the grave.
Royce rejected all the current arguments for God and immortality and argues for the mysticism of internal experience. Eucken offers no support to theologians; and Bergson does not seem to express a clear belief in a personal god or personal immortality.
Coming to the more popular of contemporary philosophers one finds that, just as the Greek philosophers reasoned outside the pale of the then held beliefs which were theistic, so do these modern philosophers reach conclusions that are outside the pale of organized religion of today. George Santayana is a materialist and sceptic who, in his "Reason in Religion," reveals his scepticism and frowns upon personal immortality. "It is pathetic," he comments, "to observe how lowly are the motives that religion, even the highest, attributes to the deity, and from what a hard-pressed and bitter existence they have been drawn. To be given the best morsel, to be remembered, to be praised, to be obeyed blindly and punctiliously, these have been thought points of honor with the gods, for which they would dispense favors and punishments on the most exhorbitant scale.... The idea that religion contains a literal, not a symbolic, representation of truth and life is simply an impossible idea. Whoever entertains it has not come within the region of profitable philosophizing on that subject."
Bertrand Russell, considered by some the keenest philosophical mind of the present age, is an agnostic who maintains "The objections to religion are of two sorts, intellectual and moral. The intellectual objection is that there is no reason to suppose any religion true; the moral objection is that religious precepts date from a time when men were more cruel than they are now, and therefore tend to perpetuate inhumanities which the moral conscience of the age would otherwise outgrow."
The Italian philosopher Benedetto Croce is an atheist who states that philosophy removes from religion all reason for existing. C. E. M. Joad is a young English philosopher who repeatedly predicts the disappearance in the near future of the present forms of theistic beliefs. M. C. Otto holds to "An affirmative faith in the non-existence of God." William P. Montague discards all organized religions for a "Promethean Religion." John Dewey is a naturalistic philosopher who will have nothing to do with supernatural causation and insists that all things be explained by their place and function in the environment. His philosophy is permeated with the secular ideal of control of the external world.
What consolation does organized religion receive from the views of such modern philosophers as Russell, Alexander, Joad, Croce, Santayana, Dewey, Otto, Montague, Sellars, and the Randalls? The views of an intellectual incompetent, such as Bryan was, are spread widecast, but few know the extent of the scepticism of Edison, Luther Burbank, Albert Einstein, Paul Ehrlich, Ernst Haeckel, Robert Koch, Fridjof Nansen, and Swante Arrhenius. What consolation can the theists derive from the religious views of Shelley, Swinburne, Meredith, Buchanan, Keats, George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, Mark Twain, and Anatole France?
In the not far distant past deism and pantheism served as a polite subterfuge for atheism. There is a growing tendency in this present age to dress one's atheistic belief in an evening suit, and for the sake of social approbation call such a belief "religious humanism." A quotation from the Associated Press, appearing recently in one of our magazines, states the need for this "new religion" as being the inadequacy of the religious forms and ideas of our fathers, and the new creed to be:
"Religious humanists regard the universe as self-existing and not created.
"Religion must formulate its hopes and plans in the light of the scientific spirit and method.
"The distinction between the sacred and secular can no longer be maintained.
"Religious humanism considers the complete realization of human personality to be the end of a man's life, and seeks its development and fulfilment in the here and now.
"In place of the old attitudes involved in worship and prayer, the humanist finds his religious emotions exprest in a heightened sense of personal life and in a cooperative effort to promote social well-being.
"There will be no uniquely religious emotions and attitudes of the kind hitherto associated with belief in the supernatural. Man will learn to face the crises of life in terms of his knowledge of their naturalness and probability. Reasonable and manly attitudes will be fostered by education and supported custom.
"We assume that humanism will take the path of social and mental hygiene, and discourage sentimental and unreal hopes and wishful thinking.
"The goal of humanism is a free and universal society in which the people voluntarily and intelligently cooperate for the common good.
"The time has come for widespread recognition of the radical changes in religious thoughts throughout the modern world. Science and economic change have disrupted the old beliefs.
"Religions the world over are under the necessity of coming to terms with new conditions created by a vastly increased knowledge and experience."
Professors John Dewey, E. A. Burtt, and Roy Wood Sellars are among the signers of this statement. It is an excellent and comprehensive statement, but one is left wondering why the name "religious humanism"? It is difficult to become enthusiastic when one realizes that these men take to themselves the thunder of the atheists of the past, and under the misnomer, "religious," place before the public what all atheists of the past ages have been preaching.
