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´╗┐Title: God and my Neighbour
Author: Blatchford, Robert, 1851-1943
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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GOD AND MY NEIGHBOUR


By Robert Blatchford

("Nunquam")



                   To My Son
                   ROBERT CORRI BLATCHFORD
                   This book is dedicated



PREFACE


INFIDEL!

I put the word in capitals, because it is my new name, and I want to get
used to it.

INFIDEL!

The name has been bestowed on me by several Christian gentlemen as a
reproach, but to my ears it has a quaint and not unpleasing sound.

Infidel! "The notorious infidel editor of the _Clarion_" is the form
used by one True Believer. The words recurred to my mind suddenly, while
I was taking my favourite black pipe for a walk along "the pleasant
Strand," and I felt a smile glimmer within as I repeated them.

Which is worse, to be a Demagogue or an Infidel? I am both. For while
many professed Christians contrive to serve both God and Mammon, the
depravity of my nature seems to forbid my serving either.

It was a mild day in mid-August, not cold for the time of year. I had
been laid up for a few days, and my back was unpropitious, and I was
tired. But I felt very happy, for so bad a man, since the sunshine was
clear and genial, and my pipe went as easily as a dream.

Besides, one's fellow-creatures are so amusing: especially in the
Strand. I had seen a proud and gorgeously upholstered lady lolling
languidly in a motor car, and looking extremely pleased with
herself--not without reason; and I had met two successful men of great
presence, who reminded me somehow of "Porkin and Snob"; and I had
noticed a droll little bundle of a baby, in a fawn-coloured woollen
suit, with a belt slipped almost to her knees, and sweet round eyes as
purple as pansies, who was hunting a rolling apple amongst "the
wild mob's million feet"; and I had seen a worried-looking matron,
frantically waving her umbrella to the driver of an omnibus, endanger
the silk hat of Porkin and disturb the complacency of Snob; and I felt
glad.

It was at that moment that there popped into my head the full style and
title I had earned. "Notorious Infidel Editor of the _Clarion_!" These
be brave words, indeed. For a moment they almost flattered me into the
belief that I had become a member of the higher criminal classes: a bold
bad man, like Guy Fawkes, or Kruger, or R. B. Cuninghame Graham.

"You ought," I said to myself, "to dress the part. You ought to have an
S.D.P. sombrero, a slow wise Fabian smile, and the mysterious trousers
of a Soho conspirator."

But at the instant I caught a sight of my counterfeit presentment in a
shop window, and veiled my haughty crest. _That_ a notorious Infidel!
Behold a dumpy, comfortable British _paterfamilias_ in a light flannel
suit and a faded sun hat. No; it will not do. Not a bit like Mephisto:
much more like the Miller of the Dee.

Indeed, I am not an irreligious man, really; I am rather a religious
man; and this is not an irreligious, but rather a religious, book.

Such thoughts should make men humble. After all, may not even John Burns
be human; may not Mr. Chamberlain himself have a heart that can feel for
another?

Gentle reader, that was a wise as well as a charitable man who taught us
there is honour among thieves; although, having never been a member of
Parliament himself, he must have spoken from hearsay.

"For all that, Robert, you're a notorious Infidel." I paused--just
opposite the Tivoli--and gazed moodily up and down the Strand.

As I have remarked elsewhere, I like the Strand. It is a very human
place. But I own that the Strand lacks dignity and beauty, and that
amongst its varied odours the odour of sanctity is scarce perceptible.

There are no trees in the Strand. The thoroughfare should be wider.
The architecture is, for the most part, banal. For a chief street in a
Christian capital, the Strand is not eloquent of high national ideals.

There are derelict churches in the Strand, and dingy blatant taverns,
and strident signs and hoardings; and there are slums hard by.

There are thieves in the Strand, and prowling vagrants, and gaunt
hawkers, and touts, and gamblers, and loitering failures, with tragic
eyes and wilted garments; and prostitutes plying for hire.

And east and west, and north and south of the Strand, there is London.
Is there a man amongst all London's millions brave enough to tell the
naked truth about the vice and crime, the misery and meanness, the
hypocrisies and shames of the great, rich, heathen city? Were such a man
to arise amongst us and voice the awful truth, what would his reception
be? How would he fare at the hands of the Press, and the Public--and the
Church?

As London is, so is England. This is a Christian country. What would
Christ think of Park Lane, and the slums, and the hooligans? What would
He think of the Stock Exchange, and the music hall, and the racecourse?
What would he think of our national ideals? What would He think of the
House of Peers, and the Bench of Bishops, and the Yellow Press?

Pausing again, over against Exeter Hall, I mentally apostrophise the
Christian British people. "Ladies and Gentlemen," I say, "you are
Christian in name, but I discern little of Christ in your ideals, your
institutions, or your daily lives. You are a mercenary, self-indulgent,
frivolous, boastful, blood-guilty mob of heathen. I like you very much,
but that is what you are. And it is you--_you_ who call men 'Infidels.'
You ridiculous creatures, what do you mean by it?"

If to praise Christ in words, and deny Him in deeds, be Christianity,
then London is a Christian city, and England is a Christian nation. For
it is very evident that our common English ideals are anti-Christian,
and that our commercial, foreign and social affairs are run on
anti-Christian lines.

Renan says, in his _Life of Jesus_, that "were Jesus to return amongst
us He would recognise as His disciples, not those who imagine they can
compress Him into a few catechismal phrases, but those who labour to
carry on His work."

My Christian friends, I am a Socialist, and as such believe in, and work
for, universal freedom, and universal brotherhood, and universal peace.

And you are Christians, and I am an "Infidel."

Well, be it even so. I am an "Infidel," and I now ask leave to tell you
why.



FOREWORDS


It is impossible for me to present the whole of my case in the space at
my command; I can only give an outline. Neither can I do it as well as
it ought to be done, but only as well as I am able.

To make up for my shortcomings, and to fortify my case with fuller
evidence, I must refer the reader to books written by men better
equipped for the work than I.

To do justice to so vast a theme would need a large book where I can
only spare a short chapter, and each large book should be written by a
specialist.

For the reader's own satisfaction, then, and for the sake of justice to
my cause, I shall venture to suggest a list of books whose contents will
atone for all my failures and omissions. And I am justified, I think, in
saying that no reader who has not read the books I recommend, or others
of like scope and value, can fairly claim to sit on the jury to try this
case.

And of these books I shall, first of all, heartily recommend the series
of cheap sixpenny reprints now published by the Rationalist Press
Association, Johnson's Court, London, E.C.

              R.P.A. REPRINTS
     Huxley's _Lectures and Essays._
     Tyndall's _Lectures and Essays._
     Laing's _Human Origins._
     Laing's _Modern Science and Modern Thought._
     Clodd's _Pioneers of Evolution._
     Matthew Arnold's _Literature and Dogma._
     Haeckel's _Riddle of the Universe._
     Grant Allen's _Evolution of the Idea of God._
     Cotter Morrison's _Service of Man._
     Herbert Spencer's _Education._

Some Apologists have, I am sorry to say, attempted to disparage those
excellent books by alluding to them as "Sixpenny Science" and "Cheap
Science." The same method of attack will not be available against most
of the books in my next list:

     _The Golden Bough_, Frazer.  Macmillan, 36s.
     _The Legend of Perseus_, Hartland.  D. Nutt, 25s.
     _Christianity and Mythology_, Robertson.  Watts, 8s.
     _Pagan Christs_, Robertson.  Watts, 8s.
     _Supernatural Religion_, Cassels.  Watts, 6s.
     _The Martyrdom of Man_, Winwood Reade.  Kegan Paul, 6s.
     _Mutual Aid_, Kropotkin.  Heinemann, 7s. 6d.
     _The Story of Creation_, Clodd.  Longmans, 3s. 6d.
     _Buddha and Buddhism_, Lillie.  Clark, 3s. 6d.
     _Shall We Understand the Bible?_ Williams.  Black, 1s.
     _What is Religion?_ Tolstoy.  Free Age Press, 6d.
     _What I Believe_, Tolstoy.  Free Age Press, 6d.
     _The Life of Christ_, Renan.  Scott, 1s. 6d.

I also recommend Herbert Spencer's _Principles of Sociology_ and Lecky's
_History of European Morals_. Of pamphlets there are hundreds. Readers
will get full information from Watts & Co., 17 Johnson's Court, London,
E.C.

I can warmly recommend _The Miracles of Christian Belief_ and _The
Claims of Christianity_, by Charles Watts, and _Christianity and
Progress_, a penny pamphlet, by G. W. Foote (The Freethought Publishing
Company).

I should also like to mention _An Easy Outline of Evolution_, by Dennis
Hird (Watts & Co., 2s. 6d.). This book will be of great help to those
who want to scrape acquaintance with the theory of evolution.

Finally, let me ask the general reader to put aside all prejudice, and
give both sides a fair hearing. Most of the books I have mentioned above
are of more actual value to the public of to-day than many standard
works which hold world-wide reputations.

No man should regard the subject of religion as decided for him until
he has read _The Golden Bough_. _The Golden Bough_ is one of those books
that _unmake_ history.



CONTENTS


     PREFACE

     FOREWORDS

     THE SIN OF UNBELIEF

     ONE REASON

     WHAT I CAN AND CANNOT BELIEVE

     THE OLD TESTAMENT--

          Is the Bible the Word of God?
          The Evolution of the Bible
          The Universe
          Jehovah
          Bible Heroes
          The Book of Books
          Our Heavenly Father
          Prayer and Praise

     THE NEW TESTAMENT--

          The Resurrection
          Gospel Witnesses
          The Time Spirit
          Have the Documents been Tampered with?
          Christianity Before Christ
          Other Evidences

     THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION--
          What is Christianity?

     DETERMINISM--
          Can Man Sin against God?

     CHRISTIAN APOLOGIES--
          Christian Apologies
          Christianity and Civilisation
          Christianity and Ethics
          The Success of Christianity
          The Prophecies
          The Universality of Religious Belief
          Is Christianity the Only Hope?
          Spiritual Discernment
          Some Other Apologies
          Counsels of Despair

     CONCLUSION--
          The Parting of the Ways



GOD AND MY NEIGHBOUR



THE SIN OF UNBELIEF


Huxley quotes with satirical gusto Dr. Wace's declaration as to the
word "Infidel." Said Dr. Wace: "The word infidel, perhaps, carries an
unpleasant significance. Perhaps it is right that it should. It is, and
it ought to be, an unpleasant thing for a man to have to say plainly
that he does not believe in Jesus Christ."

Be it pleasant or unpleasant to be an unbeliever, one thing is quite
clear: religious people intend the word Infidel to carry "an unpleasant
significance" when they apply to it one. It is in their minds a term of
reproach. Because they think it is _wicked_ to deny what they believe.

To call a man an Infidel, then, is tacitly to accuse him of a kind of
moral turpitude.

But a little while ago, to be an Infidel was to be socially taboo. But
a little while earlier, to be an Infidel was to be persecuted. But a
little earlier still, to be an Infidel was to be an outlaw, subject to
the penalty of death.

Now, it is evident that to visit the penalty of social ostracism or
public contumely upon all who reject the popular religion is to erect an
arbitrary barrier against intellectual and spiritual advance, and to put
a protective tariff upon orthodoxy to the disadvantage of science and
free thought.

The root of the idea that it is wicked to reject the popular religion--a
wickedness of which Christ and Socrates and Buddha are all represented
to have been guilty--thrives in the belief that the Scriptures are the
actual words of God, and that to deny the truth of the Scriptures is to
deny and to affront God.

But the difficulty of the unbeliever lies in the fact that he cannot
believe the Scriptures to be the actual words of God.

The Infidel, therefore, is not denying God's words, nor disobeying God's
commands: he is denying the words and disobeying the commands of _men_.

No man who _knew_ that there was a good and wise God would be so foolish
as to deny that God. No man would reject the words of God if he knew
that God spoke those words.

But the doctrine of the divine origin of the Scriptures rests upon the
authority of the Church; and the difference between the Infidel and
the Christian is that the Infidel rejects and the Christian accepts the
authority of the Church.

Belief and unbelief are not matters of moral excellence or depravity:
they are questions of evidence.

The Christian believes the Scriptures because they are the words of God.
But he believes they are the words of God because some other man has
told him so.

Let him probe the matter to the bottom, and he will inevitably find that
his authority is human, and not, as he supposes, divine.

For you, my Christian friend, have never _seen_ God. You have never
heard God's voice. You have received from God no message in spoken
or written words. You have no direct divine warrant for the divine
authorship of the Scriptures. The authority on which your belief in the
divine revelation rests consists entirely of the Scriptures themselves
and the statements of the Church. But the Church is composed solely of
human beings, and the Scriptures were written and translated and printed
solely by human beings.

You believe that the Ten Commandments were dictated to Moses by God. But
God has not told _you_ so. You only believe the statement of the unknown
author of the Pentateuch that God told _him_ so. You do not _know_ who
Moses was. You do not _know_ who wrote the Pentateuch. You do not _know_
who edited and translated the Scriptures.

Clearly, then, you accept the Scriptures upon the authority of unknown
men, and upon no other demonstrable authority whatever.

Clearly, then, to doubt the doctrine of the divine revelation of the
Scriptures is not to doubt the word of God, but to doubt the words of
men.

But the Christian seems to suspect the Infidel of rejecting the
Christian religion out of sheer wantonness, or from some base or
sinister motive.

The fact being that the Infidel can only believe those things which his
own reason tells him are true. He opposes the popular religion because
his reason tells him it is not true, and because his reason tells him
insistently that a religion that is not true is not good, but bad. In
thus obeying the dictates of his own reason, and in thus advocating what
to him seems good and true, the Infidel is acting honourably, and is as
well within his right as any Pope or Prelate.

That base or mercenary motives should be laid to the charge of the
Infidel seems to me as absurd as that base or mercenary motives should
be laid to the charge of the Socialist. The answer to such libels
stares us in the face. Socialism and Infidelity are not popular, nor
profitable, nor respectable.

If you wish to lose caste, to miss preferment, to endanger your chances
of gaining money and repute, turn Infidel and turn Socialist.

Briefly, Infidelity does not pay. It is "not a pleasant thing to be an
Infidel."

The Christian thinks it his duty to "make it an unpleasant thing" to
deny the "true faith." He thinks it his duty to protect God, and to
revenge His outraged name upon the Infidel and the Heretic. The Jews
thought the same. The Mohammedan thinks the same. How many cruel
and sanguinary wars has that presumptuous belief inspired? How many
persecutions, outrages, martyrdoms, and massacres have been perpetrated
by fanatics who have been "jealous for the Lord?"

As I write these lines Christians are murdering Jews in Russia, and
Mohammedans are murdering Christians in Macedonia to the glory of God.
Is God so weak that He needs foolish men's defence? Is He so feeble that
He cannot judge nor avenge?

My Christian friend, so jealous for the Lord, did you ever regard your
hatred of "Heretics" and "Infidels" in the light of history?

The history of civilisation is the history of successions of brave
"Heretics" and "Infidels," who have denied false dogmas or brought new
truths to light.

The righteous men, the "True Believers" of the day, have cursed these
heroes and reviled them, have tortured, scourged, or murdered them. And
the children of the "True Believers" have adopted the heresies as true,
and have glorified the dead Heretics, and then turned round to curse or
murder the new Heretic who fain would lead them a little further toward
the light.

Copernicus, who first solved the mystery of the Solar System, was
excommunicated for heresy. But Christians acknowledge now that the earth
goes round the sun, and the name of Copernicus is honoured.

Bruno, who first declared the stars to be suns, and "led forth Arcturus
and his host," was burnt at the stake for heresy.

Galileo, the father of telescopic astronomy, was threatened with death
for denying the errors of the Church, was put in prison and tortured as
a heretic. Christians acknowledge now that Galileo spoke the truth, and
his name is honoured.

As it has been demonstrated in those cases, it has been demonstrated
in thousands of other cases, that the Heretics have been right, and the
True Believers have been wrong.

Step by step the Church has retreated. Time after time the Church
has come to accept the truths, for telling which she persecuted, or
murdered, her teachers. But still the True Believers hate the Heretic
and regard it as a righteous act to make it "unpleasant" to be an
"Infidel."

After taking a hundred steps away from old dogmas and towards the truth,
the True Believer shudders at the request to take one more. After two
thousand years of foolish and wicked persecution of good men, the True
Believer remains faithful to the tradition that it "ought to be an
unpleasant thing" to expose the errors of the Church.

The Christians used to declare that all the millions of men and women
outside the Christian Church would "burn for ever in burning Hell." They
do not like to be reminded of that folly now.

They used to declare that every unbaptised baby would go to Hell and
burn for ever in fire and brimstone. They do not like to be reminded of
that folly now.

They used to believe in witchcraft, and they burned millions--yes,
millions--of innocent women as witches. They do not like to hear about
witchcraft now.

They used to believe the legends of Adam and Eve, and the Flood. They
call them allegories now.

They used to believe that the world was made in six days. Now they talk
mildly about "geological periods."

They used to denounce Darwinism as impious and absurd. They have since
"cheerfully accepted" the theory of evolution.

They used to believe that the sun revolved round the earth, and that
he who thought otherwise was an Infidel, and would be damned in the
"bottomless pit." But now--! Now they declare that Christ was God, and
His mother a virgin; that three persons are one person; that those who
trust in Jesus shall go to Heaven, and those who do not trust in Jesus
will be "lost." And if anyone denies these statements, they call him
Infidel.

Are you not aware, friend Christian, that what was Infidelity is now
orthodoxy? It is even so. Heresies for which men used to be burned alive
are now openly accepted by the Church. There is not a divine living
who would not have been burned at the stake three centuries ago for
expressing the beliefs he now holds. Yet you call a man Infidel for
being a century in advance of you. History has taught you nothing. It
has not occurred to you that as the "infidelity" of yesterday has become
the enlightened religion of to-day, it is possible that the "infidelity"
of to-day may become the enlightened religion of to-morrow.

Civilisation is built up of the "heresies" of men who thought freely and
spoke bravely. Those men were called "Infidels" when they were alive.
But now they are called the benefactors of the world.

Infidel! The name has been borne, good Christian, by some of the noblest
of our race. I take it from you with a smile. I am an easiful old pagan,
and I am not angry with you at all--you funny, little champion of the
Most High.



ONE REASON


I have been asked why I have opposed Christianity. I have several
reasons, which shall appear in due course. At present I offer one.

I oppose Christianity because _it is not true_.

No honest man will ask for any other reason.

But it may be asked why I say that Christianity is not true; and that is
a very proper question, which I shall do my best to answer.



WHAT I CAN AND CANNOT BELIEVE


I hope it will not be supposed that I have any personal animus against
Christians or Christian ministers, although I am hostile to the Church.
Many ministers and many Christian laymen I have known are admirable men.
Some I know personally are as able and as good as any men I have met;
but I speak of the Churches, not of individuals.

I have known Catholic priests and sisters who were worthy and charming,
and there are many such; but I do not like the Catholic Church. I
have known Tories and Liberals who were real good fellows, and clever
fellows, and there are many such; but I do not like the Liberal and Tory
parties. I have known clergymen of the Church of England who were real
live men, and real English gentlemen, and there are many such; but I do
not like the Church.

I was not always an Agnostic, or a Rationalist, or an "Infidel," or
whatever Christians may choose to call me.

I was not perverted by an Infidel book. I had not read one when I
wavered first in my allegiance to the orthodoxies. I was set doubting by
a religious book written to prove the "Verity of Christ's Resurrection
from the Dead." But as a child I was thoughtful, and asked myself
questions, as many children do, which the Churches would find it hard to
answer to-day.

I have not ceased to believe what I was taught as a child because I have
grown wicked. I have ceased to believe it because, after twenty years'
hard thinking, I _cannot_ believe it.

I cannot believe, then, that the Christian religion is true.

I cannot believe that the Bible is the word of God. For the word of God
would be above criticism and beyond disproof, and the Bible is not above
criticism nor beyond disproof.

I cannot believe that any religion has been revealed to Man by God.
Because a revealed religion would be perfect, but no known religion
is perfect; and because history and science show us that the known
religions have not been revealed, but have been evolved from other
religions. There is no important feature of the Christian religion
which can be called original. All the rites, mysteries, and doctrines of
Christianity have been borrowed from older faiths.

I cannot believe that Jehovah, the God of the Bible, is the Creator of
the known universe. The Bible God, Jehovah, is a man-made God, evolved
from the idol of an obscure and savage tribe. The Bible shows us this
quite plainly.

I cannot believe that the Bible and the Testament are historically true.
I regard most of the events they record as fables, and most of their
characters as myths.

I cannot believe in the existence of Jesus Christ, nor Buddha, nor
Moses. I believe that these are ideal characters constructed from still
more ancient legends and traditions.

I cannot believe that the Bible version of the relations of man and God
is correct. For that version, and all other religious versions known
to me, represents man as sinning against or forsaking God, and God as
punishing or pardoning man.

But if God made man, then God is responsible for all man's acts and
thoughts, and therefore man cannot sin against God.

And if man could not sin against God, but could only act as God ordained
that he should act, then it is against reason to suppose that God could
be angry with man, or could punish man, or see any offence for which to
pardon man.

I cannot believe that man has ever forsaken God. Because history shows
that man has from the earliest times been eagerly and pitifully seeking
God, and has served and raised and sacrificed to God with a zeal akin to
madness. But God has made no sign.

I cannot believe that man was at the first created "perfect," and
that he "fell." (How could the perfect fall?) I believe the theory of
evolution, which shows not a fall but a gradual rise.

I cannot believe that God is a loving "Heavenly Father," taking a tender
interest in mankind. Because He has never interfered to prevent the
horrible cruelties and injustices of man to man, and because He has
permitted evil to rule the world. I cannot reconcile the idea of
a tender Heavenly Father with the known horrors of war, slavery,
pestilence, and insanity. I cannot discern the hand of a loving Father
in the slums, in the earthquake, in the cyclone. I cannot understand the
indifference of a loving Father to the law of prey, nor to the terrors
and tortures of leprosy, cancer, cholera, and consumption.

I cannot believe that God is a personal God, who intervenes in human
affairs. I cannot see in science, nor in experience, nor in history any
signs of such a God, nor of such intervention.

I cannot believe that God hears and answers prayer, because the universe
is governed by laws, and there is no reason to suppose that those laws
are ever interfered with. Besides, an all-wise God knows what to do
better than man can tell Him, and a just God would act justly without
requiring to be reminded of His duty by one of His creatures.

I cannot believe that miracles ever could or ever did happen. Because
the universe is governed by laws, and there is no credible instance on
record of those laws being suspended.

I cannot believe that God "created" man, as man now is, by word of mouth
and in a moment. I accept the theory of evolution, which teaches that
man was slowly evolved by natural process from lower forms of life, and
that this evolution took millions of years.

I cannot believe that Jesus Christ was God, nor that He was the Son of
God. There is no solid evidence for the miracle of the Incarnation, and
I see no reason for the Incarnation.

I cannot believe that Christ died to save man from Hell, nor that He
died to save man from sin. Because I do not believe God would condemn
the human race to eternal torment for being no better than He had made
them, and because I do not see that the death of Christ has saved man
from sin.

I cannot believe that God would think it necessary to come on earth as
a man, and die on the Cross. Because if that was to atone for man's
sin, it was needless, as God could have forgiven man without Himself
suffering.

I cannot believe that God would send His son to die on the Cross.
Because He could have forgiven man without subjecting His son to pain.

I cannot accept any doctrine of atonement. Because to forgive the guilty
because the innocent had suffered would be unjust and unreasonable, and
to forgive the guilty because a third person begged for his pardon would
be unjust.

I cannot believe that a good God would allow sin to enter the world.
Because He would hate sin and would have power to destroy or to forbid
it.

I cannot believe that a good God would create or tolerate a Devil, nor
that he would allow the Devil to tempt man.

I cannot believe the story of the virgin birth of Christ. Because for a
man to be born of a virgin would be a miracle, and I cannot believe in
miracles.

I cannot believe the story of Christ's resurrection from the dead.
Because that would be a miracle, and because there is no solid evidence
that it occurred.

I cannot believe that faith in the Godhood of Christ is necessary to
virtue or to happiness. Because I know that some holding such faith are
neither happy nor virtuous, and that some are happy and virtuous who do
not hold that faith.

The differences between the religious and the scientific theories, or,
as I should put it, between superstition and rationalism, are clearly
marked and irreconcilable.

The supernaturalist stands by "creation"; the rationalist stands by
"evolution." It is impossible to reduce these opposite ideas to a common
denominator.

The creation theory alleges that the earth, and the sun, and the moon,
and man, and the animals were "created" by God, instantaneously, by word
of mouth, out of nothing.