It is most gratifying to perceive that such distinguished men as signed this statement are frank enough to admit the extent of the religious revolution, and determined enough to take a hand in the clearing away of the debris that clutters the crumbling of all religious creeds. Yet it is only fair to point out that this statement contains nothing that would not be recognized by those intrepid atheists of the past, and little more than they urged in their time. I refer to those brilliant French atheists La Mettrie, Helvetius, d'Holbach, d'Alembert, and Diderot.
THE DOOM OF RELIGION; THE NECESSITY OF ATHEISM
One should recall the charge of atheism directed against the keenest thinkers of antiquity and the greatest of its moral reformers. But what was personal and incidental in the past, depending largely upon the genius and inspiration of seers and leaders, has now become a social movement, as wide as science.
JAMES T. SHOTWELL.
The drift from God is a movement of events, a propulsion of vital experience, not a parade of words to be diverted by other words.
MAX CARL OTTO.
In the Babylonian and Assyrian mythologies we have the chief deities as Ishtar, Tammuz, Baal, and Astarte. In the Phrygian religion we have the Goddess Cybele and her husband Attis. Among the Greeks we have the Goddess Aphrodite and the God Adonis. The Persians had their Mithra. Adonis and Attis flourished in Syria. In the Egyptian religion was found the Goddess Isis and the God Osiris. The Semites have their Jehovah, the Mohammedans their Allah, and the Christians the Goddess Mary, the God the Father, and a son Jesus.
Christianity has divided itself into Catholicism and Protestantism; and when Protestantism gave the right of interpretation of the Bible to each individual, there were evolved such forms of Protestantism as Christian Science, Holy Rollerism, Seventh Day Adventism, Swedenborgianism, and the cults of the Doukhobors, the Shakers, the Mennonites, the Dunkards and the Salvation Army.
In the early days of the Church were seen the wrangling of sects, the incomprehensible jargon of Arians, Nestorians, Eutychians, Monotheists, Monophysites, Mariolatrists, etc. Today we behold the incomprehensible jargon of the first-mentioned sects.
Christ, born of an immaculate virgin, died for mankind, arose from the dead, and ascended into Heaven.
Buddha, who lived over 500 years before Jesus, was born of the Virgin Maya, which is the same as Mary. Maya conceived by the Holy Ghost, and thus Buddha was of the nature of God and man combined. Buddha was born on December 25, his birth was announced in the heavens by a star, and angels sang. He stood upon his feet and spoke at the moment of his birth; at five months of age he sat unsupported in the air; and at the moment of his conversion he was attacked by a legion of demons. He was visited by wise men, he was baptized, transfigured, performed miracles, rose from the dead, and on his ascension through the air to heaven, he left his footprint on a mountain in Ceylon.
The Hindu Savior, Krishna, was born of a virgin 600 years before Christ. A star shone at his birth which took place in a cave. He was adored by cowherds who recognized his greatness, he performed miracles, was crucified, and is to come to judge the earth.
Christ died for mankind,—so did Buddha and Krishna. Adonis, Osiris, Horus, and Tammuz, all virgin-born gods, were saviors and suffered death. Christ rose from the dead, so have Krishna and Buddha arisen from the dead and ascended into Heaven. So did Lao Kium, Zoroaster, and Mithra.
A star shone in the sky at the births of Krishna, Rama Yu, Lao Tsze, Moses, Quetzalcoatl, Ormuzd, Rama, Buddha, and others. Christ was born of a virgin, so was Krishna and Buddha. Lao Tsze was also born of a virgin. Horus in Egypt was born of the Virgin Isis. Isis, with the child Horus on her knee, was worshiped centuries before the Christian era, and was appealed to under the names of "Our Lady," "Queen of Heaven," "Star of Heaven," "Star of the Sea," "Mother of God," and so forth. Hercules, Bacchus, and Perseus were gods born by mortal mothers. Zeus, father of the gods, visited Semele in the form of a thunderstorm and she gave birth, on the 25th of December, to the great savior and deliverer, Dionysis.
Mithra was born of a virgin, in a cave, on the 25th of December. He was buried in a tomb from which he rose again. He was called savior and mediator and sometimes figured as a lamb. Osiris was also said to be born about the 25th of December; he suffered, died, and was resurrected. Hercules was miraculously conceived from a divine father and was everywhere invoked as savior. Minerva had a more remarkable birth than Eve; she sprang full-armed from the brow of Jupiter. He did this remarkable feat without even losing a rib.
The Chinese Tien, the holy one, died to save the world. In Mexico, Quetzalcoatl, the savior, was the son of Chimalman, the Virgin Queen of Heaven. He was tempted, fasted forty days, was done to death, and his second coming was eagerly looked for by the natives. The Teutonic Goddess Hertha, was a virgin, and the sacred groves of Germany contained her image with a child in her arms. The Scandinavian Goddess Frigga was a virgin who bore a son, Balder, healer and savior of mankind.
When one considers the similarity of these ancient pagan legends and beliefs with Christian traditions if one believes with Justin Martyr, then indeed the Devil must have been a very busy person to have caused these pagans to imitate for such long ages and in such widespread localities the Christian mysteries. Indeed, Edward Carpenter comments, "One has only, instead of the word 'Jesus' to read Dionysis or Krishna or Hercules or Osiris or Attis, and instead of 'Mary' to insert Semele or Devaki or Alcmene or Neith or Nona, and for Pontius Pilate to use the name of any terrestrial tyrant who comes into the corresponding story, and lo! the creed fits in all particulars into the rites and worship of a pagan God."
A legend stated that Plato, born of Perictione, a pure virgin, suffered an immaculate conception through the influences of Apollo (B.C. 426). The God declared to Ariston, to whom she was about to be married, the parentage of the child.
St. Dominic, born A.D. 1170, was said to be the offspring of an immaculate conception. He was free from original sin and was regarded as the adopted son of the Virgin Mary.
St. Francis, the compeer of St. Dominic, was born A.D. 1182. A prophetess foretold his birth; he was born in a stable; angels sang forth peace and good will into the air, and one, in the guise of Simeon, bore him to baptism.
The Egyptian trinities are well known: thus, from Amun by Maut proceeds Khonso; from Osiris by Isis proceeds Horus; from Neph by Sate proceeds Anouke. The Egyptians had propounded the dogma that there had been divine incarnations, the fall of man, and redemption.
In India, centuries before Christianity, we find the Hindu trinity; Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva. In the Institutes of Manu, a code of civil law as well as religious law, written about the ninth century before Christ, is found a description of creation, the nature of God, and rules for the duty of man in every station of life from the moment of birth to death.
Professor James T. Shotwell when speaking of paganism reminds us, "Who of us can appreciate antique paganism? The Gods of Greece or Rome are for us hardly more than the mutilated statues of them in our own museums; pitiable, helpless objects before the scrutiny and comments of a passing crowd. Venus is an armless figure from the Louvre; Dionysos does not mean to us divine possession, the gift of tongues, or immortality; Attis brings no salvation. But to antiquity the 'pagan' cults were no mockery. They were as real as Polynesian heathenism or Christianity to-day." (James T. Shotwell: "The Religious Revolution of To-day.")
It is seen, therefore, that from time immemorial, man does not discover his gods, but invents them. He invents them in the light of his experience and endows them with capacities that indicate the stage of man's mental development.
Religion is not the product of civilized man. Man inherits his god just as he inherits his physical qualities. The idea of a supernatural being creating and governing this earth is a phantom born in the mind of the savage. If it had not been born in the early stages of man's mental development, it surely would not come into existence now. History proves that as the mind of man expands, it does not discover new gods, but that it discards them. It is not strange, therefore, that there has not been advanced a new major religious belief in the last 1300 years. All modern religious conceptions, no matter how disguised, find their origin in the fear-stricken ignorance of the primitive savage.
A Christian will admit that the gods of others are man-made, and that their creed is similar to the worship of the savage. He looks at their gods with the vision of a civilized being; but when he looks at his own god, he forgets his civilization, he relapses centuries of time, and his mental viewpoint is that of the savage.
Christianity, with its primitive concepts, can make its adherents firm in the belief of great monstrosities. When its adherents believed that the Bible sanctioned the destruction of heretics and witches, they were certainly doing things from a Christian standpoint. It was this standpoint that justified an embittered denunciation of evolution at one time and then recanting, adopted it as a part of the Bible teaching. When the Spaniards blotted out an entire civilization in South America, when Catholics butchered Protestants, or Protestants butchered Catholics, they were all justified from the Christian standpoint.