The evolution theory alleges that they were evolved, slowly, by natural
processes out of previously existing matter.

The supernaturalist alleges that religion was revealed to man by God,
and that the form of this revelation is a sacred book.

The rationalist alleges that religion was evolved by slow degrees and
by human minds, and that all existing forms of religion and all existing
"sacred books," instead of being "revelations," are evolutions from
religious ideas and forms and legends of prehistoric times. It is
impossible to reduce these opposite theories to a common denominator.

The Christians, the Hindoos, the Parsees, the Buddhists, and the
Mohammedans have each their "Holy Bible" or "sacred book." Each religion
claims that its own Bible is the direct revelation of God, and is the
only true Bible teaching the only true faith. Each religion regards all
the other religions as spurious.

The supernaturalists believe in miracles, and each sect claims that the
miracles related in its own inspired sacred book prove the truth of that
book and of the faith taught therein.

No religion accepts the truth of any other religion's miracles. The
Hindoo, the Buddhist, the Mohammedan, the Parsee, the Christian each
believes that his miracles are the only real miracles.

The Protestant denies the miracles of the Roman Catholic.

The rationalist denies all miracles alike. "Miracles never happen."

The Christian Bible is full of miracles. The Christian Religion is
founded on miracles.

No rationalist believes in miracles. Therefore no rationalist can accept
the Christian Religion.

If you discard "Creation" and accept evolution; if you discard
"revelation" and accept evolution; if you discard miracles and accept
natural law, there is nothing left of the Christian Religion but the
life and teachings of Jesus Christ.

And when one sees that all religions and all ethics, even the oldest
known, have, like all language and all science and all philosophy and
all existing species of animals and plants, been slowly evolved from
lower and ruder forms; and when one learns that there have been many
Christs, and that the evidence of the life of Jesus is very slight,
and that all the acts and words of Jesus had been anticipated by other
teachers long before the Christian era, then it is borne in upon one's
mind that the historic basis of Christianity is very frail. And when one
realises that the Christian theology, besides being borrowed from
older religions, is manifestly opposed to reason and to facts, then one
reaches a state of mind which entitles the orthodox Christian to call
one an "Infidel," and to make it "unpleasant" for one to the glory of
God.

That is the position in which I stand at present, and it is partly to
vindicate that position, and to protest against those who feel as I feel
being subjected to various kinds of "unpleasantness," that I undertake
this Apology.



THE OLD TESTAMENT



IS THE BIBLE THE WORD OF GOD?


The question of the divine inspiration of the Scriptures is one of great
importance.

If the Bible is a divine revelation, if it contains the actual word
of God, and nothing but the word of God, then it is folly to doubt any
statement it contains.

If the Bible is merely the work of men, if it contains only the words
of men, then, like all other human work, the Bible is fallible, and must
submit to criticism and examination, as all fallible human work must.

The Christian Religion stands or falls by the truth of the Bible.

If the Bible is the word of God the Bible must be true, and the
Christian Religion must be true.

But, as I said before, the claim for the divine origin of the Bible has
not been made by God, but by men.

We have therefore no means of testing the Bible's title to divine
revelation other than by criticism and examination of the Bible itself.

If the Bible is the word of God--the all-wise and perfect God--the Bible
will be perfect. If the Bible is not perfect it cannot be the word of a
God who is perfect.

The Bible is not perfect. Historically, scientifically, and ethically
the Bible is imperfect.

If the Bible is the word of God it will present to us the perfect God as
He is, and every act of His it records will be perfection. But the Bible
does not show us a perfect God, but a very imperfect God, and such of
His acts as the Bible records are imperfect.

I say, then, with strong conviction, that I do not believe the Bible to
be the word of God; that I do not believe it to be inspired of God; that
I do not believe it to contain any divine revelation of God to man. Why?

Let us consider the claim that the Bible is the word of God. Let us,
first of all, consider it from the common-sense point of view, as
ordinary men of the world, trying to get at the truth and the reason of
a thing.

What would one naturally expect in a revelation by God to man?

  1. We should expect God to reveal truths of which mankind were ignorant.

  2. We should expect God to make no errors of fact in His revelation.

  3. We should expect God to make His revelation so clear and so definite
     that it could be neither misunderstood nor misrepresented.

  4. We should expect God to ensure that His revelation should reach _all_
     men; and should reach all men directly and quickly.

  5. We should expect God's revelation of the relations existing between
     Himself and man to be true.

  6. We should expect the ethical code in God's revelation to be complete,
     and final, and perfect.  The divine ethics should at least be above
     human criticism and beyond human amendment.

To what extent does the Bible revelation fulfil the above natural
expectations?

1. Does the Bible reveal any new moral truths?

I cannot speak very positively, but I think there is very little moral
truth in the Bible which has not been, or will not be traced back to
more ancient times and religions.

2. Does the Bible revelation contain no errors of fact?

I claim that it contains many errors of fact, and the Higher Criticism
supports the claim; as we shall see.

3. Is the Bible revelation so clear and explicit that no difference of
opinion as to its meaning is possible?

No. It is not. No one living can claim anything of the kind.

4. Has God's revelation, as given in the Bible, reached all men?

No. After thousands of years it is not yet known to one-half the human
race.

5. Is God's revelation of the relations between man and God true?

I claim that it is not true. For the word of God makes it appear that
man was created by God in His own image, and that man sinned against
God. Whereas man, being only what God made him, and having only the
powers God gave him, _could_ not sin against God any more than a
steam-engine can sin against the engineer who designed and built it.

6. Is the ethical code of the Bible complete, and final, and perfect?

No. The ethical code of the Bible gradually develops and improves. Had
it been divine it would have been perfect from the first. It is because
it is human that it develops. As the prophets and the poets of the Jews
grew wiser, and gentler, and more enlightened, so the revelation of
God grew wiser and gentler with them. Now, God would know from the
beginning; but men would have to learn. Therefore the Bible writings
would appear to be human, and not divine.

Let us look over these points again, and make the matter still clearer
and more simple.

If the children of an earthly father had wandered away and forgotten
him, and were, for lack of guidance, living evil lives; and if the
earthly father wished his children to know that they were his children,
wished them to know what he had done for them, what they owed to him,
what penalty they might fear, or reward they might ask from him; if he
wished them to live cleanly and justly, and to love him, and at last
come home to him--what would that earthly father do?

He would send his message to _all_ his children, instead of sending it
to one, and trusting him to repeat it correctly to the others. He would
try to so word his message as that all his children might understand it.

He would send his children the very best rules of life he knew. He would
take great pains to avoid error in matters of fact.

If, after the message was sent, his children quarrelled and fought about
its meaning, their earthly father would not sit silent and allow them to
hate and slay each other because of a misconception, but would send at
once and make his meaning plain to all.

And if an earthly father would act thus wisely and thus kindly, "how
much more your Father which is in Heaven?"

But the Bible revelation was not given to all the people of the earth.
It was given to a handful of Jews. It was not so explicit as to make
disagreement impossible. It is thousands of years since the revelation
of God began, and yet to-day it is not known to hundreds of millions
of human beings, and amongst those whom it has reached there is endless
bitter disagreement as to its meaning.

Now, what is the use of a revelation which does not reveal more than is
known, which does not reveal truth only, which does not reach half those
who need it, which cannot be understood by those it does reach?

But you will regard me as a prejudiced witness. I shall therefore, in my
effort to prove the Bible fallible, quote almost wholly from Christian
critics.

And I take the opportunity to here recommend very strongly _Shall We
Understand the Bible?_ by the Rev. T. Rhondda Williams. Adam and Charles
Black; 1s net.

There are two chief theories as to the inspiration of the Bible. One is
the old theory that the Bible is the actual word of God, and nothing but
the word of God, directly revealed by God to Moses and the prophets. The
other is the new theory: that the Bible is the work of many men whom God
had inspired to speak or write the truth.

The old theory is well described by Dr. Washington Gladden in the
following passage:

     They imagine that the Bible must have originated in a manner
     purely miraculous; and, though they know very little about its
     origin, they conceive of it as a book that was written in heaven
     in the English tongue, divided there into chapters and verses,
     with headlines and reference marks, printed in small pica,
     bound in calf, and sent down by angels in its present form.

The newer idea of the inspiration of the Bible is also well expressed by
Dr. Gladden; thus:

     Revelation, we shall be able to understand, is not the dictation
     by God of words to men that they may be written down in books:
     it is rather the disclosure of the truth and love of God to men
     in the processes of history, in the development of the moral
     order of the world.  It is the light that lighteth every man,
     shining in the paths that lead to righteousness and life.  There
     is a moral leadership of God in history; revelation is the record
     of that leadership.  It is by no means confined to words; its
     most impressive disclosures are in the field of action.  "Thus
     _did_ the Lord," as Dr. Bruce has said, is a more perfect formula
     of revelation than "Thus saith the Lord."  It is in that great
     historical movement of which the Bible is the record that we find
     the revelation of God to men.

The old theory of Bible inspiration was, as I have said, the theory that
the Bible was the actual and pure word of God, and was true in every
circumstance and detail.

Now, if an almighty and all-wise God had spoken or written every word
of the Bible, then that book would, of course, be wholly and unshakably
true in its every statement.

But if the Bible was written by men, some of them more or less inspired,
then it would not, in all probability be wholly perfect.

The more inspiration its writers had from God, the more perfect it would
be. The less inspiration its writers had from God, the less perfect it
would be.

Wholly perfect, it might be attributed to a perfect being. Partly
perfect, it might be the work of less perfect beings. Less perfect, it
would have to be put down to less perfect beings.

Containing any fault or error, it could not be the actual word of God,
and the more errors and faults it contained, the less inspiration of God
would be granted to its authors.

I will quote again from Dr. Gladden:

     What I desire to show is, that the work of putting the Bible
     into its present form was not done in heaven, but on earth; that
     it was not done by angels, but by men; that it was not done all at
     once, but a little at a time, the work of preparing and perfecting
     it extending over several centuries, and employing the labours of
     many men in different lands and long-divided generations.

I now turn to Dr. Aked. On page 25 of his book, _Changing Creeds_, he
says:

     Ignorance has claimed the Bible for its own.  Bigotry has made
     the Bible its battleground.  Its phrases have become the
     shibboleth of pietistic sectarians.  Its authority has been
     evoked in support of the foulest crimes committed by the vilest
     men; and its very existence has been made a pretext for theories
     which shut out God from His own world.  In our day Bible worship
     has become, with many very good but very unthoughtful people, a
     disease.

So much for the attitude of the various schools of religious thought
towards the Bible.

Now, in the opinion of these Christian teachers, is the Bible perfect
or imperfect? Dr. Aked gives his opinion with characteristic candour and
energy:

     For observe the position: men are told that the Bible is the
     infallible revelation of God to man, and that its statements
     concerning God and man are to be unhesitatingly accepted as
     statements made upon the authority of God.  They turn to its
     pages, and they find historical errors, arithmetical mistakes,
     scientific blunders (or, rather, blunders most unscientific),
     inconsistencies, and manifold contradictions; and, what is far
     worse, they find that the most horrible crimes are committed by
     men who calmly plead in justification of their terrible misdeeds
     the imperturbable "God said."  The heart and conscience of man
     indignantly rebel against the representations of the Most High
     given in some parts of the Bible.  What happens?  Why, such
     men declare--are now declaring, and will in constantly
     increasing numbers, and with constantly increasing force and
     boldness declare--that they can have nothing to do with a book
     whose errors a child can discover, and whose revelation of God
     partakes at times of blasphemy against man.

I need hardly say that I agree with every word of the above. If anyone
asked me what evidence exists in support of the claims that the Bible is
the word of God, or that it was in any real sense of the words "divinely
inspired," I should answer, without the least hesitation, that there
does not exist a scrap of evidence of any kind in support of such a
claim.

Let us give a little consideration to the origin of the Bible. The first
five books of the Bible, called the Pentateuch, were said to be written
by Moses. Moses was not, and could not have been, the author of those
books. There is, indeed, no reliable evidence to prove that Moses ever
existed. Whether he was a fictitious hero, or a solar myth, or what he
was, no man knows.

Neither does there appear to be any certainty that the biblical books
attributed to David, to Solomon, to Isaiah, Jeremiah, and the rest were
really written by those kings or prophets, or even in their age.

And after these books, or many of them, had been written, they were
entirely lost, and are said to have been reproduced by Ezra.

Add to these facts that the original Hebrew had no vowels, that many of
the sacred books were written without vowels, and that the vowels were
added long after; and remember that, as Dr. Aked says, the oldest Hebrew
Bible in existence belongs to the tenth century after Christ, and
it will begin to appear that the claim for biblical infallibility is
utterly absurd.

But I must not offer these statements on my own authority. Let us
return to Dr. Gladden. On page 11 of _Who Wrote the Bible?_ I find the
following:

     The first of these holy books of the Jews was, then, The Law,
     contained in the first five books of our Bible, known among us
     as the Pentateuch, and called by the Jews sometimes simply
     "The Law," and sometimes "The Law of Moses."  This was supposed
     to be the oldest portion of their Scriptures, and was by them
     regarded as much more sacred and authoritative than any other
     portion.  To Moses, they said, God spake face to face; to the
     other holy men much less distinctly.  Consequently, their appeal
     is most often to the Law of Moses.

The sacredness of the five books of "The Law," then, rests upon the
belief that they were written by Moses, who had spoken face to face with
God.

So that if Moses did not write those books, their sacredness is a myth.
Now, on page 42, Dr. Gladden says:

     1. The Pentateuch could never have been written by any one
        man, inspired or otherwise.

     2. It is a composite work, in which many hands have been
        engaged.  The production of it extends over many centuries.

     3. It contains writings which are as old as the time of Moses,
        and some that are much older.  It is impossible to tell how
        much of it came from the hand of Moses; but there are
        considerable portions of it which, although they may have
        been somewhat modified by later editors, are substantially
        as he left them.

On page 45 Dr. Gladden, again speaking of the Pentateuch, says:

     But the story of Genesis goes back to a remote antiquity.  The
     last event related in that book occurred four hundred years
     before Moses was born; it was as distant from him as the
     discovery of America by Columbus is from us; and other portions
     of the narrative, such as the stories of the Flood and the
     Creation, stretch back into the shadows of the age which
     precedes history.  Neither Moses nor any one living in his
     day could have given us these reports from his own knowledge.
     Whoever wrote this must have obtained his materials in one of
     three ways:

     1. They might have been given to him by divine revelation
        from God.

     2. He might have gathered them up from oral tradition, from
        stories, folklore, transmitted from mouth to mouth, and
        so preserved from generation to generation.

     3. He might have found them in written documents existing at
        the time of his writing.

As many of the laws and incidents in the books of Moses were known to
the Chaldeans, the "direct revelation of God" theory is not plausible.
On this point Dr. Gladden's opinion supports mine. He says, on page 61:

     That such is the fact with respect to the structure of these
     ancient writings is now beyond question.  And our theory of
     inspiration must be adjusted to this fact.  Evidently neither
     the theory of verbal inspiration, nor the theory of plenary
     inspiration, can be made to fit the facts, which a careful study
     of the writings themselves brings before us.  These writings are
     not inspired in the sense which we have commonly given that word.
     The verbal theory of inspiration was only tenable while they
     were supposed to be the work of a single author.  To such a
     composite literature no such theory will apply.  "To make this
     claim," says Professor Ladd, "and yet accept the best ascertained
     results of criticism, would compel us to take such positions
     as the following: the original authors of each one of the
     writings which enter into the composite structure were infallibly
     inspired; every one who made any changes in any one of these
     fundamental writings was infallibly inspired; every compiler
     who put together two or more of these writings was infallibly
     inspired, both as to his selections and omissions, and as to any
     connecting or explanatory words which he might himself write;
     every redactor was infallibly inspired to correct and supplement,
     and omit that which was the product of previous infallible
     inspirations.  Or, perhaps, it might seem more convenient to attach
     the claim of a plenary inspiration to the last redactor of all;
     but then we should probably have selected of all others the one
     least able to bear the weight of such a claim.  Think of making
     the claim for a plenary inspiration of the Pentateuch in its
     present form on the ground of the infallibility of that one of
     the scribes who gave it its last touches some time subsequent to
     the death of Ezra."

Remember that Dr. Gladden declares, on page 5, that he shall state no
conclusions as to the history of the sacred writings which will not be
accepted by conservative critics.

On page 54 Dr. Gladden quotes the following from Dr. Perowne:

     The first _composition_ of the Pentateuch as a whole could not
     have taken place till after the Israelites entered Canaan.

     The whole work did not finally assume its present shape till
     its revision was undertaken by Ezra after the return from the
     Babylonish captivity.

On page 25 Dr. Gladden himself speaks as follows:

     The common argument by which Christ is made a witness to the
     authenticity and infallible authority of the Old Testament
     runs as follows:

     Christ quotes Moses as the author of this legislation; therefore
     Moses must have written the whole Pentateuch.  Moses was an
     inspired prophet; therefore all the teaching of the Pentateuch
     must be infallible.

     The facts are that Jesus nowhere testifies that Moses wrote the
     whole of the Pentateuch; and that he nowhere guarantees the
     infallibility either of Moses or of the book.  On the contrary,
     he set aside as inadequate or morally defective, certain laws
     which in this book are ascribed to Moses.

So much for the authorship and the inspiration of the first five books
of the Bible.

As to the authorship of other books of the Bible, Dr. Gladden says of
Judges and Samuel that we do not know the authors nor the dates.

Of Kings he says: "The name of the author is concealed from us." The
origin and correctness of the Prophecies and Psalms, he tells us, are
problematical.

Of the Books of Esther and Daniel, Dr. Gladden says: "That they are
founded on fact I do not doubt; but it is, perhaps, safer to regard them
both rather as historical fictions than as veritable histories."

Of Daniel, Dean Farrar wrote:

     The immense majority of scholars of name and acknowledged
     competence in England and Europe have now been led to form
     an irresistible conclusion that the Book of Daniel was not
     written, and could not have been written, in its present form,
     by the prophet Daniel, B.C. 534, but that it can only have been
     written, as we now have it, in the days of Antiochus Epiphanes,
     about B.C. 164, and that the object of the pious and patriotic
     author as to inspirit his desponding countrymen by splendid
     specimens of that lofty moral fiction which was always common
     amongst the Jews after the Exile, and was known as "The Haggadah."
     So clearly is this proven to most critics, that they willingly
     suffer the attempted refutations of their views to sink to
     the ground under the weight of their own inadequacy.
     (_The Bible and the Child_.)

I return now to Dr. Aked, from whose book I quote the following:

     Dr. Clifford has declared that there is not a man who has
     given a day's attention to the question who holds the complete
     freedom of the Bible from inaccuracy.  He has added that "it
     is become more and more impossible to affirm the inerrancy
     of the Bible."  Dr. Lyman Abbott says that "an infallible book
     is an impossible conception, and to-day no one really believes
     that our present Bible is such a book."

Compare those opinions with the following extract from the first article
in _The Bible and the Child_:

     The change of view respecting the Bible, which has marked the
     advancing knowledge and more earnest studies of this generation
     is only the culmination of the discovery that there were
     different documents in the Book of Genesis--a discovery first
     published by the physician, Jean Astruc, in 1753.  There are
     _three_ widely divergent ways of dealing with these results of
     profound study, each of which is almost equally dangerous to
     the faith of the rising generation.

     1. Parents and teachers may go on inculcating dogmas about the
     Bible and methods of dealing with it which have long become
     impossible to those who have really tried to follow the manifold
     discoveries of modern inquiry with perfectly open and unbiased
     minds.  There are a certain number of persons who, when their
     minds have become stereotyped in foregone conclusions, are simply
     _incapable_ of grasping new truths.  They become obstructives,
     and not infrequently bigoted obstructives.  As convinced as the
     Pope of their own personal infallibility, their attitude towards
     those who see that the old views are no longer tenable is an
     attitude of anger and alarm.  This is the usual temper of the
     _odium theologicum_.  It would, if it could, grasp the thumbscrew
     and the rack of mediaeval Inquisitors, and would, in the last
     resource, hand over all opponents to the scaffold or the stake.
     Those whose intellects have thus been petrified by custom and
     advancing years are, of all others, the most hopeless to deal
     with.  They have made themselves incapable of fair and rational
     examination of the truths which they impugn.  They think that
     they can, by mere assertion, overthrow results arrived at by the
     lifelong inquiries of the ablest students, while they have not
     given a day's serious or impartial study to them.  They fancy
     that even the ignorant, if only they be what is called "orthodox,"
     are justified in strong denunciation of men quite as truthful,
     and often incomparably more able, than themselves.  Off-hand
     dogmatists of this stamp, who usually abound among professional
     religionists, think that they can refute any number of scholars,
     however profound and however pious, if only they shout "Infidel"
     with sufficient loudness.

Those are not the words of an "Infidel." They are the words of the late
Dean Farrar.

To quote again from Dr. Gladden:

     Evidently neither the theory of verbal inspiration, nor the
     theory of plenary inspiration, can be made to fit the facts
     which a careful study of the writings themselves brings before
     us.  _These writings are not inspired in the sense which we
     have commonly given to that word._  The verbal theory of
     inspiration was only tenable while they were supposed to be
     the work of a single author.  _To such a composite literature
     no such theory will apply._

The Bible is not inspired. The fact is that _no_ "sacred" book is
inspired. _All_ "sacred" books are the work of human minds. All ideas of
God are human ideas. All religions are made by man.

When the old-fashioned Christian said the Bible was an inspired book, he
meant that God put the words and the facts directly into the mind of
the prophet. That meant that God told Moses about the creation, Adam and
Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah and the Ark, and the Ten Commandments.

Many modern Christians, amongst whom I place the Rev. Ambrose Pope, of
Bakewell, believe that God gave Moses (and all the other prophets) a
special genius and a special desire to convey religious information to
other men.

And Mr. Pope suggests that man was so ignorant, so childlike, or so
weak in those days that it was necessary to disguise plain facts in
misleading symbols.

But the man, Moses or another, who wrote the Book of Genesis was a man
of literary genius. He was no child, no weakling. If God had said to
him: "I made the world out of the fiery nebula, and I made the sea
to bring forth the staple of life, and I caused all living things to
develop from that seed or staple of life, and I drew man out from the
brutes; and the time was six hundred millions of years"--if God had said
that to Moses, do you think Moses would not have understood?

Now, let me show you what the Christian asks us to believe. He asks us
to believe that the God who was the first cause of creation, and knew
everything, inspired man, in the childhood of the world, with a fabulous
and inaccurate theory of the origin of man and the earth, and that since
that day the same God has gradually changed or added to the inspiration,
until He inspired Laplace, and Galileo, and Copernicus, and Darwin to
contradict the teachings of the previous fifty thousand years. He asks
us to believe that God muddled men's minds with a mysterious series
of revelations cloaked in fable and allegory; that He allowed them to
stumble and to blunder, and to quarrel over these "revelations"; that He
allowed them to persecute, and slay, and torture each other on account
of divergent readings of his "revelations" for ages and ages; and that
He is still looking on while a number of bewildered and antagonistic
religions fight each other to achieve the survival of the fittest. Is
that a reasonable theory? Is it the kind of theory a reasonable man can
accept? Is it consonant with common sense?

Contrast that with our theory. We say that early man, having no
knowledge of science, and more imagination than reason, would be alarmed
and puzzled by the phenomena of Nature. He would be afraid of the dark,
he would be afraid of the thunder, he would wonder at the moon, at the
stars, at fire, at the ocean. He would fear what he did not understand,
and he would bow down and pay homage to what he feared.

Then, by degrees, he would personify the stars, and the sun, and the
thunder, and the fire. He would make gods of these things. He would make
gods of the dead. He would make gods of heroes. He would do what all
savage races do, what all children do: he would make legends, or fables,
or fairy tales out of his hopes, his fears, and his guesses.

Does not that sound reasonable? Does not history teach us that it is
true? Do we not know that religion was so born and nursed?

There is no such thing known to men as an original religion. All
religions are made up of the fables and the imaginations of tribes long
since extinct. Religion is an evolution, not a revelation. It has been
invented, altered, and built up, and pulled down, and reconstructed time
after time. It is a conglomeration and an adaptation, as language is.
And the Christian religion is no more an original religion than English
is an original tongue. We have Sanscrit, Latin, Greek, French, Saxon,
Norman words in our language; and we have Aryan, Semitic, Egyptian,
Roman, Greek, and all manner of ancient foreign fables, myths, and rites
in our Christian religion.

We say that Genesis was a poetic presentation of a fabulous story pieced
together from many traditions of many tribes, and recording with great
literary power the ideas of a people whose scientific knowledge was very
incomplete.

Now, I ask you which of these theories is the most reasonable; which
is the most scientific; which agrees most closely with the facts of
philology and history of which we are in possession?

Why twist the self-evident fact that the Bible story of creation was the
work of unscientific men of strong imagination into a far-fetched and
unsatisfactory puzzle of symbol and allegory? It would be just as easy
and just as reasonable to take the _Morte d'Arthur_ and try to prove
that it contained a veiled revelation of God's relations to man.

And let me ask one or two questions as to this matter of the revelation
of the Holy Bible. Is God all-powerful or is he not? If he is
all-powerful, why did He make man so imperfect? Could He not have
created him at once a wise and good creature? Even when man was ignorant
and savage, could not an all-powerful God have devised some means of
revealing Himself so as to be understood? If God really wished to reveal
Himself to man, why did He reveal Himself only to one or two obscure
tribes, and leave the rest of mankind in darkness?

Those poor savages were full of credulity, full of terror, full of
wonder, full of the desire to worship. They worshipped the sun and the
moon; they worshipped ghosts and demons; they worshipped tyrants, and
pretenders, and heroes, dead and alive. Do you believe that if God
had come down on earth, with a cohort of shining angels, and had said,
"Behold, I am the only God," these savages would not have left all
baser gods and worshipped Him? Why, these men, and all the thousands
of generations of their children, have been looking for God since first
they learned to look at sea and sky. They are looking for Him now. They
have fought countless bloody wars and have committed countless horrible
atrocities in their zeal for Him. And you ask us to believe that His
grand revelation of Himself is bound up in a volume of fables and errors
collected thousands of years ago by superstitious priests and prophets
of Palestine, and Egypt, and Assyria.

We cannot believe such a statement. No man can believe it who tests it
by his reason in the same way in which he would test any modern problem.
If the leaders of religion brought the same vigour and subtlety of mind
to bear upon religion which they bring to bear upon any criticism of
religion, if they weighed the Bible as they have weighed astronomy and
evolution, the Christian religion would not last a year.

If my reader has not studied this matter, let him read the books I have
recommended, and then sit down and consider the Bible revelation and
story with the same fearless honesty and clear common sense with which
he would consider the Bibles of the Mohammedan, or Buddhist, or Hindoo,
and then ask himself the question: "Is the Bible a holy and inspired
book, and the word of God to man, or is it an incongruous and
contradictory collection of tribal traditions and ancient fables,
written by men of genius and imagination?"



THE EVOLUTION OF THE BIBLE


We now reach the second stage in our examination, which is the claim
that no religion known to man can be truly said to be original. All
religions, the Christian religion included, are adaptations or variants
of older religions. Religions are not _revealed_: they are _evolved_.

If a religion were revealed by God, that religion would be perfect in
whole and in part, and would be as perfect at the first moment of its
revelation as after ten thousand years of practice. There has never been
a religion which fulfils those conditions.

According to Bible chronology, Adam was created some six thousand years
ago. Science teaches that man existed during the glacial epoch, which
was at least fifty thousand years before the Christian era.

Here I recommend the study of Laing's _Human Origins_, Parson's _Our
Sun God_, Sayce's _Ancient Empires of the East_, and Frazer's _Golden
Bough_.

In his visitation charge at Blackburn, in July, 1889, the Bishop of
Manchester spoke as follows:

     Now, if these dates are accepted, to what age of the world shall
     we assign that Accadian civilisation and literature which so long
     preceded Sargo I. and the statutes of Sirgullah?  I can best
     answer you in the words of the great Assyriologist, F. Hommel:
     "If," he says, "the Semites were already settled in Northern
     Babylonia (Accad) in the beginning of the fourth thousand B.C.
     in possession of the fully developed Shumiro-Accadian culture
     adopted by them--a culture, moreover, which appears to have
     sprouted like a cutting from Shumir, then the latter must be far,
     far older still, and have existed in its _completed_ form in the
     fifth thousand B.C., an age to which I unhesitatingly ascribe the
     South Babylonian incantations."... Who does not see that such
     facts as these compel us to remodel our whole idea of the past?

A culture which was _complete_ one thousand years before Adam must have
needed many thousands of years to develop. It would be a modest guess
that Accadian culture implied a growth of at least ten thousand years.

Of course, it may be said that the above biblical error is only an error
of time, and has no bearing on the alleged evolution of the Bible. Well,
an error of a million, or of ten thousand, years is a serious thing in
a divine revelation; but, as we shall see, it _has_ a bearing on
evolution. Because it appears that in that ancient Accadian civilisation
lie the seeds of many Bible laws and legends.

Here I quote from _Our Sun God_, by Mr. J. D. Parsons:

     To commence with, it is well known to those acquainted with
     the remains of the Assyrian and Babylonian civilisations that
     the stories of the creation, the temptation, the fall, the deluge,
     and the confusion of tongues were the common property of the
     Babylonians centuries before the date of the alleged Exodus
     under Moses... Even the word Sabbath is Babylonian.  And the
     observance of the seventh day as a Sabbath, or day of rest, by
     the Accadians thousands of years before Moses, or Israel, or
     even Abraham, or Adam himself could have been born or created,
     is admitted by, among others, the Bishop of Manchester.  For in
     an address to his clergy, already mentioned, he let fall these
     pregnant words:

     "Who does not see that such facts as these compel us to remodel
     our whole idea of the past, and that in particular to affirm that
     the Sabbatical institution originated in the time of Moses, three
     thousand five hundred years after it is probable that it existed
     in Chaldea, is an impossibility, no matter how many Fathers of the
     Church have asserted it.  Facts cannot be dismissed like theories."

The Sabbath, then, is one link in the evolution of the Bible. Like the
legends of the Creation, the Fall, and the Flood, it was adopted by the
Jews from the Babylonians during or after the Captivity.

Of the Flood, Professor Sayce, in his _Ancient Empires_ of the East,
speaks as follows:

     With the Deluge the mythical history of Babylonia takes a new
     departure.  From this event to the Persian conquest was a period
     of 36,000 years, or an astronomical cycle called _saros_.
     Xisuthros, with his family and friends, alone survived the
     waters which drowned the rest of mankind on account of their
     sins.  He had been ordered by the gods to build a ship, to pitch
     it within and without, and to stock it with animals of every
     species.  Xisuthros sent out first a dove, then a swallow, and
     lastly a raven, to discover whether the earth was dry; the dove
     and the swallow returned to the ship, and it was only when the
     raven flew away that the rescued hero ventured to leave his ark.
     He found that he had been stranded on the peak of the mountain
     of Nizir, "the mountain of the world," whereon the Accadians
     believed the heavens to rest--where, too, they placed the
     habitations of their gods, and the cradle of their own race.
     Since Nizir lay amongst the mountains of Pir Mam, a little south
     of Rowandiz, its mountain must be identified with Rowandiz itself.
     On its peak Xisuthros offered sacrifices, piling up cups of wine
     by sevens; and the rainbow, "the glory of Anu," appeared in
     the heaven, in covenant that the world should never again be
     destroyed by flood.  Immediately afterwards Xisuthros and his
     wife, like the Biblical Enoch, were translated to the regions of
     the blest beyond Datilla, the river of Death, and his people made
     their way westward to Sippara.  Here they disinterred the books
     buried by their late ruler before the Deluge took place, and
     re-established themselves in their old country under the government
     first of Erekhoos, and then of his son Khoniasbolos.  Meanwhile,
     other colonists had arrived in the plain of Sumer, and here,
     under the leadership of the giant Etana, called Titan by the
     Greek writers, they built a city of brick, and essayed to erect a
     tower by means of which they might scale the sky, and so win
     for themselves the immortality granted to Xisuthros... But
     the tower was overthrown in the night by the winds, and Bel
     frustrated their purpose by confounding their language and
     scattering them on the mound.

These legends of the Flood and the Tower of Babel were obviously
borrowed by the Jews during their Babylonian captivity.

Professor Sayce, in his _Ancient Empires of the East_, speaking of the
Accadian king, Sargon I., says:

     Legends naturally gathered round the name of the Babylonian
     Solomon.  Not only was he entitled "the deviser of law,
     the deviser of prosperity," but it was told of him how his
     father had died while he was still unborn, how his mother had
     fled to the mountains, and there left him, like a second Moses,
     to the care of the river in an ark of reeds and bitumen; and how
     he was saved by Accir, "the water-drawer," who brought him
     up as his own son, until the time came when, under the protection
     of Istar, his rank was discovered, and he took his seat on
     the throne of his forefathers.

From Babylon the Jews borrowed the legends of Eden, of the Fall, the
Flood, the Tower of Babel; from Babylon they borrowed the Sabbath, and
very likely the Commandments; and is it not possible that the legendary
Moses and the legendary Sargon may be variants of a still more ancient
mythical figure?

Compare Sayce with the following "Notes on the Moses Myth," from
_Christianity and Mythology_, by J. M. Robertson:


NOTES ON THE MOSES MYTH.

     I have been challenged for saying that the story of Moses and
     the floating basket is a variant of the myth of Horos and the
     floating island (_Herod_ ii. 156).  But this seems sufficiently
     proved by the fact that in the reign of Rameses II., according
     to the monuments, there was a place in Middle Egypt which
     bore the name I-en-Moshe, "_the island of Moses_."  That is the
     primary meaning.  Brugsch, who proclaims the fact (_Egypt
     Under the Pharaohs_, ii. 117), suggests that it can also mean "the
     river bank of Moses."  It is very obvious, however, that the
     Egyptians would not have named a place by a real incident in
     the life of a successful enemy, as Moses is represented in Exodus.
     Name and story are alike mythological and pre-Hebraic, though
     possibly Semitic.  The Assyrian myth of Sargon, which is,
     indeed, very close to the Hebrew, may be the oldest form of all;
     but the very fact that the Hebrews located their story in Egypt
     shows that they knew it to have a home there in some fashion.
     The name Moses, whether it mean "the water-child" (so Deutsch)
     or "the hero" (Sayce, _Hib. Lect._ p. 46), was in all likelihood
     an epithet of Horos.  The basket, in the latter form, was
     doubtless an adaptation from the ritual of the basket-born
     God-Child, as was the birth story of Jesus.  In Diodorus Siculus
     (i. 25) the myth runs that Isis found Horos _dead_ "on the water,"
     and brought him to life again; but even in that form the clue
     to the Moses birth-myth is obvious.  And there are yet other
     Egyptian connections for the Moses saga, since the Egyptians
     had a myth of Thoth (their Logos) having slain Argus (as did
     Hermes), and having had to fly for it to Egypt, where he gave
     laws and learning to the Egyptians.  Yet, curiously enough, this
     myth probably means that the Sun God, who has in the other
     story escaped the "massacre of the innocents" (the morning
     stars), now plays the slayer on his own account, since the slaying
     of many-eyed Argus probably means the extinction of the stars
     by the morning sun (cp. Emeric-David, _Introduction_, end).
     Another "Hermes" was the son of Nilus, and his name was sacred
     (Cicero, _De Nat. Deor._ iii. 22, Cp. 16).  The story of the
     floating child, finally, becomes part of the lore of Greece.
     In the myth of Apollo, the Babe-God and his sister Artemis are
     secured in float-islands.

It is impossible to form a just estimate of the Bible without some
knowledge of ancient history and comparative mythology. It would be
impossible for me to go deeply into these matters in this small book,
but I will quote a few significant passages just to show the value of
such historical evidence. Here to begin with, are some passages from Mr.
Grant Allen's _Evolution of the Idea of God_.


THE ORIGIN OF GODS.

     Mr. Herbert Spencer has traced so admirably, in his _Principles
     of Sociology_, the progress of development from the Ghost to
     the God that I do not propose in this chapter to attempt much
     more than a brief recapitulation of his main propositions, which,
     however, I shall supplement with fresh examples, and adapt at
     the same time to the conception of three successive stages in
     human ideas about the Life of the Dead, as set forth in the
     preceding argument.

     In the earlier stage of all--the stage where the actual bodies
     of the dead are preserved--gods, as such, are for the most part
     unknown: it is the corpses of friends and ancestors that are
     worshipped and reverenced.  For example, Ellis says of the
     corpse of a Tahitian chief, that it was placed in a sitting
     posture under a protecting shed; "a small altar was erected
     before it, and offerings of fruit, food, and flowers were
     daily presented by the relatives or the priest appointed to
     attend the body."  (This point about the priest is of essential
     importance.)  The Central Americans, again, as Mr. Spencer notes,
     performed similar rites before bodies dried by artificial
     heat.  The New Guinea people, as D'Albertis found, worship
     the dried mummies of their fathers and husbands.  A little
     higher in the scale we get the developed mummy-worship of
     Egypt and Peru, which survives even after the evolution of
     greater gods, from powerful kings or chieftains.  Wherever
     the actual bodies of the dead are preserved, there also worship
     and offerings are paid to them.

     Often, however, as already noted, it is not the whole body,
     but the head alone, that is specially kept and worshipped.
     Thus Mr. H. O. Forbes says of the people of Buru: "The dead
     are buried in the forest on some secluded spot, marked by a
     _merang_, or grave pole, over which at certain intervals the
     relatives place tobacco, cigarettes, and various offerings.
     When the body is decomposed the son or nearest relative
     disinters the head, wraps a new cloth about it, and places
     it in the Matakau at the back of his house, or in a little
     hut erected for it near the grave.  It is the representative
     of his forefathers, whose behests he holds in the greatest
     respect."

     Two points are worthy of notice in this interesting account,
     as giving us an anticipatory hint of two further accessories
     whose evolution we must trace hereafter: first, the grave-stake,
     which is probably the origin of the wooden idol; and second,
     the little hut erected over the head by the side of the grave,
     which is undoubtedly one of the origins of the temple, or
     praying-house.  Observe, also, the ceremonial wrapping of the
     skull in cloth and its oracular functions.

     Throughout the earlier and ruder phases of human evolution
     this primitive conception of ancestors or dead relatives as the
     chief known object of worship survives undiluted; and ancestor-
     worship remains to this day the principal religion of the Chinese
     and of several other peoples.  Gods, as such, are practically
     unknown in China.  Ancestor-worship, also, survives in many
     other races as one of the main cults, even after other elements
     of later religion have been superimposed upon it.  In Greece
     and Rome it remained to the last an important part of domestic
     ritual.  But in most cases a gradual differentiation is set up
     in time between various classes of ghosts or dead persons, some
     ghosts being considered of more importance and power than others;
     and out of these last it is that gods as a rule are finally
     developed.  A god, in fact, is in the beginning, at least, an
     exceptionally powerful and friendly ghost--a ghost able to help,
     and from whose help great things may reasonably be expected.

     Again, the rise of chieftainship and kingship has much to do
     with the growth of a higher conception of godhead; a dead king
     of any great power or authority is sure to be thought of in time
     as a god of considerable importance.  We shall trace out this
     idea more fully hereafter in the religion of Egypt; for the
     present it must suffice to say that the supposed power of the
     gods in each pantheon has regularly increased in proportion to
     the increased power of kings or emperors.

     When we pass from the first plane of corpse preservation and
     mummification to the second plane, where burial is habitual,
     it might seem, at a hasty glance, as though continued worship
     of the dead, and their elevation into gods, would no longer be
     possible.  For we saw that burial is prompted by a deadly fear
     lest the corpse or ghost should return to plague the living.
     Nevertheless, natural affection for parents or friends, and the
     desire to insure their goodwill and aid, make these seemingly
     contrary ideas reconcilable.  As a matter of fact, we find that
     even when men bury or burn their dead, they continue to worship
     them; while, as we shall show in the sequel, even the great
     stones which they roll on top of the grave to prevent the dead
     from rising again become, in time, altars on which sacrifices
     are offered to the spirit.

Much of the Bible is evidently legendary. Here we have a jumble of
ancient myths, allegories, and mysteries drawn from many sources and
remote ages, and adapted, altered, and edited so many times that in many
instances their original or inner meaning has become obscure. And it is
folly to accept the tangled legends and blurred or distorted symbols as
the literal history of a literal tribe, and the literal account of the
origin of man, and the genesis of religion.

The real roots of religion lie far deeper: deeper, perhaps, than
sun-worship, ghost-worship, and fear of demons. In _The Real Origin of
Religion_ occurs the following:

     Quite recently theories have been advocated attempting to
     prove that the minds of early men were chiefly concerned with
     the increase of vegetation, and that their fancy played so much
     round the mysteries of plant growth that they made them their
     holiest arcana.  Hence it appears that the savages were far more
     modest and refined than our civilised contemporaries, for almost
     all our works of imagination, both in literature and art, make
     human love their theme in all its aspects, whether healthy or
     pathological; whereas the savage, it seems, thought only of his
     crops.  Nothing can be more astonishing than this discovery,
     if it be true, but there are many facts which might lead us to
     believe that the romance of love inspired early art and religion
     as well as modern thought.

And again:

     Religion is a gorgeous efflorescence of human love.  The tender
     passion has left its footsteps on the sands of time in magnificent
     monuments and libraries of theology.

This may seem startling to many orthodox readers, but it is no new
theory, and is doubtless quite true, for all gods have been made by
man, and all theologies have been evolved by man, and the odour and the
colour of his human passions cling to them always, even after they are
discarded. Under all man's dreams of eternal gods and eternal heavens
lies man's passion for the eternal feminine. But on these subjects
"Moses" spoke in parables, and I shall not speak at all.

Mr. Robertson, in _Christianity and Mythology_, says of the Bible:

     It is a medley of early metaphysics and early fable--early,
     that is, relatively to known Hebrew history.  It ties together
     two creation stories and two flood stories; it duplicates
     several sets of mythic personages--as Cain and Abel, Tubal-Cain
     and Jabal; it grafts the curse of Cham on the curse of Cain,
     making that finally the curse of Canaan; it tells the same
     offensive story twice of one patriarch and again of another;
     it gives an early "metaphysical" theory of the origin of death,
     life, and evil; it adapts the Egyptian story of the "Two Brothers,"
     or the myth of Adonis, as the history of Joseph; it makes use
     of various God-names, pretending that they always stood for
     the same deity; it repeats traditions concerning mythic
     founders of races--if all this be not "a medley of early fable,"
     what is it?

I quote next from _The Bible and the Child_, in which Dean Farrar says:

     Some of the books of Scripture are separated from others by the
     interspace of a thousand years.  They represent the fragmentary
     survival of Hebrew literature.  They stand on very different
     levels of value, and even of morality.  Read for centuries in
     an otiose, perfunctory, slavish, and superstitious manner, they
     have often been so egregiously misunderstood that many entire
     systems of interpretation--which were believed in for generations,
     and which fill many folios, now consigned to a happy oblivion--
     are clearly proved to have been utterly baseless.  Colossal
     usurpations of deadly import to the human race have been built,
     like inverted pyramids, on the narrow apex of a single
     misinterpreted text.

Compare those utterances of the freethinker and the divine, and then
read the following words of Dean Farrar:

     The manner in which the Higher Criticism has slowly and surely
     made its victorious progress, in spite of the most determined
     and exacerbated opposition, is a strong argument in its favour.
     It is exactly analogous to the way in which the truths of
     astronomy and of geology have triumphed over universal
     opposition.  They were once anathematised as "infidel"; they
     are now accepted as axiomatic.  I cannot name a single student
     or professor of any eminence in Great Britain who does not
     accept, with more or less modification, the main conclusions
     of the German school of critics.

This being the case, I ask, as a mere layman, what right has the Bible
to usurp the title of "the word of God"? What evidence can be sharked up
to show that it is any more a holy or an inspired book than any book of
Thomas Carlyle's, or John Ruskin's, or William Morris'? What evidence
is forthcoming that the Bible is true?



THE UNIVERSE ACCORDING TO ANCIENT RELIGION AND MODERN SCIENCE


The theory of the early Christian Church was that the Earth was flat,
like a plate, and the sky was a solid dome above it, like an inverted
blue basin.

The Sun revolved round the Earth to give light by day, the Moon revolved
round the Earth to give light by night. The stars were auxiliary lights,
and had all been specially, and at the same time, created for the good
of man.

God created the Sun, Moon, Stars, and Earth in six days. He created them
by word, and He created them out of nothing.

The centre of the Universe was the Earth. The Sun was made to give light
to the Earth by day, and the Moon to give light to Earth by night.

Any man who denied that theory in those days was in danger of being
murdered as an Infidel.

To-day our ideas are very different. Hardly any educated man or woman
in the world believes that the world is flat, or that the Sun revolves
round the Earth, or that what we call the sky is a solid substance, like
a domed ceiling.

Advanced thinkers, even amongst the Christians, believe that the world
is round, that it is one of a series of planets revolving round the Sun,
that the Sun is only one of many millions of other suns, that these
suns were not created simultaneously, but at different periods, probably
separated by millions or billions of years.

We have all, Christians and Infidels alike, been obliged to acknowledge
that the Earth is not the centre of the whole Universe, but only a minor
planet revolving around, and dependent upon, one of myriads of suns.

God, called by Christians "Our Heavenly Father," created all things. He
created not only the world, but the whole universe. He is all-wise,
He is all-powerful, He is all-loving, and He is revealed to us in the
Scriptures.

Let us see. Let us try to imagine what kind of a God the creator of
this Universe would be, and let us compare him with the God, or Gods,
revealed to us in the Bible, and in the teachings of the Church.

We have seen the account of the Universe and its creation, as given in
the revealed Scriptures. Let us now take a hasty view of the Universe
and its creation as revealed to us by science.

What is the Universe like, as far as our limited knowledge goes?

Our Sun is only one sun amongst many millions. Our planet is only one of
eight which revolve around him.

Our Sun, with his planets and comets, comprises what is known as the
solar system.

There is no reason to suppose that his is the only Solar System: there
may be many millions of solar systems. For aught we know, there may be
millions of systems, each containing millions of solar systems.

Let us deal first with the solar system of which we are a part.

The Sun is a globe of 866,200 miles diameter. His diameter is more than
108 times that of the Earth. His volume is 1,305,000 times the volume
of the Earth. All the eight planets added together only make
one-seven-hundredth part of his weight. His circumference is more than
two and a-half millions of miles. He revolves upon his axis in 25 1/4
days, or at a speed of nearly 4,000 miles an hour.

This immense and magnificent globe diffuses heat and light to all the
other planets.

Without the light and heat of the Sun no life would now be, or in the
past have been, possible on this Earth, or any other planet of the solar
system.

The eight planets of the solar system are divided into four inferior and
four superior.

The inferior planets are Mercury, Venus, the Earth, and Mars. The
superior are Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.

The diameters of the smaller planets are as follow: Mercury, 3,008
miles; Mars, 5,000 miles; Venus, 7,480 miles; the Earth, 7,926 miles.

The diameters of the large planets are: Jupiter, 88,439 miles; Saturn,
75,036 miles; Neptune, 37,205 miles; Uranus, 30,875 miles.

The volume of Jupiter is 1,389 times, of Saturn 848 times, of Neptune
103 times, and of Uranus 59 times the volume of the Earth.

The mean distances from the Sun are: Mercury, 36 million miles; Venus,
67 million miles; the Earth, 93 million miles; Mars, 141 million miles;
Jupiter, 483 million miles; Saturn, 886 million miles; Uranus, 1,782
million miles; Neptune, 2,792 million miles.

To give an idea of the meaning of these distances, I may say that a
train travelling night and day at 60 miles an hour would take quite 176
years to come from the Sun to the Earth.

The same train, at the same speed, would be 5,280 years in travelling
from the Sun to Neptune.

Reckoning that Neptune is the outermost planet of the solar system, that
system would have a diameter of 5,584 millions of miles.

If we made a chart of the solar system on a scale of 1 inch to a million
miles, we should need a sheet of paper 465 feet 4 inches wide. On this
sheet the Sun would have a diameter of less than 1 inch, and the Earth
would be about the size of a pin-prick.

If an express train, going at 60 miles an hour, had to travel round the
Earth's orbit, it would be more than 1,000 years on the journey. If the
Earth moved no faster, our winter would last more than 250 years. But
in the solar system the speeds are as wonderful as the sizes. The Earth
turns upon its axis at the rate of 1,000 miles an hour, and travels in
its orbit round the Sun at the rate of more than 1,000 miles a minute,
or 66,000 miles an hour.

So much for the size of the solar system. It consists of a Sun and eight
planets, and the outer planet's orbit is one of 5,584 millions of miles
in diameter, which it would take an express train, at 60 miles an hour,
10,560 years to cross.

But this distance is as nothing when we come to deal with the distances
of the other stars from our Sun.