Man has been living on this planet some 500,000 years. Jesus appeared less than 2000 years ago to save mankind. What of those countless millions of men that died before Christ came to save the world from damnation? If the Christian creed, that except a man believes in the Lord Jesus Christ he cannot be saved, is maintained, then it must be that those millions of human beings who lived before Christ and had no chance to believe, are in hell-fire.
It is probable that one of the factors that turned primitive man's attention away from his cruel and short, earthly existence to the thought of a more lengthy and less cruel existence in a hereafter, was the extreme uncertainty and short duration of his own life. And this primitive trend of thought that turns man's mind from the here and now to a contemplation of a mythical hereafter persists to this day, produces the same slavish resignation. This false release from the actualities constitute a mental aberration which we see in the hysterical and weak-minded. When such an individual is confronted by problems that tax his mental strength, if that individual has not strength of mind to reason and to persevere so that he overcomes his environmental difficulties, he will seek an avenue of escape in a fanciful existence which the physician recognizes in hysteria and certain forms of mental disease. So, throughout the ages, man has sought release from the realities of his existence into a fanciful and pleasantly delusional flight into a hereafter. "There is no salvation in that sickly obscurantism which attempts to evade realities by confusing itself about them. Safety lies only in clarity and the struggle for the light. No subliminal nor fringe of consciousness can rank in the intellectual life beside the burning focal center where the rays of knowledge converge. The hope must be in following reason, not in thwarting it. To turn back from it is not mysticism, it is superstition. No; we must be prepared to see the higher criticism destroy the historicity of the most sacred texts of the Bible, psychology analyze the phenomena of conversion on the basis of adolescent passion, anthropology explain the genesis of the very idea of God. An where we can understand, it is a moral crime to cherish the un-understood. (James T. Shotwell: "The Religious Revolution of Today.") Religious beliefs are clearly mental aberrations from which it is high time that the progress of knowledge should lead to a logical cure. Man is steadily overcoming and conquering his environment; the uncertainty of life and cruelty are much diminished as compared with the past ages, but man has not as yet fully utilized the means of an emancipating measure from his mental enslavement and fear of his environment."
Chapman Cohen, in his "Theism or Atheism," clearly states: "We know that man does not discover God, he invents him, and an invention is properly discarded when a better instrument is forthcoming. To-day, the hypothesis of God stands in just the same relation to the better life of to-day as the fire drill of the savage does to the modern method of obtaining a light. The belief in God may continue awhile in virtue of the lack of intelligence of some, of the carelessness of others, and of the conservative character of the mass. But no amount of apologizing can make up for the absence of genuine knowledge, nor can the flow of the finest eloquence do aught but clothe in regal raiment the body of a corpse."
Religion arose as a means of explanation of natural phenomena at a time when no other explanation of the origin of natural phenomena had been ascertained. God is always what Spinoza called it, "the asylum of ignorance." When causes are unknown, God is brought forward; when causes are known, God retires into the background. In an age of ignorance, God is active; in an age of science, he is impotent. History attests this fact.
"The single and outstanding characteristic of the conception of God at all times, and under all conditions is that it is the equivalent of ignorance. In primitive times it is ignorance of the character of the natural forces that leads to the assumption of the existence of Gods, and in this respect the God idea has remained true to itself throughout. Even to-day, whenever the principle of God is invoked, a very slight examination is enough to show that the only reason for this being done is our ignorance of the subject before us." (Chapman Cohen.)
The belief in God is least questioned where civilization is lowest; it is called into the most serious question where civilization is most advanced. It is clear that had primitive man known what we know today about nature, the gods would never have been born.
"The suspicious feature must be pointed out that the belief in God owes its existence, not to the trained and educated observation of civilized times, but to the uncritical reflection of the primitive mind. It has its origin there, and it would indeed be remarkable, if, while in almost every other direction the primitive mind showed itself to be hopelessly wrong, in its interpretation of the world in this particular respect, it has proved itself to be altogether right." (Chapman Cohen.)