The distance from our Sun to the nearest fixed (?) star is more than
20 millions of millions of miles. Our express train, which crosses the
diameter of the solar system in 10,560 years, would take, if it went 60
miles an hour day and night, about 40 million years to reach the nearest
fixed star from the Sun.

And if we had to mark the nearest fixed star on our chart made on a
scale of 1 inch to the million miles, we should find that whereas
a sheet of 465 feet would take in the outermost planet of the solar
system, a sheet to take in the nearest fixed star would have to be about
620 miles wide. On this sheet, as wide as from London to Inverness, the
Sun would be represented by a dot three-quarters of an inch in diameter,
and the Earth by a pin-prick.

But these immense distances only relate to the _nearest_ stars. Now, the
nearest stars are about four "light years" distant from us. That is to
say, that light, travelling at a rate of about 182,000 miles in _one
second_, takes four years to come from the nearest fixed star to the
Earth.

But I have seen the distance from the Earth to the Great Nebula in Orion
given as _a thousand light years_, or 250 times the distance of the
fixed star above alluded to.

To reach that nebula at 60 miles an hour, an express train would have to
travel for 35 millions of years multiplied by 250--that is to say, for
8,750 million years.

And yet there are millions of stars whose distances are even greater
than the distance of the Great Nebula in Orion.

How many stars are there? No one can even guess. But L. Struve estimates
the number of those visible to the great telescopes at 20 millions.

Twenty millions of suns. And as for the size of these suns, Sir Robert
Ball says Sirius is ten times as large as our Sun; and a well-known
astronomer, writing in the _English Mechanic_ about a week ago, remarks
that Alpha Orionis (Betelgeuze) has probably 700 times the light of our
Sun.

Looking through my telescope, which is only 3-inch aperture, I have seen
star clusters of wonderful beauty in the Pleiades and in Cancer. There
is, in the latter constellation, a dim star which, when viewed through
my glass, becomes a constellation larger, more brilliant, and more
beautiful than Orion or the Great Bear. I have looked at these jewelled
sun-clusters many a time, and wondered over them. But I have never
once thought of believing that they were specially created to be lesser
lights to the Earth.

And now let me quote from that grand book of Richard A. Proctor's, _The
Expanse of Heaven_, a fine passage descriptive of some of the wonders of
the "Milky Way":

     There are stars in all orders of brightness, from those which
     (seen with the telescope) resemble in lustre the leading glories
     of the firmament, down to tiny points of light only caught by
     momentary twinklings.  Every variety of arrangement is seen.
     Here the stars are scattered as over the skies at night; there
     they cluster in groups, as though drawn together by some irresistible
     power; in one region they seem to form sprays of stars like
     diamonds sprinkled over fern leaves; elsewhere they lie in
     streams and rows, in coronets and loops and festoons, resembling
     the star festoon which, in the constellation Perseus, garlands
     the black robe of night.  Nor are varieties of colour wanting
     to render the display more wonderful and more beautiful.  Many
     of the stars which crowd upon the view are red, orange, and yellow
     Among them are groups of two and three and four (multiple stars
     as they are called), amongst which blue and green and lilac and
     purple stars appear, forming the most charming contrast to the
     ruddy and yellow orbs near which they are commonly seen.

Millions and millions--countless millions of suns. Innumerable galaxies
and systems of suns, separated by black gulfs of space so wide that no
man can realise the meaning of the figures which denote their stretch.
Suns of fire and light, whirling through vast oceans of space like
swarms of golden bees. And round them planets whirling at thousands of
miles a minute.

And on Earth there are forms of life so minute that millions of them
exist in a drop of water. There are microscopic creatures more beautiful
and more highly finished than any gem, and more complex and effective
than the costliest machine of human contrivance. In _The Story of
Creation_ Mr. Ed. Clodd tells us that one cubic inch of rotten stone
contains 41 thousand million vegetable skeletons of diatoms.

I cut the following from a London morning paper:

     It was discovered some few years ago that a peculiar bacillus
     was present in all persons suffering from typhoid, and in all
     foods and drinks which spread the disease.  Experiments were
     carried out, and it was assumed, not without good reason, that
     the bacillus was the primary cause of the malady, and it was
     accordingly labelled the typhoid bacillus.

     But the bacteriologists further discovered that the typhoid
     bacillus was present in water which was not infectious, and in
     persons who were not ill, or had never been ill, with typhoid.

     So now a theory is propounded that a healthy typhoid bacillus
     does not cause typhoid, but that it is only when the bacillus
     is itself sick of a fever, or, in other words, is itself the
     prey of some infinitely minuter organisms, which feed on it
     alone, that it works harm to mortal men.

The bacillus is so small that one requires a powerful microscope to see
him, and his blood may be infested with bacilli as small to him as he is
to us.

And there are millions, and more likely billions, of suns!

Talk about Aladdin's palace, Sinbad's valley of diamonds, Macbeth's
witches, or the Irish fairies! How petty are their exploits, how tawdry
are their splendours, how paltry are their riches, when we compare them
to the romance of science.

When did a poet conceive an idea so vast and so astounding as the
theory of evolution? What are a few paltry, lumps of crystallised carbon
compared to a galaxy of a million million suns? Did any Eastern inventor
of marvels ever suggest such a human feat as that accomplished by
the men who have, during the last handful of centuries, spelt out the
mystery of the universe? These scientists have worked miracles before
which those of the ancient priests and magicians are mere tricks of
hanky-panky.

Look at the romance of geology; at the romance of astronomy; at
the romance of chemistry; at the romance of the telescope, and the
microscope, and the prism. More wonderful than all, consider the story
of how flying atoms in space became suns, how suns made planets, how
planets changed from spheres of flame and raging fiery storm to worlds
of land and water. How in the water specks of jelly became fishes,
fishes reptiles, reptiles mammals, mammals monkeys; monkeys men;
until, from the fanged and taloned cannibal, roosting in a forest, have
developed art and music, religion and science; and the children of the
jellyfish can weigh the suns, measure the stellar spaces, ride on
the ocean or in the air, and speak to each other from continent to
continent.

Talk about fairy tales! what is this? You may look through a telescope,
and see the nebula that is to make a sun floating, like a luminous mist,
three hundred million miles away. You may look again, and see another
sun in process of formation. You may look again, and see others almost
completed. You may look again and again, and see millions of suns and
systems spread out across the heavens like rivers of living gems.

You will say that all this speaks of a Creator. I shall not contradict
you. But what kind of Creator must He be who has created such a universe
as this?

Do you think He is the kind of Creator to make blunders and commit
crimes? Can you, after once thinking of the Milky Way, with its rivers
of suns, and the drop of water teeming with spangled dragons, and the
awful abysses of dark space, through which comets shoot at a speed
a thousand times as fast as an express train--can you, after seeing
Saturn's rings, and Jupiter's moons, and the clustered gems of Hercules,
consent for a moment to the allegation that the creator of all this
power and glory got angry with men, and threatened them with scabs
and sores, and plagues of lice and frogs? Can you suppose that such a
creator would, after thousands of years of effort, have failed even now
to make His repeated revelations comprehensible? Do you believe that
He would be driven across the unimaginable gulfs of space, but of the
transcendent glory of His myriad resplendent suns, to die on a cross,
in order to win back to Him the love of the puny creatures on one puny
planet in the marvellous universe His power had made?

Do you believe that the God who imagined and created such a universe
could be petty, base, cruel, revengeful, and capable of error? I do not
believe it.

And now let us examine the character and conduct of this God as depicted
for us in the Bible--the book which is alleged to have been directly
revealed by God Himself.



JEHOVAH THE ADOPTED HEAVENLY FATHER OF CHRISTIANITY


In giving the above brief sketch of the known universe my object was to
suggest that the Creator of a universe of such scope and grandeur must
be a Being of vast power and the loftiest dignity.

Now, the Christians claim that their God created this universe--not the
universe He is described, in His own inspired word, as creating, but the
universe revealed by science; the universe of twenty millions of suns.

And the Christians claim that this God is a God of love, a God
omnipotent, omnipresent, and eternal. And the Christians claim that this
great God, the Creator of our wonderful universe, is the God revealed to
us in the Bible.

Let us, then, go to the Bible, and find out for ourselves whether the
God therein revealed is any more like the ideal Christian God than the
universe therein revealed is like the universe since discovered by man
without the aid of divine inspiration.

As for the biblical God, Jahweh, or Jehovah, I shall try to show
from the Bible itself that He was not all-wise, nor all-powerful,
nor omnipresent; that He was not merciful nor just; but that, on the
contrary, He was fickle, jealous, dishonourable, immoral, vindictive,
barbarous, and cruel.

Neither was He, in any sense of the words, great nor good. But, in fact,
He was a tribal god, an idol, made by man; and, as the idol of a savage
and ignorant tribe, was Himself a savage and ignorant monster.

First then, as to my claim that Jahweh, or Jehovah, was a tribal god. I
shall begin by quoting from _Shall We Understand the Bible?_ by the Rev.
T. Rhondda Williams:

     The theology of the Jahwist is very childish and elementary,
     though it is not all on the same level.  He thinks of God very
     much as in human form, holding intercourse with men almost
     as one of themselves.  His document begins with Genesis ii. 4,
     and its first portion continues, without break, to the end of
     chapter iv.  This portion contains the story of Eden.  Here
     Jahweh _moulds_ dust into human form, and _breathes_ into it;
     _plants_ a garden, and puts the man in it.  Jahweh comes to the
     man in his sleep, and takes part of his body to make a woman,
     and so skilfully, apparently, that the man never wakes under
     the operation.  Jahweh _walks_ in the garden like a man in the
     cool of the day.  He even _makes coats_ for Adam and Eve.
     Further on the Jahwist has a flood story, in which Jahweh _repents_
     that he had made man, and decides to drown him, saving only
     one family.  When all is over, and Noah sacrifices on his new
     altar, Jahweh _smells_ a sweet savour, just as a hungry man
     smells welcome food.  When men build the Tower of Babel,
     Jahweh _comes down_ to see it--he cannot see it from where he
     is.  In Genesis xviii. the Jahwist tells a story of three men
     coming to Abraham's tent.  Abraham gives them water to wash
     their feet, and bread to eat, and Sarah makes cakes for them,
     and "they did eat"; altogether, they seemed to have had a nice
     time.  As the story goes on, he leaves you to infer that one
     of these was Jahweh himself.  It is J. who describes the story
     of Jacob _wrestling_ with some mysterious person, who, by inference,
     is Jahweh.  He tells a very strange story in Exodus iv. 24, that
     when Moses was returning into Egypt, at Jahweh's own request,
     Jahweh met him at a lodging-place, and sought to kill him.  In
     Exodus xiv. 15 it is said Jahweh took the wheels off the chariots
     of the Egyptians.  If we wanted to believe that such statements
     were true at all, we should resort to the device of saying they
     were figurative.  But J. meant them literally.  The Jahwist
     would have no difficulty in thinking of God in this way.  The
     story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah belongs to this
     same document, in which, you remember, Jahweh says: "I will go
     down now, and see whether they have done altogether according
     to the cry of it which is come unto me; and if not, I will know"
     (Gen. xviii. 21).  That God was omniscient and omnipresent had
     never occurred to the Jahwist.  Jahweh, like a man, had to go and
     see if he wanted to know.  There is, however, some compensation
     in the fact that he can move about without difficulty--he can
     come down and go up.  One might say, perhaps, that in J., though
     Jahweh cannot _be_ everywhere, he can go to almost any place.
     All this is just like a child's thought.  The child, at Christmas,
     can believe that, though Santa Claus cannot be everywhere, he
     can move about with wonderful facility, and, though he is a man,
     he is rather mysterious.  The Jahwist's thought of God represents
     the childhood stage of the national life.

Later, Mr. Williams writes:

     All this shows that at one time Jahweh was one of many gods;
     other gods were real gods.  The Israelites themselves believed,
     for example, that Chemosh was as truly the god of the Moabites
     as Jahweh was theirs, and they speak of Chemosh giving territory
     to his people to inherit, just as Jahweh had given them territory
     (Judges xi. 24).

     Just as a King of Israel would speak of Jahweh, the King of
     Moab speaks of Chemosh.  His god sends him to battle.  If he
     is defeated, the god is angry; if he succeeds, the god is
     favourable.  And we have seen that there was a time when the
     Israelite believed Chemosh to be as real for Moab as Jahweh
     for himself.  You find the same thing everywhere.  The old
     Assyrian kings said exactly the same thing of the god Assur.

     Assur sent them to battle, gave defeat or victory, as he thought
     fit.  The history, however, is very obscure up to the time of
     Samuel, and uncertain for some time after.  Samuel organised
     a Jahweh party.  David worshipped Jahweh only, though he
     regards it as possible to be driven out of Jahweh's inheritance
     into that of other gods (1 Sam. xxvi. 19).  Solomon was not
     exclusively devoted to Jahweh, for he built places of worship
     for other deities as well.

In the chapter on "Different Conceptions of Providence in the Bible,"
Mr. Williams says:

     I have asked you to read Judges iii. 15-30, iv. 17-24, v. 24-31.
     The first is the story of Ehud getting at Eglon, Israel's enemy,
     by deceit, and killing him--an act followed by a great slaughter
     of Moabites.  The second is the story of Jael pretending to play
     the friend to Sisera, and then murdering him.  The third is the
     eulogy of Jael for doing so, as "blessed above women," in the
     so-called Song of Deborah.  Here, you see, Providence is only
     concerned with the fortunes of Israel; any deceit and any
     cruelty is right which brings success to this people.  Providence
     is not concerned with morality; nor is it concerned with individuals,
     except as the individual serves or opposes Israel.

In these two chapters Mr. Williams shows that the early conception of
God was a very low one, and that it underwent considerable change. In
fact, he says, with great candour and courage, that the early Bible
conception of God is one which we cannot now accept.

With this I entirely agree. We cannot accept as the God of Creation
this savage idol of an obscure tribe, and we have renounced Him, and are
ashamed of Him, not because of any later divine revelation, but because
mankind have become too enlightened, too humane, and too honourable to
tolerate Jehovah.

And yet the Christian religion adopted Jehovah, and called upon its
followers to worship and believe Him, on pain of torture, or death, or
excommunication in this world, and of hell-fire in the world to come. It
is astounding.

But lest the evidence offered by Mr. Williams should not be considered
sufficient, I shall quote from another very useful book, _The Evolution
of the Idea of God_, by the late Grant Allen. In this book Mr. Allen
clearly traces the origins of the various ideas of God, and we hear of
Jehovah again, as a kind of tribal stone idol, carried about in a box or
ark. I will quote as fully as space permits:

     But Jahweh was an object of portable size, for, omitting for
     the present the descriptions in the Pentateuch--which seem
     likely to be of later date, and not too trustworthy, through
     their strenuous Jehovistic editing--he was carried from Shiloh
     in his ark to the front during the great battle with the
     Philistines at Ebenezer; and the Philistines were afraid, for
     they said, "A god is come into the camp."  But when the Philistines
     captured the ark, the rival god, Dagon, fell down and broke in
     pieces--so Hebrew legend declared--before the face of Jahweh.
     After the Philistines restored the sacred object, it rested for
     a time at Kirjath-jearim till David, on the capture of Jerusalem
     from the Jebusites, went down to that place to bring up from
     thence the ark of the god; and as it went, on a new cart, they
     "played before Jahweh on all manner of instruments," and David
     himself "danced before Jahweh."... The children of Israel in
     early times carried about with them a tribal god, Jahweh, whose
     presence in their midst was intimately connected with a certain
     ark or chest containing a stone object or objects.  This chest
     was readily portable, and could be carried to the front in case
     of warfare.  They did not know the origin of the object in the
     ark with certainty; but they regarded it emphatically as "Jahweh
     their god, which led them out of the land of Egypt."...

     I do not see, therefore, how we can easily avoid the obvious
     inference that Jahweh the god of the Hebrews, who later became
     sublimated and etherealised into the God of Christianity, was,
     in his origin, nothing more nor less than the ancestral sacred
     stone of the people of Israel, however sculptured, and, perhaps,
     in the very last resort of all, the unhewn monumental pillar of
     some early Semitic sheikh or chieftain.

It was, indeed, as the Rev. C. E. Beeby says, in his book _Creed and
Life_, a sad mistake of St. Augustine to tack this tribal fetish in his
box on to the Christian religion as the All-Father, and Creator of the
Universe. For Jehovah was a savage war-god, and, as such, was impotent
to save the tribe who worshipped him.

But let us look further into the accounts of this original God of
the Christians, and see how he comported himself, and let us put our
examples under separate heads; thus:


Jehovah's Anger

Jahweh's bad temper is constantly displayed in the Bible. Jahweh made
a man, whom he supposed to be perfect. When the man turned bad on his
hands, Jahweh was angry, and cursed him and his seed for thousands of
years. This vindictive act is accepted by the Apostle Paul as a natural
thing for a God of Love to do.

Jahweh who had already cursed all the seed of Adam, was so angry about
man's sin, in the time of Noah, that he decided to drown all the people
on the earth except Noah's family, and not only that, but to drown
nearly all the innocent animals as well.

When the children of Israel, who had eaten nothing but manna for forty
years, asked Jahweh for a change of diet, Jahweh lost his temper again,
and sent amongst them "fiery serpents," so that "much people of Israel
died." But still the desire for other food remained, and the Jews wept
for meat. Then the Lord ordered Moses to speak to the people as follows:

  ... The Lord will give you flesh, and ye shall eat.  Ye shall
     not eat one day, nor two days, nor five days, neither ten days
     nor twenty days: but even a whole month, until it come out of
     your nostrils, and it be loathsome unto you; because that ye
     have despised the Lord, which is among you, and have wept
     before Him, saying, Why came we forth out of Egypt?

Then Jahweh sent immense numbers of quails, and the people ate them, and
the anger of their angry god came upon them in the act, and smote them
with "a very great plague."

One more instance out of many. In the First Book of Samuel we are
told that on the return of Jahweh in his ark from the custody of the
Philistines some men of Bethshemesh looked into the ark. This made
Jahweh so angry that he smote the people, and slew more than fifty
thousand of them.


The Injustice of Jehovah

I have already instanced Jahweh's injustice in cursing the seed of Adam
for Adam's sin, and in destroying the whole animal creation, except a
selected few, because he was angry with mankind. In the Book of Samuel
we are told that Jahweh sent three years' famine upon the whole nation
because of the sins of Saul, and that his wrath was only appeased by the
hanging in cold blood of seven of Saul's sons for the evil committed by
their father.

In the Book of Joshua is the story of how Achan, having stolen some
gold, was ordered to be burnt; and how Joshua and the Israelites took
"Achan, and his sons, and his daughters, and his oxen, and his asses,
and his sheep, and his tent, and all that he had," and stoned them to
death, and "burnt them with fire."

In the First Book of Chronicles the devil persuades David to take a
census of Israel. And again Jahweh acted in blind wrath and injustice,
for he sent a pestilence, which slew seventy thousand of the people for
David's fault. _But David he allowed to live._ In Samuel we learn how
Jahweh, because of an attack upon the Israelites four hundred years
before the time of speaking, ordered Saul to destroy the Amalekites,
"man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass." And
Saul did as he was directed; but because he spared King Agag, the Lord
deprived him of the crown and made David king in his stead.


The Immorality Of Jehovah

In the Second Book of Chronicles Jehovah gets Ahab, King of Israel,
killed by putting lies into the mouths of the prophets:

     And the Lord said, Who shall entice Ahab, king of Israel, that
     he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?  And one spake, saying
     after this manner, and another saying after that manner.

     Then there came out a spirit, and stood before the Lord, and
     said, I will entice him.  And the Lord said unto him, Wherewith?

     And he said, I will go out, and be a lying spirit in the mouth
     of all his prophets.  And the Lord said, Thou shalt entice him,
     and thou shalt also prevail: go out, and do even so.

In Deuteronomy are the following orders as to conduct in war:

     When thou goest forth to war against thine enemies, and the
     Lord thy God hath delivered them into thine hands, and thou
     hast taken them captive.

     And seest among the captives a beautiful woman, and hast a
     desire unto her, that thou wouldest have her to thy wife;
     Then thou shalt bring her home to thine house; and she shall
     shave her head, and pare her nails;

     And she shall put the raiment of her captivity from off her,
     and shall remain in thine house, and bewail her father and her
     mother a full month: and after that thou shalt go in unto her,
     and be her husband, and she shall be thy wife.

     And it shall be, if thou have no delight in her, then thou shall
     let her go whither she will; but thou shalt not sell her at all
     for money, thou shalt not make merchandise of her, because thou
     hast humbled her.

The children of Israel, having been sent out by Jahweh to punish the
Midianites, "slew all the males." But Moses was wrath, because they had
spared the women, and he ordered them to kill all the married women, and
to take the single women "for themselves." The Lord allowed this
brutal act--which included the murder of all the male children--to be
consummated. There were sixteen thousand females spared, of which we are
told that "the Lord's tribute was thirty and two."


The Cruelty Of Jehovah

I could find in the Bible more instances of Jahweh's cruelty and
barbarity and lack of mercy than I can find room for.

In Deuteronomy, the Lord hardens the heart of Sihon, King of Hesbon, to
resist the Jews, and then "utterly destroyed the men, women, and little
ones of every city."

In Leviticus, Jahweh threatens that if the Israelites will not reform
he will "walk contrary to them in fury, _and they shall eat the flesh of
their own sons and daughters_."

In Deuteronomy is an account of how Bashan was utterly destroyed, men,
women, and children being slain.

In the same book occur the following passages:

     When the Lord thy God shall bring thee into the land whither
     thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before
     thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites,
     and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and
     the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou;

     And when the Lord thy God shall deliver them before thee;
     thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt
     make no covenant with them, or show mercy unto them.

That is from chapter vii. In chapter xx. there are further instructions
of a like horrible kind:

     Thus shalt thou do unto all the cities which are very far off
     from thee, which are not of the cities of these nations.

     But of the cities of these people, which the Lord thy God doth
     give thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing
     that breatheth:

     But thou shalt utterly destroy them; namely, the Hittites, and
     the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites,
     and the Jebusites, as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee.

And here, in a long quotation, is an example of the mercy of Jahweh, and
his faculty for cursing:

     The Lord shall make the pestilence cleave unto thee, until he
     have consumed thee from off the land, whither thou goest to
     possess it.

     The Lord shall smite thee with a consumption, and with a
     fever, and with an inflammation, and with an extreme burning,
     and with the sword, and with blasting, and with mildew; and
     they shall pursue thee until thou perish.

     And thy heaven that is over thy head shall be brass, and the
     earth that is under thee shall be iron.

     The Lord shall make the rain of thy land powder and dust:
     from heaven shall it come down upon thee, until thou be
     destroyed.

     The Lord shall cause thee to be smitten before thine enemies:
     thou shalt go out one way against them, and flee seven ways
     before them: and shalt be removed into all the kingdoms of
     the earth.

     And thy carcase shall be meat unto all fowls of the air, and
     unto the beasts of the earth, and no man shall fray them away.

     The Lord will smite thee with the botch of Egypt, and with
     the emerods, and with the scab, and with the itch, whereof thou
     canst not be healed.

     The Lord shall smite thee with madness, and blindness, and
     astonishment of heart:...

     And he shall besiege thee in all thy gates, until thy high
     and fenced walls come down, wherein thou trustedst, throughout
     all thy land: and he shall besiege thee in all thy gates
     throughout all thy land, which the Lord thy God hath given thee.

     And thou shalt eat the fruit of thine own body, the flesh of
     thy sons and of thy daughters, which the Lord thy God hath
     given thee, in the siege, and in the straightness wherewith
     thine enemies shall distress thee:

     So that the man that is tender among you, and very delicate,
     his eyes shall be evil toward his brother, and toward the wife
     of his bosom, and toward the remnant of his children which he
     shall leave....

     For a fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn into the
     lowest hell, and shall consume the earth with her increase,
     and set on fire the foundations of the mountains.

     I will heap mischiefs upon them; I will spend mine arrows
     upon them.

     They shall be burnt with hunger, and devoured with burning
     heat, and with bitter destruction: I will also send the teeth
     of beasts upon them, with the poison of serpents of the dust.

     The sword without, and terror within, shall destroy both the
     young man and the virgin, the suckling also with the man of
     grey hairs.

I think I have quoted enough to show that what I say of the Jewish God
Jehovah is based on fact. But I could, if needful, heap proof on proof,
for the books of the Old Testament reek with blood, and are horrible
with atrocities.

Now, consider, is the God of whom we have been reading a God of love?
Is He the Father of Christ? Is He not rather the savage idol of a savage
tribe?

Man and his gods: what a tragi-comedy it is. Man has never seen one of
his gods, never heard the voice of one of his gods, does not know the
shape, expression, or bearing of one of his gods. Yet man has cursed
man, hated man, hunted man, tortured man, and murdered man, for the sake
of shadows and fantasies of his own terror, or vanity, or desire. We
tiny, vain feeblenesses, we fussy ephemera; we sting each other, hate
each other, hiss at each other, for the sake of the monster gods of
our own delirium. As we are whirled upon our spinning, glowing planet
through the unfathomable spaces, where myriads of suns, like golden
bees, gleam through the awful mystery of "the vast void night," what
are the phantom gods to us? They are no more than the waterspouts on the
ocean, or the fleeting shadows on the hills. But the man, and the woman,
and the child, and the dog with its wistful eyes; these know us, touch
us, appeal to us, love us, serve us, grieve us.

Shall we kill these, or revile them, or desert them, for the sake of the
lurid ghost in the cloud, or the fetish in his box?

Do you think the bloodthirsty vindictive Jahweh, who prized nothing but
his own aggrandisement, and slew or cursed all who offended him, is
the Creator, the same who made the jewels of the Pleiades, and the
resplendent mystery of the Milky Way?

Is this unspeakable monster, Jahweh, the Father of Christ? Is he the God
who inspired Buddha, and Shakespeare, and Herschel, and Beethoven, and
Darwin, and Plato, and Bach? No; not he. But in warfare and massacre, in
rapine and in rape, in black revenge and deadly malice, in slavery, and
polygamy, and the debasement of women; and in the pomps, vanities,
and greeds of royalty, of clericalism, and of usury and barter--we
may easily discern the influence of his ferocious and abominable
personality. It is time to have done with this nightmare fetish of a
murderous tribe of savages. We have no use for him. We have no criminal
so ruthless nor so blood-guilty as he. He is not fit to touch our
cities, imperfect as we are. The thought of him defiles and nauseates.
We should think him too horrible and pitiless for a devil, this
red-handed, black-hearted Jehovah of the Jews.

And yet: in the inspired Book, in the Holy Bible, this awful creature
is still enshrined as "God the Father Almighty." It is marvellous. It
is beyond the comprehension of any man not blinded by superstition, not
warped by prejudice and old-time convention. _This_ the God of Heaven?
_This_ the Father of Christ? This the Creator of the Milky Way? No.
He will not do. He is not big enough. He is not good enough. He is not
clean enough. He is a spiritual nightmare: a bad dream born in savage
minds of terror and ignorance and a tigerish lust for blood.

But if He is not the Most High, if He is not the Heavenly Father, if
He is not the King of kings, the Bible is not an inspired book, and its
claims to divine revelation will not stand. THE HEROES OF THE BIBLE


Carlyle said we might judge a people by their heroes. The heroes of the
Bible, like the God of the Bible, are immoral savages. That is because
the Bible is a compilation from the literature of savage and immoral
tribes.

Had the Bible been the word of God we should have found in it a
lofty and a pure ideal of God. We should not have found in it open
approval--divine approval--of such unspeakable savages as Moses, David,
Solomon, Jacob, and Lot.

Let us consider the lives of a few of the Bible heroes. We will begin
with Moses.

We used to be taught in school that Moses was the meekest man the world
has known: and we used to marvel.

It is written in the second chapter of Exodus thus:

     And it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that
     he went out unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens:
     and he spied an Egyptian smiting an Hebrew, one of his brethren.

     And he looked this way and that way, and when he saw that
     there was no man, he slew the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand.

     And when he went out the second day, behold two men of the
     Hebrews strove together: and he said to him that did the
     wrong, Wherefore smitest thou thy fellow?  And he said, Who
     made thee a prince and a judge over us? intendest thou to kill
     me as thou killedst the Egyptian?  And Moses feared, and said,
     Surely this thing is known.

The meekest of men slays an Egyptian deliberately and in cold blood. It
may be pleaded that the Egyptian was doing wrong; but the remarks of the
Hebrew suggest that even the countrymen of Moses looked upon his act of
violence with disfavour.

But the meekness of Moses is further illustrated in the laws attributed
to him, in which the death penalty is almost as common as it was in
England in the Middle Ages.

Also, in the thirty-first chapter of Numbers we have the following
story. The Lord commands Moses to "avenge the children of Israel of the
Midianites," after which Moses is to die. Moses sends out an army:

     And they warred against the Midianites, as the Lord commanded
     Moses; and they slew all the males.

     And they slew the kings of Midian, besides the rest of them
     that were slain; namely Evi, and Rekem, and Zur, and Hur,
     and Reba, five kings of Midian: Balaam also the son of Beor
     they slew with the sword.

     And the children of Israel took all the women of Midian
     captives, and their little ones, and took the spoil of all
     their cattle, and all their flocks, and all their goods.

     And they burnt all their cities wherein they dwelt, and all
     their goodly castles, with fire.

     And they took all the spoil, and all the prey, both of men
     and of beasts....

     And Moses was wroth with the officers of the host, with the
     captains over thousands, and captains over hundreds, which
     came from the battle.

     And Moses said unto them, Have ye saved all the women alive?

     Behold, these called the children of Israel, through the counsel
     of Balaam, to commit trespass against the Lord in the matter of
     Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the Lord.

     Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill
     every woman that hath known man by lying with him.

     But all the women children that have not known a man by lying
     with him, keep alive for yourselves.

Moses is a patriarch of the Jews, and the meekest man. But suppose any
pagan or Mohammedan general were to behave to a Christian city as Moses
behaved to the people of Midian, what should we say of him? But God was
_pleased_ with him.

Further, in the sixteenth chapter of Numbers you will find how Moses the
Meek treated Korah, Dathan, and Abiram for rebelling against himself and
Aaron; how the earth opened and swallowed these men and their families
and friends, at a hint from Moses; and how the Lord slew with fire from
heaven two hundred and fifty men who were offering incense, and how
afterwards there came a pestilence by which some fourteen thousand
persons died.

Moses was a politician; his brother was a priest. I shall express no
opinion of the pair; but I quote from the Book of Exodus, as follows:

     And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out
     of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto
     Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go
     before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up
     out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.

     And Aaron said unto them, Break off the golden earrings,
     which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of
     your daughters, and bring them unto me.

     And all the people brake off the golden earrings which were
     in their ears, and brought them unto Aaron.

     And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a
     graving tool after he had made it a molten calf: and they said,
     These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the
     land of Egypt.

     And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it; and Aaron
     made proclamation, and said, To-morrow is a feast to the Lord.

     And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt offerings,
     and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and
     to drink, and rose up to play.

     And the Lord said unto Moses, Go, get thee down; for thy people
     which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted
     themselves.

Aaron, when asked by Moses why he has done this thing, tells a lie:

     And Moses said unto Aaron, What did this people unto thee, that
     thou hast brought so great a sin upon them?

     And Aaron said, Let not the anger of my lord wax hot; thou
     knowest the people, that they are set on mischief.

     For they said unto me, Make us gods, which shall go before us:
     for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the
     land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.

     And I said unto them, Whosoever hath any gold, let them break
     it off.  So they gave it to me: then I cast it into the fire,
     and there came out this calf.

     And when Moses saw that the people were naked; (for Aaron had
     made them naked unto their shame among their enemies:)

     Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on
     the Lord's side? let him come unto me.  And all the sons of
     Levi gathered themselves together unto him.

     And he said unto them, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Put
     every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate
     to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother,
     and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour.

     And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses;
     and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men.

So much for this meek father of the Jews.

And now let us consider David and his son Solomon, the greatest of the
Bible kings, and the ancestors of Jesus Christ.

Judging King David by the Bible record, I should conclude that he was a
cruel, treacherous, and licentious savage. He lived for some time as
a bandit, robbing the subjects of the King of Gath, who had given him
shelter. When asked about this by the king, David lied. As to the nature
of his conduct at this time, no room is left for doubt by the story of
Nabal. David demanded blackmail of Nabal, and, on its being refused, set
out with four hundred armed men to rob Nabal, and kill every male on his
estate. This he was prevented from doing by Nabal's wife, who came out
to meet David with fine presents and fine words. _Ten days later Nabal
died, and David married his widow._ See twenty-fifth chapter First Book
of Samuel.

David had seven wives, and many children. One of his favourite wives was
Bathsheba, the widow of Uriah.

While Uriah was at "the front," fighting for David, that king seduced
his wife, Bathsheba. To avoid discovery, David recalled Uriah from the
war, and bade him go home to his wife. Uriah said it would dishonour
him to seek ease and pleasure at home while other soldiers were enduring
hardship at the front. The king then made the soldier drunk, but even so
could not prevail.

Therefore David sent word to the general to place Uriah in the front of
the battle, where the fight was hardest. And Uriah was killed, and David
married Bathsheba, who became the mother of Solomon.

So much for David's honour. Now for a sample of his humanity. I quote
from the twelfth chapter of the Second Book of Samuel:

     And Joab sent messengers to David, and said, I have fought
     against Rabbah, and have taken the city of waters.

     Now therefore gather the rest of the people together, and
     encamp against the city, and take it: lest I take the city,
     and it be called after my name.

     And David gathered all the people together, and went to Rabbah,
     and fought against it, and took it.

     And he took their king's crown from off his head, the weight
     whereof was a talent of gold with the precious stones: and it
     was set on David's head.  And he brought forth the spoil of the
     city in great abundance.

     And he brought forth the people that were therein, and put them
     under saws, and under harrows of iron, and under axes of iron,
     and made them pass through the brick kiln: and thus did he unto
     all the cities of the children of Ammon.  So David and all the
     people returned unto Jerusalem.

But nothing in David's life became him so little as his leaving of it. I
quote from the second chapter of the First Book of Kings. David, on his
deathbed, is speaking to Solomon, his son:

     Moreover thou knowest also what Joab the son of Zeruiah did to me,
     and what he did to the two captains of the host of Israel, unto
     Abner the son of Ner, and unto Amasa the son of Jether, whom he
     slew, and shed the blood of war in peace, and put the blood of war
     upon his girdle that was about his loins, and in his shoes that
     were on his feet.

     Do therefore according to thy wisdom, and let not his hoar head
     go down to the grave in peace.

     But show kindness unto the sons of Barzillai, the Gileadite, and
     let them be of those that eat at thy table; for so they came to
     me when I fled because of Absalom thy brother.

     And, behold, thou hast with thee Shimei the son of Gera, a
     Benjamite of Bahurim, which cursed me with a grievous curse in
     the day when I went to Mahanaim: but he came down to meet me
     at Jordan, and I sware to him by the Lord, saying, I will not
     put thee to death with the sword.  Now therefore hold him not
     guiltless: for thou art a wise man, and knowest what thou oughtest
     to do unto him; but his hoar head bring thou down to the grave
     with blood.

These seem to have been the last words spoken by King David. Joab was
his best general, and had many times saved David's throne.

Solomon began by stealing the throne from his brother, the true heir.
Then he murders the brother he has robbed, and disgraces and exiles a
priest, who had been long a faithful friend to David, his father. Later
he murders Joab at the altar, and brings down the hoar head of Shimei to
the grave with blood.

After which he gets him much wisdom, builds a temple, and marries many
wives.

Much glamour has been cast upon the names of Solomon and David by their
alleged writings. But it is now acknowledged that David wrote few, if
any, of the Psalms, and that Solomon wrote neither Ecclesiastes nor the
Song of Songs, though some of the Proverbs may be his.

It seems strange to me that such men as Moses, David, and Solomon should
be glorified by Christian men and women who execrate Henry VIII. and
Richard III. as monsters.

My pet aversion amongst the Bible heroes is Jacob; but Abraham and Lot
were pitiful creatures.

Jacob cheated his brother out of the parental blessing, and lied about
God, and lied to his father to accomplish his end. He robbed his
brother of his birthright by trading on his necessity. He fled from his
brother's wrath, and went to his uncle Laban. Here he cheated his uncle
out of his cattle and his wealth, and at last came away with his two
cousins as his wives, one of whom had stolen her own father's gods.

Abraham was the father of Ishmael by the servant-maid Hagar. At his
wife's demand he allowed Hagar and Ishmael to be driven into the desert
to die. And here is another pretty story of Abraham. He and his family
are driven forth by a famine:

     And it came to pass, when he was come near to enter into Egypt,
     that he said unto Sarai, his wife, Behold now, I know that thou
     art a fair woman to look upon:

     Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see
     thee, that they shall say, This is his wife: and they will kill
     me, but they will save thee alive.

     Say, I pray thee, thou are my sister; that it may be well with
     me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee.

     And it came to pass, that, when Abram was come into Egypt the
     Egyptians beheld the woman that she was very fair.

     The princes also of Pharaoh saw her, and commended her before
     Pharaoh: and the woman was taken into Pharaoh's house.

     And he entreated Abram well for her sake: and he had sheep,
     and oxen, and he-asses, and menservants, and maidservants, and
     she-asses, and camels.

     And the Lord plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues
     because of Sarai, Abram's wife.

     And Pharaoh called Abram, and said, What is this that thou hast
     done unto me? why didst thou not tell me that she was thy wife?

     Why saidst thou, She is my sister? so I might have taken her
     to me to wife: now therefore behold thy wife, take her, and go
     thy way.

     And Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him: and they sent him
     away, and his wife, and all that he had.

But Abraham was so little ashamed of himself that he did the same thing
again, many years afterwards, and Abimelech King of Gerar, behaved to
him as nobly as did King Pharaoh on the former occasion.

The story of Lot is too disgusting to repeat. But what are we to think
of his offering his daughters to the mob, and of his subsequent conduct?

And what of Noah, who got drunk, and then cursed the whole of his sons'
descendants for ever, because Ham had seen him in his shame?

Joseph seems to me to have been anything but an admirable character,
and I do not see how his baseness in depriving the Egyptians of their
liberties and their land by a corner in wheat can be condoned. Jacob
robbed his brother of his birthright by trading on his hunger; Joseph
robbed a whole people in the same way.

Samson was a dissolute ruffian and murderer, who in these days would be
hanged as a brigand.

Reuben committed incest. Simeon and Levi were guilty of treachery and
massacre. Judah was guilty of immorality and hypocrisy.

Joshua was a Jewish general of the usual type. When he captured a city
he murdered every man, woman, and child within its walls. Here is one
example from the tenth chapter of the Book of Joshua:

     And Joshua returned, and all Israel with him, to Debir; and
     fought against it:

     And he took it, and the king thereof; and all the cities
     thereof; and they smote them with the edge of the sword,
     and utterly destroyed all the souls that were therein; he
     left none remaining: as he had done to Hebron, so he did
     to Debir, and to the king thereof; as he had done also to
     Libnah, and to her king.

     So Joshua smote all the country of the hills, and of the south,
     and of the vale, and of the springs, and all their kings: he
     left none remaining, but utterly destroyed all that breathed,
     as the Lord God of Israel commanded.

     And Joshua smote them from Kadesh-barnea even unto Gaza, and
     all the country of Goshen, even unto Gibeon.

Elijah the prophet was of the same uncompromising kind. After he had
mocked the god Baal, and had triumphed over him by miracle, he said to
the Israelites:

     "Take the prophets of Baal.  _Let not one of them escape._"
     And they took them, and Elijah brought them down to the brook
     Kishon, and slew them there.

Now, there were 450 of the priests of Baal, all of whom Elijah the
prophet had killed in cold blood.

And here is a story about Elisha, another great prophet of the Jews. I
quote from the second chapter of the Second Book of Kings.

     And he went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up
     by the way, there came forth little children out of the city,
     and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up,
     thou bald head.

     And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the
     name of the Lord.  And there came forth two she bears out of
     the wood, and tare forty and two children of them.

After this, Elisha assists King Jehoram and two other kings to waste and
slaughter the Moabites, who had refused to pay tribute. You may read the
horrible story for yourselves in the third chapter of the Second Book
of Kings. There was the usual massacre, but this time the trees were cut
down and the wells choked up.

Later, Elisha cures a man of leprosy, and refuses a reward. But his
servant runs after the man, and gets two talents of silver and some
garments under false pretences. When Elisha hears of this crime, he
strikes the servant with leprosy, _and all his seed for ever_.

Now, it is not necessary for me to harp upon the conduct of these men of
God: what I want to point out is that these cruel and ignorant savages
have been saddled upon the Christian religion as heroes and as models.

Even to-day the man who called David, or Moses, or Elisha by his proper
name in an average Christian household would be regarded as a wicked
blasphemer.

And yet, what would a Christian congregation say of an "Infidel" who
committed half the crimes and outrages of any one of those Bible heroes?

Do you know what the Christians call Tom Paine? To this day the
respectable Christian Church or chapel goer shudders at the name of the
"infidel," Tom Paine. But in point of honour, of virtue, of humanity,
and general good character, not one of the Bible heroes I have mentioned
was worthy to clean Tom Paine's shoes.

Now, it states in the Bible that God loved Jacob, and hated Esau. Esau
was a _man_, and against him the Bible does not chronicle one bad act.
But God _hated_ Esau.

And it states in the Bible that Elijah went up in a chariot of fire to
heaven.

And in the New Testament Christ or His apostles speak of Abraham, Isaac,
and Jacob as being in heaven. Paul speaks of David as a "man after God's
own heart"; Elijah and Moses come down from heaven, and appear talking
with Christ; and, in Hebrews, Paul praises Samuel, Jephtha, Samson, and
David.

My point is not that these heroes were bad men, but that, in a book
alleged to be the word of God, they are treated as heroes.

I have been accused of showing irreverence towards these barbarous
kings and priests. Irreverence! It is like charging a historian with
disrespect to the memory of Nero.

I have been accused of having an animus against Moses, and David, and
all the rest. I have no animus against any man, nor do I presume to
censure my fellow creatures. I only wish to show that these favourites
of God were not admirable characters, and that therefore the Bible
cannot be a divine revelation. As for animus: I do not believe any of
these men ever existed. I regard them as myths. Should one be angry with
a myth? I should as soon think of being angry with Bluebeard, or the
Giant that Jack slew.

But I should be astonished to hear that Bluebeard had been promoted to
the position of a holy patriarch, and a model of all the virtues for the
emulation of innocent children in a modern Sunday school. And I think it
is time the Church considered itself, and told the truth about Jehovah,
and Moses, and Joshua, and Samson.

If you fail to agree with me I can only accept your decision with
respectful astonishment.



THE BOOK OF BOOKS


Floods of sincere, but unmerited, adulation have been lavished on the
Hebrew Bible. The world has many books of higher moral and literary
value. It would be easy to compile, from the words of Heretics and
Infidels, a purer and more elevated moral guide than this "Book of
Books."

The ethical code of the Old Testament is no longer suitable as the rule
of life. The moral and intellectual advance of the human race has left
it behind.

The historical books of the Old Testament are largely pernicious, and
often obscene. These books describe, without disapproval, polygamy,
slavery, concubinage, lying and deceit, treachery, incest, murder, wars
of plunder, wars of conquest, massacre of prisoners of war, massacre of
women and of children, cruelty to animals; and such immoral, dishonest,
shameful, or dastardly deeds as those of Solomon, David, Abraham, Jacob,
and Lot.

The ethical code of the Old Testament does not teach the sacredness
of truth, does not teach religious tolerance, nor humanity, nor human
brotherhood, nor peace.

Its morality is crude. Much that is noblest in modern thought has no
place in the "Book of Books." For example, take these words of Herbert
Spencer's:

     Absolute morality is the regulation of conduct in such way
     that pain shall not be inflicted.

There is nothing so comprehensive, nothing so deep as that in the Bible.
That covers all the moralities of the Ten Commandments, and all the
Ethics of the Law and the Prophets, in one short sentence, and leaves a
handsome surplus over.

Note next this, from Kant:

     What are the aims which are at the same time duties?  They
     are the perfecting of ourselves, and the happiness of others.

I do not know a Bible sentence so purely moral as that. And in what part
of the Bible shall we find a parallel to the following sentence, from an
Agnostic newspaper:

     Freedom of thought, freedom of speech, freedom of action are
     helps to the children of men in their search for wisdom.

Tom Paine left Moses and Isaiah centuries behind when he wrote:

     The world is my country: to do good my religion.

Robert Ingersoll, another "Infidel," surpassed Solomon when he said:

     The object of life is to be happy, the place to be happy is
     here, the time to be happy is now, the way to be happy is by
     making others happy.

Which simple sentence contains more wisdom than all the pessimism of
the King of kings. And again, Ingersoll went beyond the sociological
conception of the Prophets when he wrote:

     And let us do away for ever with the idea that the care of the
     sick, of the helpless, is a charity.  It is not a charity: it
     is a duty.  It is something to be done for our own sakes.  It
     is no more a charity than it is to pave or light the streets,
     no more a charity than it is to have a system of sewers.  It
     is all for the purpose of protecting society, and civilising
     ourselves.

I will now put together a few sayings of Pagans and Unbelievers as an
example of non-biblical morality:

     Truth is the pole-star of morality, by it alone can we steer.
     Can there be a more horrible object in existence than an eloquent
     man not speaking the truth?  Abhor dissimulation.  To know the
     truth and fear to speak it: that is cowardice.  One thing here
     is worth a good deal, to pass thy life in truth and justice,
     with a benevolent disposition, even to liars and unjust men.

     He who acts unjustly acts unjustly to himself, for he makes
     himself bad.  The practice of religion involves as a first
     principle a loving compassionate heart for all creatures.
     Religion means self-sacrifice.  A loving heart is the great
     requirement: not to oppress, not to destroy, not to exalt
     oneself by treading down others; but to comfort and befriend
     those in suffering.  Like as a mother at the risk of her life
     watches over her only child, so also let every one cultivate
     towards all beings a bounteous friendly mind.

     Man's great business is to improve his mind.  What is it to
     you whether another is guilty or guiltless?  Come, friend,
     atone for your own guilt.

     Virtue consists in contempt for death.  Why should we cling
     to this perishable body?  In the eye of the wise the only
     thing it is good for is to benefit one's fellow creatures.

     Treat others as you wish them to treat you.  Do not return
     evil for evil.  Our deeds, whether good or evil, follow us
     like shadows.

     Never will man attain full moral stature until woman is free.
     Cherish and reverence little children.  Let the slave cease,
     and the master of slaves cease.

     To conquer your enemy by force increases his resentment.
     Conquer him by love and you will have no after-grief.
     Victory breeds hatred.

     I look for no recompense--not even to be born in heaven--
     but seek the benefit of men, to bring back those who have
     gone astray, to enlighten those living in dismal error, to
     put away all sources of sorrow and pain in the world.

     I cannot have pleasure while another grieves and I have
     power to help him.

Those who regard the Bible as the "Book of Books," and believe it to be
invaluable and indispensable to the world, must have allowed their early
associations or religious sentiment to mislead them.

Carlyle is more moral than Jeremiah, Ruskin is superior to Isaiah;
Ingersoll, the Atheist, is a nobler moralist and a better man than
Moses; Plato and Marcus Aurelius are wiser than Solomon; Sir Thomas
More, Herbert Spencer, Thoreau, Matthew Arnold, and Emerson are worth
more to us than all the Prophets.

I hold a high opinion of the literary quality of some parts of the Old
Testament; but I seriously think that the loss of the first fourteen
books would be a distinct gain to the world. For the rest, there is
considerable literary and some ethical value in Job (which is not
Jewish), in Ecclesiastes (which is Pagan), in the Song of Solomon (which
is an erotic love song), and in parts of Isaiah, Proverbs, Jeremiah,
Ezekiel, and Amos. But I don't think any of these books equal to Henry
George's _Progress and Poverty_, or William Morris' _News from Nowhere_.
Of course, I am not blaming Moses and the Prophets: they could only tell
us what they knew.

The Ten Commandments have been effusively praised. There is nothing
in those Commandments to restrain the sweater, the rack-renter, the
jerry-builder, the slum landlord, the usurer, the liar, the libertine,
the gambler, the drunkard, the wife-beater, the slave-owner, the
religious persecutor, the maker of wheat and cotton rings, the
fox-hunter, the bird-slayer, the ill-user of horses and dogs and cattle.
There is nothing about "cultivating towards all beings a bounteous
friendly mind," nothing about liberty of speech and conscience, nothing
about the wrong of causing pain, nor the virtue of causing happiness;
nothing against anger or revenge, nor in favour of mercy and
forgiveness. Of the Ten Commandments, seven are designed as defences
of the possessions and prerogatives of God and the property-owner. As a
moral code the Commandments amount to very little.

Moreover, the Bible teaches erroneous theories of history, theology, and
science.

It relates childish stories of impossible miracles as facts.

It presents a low idea of God.

It gives an erroneous account of the relations between God and man.

It fosters international hatred.