All intelligent men admit that human welfare depends upon our knowledge and our ability to harness the forces of nature. "I myself," writes Llewelyn Powys, "do not doubt that the good fortune of the human race depends more on science than on religion. In all directions the bigotry of the churches obstructs amelioration ... as long as the majority of men rely upon supernatural interference, supernatural guidance, from a human point of view all is likely to be confusion.... Trusting in God rather than in man it is in the nature of these blind worshippers to oppose every advance of human knowledge. It was they who condemned Galileo, who resisted Darwin and who to-day deride the doctrines of Freud." Science has given us an account of the operation of the universe sans God, and investigation has also given us a clear conception of the evolution of all religious beliefs from the crude conceptions of the savage to the but little altered form of the modern conception.
"If we are to regard the God idea as an evolution which began in the ignorance of primitive man, it would seem clear that no matter how refined or developed the idea may become, it can rest on no other or sounder basis than which is presented to us in the psychology of primitive man. Each stage of theistic belief grows out of the proceeding stage, and if it can be shown that the beginning of this evolution arose in a huge blunder, I quite fail to see how any subsequent development can convert this unmistakable blunder into a demonstrable truth." (Chapman Cohen.)
Men of today are trying to force themselves to believe that there must be something true in that which had been believed by so many great and pious men of old. But it is in vain; intellect has outgrown faith. They are aware of the fallacy of their opinions, yet angry that another should remind them of it. And these men who today are secretly sceptics, are loudest in their public denunciation of others who publicly announce their scepticism. In ancient Greece, when the philosophers came into prominence, Zeus was superseded by the air, and Poseidon by the water; in modern times, all hitherto supernatural events are being explained by physical laws. Plato regarded it as a patriotic duty to accept the public faith although he full well knew the absurdities of that faith. Today, there are many Platos that hold to the same conviction. The freethinkers hold to the view of Xenophanes who denounced the public faith as an ancient blunder which had been converted by time into a national imposture. All religion is a delusion which transfers the motives and thoughts of men to those who are not men. No ecclesiastic has as yet offered a satisfactory answer as to why there has been a marvelous disappearance of the working of miracles, and why human actions alone are now to be seen in this world of ours.
We are witnessing today what happened in the Roman empire during the decline of polytheism. Draper states: "Between that period during which a nation has been governed by its imagination, and that in which it submits to reason, there is a melancholy interval. The constitution of man is such that, for a long time after he has discovered the incorrectness of the ideas prevailing around him, he shrinks from openly emancipating himself from their dominion, and, constrained by the force of circumstances, he becomes a hypocrite, publicly applauding what his private judgment condemns. Where a nation is making this passage, so universal do these practices become that it may be truly said hypocrisy is organized. It is possible that whole communities might be found living in this deplorable state."
And, indeed, in our own country we are witnessing an example of this very thing. Religion has led to widespread hypocrisy. Our religious influences have created a race of men mentally docile and obedient to the dictates of tyrannical ecclesiasticism. It has created a fear of truth, and our minds are still brutish and puerile in our methods of reasoning. Credulity has led to stultification, and stultification of the mind is the bitter fruit which we have been reaping for thousands of years.
There are probably hundreds of thousands of men and women in these United States that give lip-service to their creed, but deep in the recesses of their minds a small voice cries to them and shames them, for as soon as they reason, they become sceptics. How can we know the actual number of earthlings that are sceptics? It is impossible in our present state of development. Religious persecution today is just as active as it was during the Middle Ages. Surely, a man is not burned at the stake for his scepticism in this age; but is he not done to death? If the grocer, the butcher, the doctor, the lawyer, the scholar, the business man, were to boldly announce his scepticism, what would happen to him? The answer is well known to all. Immediately, each of his religious customers would take it upon himself to act as a personal inquisition. The sceptic would be shunned socially, he would be ignored, his wares would be sought after elsewhere, and he would suffer. His wife, his family, his children, would suffer with him, for our economic scheme makes the would-be sceptic dependent upon the whims of the majority believers. He is forced to hold his tongue, or else is tortured. Are not the wants of his family, the hunger, and ostracism torture? Thus thousands are forced into hypocrisy. Many others, although they have outgrown all fear of the god of orthodoxy, the fear of the god of social pressure remains.