It fosters religious pride and fanaticism.

Its penal code is horrible.

Its texts have been used for nearly two thousand years in defence of
war, slavery, religious persecution, and the slaughter of "witches" and
of "sorcerers."

In a hundred wars the Christian soldiery have perpetrated massacre and
outrage with the blood-bolstered phrases of the Bible on their lips.

In a thousand trials the cruel witness of Moses has sent innocent women
to a painful death.

And always when an apology or a defence of the barbarities of human
slavery was needed it was sought for and found in the Holy Bible.

Renan says:

     In all ancient Christian literature there is not one word that
     tells the slave to revolt, or that tells the master to liberate
     the slave, or even that touches the problem of public right
     which arises out of slavery.

Mr. Remsburg, in his book, _The Bible_, shows that in America slavery
was defended by the churches on the authority of the sacred Scriptures.
He says:

     The Fugitive Slave law, which made us a nation of kidnappers,
     derived its authority from the New Testament.  Paul had
     established a precedent by returning a fugitive slave to
     his master.

Mr. Remsburg quotes freely from the sermons and speeches of Christian
ministers to show the influence of the Bible in upholding slavery. Here
are some of his many examples:

     The Rev. Alexander Campbell wrote: "There is not one verse in
     the Bible inhibiting slavery, but many regulating it.  It is
     not, then, we conclude, immoral."

     Said the Rev. Mr. Crawder, Methodist, of Virginia: "Slavery is
     not only countenanced, permitted, and regulated by the Bible,
     but it was positively instituted by God Himself."

I shall quote no more on the subject of slavery. That inhuman
institution was defended by the churches, and the appeal of the churches
was to the Bible.

As to witchcraft, the Rev. T. Rhondda Williams says that in one century
a hundred thousand women were killed for witchcraft in Germany. Mr.
Remsburg offers still more terrible evidence. He says:

     One thousand were burned at Como in one year; eight hundred
     were burned at Wurzburg in one year; five hundred perished
     at Geneva in three months; eighty were burned in a single
     village of Savoy; nine women were burned in a single fire
     at Leith; sixty were hanged in Suffolk; three thousand were
     legally executed during one session of Parliament, while
     thousands more were put to death by mobs; Remy, a Christian
     judge, executed eight hundred; six hundred were burned by
     one bishop at Bamburg; Bogult burned six hundred at St. Cloud;
     thousands were put to death by the Lutherans of Norway and
     Sweden; Catholic Spain butchered thousands; Presbyterians
     were responsible for the death of four thousand in Scotland;
     fifty thousand were sentenced to death during the reign of
     Francis I.; seven thousand died at Treves; the number killed
     in Paris in a few months is declared to have been "almost
     infinite."  Dr. Sprenger places the total number of executions
     for witchcraft in Europe at _nine millions_.  For centuries
     witch fires burned in nearly every town of Europe, and this
     Bible text, "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live," was the
     torch that kindled them.

Count up the terrible losses in the many religious wars of the world,
add in the massacres, the martyrdoms, the tortures for religion's
sake; put to the sum the long tale of witchcraft murders; remember what
slavery has been; and then ask yourselves whether the Book of Books
deserves all the eulogy that has been laid upon it.

I believe that to-day all manner of evil passions are fostered, and
all the finer motions of the human spirit are retarded, by the habit of
reading those savage old books of the Jews as the word of God.

I do not think the Bible, in its present form, is a fit book to place
in the hands of children, and it certainly is not a fit book to send out
for the "salvation" of savage and ignorant people.



OUR HEAVENLY FATHER


The Rev. T. Rhondda Williams, in _Shall We Understand the Bible?_ shows
very clearly the gradual evolution of the idea of God amongst the Jews
from a lower to a higher conception.

Having dealt with the lower conception, let us now consider the higher.

The highest conception of God is supposed to be the Christian conception
of God as a Heavenly Father. This conception credits the Supreme Being
with supernal tenderness and mercy--"God is Love." That is a very
lofty, poetical, and gratifying conception, but it is open to one fatal
objection--it is not true.

For this Heavenly Father, whose nature is Love, is also the All-knowing
and All-powerful Creator of the world.

Being All-powerful and All-knowing, He has power, and had always power,
to create any kind of world He chose. Being a God of Love, He would not
choose to create a world in which hate and pain should have a place.

But there is evil in the world. There has been always evil in the world.
Why did a good and loving God allow evil to enter the world? Being
All-Powerful and All-knowing, He could have excluded evil. Being good,
He would hate evil. Being a God of Love He would wish to exclude evil.
Why, then, did He permit evil to enter?

The world is full of sorrow, of pain, of hatred and crime, and strife
and war. All life is a perpetual deadly struggle for existence. The law
of nature is the law of prey.

If God is a tender, loving, All-knowing, and All-powerful Heavenly
Father, why did He build a world on cruel lines? Why does He permit evil
and pain to continue? Why does He not give the world peace, and health,
and happiness, and virtue?

In the New Testament Christ compares God, as Heavenly Father to Man, to
an earthly father, representing God as more benevolent and tender: "How
much more your Father which is in heaven?"

We may, then, on the authority of the Founder of Christianity, compare
the Christian Heavenly Father with the human father. And in doing so
we shall find that Christ was not justified in claiming that God is a
better father to Man than Man is to his own children. We shall find that
the poetical and pleasing theory of a Heavenly Father, and God of Love
is a delusion.

"Who among you, if his child asks bread, will give him a stone?" None
amongst us. But in the great famines, as in India and Russia, God allows
millions to die of starvation. These His children pray to Him for bread.
He leaves them to die. Is it not so?

God made the sunshine, sweet children, gracious women; green hills, blue
seas; music, laughter, love, humour; the palm tree, the hawthorn buds,
the "sweet-briar wind"; the nightingale and the rose.

But God made the earthquake, the volcano, the cyclone; the shark,
the viper, the tiger, the octopus, the poison berry; and the deadly
loathsome germs of cholera, consumption, typhoid, smallpox, and the
black death. God has permitted famine, pestilence, and war. He has
permitted martyrdom, witch-burning, slavery, massacre, torture, and
human sacrifice. He has for millions of years looked down upon the
ignorance, the misery, the crimes of men. He has been at once the
author and the audience of the pitiful, unspeakable, long-drawn and
far-stretched tragedy of earthly life. Is it not so?

For thousands of years--perhaps for millions of years--the generations
of men prayed to God for help, for comfort, for guidance. God was deaf,
and dumb, and blind.

Men of science strove to read the riddle of life; to guide and to
succour their fellow creatures. The priests and followers of God
persecuted and slew these men of science. God made no sign. Is it not
so?

To-day men of science are trying to conquer the horrors of cancer and
smallpox, and rabies and consumption. But not from Burning Bush nor Holy
Hill, nor by the mouth of priest or prophet does our Heavenly Father
utter a word of counsel or encouragement.

Millions of innocent dumb animals have been subjected to the horrible
tortures of vivisection in the frantic endeavours of men to find a
way of escape from the fell destroyers of the human race; and God has
allowed the piteous brutes to suffer anguish, when He could have saved
them by revealing to Man the secret for which he so cruelly sought. Is
it not so?

"Nature is red in beak and claw." On land and in sea the animal creation
chase and maim, and slay and devour each other. The beautiful swallow on
the wing devours the equally beautiful gnat. The graceful flying-fish,
like a fair white bird, goes glancing above the blue magnificence of
the tropical seas. His flight is one of terror; he is pursued by the
ravenous dolphin. The ichneumon-fly lays its eggs under the skin of the
caterpillar. The eggs are hatched by the warmth of the caterpillar's
blood. They produce a brood of larvae which devour the caterpillar
alive. A pretty child dances on the village green. Her feet crush
creeping things: there is a busy ant or blazoned beetle, with its back
broken, writhing in the dust, unseen. A germ flies from a stagnant
pool, and the laughing child, its mother's darling, dies dreadfully
of diphtheria. A tidal wave rolls landward, and twenty thousand human
beings are drowned, or crushed to death. A volcano bursts suddenly into
eruption, and a beautiful city is a heap of ruins, and its inhabitants
are charred or mangled corpses. And the Heavenly Father, who is Love,
has power to save, and makes no sign. Is it not so?

Blindness, epilepsy, leprosy, madness, fall like a dreadful blight
upon a myriad of God's children, and the Heavenly Father gives neither
guidance nor consolation. Only man helps man. Only man pities; only man
_tries_ to save.

Millions of harmless women have been burned as witches. God, our
Heavenly Father, has power to save them. He allows them to suffer and
die.

God knew that those women were being tortured and burnt on a false
charge. He knew that the infamous murders were in His name. He knew
that the whole fabric of crime was due to the human reading of His
"revelation" to man. He could have saved the women; He could have
enlightened their persecutors; He could have blown away the terror, the
cruelty, and the ignorance of His priests and worshippers with a breath.

And He was silent. He allowed the armies of poor women to be tortured
and murdered in His name. Is it not so?

Will you, then, compare the Heavenly Father with a father among men? Is
there any earthly father who would allow his children to suffer as God
allows Man to suffer? If a man had knowledge and power to prevent or
to abolish war and ignorance and hunger and disease; if a man had the
knowledge and the power to abolish human error and human suffering and
human wrong and did not do it, we should call him an inhuman monster, a
cruel fiend. Is it not so?

But God has knowledge and power, and we are asked to regard Him as a
Heavenly Father, and a God of infinite wisdom, and infinite mercy, and
infinite love.

The Christians used to tell us, and some still tell us, that this
Heavenly Father of infinite love and mercy would doom the creatures He
had made to Hell--for their _sins_. That, having created us imperfect,
He would punish our imperfections with everlasting torture in a lake
of everlasting fire. They used to tell us that this good God allowed a
Devil to come on earth and tempt man to his ruin. They used to say this
Devil would win more souls than Christ could win: that there should be
"more goats than sheep."

To escape from these horrible theories, the Christians (some of them)
have thrown over the doctrines of Hell and the Devil.

But without a Devil how can we maintain a belief in a God of love and
kindness? With a good God, and a bad God (or Devil), one might get
along; for then the good might be ascribed to God, and the evil to the
Devil. And that is what the old Persians did in their doctrine of Ormuzd
and Ahrimann. But with no Devil the belief in a merciful and loving
Heavenly Father becomes impossible.

If God blesses, who curses? If God saves, who damns? If God helps, who
harms?

This belief in a "Heavenly Father," like the belief in the perfection of
the Bible, drives its votaries into weird and wonderful positions. For
example, a Christian wrote to me about an animal called the aye-aye. He
said:

     There is a little animal called an aye-aye.  This animal has
     two hands.  Each hand has five fingers.  The peculiar thing
     about these hands is that the middle finger is elongated a great
     deal--it is about twice as long as the others.  This is to enable
     it to scoop a special sort of insect out of special cracks in
     the special trees it frequents.  Now, how did the finger begin
     to elongate?  A little lengthening would be absolutely no good,
     as the cracks in the trees are 2 inches or 3 inches deep.  It
     must have varied from the ordinary length to one twice as long
     at once.  There is no other way.  Where does natural selection
     come in?  In this, as in scores of other instances, it shows
     the infinite goodness of God.

Now, how does the creation of this long finger show the "infinite
goodness of God"? The infinite goodness of God to whom? To the animal
whose special finger enables him to catch the insect? Then what about
the insect? Where does he come in? Does not the long finger of the
animal show the infinite badness of God to the insect?

What of the infinite goodness of God in teaching the cholera microbe to
feed on man? What of the infinite goodness of God in teaching the grub
of the ichneumon-fly to eat up the cabbage caterpillar alive?

I see no infinite goodness here, but only the infinite foolishness of
sentimental superstition.

If a man fell into the sea, and saw a shark coming, I cannot fancy him
praising the infinite goodness of God in giving the shark so large a
mouth. The greyhound's speed is a great boon to the greyhound; but it is
no boon to the hare.

But this theory of a merciful, and loving Heavenly Father is vital to
the Christian religion.

Destroy the idea of the Heavenly Father, who is Love, and Christianity
is a heap of ruins. For there is no longer a benevolent God to build our
hopes upon; and Jesus Christ, whose glory is a newer revelation of God,
has not revealed Him truly, as He is, but only as Man fain would believe
Him to be.

And I claim that this Heavenly Father is a myth: that in face of a
knowledge of life and the world we cannot reasonably believe in Him.

There is no Heavenly Father watching tenderly over us, His children. He
is the baseless shadow of a wistful human dream.



PRAYER AND PRAISE


As to prayer and praise.

Christians believe that God is just, that He is all-wise and
all-knowing.

If God is just, will He not do justice without being entreated of men?

If God is all wise, and knows all that happens, will He not know what is
for man's good better than man can tell Him?

If He knows better than Man knows what is best for man, and if He is a
just God and a loving Father, will He not do right without any advice or
reminder from Man?

If He is a just God, will He give us less than justice unless we pray to
Him; or will He give us more than justice because we importune Him?

To ask God for His love, or for His grace, or for any worldly benefit
seems to me unreasonable.

If God knows we need His grace, or if He knows we need some help or
benefit, He will give it to us if we deserve it. If we do not deserve
it, or do not need what we ask for, it would not be just nor wise of Him
to grant our prayer.

To pray to God is to insult Him. What would a man think if his children
knelt and begged for his love or for their daily bread? He would think
his children showed a very low conception of their father's sense of
duty and affection.

Then Christians think God answers prayer. How can they think that?

In the many massacres, and famines, and pestilences has God answered
prayer? As we learn more and more of the laws of Nature we put less and
less reliance on the effect of prayer.

When fever broke out, men used to run to the priest: now they run to
the doctor. In old times when plague struck a city, the priests marched
through the streets bearing the Host, and the people knelt to pray;
now the authorities serve out soap and medicine and look sharply to the
drains.

And yet there still remains a superstitious belief in prayer, and most
surprising are some of its manifestations.

For instance, I went recently to see Wilson Barrett in _The Silver
King_. Wilfred Denver, a drunken gambler, follows a rival to kill him.
He does not kill him, but he thinks he has killed him. He flies from
justice.

Now this man Denver leaves London by a fast train for Liverpool. Between
London and Rugby he jumps out of the train, and, after limping many
miles, goes to an inn, orders dinner and a private room, and asks for
the evening paper.

While he waits for the paper he kneels down and prays to God, for the
sake of wife and children, to allow him to escape.

And, directly after, in comes a girl with a paper, and Denver reads
how the train he rode in caught fire, and how all the passengers in the
first three coaches were burnt to cinders.

Down goes Denver on his knees, _and thanks God for listening to his
prayer_.

And not a soul in the audience laughed. God, to allow a murderer to
escape from the law, has burnt to death a lot of innocent passengers,
and Wilfred Denver is piously grateful. And nobody laughed!

But Christians tell us they _know_ that prayer is efficacious. And to
them it may be so in some measure. Perhaps, if a man pray for strength
to resist temptation, or for guidance in time of perplexity, and if he
have _faith_, his prayer shall avail him something.

Why? Not because God will hear, or answer, but for two natural reasons.

First, the act of prayer is emotional, and so calms the man who prays,
for much of his excitement is worked off. It is so when a sick man
groans: it eases his pain. It is so when a woman weeps: it relieves her
overcharged heart.

Secondly, the act of prayer gives courage or confidence, in proportion
to the faith of him that prays. If a man has to cross a deep ravine by
a narrow plank, and if his heart fail him, and he prays for God's
help, believing that he will get it, he will walk his plank with more
confidence. If he prays for help against a temptation, he is really
appealing to his own better nature; he is rousing up his dormant faculty
of resistance and desire for righteousness, and so rises from his knees
in a sweeter and calmer frame of mind.

For myself, I never pray, and never feel the need of prayer. And though
I admit, as above, that it may have some present advantage, yet I
am inclined to think that it is bought too dearly at the price of a
decrease in our self-reliance. I do not think it is good for a man to be
always asking for help, for benefits, or for pardon. It seems to me that
such a habit must tend to weaken character.

"He prayeth best who loveth best all things both great and small." It
is better to work for the general good, to help our weak or friendless
fellow-creatures, than to pray for our own grace, or benefit, or pardon.
Work is nobler than prayer, and far more dignified.

And as to praise, I cannot imagine the Creator of the Universe wanting
men's praise. Does a wise man prize the praise of fools? Does a strong
man value the praise of the weak? Does any man of wisdom and power care
for the applause of his inferiors? We make God into a puny man, a man
full of vanity and "love of approbation," when we confer on Him the
impertinence of our prayers and our adoration.

While there is so much grief and misery and unmerited and avoidable
suffering in the world, it is pitiful to see the Christian millions
squander such a wealth of time and energy and money on praise and
prayer.

If you were a human father, would you rather your children praised you
and neglected each other, or that brother should stand by brother and
sister cherish sister? Then "how much more your Father which is in
Heaven?"

Twelve millions of our British people on the brink of starvation! In
Christian England hundreds of thousands of thieves, knaves, idlers,
drunkards, cowards, and harlots; and fortunes spent on churches and the
praise of God.

If the Bible had not habituated us to the idea of a barbarous God who
was always ravenous for praise and sacrifice, we could not tolerate the
mockery of "Divine Service" by well-fed and respectable Christians in
the midst of untaught ignorance, unchecked roguery, unbridled vice,
and the degradation and defilement and ruin of weak women and little
children. Seven thousand pounds to repair a chapel to the praise and
glory of God, and under its very walls you may buy a woman's soul for a
few pieces of silver.

I cannot imagine a God who would countenance such a religion. I cannot
understand why Christians are not ashamed of it. To me the national
affectation of piety and holiness resembles a white shirt put on over a
dirty skin.



THE NEW TESTAMENT THE RESURRECTION

VALUE OF THE EVIDENCE IN LAW


Christianity as a religion must, I am told, stand or fall with the
claims that Christ was divine, and that He rose from the dead and
ascended into Heaven. Archdeacon Wilson, in a sermon at Rochdale,
described the divinity and Resurrection of Christ as "the central
doctrines of Christianity." The question we have to consider here is the
question of whether these central doctrines are true.

Christians are fond of saying that the Resurrection is one of the best
attested facts in history. I hold that the evidence for the Resurrection
would not be listened to in a court of law, and is quite inadmissible in
a court of cool and impartial reason.

First of all, then, what is the fact which this evidence is supposed to
prove? The fact alleged is a most marvellous miracle, and one upon which
a religion professed by some hundreds of millions of human beings is
founded. The fact alleged is that nearly two thousand years ago God came
into the world as a man, that He was known as Jesus of Nazareth, that He
was crucified, died upon the cross, was laid in a tomb, and on the third
day came to life again, left His tomb, and subsequently ascended into
Heaven.

The fact alleged, then, is miraculous and important, and the evidence in
proof of such a fact should be overwhelmingly strong.

We should demand stronger evidence in support of a thing alleged to have
happened a thousand years ago than we should demand in support of a fact
alleged to have happened yesterday.

The Resurrection is alleged to have happened eighteen centuries ago.

We should demand stronger evidence in support of an alleged fact which
was outside human experience than we should demand in support of a fact
common to human experience.

The incarnation of a God in human form, the resurrection of a man or a
God from the dead, are facts outside human experience.

We should demand stronger evidence in support of an alleged fact when
the establishment of that fact was of great importance to millions of
men and women, than we should demand when the truth or falsity of the
alleged fact mattered very little to anybody.

The alleged fact of the Resurrection is of immense importance to
hundreds of millions of people.

We should demand stronger evidence in support of an alleged fact when
many persons were known to have strong political, sentimental, or
mercenary motives for proving the fact alleged, than we should demand
when no serious interest would be affected by a decision for or against
the fact alleged.

There are millions of men and women known to have strong
motives--sentimental, political, or mercenary--for proving the verity of
the Resurrection.

On all these counts we are justified in demanding the strongest of
evidence for the alleged fact of Christ's resurrection from the dead.

The more abnormal or unusual the occurrence, the weightier should be the
evidence of its truth.

If a man told a mixed company that Captain Webb swam the English
Channel, he would have a good chance of belief.

The incident happened but a few years ago; it was reported in all the
newspapers of the day. It is not in itself an impossible thing for a man
to do.

But if the same man told the same audience that five hundred years ago
an Irish sailor had swum from Holyhead to New York, his statement would
be received with less confidence.

Because five centuries is a long time, there is no credible record of
the feat, and we _cannot believe_ any man capable of swimming about four
thousand miles.

Let us look once more at the statement made by the believers in the
Resurrection.

We are asked to believe that the all-powerful eternal God, the God
who created twenty millions of suns, came down to earth, was born of a
woman, was crucified, was dead, was laid in a tomb for three days, and
then came to life again, and ascended into Heaven.

What is the nature of the evidence produced in support of this
tremendous miracle?

Is there any man or woman alive who has seen God? No. Is there any man
or woman alive who has seen Christ? No.

There is no human being alive who can say that God exists or that Christ
exists. The most they can say is that they _believe_ that God and Christ
exist.

No historian claims that any God has been seen on earth for nearly
nineteen centuries.

The Christians deny the assertions of all other religions as to divine
visits; and all the other religions deny their assertions about God and
Christ.

There is no reason why God should have come down to earth, to be born
of a woman, and die on the cross. He could have convinced and won over
mankind without any such act. He has _not_ convinced or won over mankind
by that act. Not one-third of mankind are professing Christians to-day,
and of those not one in ten is a true Christian and a true believer.

The Resurrection, therefore, seems to have been unreasonable,
unnecessary, and futile. It is also contrary to science and to human
experience.

What is the nature of the evidence?

The common idea of the man in the street is the idea that the Gospels
were written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; that Matthew, Mark,
Luke, and John were contemporaries of Christ; and that the Gospels were
written and circulated during the lives of the authors.

There is no evidence to support these beliefs. There is no evidence,
outside the New Testament, that any of the Apostles ever existed. We
know nothing about Paul, Peter, John, Mark, Luke, or Matthew, except
what is told in the New Testament.

Outside the Testament there is not a word of historical evidence of
the divinity of Christ, of the Virgin Birth, of the Resurrection or
Ascension.

Therefore it is obvious that, before we can be expected to believe the
tremendous story of the Resurrection, we must be shown overwhelming
evidence of the authenticity of the Scriptures.

Before you can prove your miracle you have to prove your book.

Suppose the case to come before a judge. Let us try to imagine what
would happen:

COUNSEL: M'lud, may it please your ludship. It is stated by Paul of
Tarsus that he and others worked miracles--

THE JUDGE: Do you intend to call Paul of Tarsus?

COUNSEL: No, m'lud. He is dead.

JUDGE: Did he make a proper sworn deposition?

COUNSEL: No, m'lud. But some of his letters are extant, and I propose to
put them in.

JUDGE: Are these letters affidavits? Are they witnessed and attested?

COUNSEL: No, m'lud.

JUDGE: Are they signed?

COUNSEL: No, m'lud.

JUDGE: Are they in the handwriting of this Paul of Tarsus?

COUNSEL: No, m'lud. They are copies; the originals are lost.

JUDGE: Who was Paul of Tarsus?

COUNSEL: M'lud, he was the apostle to the Gentiles.

JUDGE: You intend to call some of these Gentiles?

COUNSEL: No, m'lud. There are none living.

JUDGE: But you don't mean to, say--how long has this shadowy witness,
Paul of Tarsus, been dead?

COUNSEL: Not two thousand years, m'lud.

JUDGE: Thousand years dead? Can you bring evidence to prove that he was
ever alive?

COUNSEL: Circumstantial, m'lud.

JUDGE: I cannot allow you to read the alleged statements of a
hypothetical witness who is acknowledged to have been dead for nearly
two thousand years. I cannot admit the alleged letters of Paul as
evidence.

COUNSEL: I shall show that the act of resurrection was witnessed by one
Mary Magdalene, by a Roman soldier--

JUDGE: What is the soldier's name?

COUNSEL: I don't know, m'lud.

JUDGE: Call him.

COUNSEL: He is dead, m'lud.

JUDGE: Deposition?

COUNSEL: No, m'lud.

JUDGE: Strike out his evidence. Call Mary Magdalene.

COUNSEL: She is dead, m'lud. But I shall show that she told the
disciples--

JUDGE: What she told the disciples is not evidence.

COUNSEL: Well, m'lud, I shall give the statements of Matthew, Mark,
Luke, and John. Matthew states very plainly that--

JUDGE: Of course, you intend to call Matthew?

COUNSEL: No, m'lud. He is--he is dead.

JUDGE: It seems to me, that to prove this resurrection you will have to
perform a great many more. Are Mark and John dead, also?

COUNSEL: Yes, m'lud.

JUDGE: Who were they?

COUNSEL: I--I don't know, m'lud.

JUDGE: These statements of theirs, to which you allude: are they in
their own handwriting?

COUNSEL: May it please your ludship, they did not write them. The
statements are not given as their own statements, but only as statements
"according to them." The statements are really copies of translations
of copies of translations of statements supposed to be based upon what
someone told Matthew, and--

JUDGE: Who copied and translated, and re-copied and re-translated, this
hearsay evidence?

COUNSEL: I do not know, m'lud.

JUDGE: Were the copies seen and revised by the authors? Did they correct
the proofs?

COUNSEL: I don't know, m'lud.

JUDGE: Don't know? Why?

COUNSEL: There is no evidence that the documents had ever been heard of
until long after the authors were dead.

JUDGE: I never heard of such a case. I cannot allow you to quote these
papers. They are not evidence. Have you _any_ witnesses?

COUNSEL: No, m'lud.


That fancy dialogue about expresses the legal value of the evidence for
this important miracle.

But, legal value not being the only value, let us now consider the
evidence as mere laymen.



THE GOSPEL WITNESSES


As men of the world, with some experience in sifting and weighing
evidence, what can we say about the evidence for the Resurrection?

In the first place, there is no acceptable evidence outside the New
Testament, and the New Testament is the authority of the Christian
Church.

In the second place, there is nothing to show that the Gospels were
written by eye-witnesses of the alleged fact.

In the third place, the Apostle Paul was not an eye-witness of the
alleged fact.

In the fourth place, although there is some evidence that some Gospels
were known in the first century, there is no evidence that the Gospels
as we know them were then in existence.

In the fifth place, even supposing that the existing Gospels and the
Epistles of Paul were originally composed by men who knew Christ, and
that these men were entirely honest and capable witnesses, there is no
certainty that what they wrote has come down to us unaltered.

The only serious evidence of the Resurrection being in the books of the
New Testament, we are bound to scrutinise those books closely, as on
their testimony the case for Christianity entirely depends.

Who, then, are the witnesses? They are the authors of the Gospels, the
Acts, and the Epistles of Peter and of Paul.

Who were these authors? Matthew and John are "supposed" to have been
disciples of Christ; but were they? I should say Matthew certainly
was not contemporary with Jesus, for in the last chapter of the Gospel
according to Matthew we read as follows:

     Now while they were going behold some of the guard came into
     the city, and told unto the chief priests all the things that
     were come to pass.  And when they were assembled with the elders,
     and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers,
     saying, Say yet his disciples came by night and stole him away
     while we slept.  And if this come to the governor's ears, we
     will persuade him, and rid you of care.  So they took the money,
     and did as they were taught: and this saying was spread abroad
     among the Jews, and continueth until this day.

Matthew tells us that the saying "continueth until this day." Which day?
The day on which Matthew is writing or speaking. Now, a man does not say
of a report or belief that it "continueth until this day" unless that
report or belief originated a long time ago, and the use of such a
phrase suggests that Matthew told or repeated the story after a lapse of
many years.

That apart, there is no genuine historical evidence, outside the New
Testament, that such men as Paul, Peter, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John
ever existed.

Neither can it be claimed that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John actually
wrote the Gospels which bear their names. These Gospels are called
the Gospel "according to Matthew," the Gospel "according to Mark," the
Gospel "according to Luke," and the Gospel "according to John." They
were, then, Gospels condensed, paraphrased, or copied from some older
Gospels, or they were Gospels taken down from dictation, or composed
from the verbal statements of the men to whom they were attributed.

Thus it appears that the Gospels are merely reports or copies of some
verbal or written statements made by four men of whom there is no
historic record whatever. How are we to know that these men ever lived?
How are we to know that they were correctly reported, if they ever spoke
or wrote? How can we rely upon such evidence after nineteen hundred
years, and upon a statement of facts so important and so marvellous?

The same objection applies to the evidence of Peter and of Paul. Many
critics and scholars deny the existence of Peter and Paul. There is no
trustworthy evidence to oppose to that conclusion.

That by the way. Let us now examine the evidence given in these men's
names. The earliest witness is Paul. Paul does not corroborate the
Gospel writers' statements as to the life or the teachings of Christ;
but he does vehemently assert that Christ rose from the dead.

What is Paul's evidence worth? He did not see Christ crucified. He did
not see His dead body. He did not see Him quit the tomb. He did not see
Him in the flesh after He had quitted the tomb. He was not present when
He ascended into Heaven. Therefore Paul is not an eye-witness of the
acts of Christ, nor of the death of Christ, nor of the Resurrection of
Christ, nor of the Ascension of Christ.

If Paul ever lived, which none can prove and many deny, his evidence for
the Resurrection was only hearsay evidence.

Paul, in the Epistle to the Corinthians, says that after His
Resurrection Christ was "seen of about five hundred persons; of whom the
great part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep."

But none of the Gospels mentions this five hundred, nor does Paul give
the name of any one of them, nor is the testimony of any one of them
preserved, in the Testament or elsewhere.

Now, let us remember how difficult it was to disprove the statements of
the claimant in the Tichborne Case, although the trial took place in the
lifetime of the claimant, and although most of the witnesses knew
the real Roger Tichborne well; and let us also bear in mind that many
critics and scholars dispute the authorship of Shakespeare's plays, as
to which strong contemporary evidence is forthcoming, and then let
us ask ourselves whether we shall be justified in believing such a
marvellous story as this of the Resurrection upon the evidence of men
whose existence cannot be proved, and in support of whose statements
there is not a scrap of historical evidence of any kind.

Nor is this all. The stories of the Resurrection as told in the
Gospels are full of discrepancies, and are rendered incredible by the
interpolation of miraculous incidents.

Let us begin with Matthew. Did Matthew see Christ crucified? Did Matthew
see Christ's dead body? Did Matthew see Christ quit the tomb? Did
Matthew see Christ in the flesh and alive after His Resurrection? Did
Matthew see Christ ascend into Heaven? Matthew nowhere says so. Nor is
it stated by any other writer in the Testament that Matthew saw any of
these things. No: Matthew nowhere gives evidence in his own name. Only,
in the Gospel "according to Matthew" it is stated that such things did
happen.

Matthew's account of the Resurrection and the incidents connected
therewith differs from the accounts in the other Gospels.

The story quoted above from Matthew as to the bribing of Roman soldiers
by the priests to circulate the falsehood about the stealing of Christ's
body by His disciples is not alluded to by Mark, Luke, or John.

Matthew, in his account of the fact of the Resurrection, says that there
was an earthquake when the angel rolled away the stone. In the other
Gospels there is no word of this earthquake.

But not in any of the Gospels is it asserted that any man or woman saw
Jesus leave the tomb.

The story of His actual rising from the dead was first told by some
woman, or women, who said they had seen an angel, or angels, who had
declared that Jesus was risen.

There is not an atom of evidence that these young men who told the story
were angels. There is not an atom of evidence that they were not men,
nor that they had not helped to revive or to remove the swooned or dead
Jesus.

Stress has been laid upon the presence of the Roman guard. The presence
of such a guard is improbable. But if the guard was really there, it
might have been as easily bribed to allow the body to be removed, as
Matthew suggests that it was easily bribed to say that the body had been
stolen.

Matthew says that after the Resurrection the disciples were ordered to
go to Galilee. Mark says the same. Luke says they were commanded not to
leave Jerusalem. John says they did go to Galilee.

So, again, with regard to the Ascension. Luke and Mark say that Christ
went up to Heaven. Matthew and John do not so much as mention the
Ascension. And it is curious, as Mr. Foote points out, that the two
apostles who were supposed to have been disciples of Christ and might
be supposed to have seen the Ascension, if it took place, do not mention
it. The story of the Ascension comes to us from Luke and Mark, who were
not present.

Jesus rose from the dead on the third day. Yet Luke makes Him say to the
thief on the cross: "Verily I say unto thee, to-day shalt thou be with
me in Paradise." Matthew, Mark, and John do not repeat this blunder.

There are many other differences and contradictions in the Gospel
versions of the Resurrection and Ascension; but as I do not regard those
differences as important, I shall pass them by.

Whether or not the evidence of these witnesses be contradictory, the
facts remain that no one of them states that he knows anything about the
matter of his own knowledge; that no one of them claims to have himself
heard the story of the woman, or the women, or the angels; that no one
of them states that the women saw, or said they saw, Christ leave the
tomb.

As for the alleged appearances of Christ to the disciples, those
appearances may be explained in several ways. We may say that Christ
really had risen from the dead, and was miraculously present; we may say
that the accounts of His miraculous appearance are legends; or we may
say that His reappearance was not miraculous at all, for He had never
died, but only swooned.

As Huxley remarked, when we are asked to consider an alleged case of
resurrection, the first essential fact to make sure of is the fact of
death. Before we argue as to whether a dead man came to life, let us
have evidence that he _was_ dead.

Considering the story of the crucifixion as historical, it cannot be
said that the evidence of Christ's death is conclusive.

Death by crucifixion was generally a slow death. Men often lingered on
the cross for days before they died. Now, Christ was only on the cross
for a few hours; and Pilate is reported as expressing surprise when told
that he was dead.

To make sure that the other prisoners were dead, the soldiers broke
their legs. But they did not break Christ's legs.

To be sure, the Apostle John reports that a soldier pierced Christ's
side with a spear. But the authors of the three synoptic Gospels do
not mention this wounding with the spear. Neither do they allude to
the other story told by John, as to the scepticism of Thomas, and his
putting his hand into the wound made by the spear. It is curious that
John is the only one to tell both stories: so curious that both stories
look like interpellations.

But even if we accept the story of the spear thrust, it affords no
proof of death, for John adds that there issued from the wound blood and
water: and blood does not flow from wounds inflicted after death.

Then, when the body of Christ was taken down from the cross, it was not
examined by any doctor, but was taken away by friends, and laid in a
cool sepulchre.

What evidence is forthcoming that Christ did not recover from a swoon,
and that His friends did not take Him away in the night? Remember, we
are dealing with probabilities in the absence of any exact knowledge of
the facts, and consider which is more probable--that a man had swooned
and recovered; or that a man, after lying for three days dead, should
come to life again, and walk away?

Apologists will say that the probabilities in the case of a man do not
hold in the case of a God. But there is no evidence at all that
Christ was God. Prove that Christ was God, and therefore that He was
omnipotent, and there is nothing impossible in the Resurrection, however
improbable His death may seem.

Even assuming that the Gospels are historical documents, the evidence
for Christ's death is unsatisfactory, and that for His Resurrection
quite inadequate. But is there any reason to regard the Gospel stories
of the death, Resurrection, and Ascension on of Christ as historical?
I say that we have no surety that these stories have come down to us as
they were originally compiled, and we have strong reasons for concluding
that these stories are mythical.

Some two or three years ago the Rev. R. Horton said: "Either Christ
was the Son of God, and one with God, or He was a bad man, or a madman.
There is no fourth alternative possible." That is a strange statement
to make, but it is an example of the shifts to which apologists are
frequently reduced. No fourth alternative possible! Indeed there is; and
a fifth!

If a man came forward to-day, and said he was the Son of God, and one
with God, we should conclude that he was an impostor or a lunatic.

But if a man told us that another man had said he was a god, we should
have what Mr. Horton calls a "fourth alternative" open to us. For
we might say that the person who reported his speech to us had
misunderstood him, which would be a "fourth alternative"; or that
the person had wilfully misrepresented him, which would be a fifth
alternative.

So in the Gospels. Nowhere have we a single word of Christ's own
writing. His sayings come to us through several hands, and through more
than one translation. It is folly, then, to assert that Christ was God,
or that He was mad, or an impostor.

So in the case of the Gospel stories of the Crucifixion, the
Resurrection, and Ascension of Christ. Many worthy people may suppose
that in denying the facts stated in the Gospels we are accusing St.
Matthew and St. John of falsehood.

But there is no certainty who St. Matthew and the others were. There is
no certainty that they wrote these stories. Even if they did write them,
they probably accepted them at second or third hand. With the best faith
in the world, they may not have been competent judges of evidence. And
after they had done their best their testimony may have been added to or
perverted by editors and translators.

Looking at the Gospels, then, as we should look at any other ancient
documents, what internal evidence do they afford in support of the
suspicion that they are mythical?

In the first place, the whole Gospel story teems with miracles. Now, as
Matthew Arnold said, miracles never happen. Science has made the belief
in miracles impossible. When we speak of the antagonism between religion
and science, it is this fact which we have in our mind: that science has
killed the belief in miracles, and, as all religions are built up upon
the miraculous, science and religion cannot be made to harmonise.

As Huxley said:

     The magistrate who listens with devout attention to the precept,
     "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live," on Sunday, on Monday
     dismisses, as intrinsically absurd, a charge of bewitching a
     cow brought against some old woman; the superintendent of a
     lunatic asylum who substituted exorcism for rational modes of
     treatment, would have but a short tenure of office; even parish
     clerks doubt the utility of prayers for rain, so long as the
     wind is in the east; and an outbreak of pestilence sends men,
     not to the churches, but to the drains.  In spite of prayers for
     the success of our arms, and _Te Deums_ for victory, our real
     faith is in big battalions and keeping our powder dry; in
     knowledge of the science of warfare; in energy, courage, and
     discipline.  In these, as in all other practical affairs, we
     act on the aphorism, _Laborare est orare_; we admit that
     intelligent work is the only acceptable worship, and that,
     whether there be a Supernature or not, our business is with Nature.

We have ceased to believe in miracles. When we come upon a miracle in
any historical document we feel not only that the miracle is untrue, but
also that its presence reduces the value of the document in which it is
contained. Thus Matthew Arnold, in _Literature and Dogma_, after saying
that we shall "find ourselves inevitably led, sooner or later," to
extend one rule to all miraculous stories, and that "the considerations
which apply in other cases apply, we shall most surely discover, with
even greater force in the case of Bible miracles," goes on to declare
that "this being so, there is nothing one would more desire for a
person or document one greatly values than to make them independent of
miracles."

Very well. The Gospels teem with miracles. If we make the accounts
of the death, Resurrection, and Ascension of Christ "independent
of miracles," we destroy those accounts completely. To make the
Resurrection "independent of miracles" is to disprove the Resurrection,
which is a miracle or nothing.

We must believe in miracles, or disbelieve in the Resurrection; and
"miracles never happen."

We must believe miracles, or disbelieve them. If we disbelieve them, we
shall lose confidence in the verity of any document in proportion to the
element of the miraculous which that document contains. The fact that
the Gospels teem with miracles destroys the claim of the Gospels to
serious consideration as historic evidence.

Take, for example, the account of the Crucifixion in the Gospel
according to Matthew. While Christ is on the cross "from the sixth hour
there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour," and when He
dies, "behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to
the bottom; and the earth did quake; and the rocks were rent; and the
tombs were opened; and many bodies of the saints that had fallen asleep
were raised; and coming forth out of the tombs after His Resurrection,
they entered into the holy city, and appeared unto many."

Mark mentions the rending of the veil of the temple, but omits the
darkness, the earthquake, and the rising of the dead saints from the
tombs. Luke tells of the same phenomena as Mark; John says nothing about
any of these things.

What conclusion can we come to, then, as to the story in the first
Gospel? Here is an earthquake and the rising of dead saints, who quit
their graves and enter the city, and three out of the four Gospel
writers do not mention it. Neither do we hear another word from Matthew
on the subject. The dead get up and walk into the city, and "are seen of
many," and we are left to wonder what happened to the risen saints, and
what effect their astounding apparition had upon the citizens who saw
them. Did these dead saints go back to their tombs? Did the citizens
receive them into their midst without fear, or horror, or doubt? Had
this stupendous miracle no effect upon the Jewish priests who had
crucified Christ as an impostor? The Gospels are silent.

History is as silent as the Gospels. From the fifteenth chapter of the
first volume of Gibbon's _Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire_ I take
the following passage:

     But how shall we excuse the supine inattention of the Pagan
     and philosophic world to those evidences which were presented
     by the hand of Omnipotence, not to their reason, but to their
     senses?  During the age of Christ, of His Apostles, and of
     their first disciples, the doctrine which they preached was
     confirmed by innumerable prodigies.  The lame walked, the
     blind saw, the sick were healed, the dead were raised, demons
     were expelled, and the laws of Nature were frequently suspended
     for the benefit of the Church.  But the sages of Greece and
     Rome turned aside from the awful spectacle, and pursuing the
     ordinary occupations of life and study, appeared unconscious
     of any alterations in the moral or physical government of the
     world.  Under the reign of Tiberius the whole earth, or at least
     a celebrated province of the Roman Empire, was involved in a
     preternatural darkness of three hours.  Even this miraculous
     event, which ought to have excited the wonder, the curiosity,
     and the devotion of all mankind, passed without notice in an
     age of science and history.  It happened during the lifetime
     of Seneca and the elder Pliny, who must have experienced the
     immediate effects, or received the earliest intelligence of
     the prodigy.  Each of these philosophers, in a laborious work,
     has recorded all the great phenomena of Nature, earthquakes,
     meteors, comets, and eclipses, which his indefatigable
     curiosity could collect.  But the one and the other have
     omitted to mention the greatest phenomenon to which mortal
     eye has been witness since the creation of the globe.  A
     distinct chapter of Pliny is designed for eclipses of an
     extraordinary nature and unusual duration; but he contents
     himself with describing the singular defect of light which
     followed the murder of Caesar, when, during the greatest
     part of the year, the orb of the sun appeared pale and without
     splendour.  This season of obscurity, which surely cannot be
     compared with the preternatural darkness of the Passion, had
     been already celebrated by most of the poets and historians
     of that memorable age.

No Greek nor Roman historian nor scientist mentioned that strange
eclipse. No Jewish historian nor scientist mentioned the rending of the
veil of the temple, nor the rising of the saints from the dead. Nor do
the Jewish priests appear to have been alarmed or converted by these
marvels.

Confronted by this silence of all contemporary historians, and by the
silence of Mark, Luke, and John, what are we to think of the testimony
of Matthew on these points? Surely we can only endorse the opinion of
Matthew Arnold:

     And the more the miraculousness of the story deepens, as after
     the death of Jesus, the more does the texture of the incidents
     become loose and floating, the more does the very air and aspect
     of things seem to tell us we are in wonderland.  Jesus after his
     resurrection not known by Mary Magdalene, taken by her for the
     gardener; appearing _in another form_, and not known by the
     two disciples going with him to Emmaus and at supper with him
     there; not known by His most intimate apostles on the borders
     of the Sea of Galilee; and presently, out of these vague
     beginnings, the recognitions getting asserted, then the ocular
     demonstrations, the final commissions, the ascension; one
     hardly knows which of the two to call the most evident here,
     the perfect simplicity and good faith of the narrators, or
     the plainness with which they themselves really say to us
     _Behold a legend growing under your eyes!_

Behold a legend growing under your eyes! Now, when we have to consider
a miracle-story or a legend, it behoves us to look, if that be possible,
into the times in which that legend is placed. What was the "time
spirit" in the day when this legend arose? What was the attitude of
the general mind towards the miraculous? To what stage of knowledge and
science had those who created or accepted the myth attained? These are
points that will help us signally in any attempt to understand such a
story as the Gospel story of the Resurrection.



THE TIME SPIRIT IN THE FIRST CENTURY


A story emanating from a superstitious and unscientific people would be
received with more doubt than a story emanating from people possessing a
knowledge of science, and not prone to accept stories of the marvellous
without strict and full investigation.

A miracle story from an Arab of the Soudan would be received with a
smile; a statement of some occult mystery made by a Huxley or a Darwin
would be accorded a respectful hearing and a serious criticism.

Now, the accounts of the Resurrection in the Gospels belong to the
less credible form of statement. They emanated from a credulous and
superstitious people in an unscientific age and country.

The Jews in the days of which the Gospels are supposed to tell, and the
Jews of Old Testament times, were unscientific and superstitious people,
who believed in sorcery, in witches, in demons and angels, and in all
manner of miracles and supernatural agents. We have only to read the
Scriptures to see that it was so. But I shall quote here, in support
of my assertion, the opinions taken by the author of _Supernatural
Religion_ from the works of Dean Milman and Dr. Lightfoot. In his
_History of Christianity_ Dean Milman speaks of the Jews as follows:

     The Jews of that period not only believed that the Supreme
     Being had the power of controlling the course of Nature, but
     that the same influence was possessed by multitudes of subordinate
     spirits, both good and evil.  Where the pious Christian of the
     present day would behold the direct Agency of the Almighty, the
     Jews would invariably have interposed an angel as the author
     or ministerial agent in the wonderful transaction.  Where the
     Christian moralist would condemn the fierce passion, the
     ungovernable lust, or the inhuman temper, the Jew discerned
     the workings of diabolical possession.  Scarcely a malady was
     endured, or crime committed, which was not traced to the
     operation of one of these myriad demons, who watched every
     opportunity of exercising their malice in the sufferings and
     the sins of men.

Read next the opinion of John Lightfoot, D.D., Master of Catherine Hall,
Cambridge:

  ... Let two things only be observed: (1) That the nation under
     the Second Temple was given to magical arts beyond measure;
     and (2) that it was given to an easiness of believing all
     manner of delusions beyond measure... It is a disputable
     case whether the Jewish nation were more mad with superstition
     in matters of religion, or with superstition in curious arts:
     (1) There was not a people upon earth that studied or attributed
     more to dreams than they; (2) there was hardly any people in
     the whole world that more used, or were more fond of amulets,
     charms, mutterings, exorcisms, and all kinds of enchantments.

It is from this people, "mad with superstition" in religion and
in sorcery, the most credulous people in the whole world, a people
destitute of the very rudiments of science, as science is understood
to-day--it is from this people that the unreasonable and impossible
stories of the Resurrection, coloured and distorted on every page with
miracles, come down to us.

We do not believe that miracles happen now. Are we, on the evidence of
such a people, to believe that miracles happened two thousand years ago?

We in England to-day do not believe that miracles happen now. Some of us
believe, or persuade ourselves that we believe, that miracles did happen
a few thousand years ago.

But amongst some peoples the belief in miracles still persists, and
wherever the belief in miracles is strongest we shall find that the
people who believe are ignorant of physical science, are steeped in
superstition, or are abjectly subservient to the authority of priests or
fakirs. Scientific knowledge and freedom of thought and speech are fatal
to superstition. It is only in those times, or amongst those people,
where ignorance is rampant, or the priest is dominant, or both, that
miracles are believed.

It will be urged that many educated Englishmen still believe the Gospel
miracles. That is true; but it will be found in nearly all such cases
that the believers have been mentally marred by the baneful authority
of the Church. Let a person once admit into his system the poisonous
principle of "faith," and his judgment in religious matters will be
injured for years, and probably for life.

But let me here make clear what I mean by the poisonous principle of
"faith." I mean, then, the deadly principle that we are to believe any
statement, historical or doctrinal, without evidence.

Thus we are to believe that Christ rose from the dead because the
Gospels say so. When we ask why we are to accept the Gospels as true, we
are told because they are inspired by God. When we ask who says that the
Gospels are inspired by God, we are told that the Church says so. When
we ask how the Church knows, we are told that we must have faith. That
is what I call a poisonous principle. That is the poison which saps the
judgment and perverts the human kindness of men.

The late Dr. Carpenter wrote as follows:

     It has been my business lately to inquire into the mental
     condition of some of the individuals who have reported the
     most remarkable occurrences.  I cannot--it would not be fair--
     say all I could with regard to that mental condition; but I can
     only say this, that it all fits in perfectly well with the
     result of my previous studies upon the subject, namely, that
     there is nothing too strange to be believed by those who have
     once surrendered their judgment to the extent of accepting as
     credible things which common sense tells us are entirely incredible.

It is unwise and immoral to accept any important statement without
proof. HAVE THE DOCUMENTS BEEN TAMPERED WITH?


I come now to a phase of this question which I touch with regret. It
always pains me to acknowledge that any man, even an adversary, has
acted dishonourably. In this discussion I would, if I could, avoid the
imputation of dishonesty to any person concerned in the foundation or
adaptation of the Christian religion. But I am bound to point out the
probability that the Gospels have been tampered with by unscrupulous or
over-zealous men. That probability is very strong, and very important.

In the first place, it is too well known to make denial possible
that many Gospels have been rejected by the Church as doubtful or as
spurious. In the second place, some of the books in the accepted canon
are regarded as of doubtful origin. In the third place, certain passages
of the Gospels have been relegated to the margin by the translators of
the Revised Version of the New Testament. In the fourth place, certain
historic Christian evidence--as the famous interpolation in Josephus,
for instance--has been branded as forgeries by eminent Christian
scholars.