There are embodied in all creeds three human impulses: fear, conceit, and hatred; and religion has given an air of respectability to these passions. Religion is a malignant disease born of fear, a cancer which has been eating into the vitals of everything that is worth while in our civilization; and by its growth obstructing those advances which make for a more healthful life.
Morally and intellectually, socially and historically, religion has been shown to be a pernicious influence. Some of these influences falling into these classifications have been considered in previous chapters.
The modern Christian, in his amusing ignorance, asserts that Christianity is now mild and rationalistic, ignoring the fact that all its so-called mildness and rationalism is due to the teaching of men who in their own day were persecuted by all orthodox Christians.
"Historically, churches have stood on the side of the powers that be. They have defended slavery or have held their tongues about it. They have maintained serfdom and kept serfs. They have opposed every movement undertaken for the liberation of the masses of men; the ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity are the creations of the camps of their enemies, of the rationalists of the eighteenth century, and the liberals and socialists of the nineteenth century. They have defended and condoned the industrial exploitation of children. They have fought bitterly the enfranchisement of women. They have justified unjust war. They have fought with book and bill and candle and fagot every new great step in the advancement of science from gravitation to evolution. Wardens, ever since Constantine gave the schools of antiquity into the keeping of the Christian bishops, of the education of the people, they have fought with all their power the establishment of free public schools and the spread of literacy and knowledge among the people." (Horace M. Kallen: "Why Religion.")
If Christianity has made any progress in the assimilation of doctrines that are less barbarous than heretofore, they have been effected in spite of the most vigorous resistance, and solely as a result of the onslaught of freethinkers.
Throughout the ages, when a thinking man had questioned the how and why of any secular problem, so long as that problem had no direct or indirect bearing upon religion, or upon any branch of knowledge that was assumed to be infallibly foretold in the Bible, that man was unmolested. The problems falling into the above classification were extremely small due to the strongly defended theological lunacy that asserted itself in the declaration that all knowledge both spiritual and material was contained in the Bible as interpreted by the Church.
Man, however, when he broached his religious doubts, was regarded as the most sinful of beings, and it was forbidden him to question and yield to the conclusions that his mind evolved.
Think of the irony and tragedy of this self-enslavement of the human mind! There is one characteristic that man prides himself as having apart from all lower animals, his ability to reason and to think. Is it his superior musculature and brute strength that has placed man upon his present pinnacle of advanced civilization, or is it his mental development, his mind, that has taught him to harness the forces of nature? Has not his mind so co-*ordinated his movements that he has enslaved those forces of nature to be his aid? And yet, if mind is one thing that has enabled man to pull himself out of the morass of brute life, why has it been that man himself has been so persistently decrying and degrading the efforts of that mind?
The answer is, that religion has provided the shackles and securely and jealously enslaved the mind. With the aid of his religious beliefs man has been ensnared into a mental prison in which he has been an all too willing captive. Surely it is easier to believe than to think.
Napoleon, himself a sceptic, was cognizant of this slave philosophy. "What is it," he is reported to have asked, "that makes the poor man think it is quite natural that there are fires in my castle when he is dying of cold? That I have ten coats in my wardrobe while he goes naked? That at each of my meals enough is served to feed his family for a week? It is simply religion, which tells him that in another life I shall be only his equal, and that he actually has more chance of being happy than I. Yes, we must see to it that the doors of the churches are open to all, and that it does not cost the poor man much to have prayers said on his tomb."
How well the ecclesiastical psychologists have grasped this fact, and how well they have fashioned a strong chain for the mind out of this weakness of human minds!
Church and government have been well aware of this psychology, and have fought constantly the spread of Freethought literature to the masses. Professor Bury, in his "History of Freedom of Thought," speaking of England, tells us, "If we take the cases in which the civil authorities have intervened to repress the publication of unorthodox opinions during the last two centuries, we find that the object has always been to prevent the spread of free thought among the masses."
Think but a moment how well the above is borne out by the attitude of the Church in the stand that it took during the Middle Ages, when she prohibited the reading of the Bible by any person except her clergy. When she prohibited the printing of all books except those that she approved of; books that minutely agreed in all details with the phantastic fables of her Bible were the only ones allowed to be printed.
The Church also strenuously objected to the printing of Bibles in the languages of the masses. That most efficient shackle to the mind, that precept that there was no knowledge, whether material or spiritual, that was not contained in the Bible, how strenuously the Church upheld that doctrine!