Many of the Christian fathers were holy men; many priests have been, and
are, honourable and sincere; but it is notorious that in every Church
the world has ever known there has been a great deal of fraud and
forgery and deceit. I do not say this with any bitterness, I do not wish
to emphasise it; but I must go so far as to show that the conduct
of some of the early Christians was of a character to justify us in
believing that the Scriptures have been seriously tampered with.

Mosheim, writing on this subject, says:

     A pernicious maxim which was current in the schools, not only
     of the Egyptians, the Platonists, and the Pythagoreans, but
     also of the Jews, was very early recognised by the Christians,
     and soon found among them numerous patrons--namely, that those
     who made it their business to deceive, with a view of promoting
     the cause of truth, were deserving rather of commendation than
     of censure.

And if we seek internal evidence in support of this charge we need go no
further than St. Paul, who is reported (Rom. iii. 7) as saying: "For if
the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto His Glory, why
yet am I also judged as a sinner?" I do not for a moment suppose that
Paul ever wrote those words. But they are given as his in the Epistle
bearing his name. I daresay they may be interpreted in more than one
way: my point is that they were interpreted in an evil way by many
primitive Christians, who took them as a warranty that it was right to
lie for the glory of God.

Mosheim, writing of the Church of the fifth century, alludes to the

     Base audacity of those who did not blush to palm their own
     spurious productions on the great men of former times, and,
     even on _Christ_ Himself and His Apostles, so that they might
     be able, in the councils and in their books, to oppose names
     against names and authorities against authorities.  The whole
     Christian Church was, in this century, overwhelmed with these
     disgraceful fictions.

Dr. Giles speaks still more strongly. He says:

     But a graver accusation than that of inaccuracy or deficient
     authority lies against the writings which have come down to us
     from the second century.  There can be no doubt that great numbers
     of books were then written with no other view than to deceive
     the simple-minded multitude who at that time formed the great
     bulk of the Christian community.

Dean Milman says:

     It was admitted and avowed that to deceive into Christianity
     was so valuable a service as to hallow deceit itself.

Bishop Fell says:

     In the first ages of the Church, so extensive was the licence
     of forging, so credulous were the people in believing, that
     the evidence of transactions was grievously obscured.

John E. Remsburg, author of the newly-published American book, _The
Bible_, says:

     That these admissions are true, that primitive Christianity
     was propagated chiefly by falsehood, is tacitly admitted by
     all Christians.  They characterise as forgeries, or unworthy
     of credit, three-fourths of the early Christian writings.

Mr. Lecky, the historian, in his _European Morals_, writes in the
following uncompromising style:

     The very large part that must be assigned to deliberate
     forgeries in the early apologetic literature of the Church
     we have already seen; and no impartial reader can, I think,
     investigate the innumerable grotesque and lying legends that,
     during the whole course of the Middle Ages, were deliberately
     palmed upon mankind as undoubted facts, can follow the history
     of the false decretals, and the discussions that were connected
     with them, or can observe the complete and absolute incapacity
     most Catholic historians have displayed of conceiving any good
     thing in the ranks of their opponents, or of stating with common
     fairness any consideration that can tell against their cause,
     without acknowledging how serious and how inveterate has been
     the evil.  It is this which makes it so unspeakably repulsive
     to all independent and impartial thinkers, and has led a great
     German historian (Herder) to declare, with much bitterness,
     that the phrase "Christian veracity" deserves to rank with the
     phrase "Punic faith."

I could go on quoting such passages. I could give specific instances of
forgery by the dozen, but I do not think it necessary. It is sufficient
to show that forgery was common, and has been always common, amongst
all kinds of priests, and that therefore we cannot accept the Gospels as
genuine and unaltered documents.

Yet upon these documents rests the whole fabric of Christianity.

Professor Huxley says:

     There is no proof, nothing more than a fair presumption, that
     any one of the Gospels existed, in the state in which we find
     it in the authorised version of the Bible, before the second
     century, or, in other words, sixty or seventy years after the
     events recorded.  And between that time and the date of the
     oldest extant manuscripts of the Gospel there is no telling
     what additions and alterations and interpolations may have
     been made.  It may be said that this is all mere speculation,
     but it is a good deal more.  As competent scholars and honest
     men, our revisers have felt compelled to point out that such
     things have happened even since the date of the oldest known
     manuscripts.  The oldest two copies of the second Gospel end
     with the eighth verse of the sixteenth chapter; the remaining
     twelve verses are spurious, and it is noteworthy that the maker
     of the addition has not hesitated to introduce a speech in
     which Jesus promises His disciples that "in My name shall
     they cast out devils."

     The other passage "rejected to the margin" is still more
     instructive.  It is that touching apologue, with its profound
     ethical sense, of the woman taken in adultery--which, if
     internal evidence were an infallible guide, might well be
     affirmed to be a typical example of the teaching of Jesus.
     Yet, say the revisers, pitilessly, "Most of the ancient
     authorities omit John vii. 53--viii. 11."  Now, let any
     reasonable man ask himself this question: if after an
     approximate settlement of the canon of the New Testament,
     and even later than the fourth or fifth centuries, literary
     fabricators had the skill and the audacity to make such
     additions and interpolations as these, what may they have
     done when no one had thought of a canon; when oral tradition
     still unfixed, was regarded as more valuable than such
     written records as may have existed in the latter portion
     of the first century?  Or, to take the other alternative,
     if those who gradually settled the canon did not know of
     the oldest codices which have come down to us; or, if knowing
     them, they rejected their authority, what is to be thought
     of their competency as critics of the text?

Since alterations have been made in the text of Scripture we can never
be certain that any particular text is genuine, and this circumstance
militates seriously against the value of the evidence for the
Resurrection.



CHRISTIANITY BEFORE CHRIST


If the story of Christ's life were true, we should not expect to
find that nearly all the principal events of that life had previously
happened in the lives of some earlier god or gods, long since
acknowledged to be mythical.

If the Gospel record were the _only_ record of a god coming upon earth,
of a god born of a virgin, of a god slain by men, that record would seem
to us more plausible than it will seem if we discover proof that other
and earlier gods have been fabled to have come on earth, to have been
born of virgins, to have lived and taught on earth, and to have been
slain by men.

Because, if the events related in the life of Christ have been
previously related as parts of the lives of earlier mythical gods, we
find ourselves confronted by the possibilities that what is mythical
in one narrative may be mythical in another; that if one god is a myth
another god may be a myth; that if 400,000,000 of Buddhists have been
deluded, 200,000,000 of Christians may be deluded; that if the events
of Christ's life were alleged to have happened before to another person,
they may have been adopted from the older story, and made features of
the new.

If Christ was God--the omnipotent, eternal, and _only_ God--come on
earth, He would not be likely to repeat acts, to re-act the adventures
of earlier and spurious gods; nor would His divine teachings be mere
shreds and patches made up of quotations, paraphrases, and repetitions
of earlier teachings, uttered by mere mortals, or mere myths.

What are we to think, then when we find that there are hardly any events
in the life of Christ which were not, before His birth, attributed to
mythical gods; that there are hardly any acts of Christ's which may not
be paralleled by acts attributed to mythical gods before His advent;
that there are hardly any important thoughts attributed to Christ which
had not been uttered by other men, or by mythical gods, in earlier
times? What _are_ we to think if the facts be thus?

Mr. Parsons, in _Our Sun God_, quotes the following passage from a Latin
work by St. Augustine:

     Again, in that I said, "This is in our time the Christian
     religion, which to know and also follow is most sure and
     certain salvation," it is affirmed in regard to this name,
     not in regard to the sacred thing itself to which the name
     belongs.  For the sacred thing which is now called the
     Christian religion existed in ancient times, nor, indeed,
     was it absent from the beginning of the human race until
     the Christ Himself came in the flesh, whence the true religion
     which already existed came to be called "the Christian."  So
     when, after His resurrection and ascension to heaven, the
     Apostles began to preach and many believed, it is thus written,
     "The followers were first called Christians at Antioch."
     Therefore I said, "This is in our time the Christian religion,"
     not because it did not exist in earlier times, but as having
     in later times received this particular name.

From Eusebius, the great Christian historian, Mr. Parsons, quotes as
follows:

     What is called the Christian religion is neither new nor
     strange, but--_if it be lawful to testify as to the truth_--
     was known to the ancients.

Mr. Arthur Lillie, in _Buddha and Buddhism_, quotes M. Burnouf as
saying:

     History and comparative mythology are teaching every day
     more plainly that creeds grow slowly up.  None came into the
     world ready-made, and as if by magic.  The origin of events
     is lost in the infinite.  A great Indian poet has said: "The
     beginning of things evades us; their end evades us also; we
     see only the middle."

Before Darwin's day it was considered absurd and impious to talk of
"pre-Adamite man," and it will still, by many, be held absurd and
impious to talk of "Christianity before Christ."

And yet the incidents of the life and death of Christ, the teachings of
Christ and His Apostles, and the rites and mysteries of the Christian
Church can all be paralleled by similar incidents, ethics, and
ceremonies embodied in religions long anterior to the birth of Jesus.

Christ is said to have been God come down upon the earth. The idea of a
god coming down upon the earth was quite an old and popular idea at the
time when the Gospels were written. In the Old Testament God makes many
visits to the earth; and the instances in the Greek, Roman, and Egyptian
mythologies of gods coming amongst men and taking part in human affairs
are well known.

Christ is said to have been the Son of God. But the idea of a son-god is
very much older than the Christian religion.

Christ is said to have been a redeemer, and to have descended from a
line of kings. But the idea of a king's son as a redeemer is very much
older than the Christian religion.

Christ is said to have been born of a virgin. But many heroes before Him
were declared to have been born of virgins.

Christ is said to have been born in a cave or stable while His parents
were on a journey. But this also was an old legend long before the
Christian religion.

Christ is said to have been crucified. But very many kings, kings' sons,
son-gods, and heroes had been crucified ages before Him.

Christ is said to have been a sacrifice offered up for the salvation
of man. But thousands and thousands of men before Him had been slain
as sacrifices for the general good, or as atonements for general or
particular sins.

Christ is said to have risen from the dead. But that had been said of
other gods before Him.

Christ is said to have ascended into Heaven. But this also was a very
old idea.

Christ is said to have worked miracles. But all the gods and saints of
all the older religions were said to have worked miracles.

Christ is said to have brought to men, direct from Heaven, a new message
of salvation. But the message He brought was in nowise new.

Christ is said to have preached a new ethic of mercy and peace and
good-will to all men. But this ethic had been preached centuries before
His supposed advent.

The Christians changed the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday. Sun-day is
the day of the Sun God.

Christ's birthday was fixed on the 25th of December. But the 25th of
December is the day of the Winter solstice--the birthday, of Apollo, the
Sun God--and had been from time immemorial the birthday of the sun gods
in all religions. The Egyptians, Persians, Greeks, Phoenicians, and
Teutonic races all kept the 25th of December as the birthday of the Sun
God.

The Christians departed from the monotheism of the Jews, and made their
God a Trinity. The Buddhists and the Egyptians had Holy Trinities long
before. But whereas the Christian Trinity is unreasonable, the older
idea of the Trinity was based upon a perfectly lucid and natural
conception.

Christ is supposed by many to have first laid down the Golden Rule, "Do
unto others as you would that they should do unto you." But the Golden
Rule was laid down centuries before the Christian era.

Two of the most important of the utterances attributed to Christ are
the Lord's Prayer and the Sermon on the Mount. But there is very strong
evidence that the Lord's Prayer was used before Christ's time, and still
stronger evidence that the Sermon on the Mount was a compilation, and
was never uttered by Christ or any other preacher in the form in which
it is given by St. Matthew.

Christ is said to have been tempted of the Devil. But apart from
the utter absurdity of the Devil's tempting God by offering Him the
sovereignty of the earth--when God had already the sovereignty of twenty
millions of suns--it is related of Buddha that he also was tempted of
the Devil centuries before Christ was born.

The idea that one man should die as a sacrifice to the gods on behalf
of many, the idea that the god should be slain for the good of men,
the idea that the blood of the human or animal "scapegoat" had power to
purify or to save, the idea that a king or a king's son should expiate
the sins of a tribe by his death, and the idea that a god should offer
himself as a sacrifice to himself in atonement for the sins of his
people--all these were old ideas, and ideas well known to the founders
of Christianity.

The resemblances of the legendary lives of Christ and Buddha are
surprising: so also are the resemblances of forms and ethics of the
ancient Buddhists and the early Christians.

Mr. Arthur Lillie, in _Buddha and Buddhism_, makes the following
quotation from M. Leon de Rosny:

     The astonishing points of contact between the popular legend
     of Buddha and that of Christ, the almost absolute similarity
     of the moral lessons given to the world between these two
     peerless teachers of the human race, the striking affinities
     between the customs of the Buddhists and the Essenes, of whom
     Christ must have been a disciple, suggest at once an Indian
     origin to Primitive Christianity.

Mr. Lillie goes on to say that there was a sect of Essenes in Palestine
fifty years B.C., and that fifty years after the death of Christ there
existed in Palestine a similar sect, from whom Christianity was derived.
Mr. Lillie says of these sects:

     Each had two prominent rites: baptism, and what Tertullian
     calls the "oblation of bread."  Each had for officers, deacons,
     presbyters, ephemerents.  Each sect had monks, nuns, celibacy,
     community of goods.  Each interpreted the Old Testament in a
     mystical way--so mystical, in fact, that it enabled each to
     discover that the bloody sacrifice of Mosaism was forbidden,
     not enjoined.  The most minute likenesses have been pointed
     out between these two sects by all Catholic writers from
     Eusebius to the poet Racine... Was there any connection
     between these two sects?  It is difficult to conceive that
     there can be two answers to such a question.

The resemblances between Buddhism and Christianity were accounted for by
the Christian Fathers very simply. The Buddhists had been instructed by
the Devil, and there was no more to be said. Later Christian scholars
face the difficulty by declaring that the Buddhists copied from the
Christians.

Reminded that Buddha lived five hundred years before Christ, and that
the Buddhist religion was in its prime two hundred years before Christ,
the Christian apologist replies that, for all that, the Buddhist
Scriptures are of comparatively late date. Let us see how the matter
stands.

The resemblances of the two religions are of two kinds. There is, first,
the resemblance between the Christian life of Christ and the Indian life
of Buddha; and there is, secondly, the resemblance between the moral
teachings of Christ and Buddha.

Now, if the Indian Scriptures _are_ of later date than the Gospels, it
is just possible that the Buddhists may have copied incidents from the
life of Christ.

But it is perfectly certain that the change of borrowing cannot be
brought against Augustus Caesar, Plato, and the compilers of the
mythologies of Egypt and Greece and Rome. And it is as certain that
the Christians did borrow from the Jews as that the Jews borrowed from
Babylon. But a little while ago all Christendom would have denied the
indebtedness of Moses to King Sargon.

Now, since the Christian ideas were anticipated by the Babylonians, the
Egyptians, the Romans, and the Greeks, why should we suppose that
they were copied by the Buddhists, whose religion was triumphant some
centuries before Christ?

And, again, while there is no reason to suppose that Christian
missionaries in the early centuries of the era made any appreciable
impression on India or China, there is good reason to suppose that the
Buddhists, who were the first and most successful of all missionaries,
reached Egypt and Persia and Palestine, and made their influence felt.

I now turn to the statement of M. Burnouf, quoted by Mr. Lillie. M.
Burnouf asserts that the Indian origin of Christianity is no longer
contested:

     It has been placed in full light by the researches of scholars,
     and notably English scholars, and by the publication of the
     original texts... In point of fact, for a long time folks had
     been struck with the resemblances--or, rather, the identical
     elements--contained in Christianity and Buddhism.  Writers
     of the firmest faith and most sincere piety have admitted them.
     In the last century these analogies were set down to the
     Nestorians; but since then the science of Oriental chronology
     has come into being, and proved that Buddha is many years
     anterior to Nestorius and Jesus.  Thus the Nestorian theory
     had to be given up.  But a thing may be posterior to another
     without proving derivation.  So the problem remained unsolved
     until recently, when the pathway that Buddhism followed was
     traced step by step from India to Jerusalem.

There was baptism before Christ, and before John the Baptist. There were
gods, man-gods, son-gods, and saviours before Christ. There were Bibles,
hymns, temples, monasteries, priests, monks, missionaries, crosses,
sacraments, and mysteries before Christ.

Perhaps the most important sacrament of the Christian religion to-day is
the Eucharist, or Lord's Supper. But this idea of the Eucharist, or the
ceremonial eating of the god, has its roots far back in the prehistoric
days of religious cannibalism. Prehistoric man believed that if he ate
anything its virtue passed into his physical system. Therefore he began
by devouring his gods, body and bones. Later, man mended his manners so
far as to substitute animal for human sacrifice; still later he employed
bread and wine as symbolical substitutes for flesh and blood. This is
the origin and evolution of the strange and, to many of us, repulsive
idea of eating the body and drinking the blood of Christ.

Now, supposing these facts to be as I have stated them above, to what
conclusion do they point?

Bear in mind the statement of M. Burnouf, that religions are built
up slowly by a process of adaptation; add that to the statements of
Eusebius, the great Christian historian, and of St. Augustine, the great
Christian Father, that the Christian religion is no new thing, but was
known to the ancients, and does it not seem most reasonable to suppose
that Christianity is a religion founded on ancient myths and legends,
on ancient ethics, and on ancient allegorical mysteries and metaphysical
errors?

To support those statements with adequate evidence I should have to
compile a book four times as large as the present volume. As I have
not room to state the case properly, I shall content myself with the
recommendation of some books in which the reader may study the subject
for himself.

A list of these books I now subjoin:

     _The Golden Bough._  Frazer.  Macmillan & Co.
     _A Short History of Christianity._  Robertson.  Watts & Co.
     _The Evolution of the Idea of God._  Grant Allen.  Rationalist

Press Association.     _Buddha and Buddhism._  Lillie.  Clark.
     _Our Sun God._  Parsons.  Parsons.
     _Christianity and Mythology._  Robertson.  Watts & Co.
     _Pagan Christs._  Robertson.  Watts & Co.
     _The Legend of Perseus._  Hartland.  Nutt.
     _The Birth of Jesus._  Soltau.  Black.

The above are all scholarly and important books, and should be generally
known.

For reasons given above I claim, with regard to the divinity and
Resurrection of Jesus Christ:

     That outside the New Testament there is no evidence of any
     value to show that Christ ever lived, that He ever taught,
     that He ever rose from the dead.

     That the evidence of the New Testament is anonymous, is
     contradictory, is loaded with myths and miracles.

     That the Gospels do not contain a word of proof by any
     eye-witness as to the fact that Christ was really dead;
     nor the statement of any eye-witness that He was seen to
     return to life and quit His tomb.

     That Paul, who preached the Resurrection of Christ, did not
     see Christ dead, did not see Him arise from the dead, did
     not see Him ascend into Heaven.

     That Paul nowhere supports the Gospel accounts of Christ's
     life and teaching.

     That the Gospels are of mixed and doubtful origin, that they
     show signs of interpolation and tampering, and that they have
     been selected from a number of other Gospels, all of which
     were once accepted as genuine.

     And that, while there is no real evidence of the life or the
     teachings, or the Resurrection of Christ, there is a great
     deal of evidence to show that the Gospels were founded upon
     anterior legends and older ethics.

But Christian apologists offer other reasons why we should accept the
stories of the miraculous birth and Resurrection of Christ as true. Let
us examine these reasons, and see what they amount to.



OTHER EVIDENCES OF CHRIST'S DIVINITY


Archdeacon Wilson gives two reasons for accepting the doctrines of
Christ's divinity and Resurrection as true. The first of these reasons
is, the success of the Christian religion; the second is, the evolution
of the Christlike type of character.

If the success of the Christian religion proves that Christ was God,
what does the success of the Buddhist religion prove? What does the
success of the Mohammedan religion prove?

Was Buddha God? Was Mahomet God?

The archdeacon does not believe in any miracles but those of his own
religion. But if the spread of a faith proves its miracles to be
true, what can be said about the spread of the Buddhist and Mohammedan
religions?

Islam spread faster and farther than Christianity. So did Buddhism.
To-day the numbers of these religions are somewhat as follows:

Buddhist: 450 millions.

Christians: 375 millions, of which only 180 millions are Protestants.

Hindus: 200 millions.

Mohammedans: 160 millions.

It will be seen that the Buddhist religion is older than Christianity,
and has more followers. What does that prove?

But as to the reasons for the great growth of these two religions I will
say more by and by. At present I merely repeat that the Buddhist faith
owed a great deal to the fact that King Asoka made it the State religion
of a great kingdom, and that Christianity owes a great deal to the fact
that Constantine adopted it as the State religion of the Roman Empire.

We come now to the archdeacon's second argument: that the divinity of
Christ is proved by the evolution of the Christlike type of character.

And here the archdeacon makes a most surprising statement, for he says
that type of character was unknown on this globe until Christ came.

Then how are we to account for King Asoka?

The King Asoka of the Rock Edicts was as spiritual, as gentle, as pure,
and as loving as the Christ of the Gospels.

The King Asoka of the Rock Edicts was wiser, more tolerant, more humane
than the Christ of the Gospels.

Nowhere did Christ or the Fathers of His Church forbid slavery; nowhere
did they forbid religious intolerance; nowhere did they forbid cruelty
to animals.

The type of character displayed by the rock inscriptions of King Asoka
was a higher and sweeter type than the type of character displayed by
the Jesus of the Gospels.

Does this prove that King Asoka or his teacher, Buddha, was divine? Does
it prove that the Buddhist faith is the only true faith? I shall treat
this question more fully in another chapter.


Another Christian argument is the claim that the faithfulness of
the Christian martyrs proves Christianity to be true. A most amazing
argument. The fact that a man dies for a faith does not prove the faith
to be true; it proves that he believes it to be true--a very different
thing.

The Jews denied the Christian faith, and died for their own. Does that
prove that Christianity was not true? Did the Protestant martyrs prove
Protestantism true? Then the Catholic martyrs proved the reverse.

The Christians martyred or murdered millions, many millions, of innocent
men and women. Does _that_ prove that Christ was divine? No: it only
proves that Christians could be fanatical, intolerant, bloody, and
cruel.

And now, will you ponder these words of Arthur Lillie, M.A., the author
of _Buddha and Buddhism_? Speaking of the astonishing success of the
Buddhist missionaries, Mr. Lillie says:

     This success was effected by moral means alone, for Buddhism
     _is the one religion guiltless of coercion_.

Christians are always boasting of the wonderful good works wrought by
their religion. They are silent about the horrors, infamies, and shames
of which it has been guilty.

Buddhism is the only religion with no blood upon its hands. I submit
another very significant quotation from Mr. Lillie:

I will write down a few of the achievements of this inactive Buddha and
the army of Bhikshus that he directed:

   1. The most formidable priestly tyranny that the world had ever seen
      crumbled away before his attack, and the followers of Buddha were
      paramount in India for a thousand years.

   2. The institution of caste was assailed and overthrown.

   3. Polygamy was for the first time assailed and overturned.

   4. Woman, from being considered a chattel and a beast of burden, was
      for the first time considered man's equal, and allowed to develop
      her spiritual life.

   5. All bloodshed, whether with the knife of the priest or the sword
      of the conqueror, was rigidly forbidden.

   6. Also, for the first time in the religious history of mankind, the
      awakening of the spiritual life of the individual was substituted
      for religion by body corporate.

   7. The principle of religious propagandism was for the first time
      introduced with its two great instruments, the missionary and
      the preacher.

To that list we may add that Buddhism abolished slavery and religious
persecution; taught temperance, chastity, and humanity; and invented
the higher morality and the idea of the brotherhood of the entire human
race.

What does _that_ prove? It seems to me to prove that Archdeacon Wilson
is mistaken.



THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION WHAT IS CHRISTIANITY?


What _is_ Christianity? When I began to discuss religion in the
_Clarion_ I thought I knew what Christianity was. I thought it was
the religion I had been taught as a boy in Church of England and
Congregationalist Sunday schools. But since then I have read many
books, and pamphlets, and sermons, and articles intended to explain
what Christianity is, and I begin to think there are as many kinds of
Christianity as there are Christians. The differences are numerous and
profound: they are astonishing. That must be a strange revelation of God
which can be so differently interpreted.

Well, I cannot describe all these variants, nor can I reduce them to a
common denominator. The most I can pretend to offer is a selection of
some few doctrines to which all or many Christians would subscribe.

   1. All Christians believe in a Supreme Being, called God, who
      created all beings.  They all believe that He is a good and
      loving God, and our Heavenly Father.

   2. Most Christians believe in Free Will.

   3. All Christians believe that Man has sinned and does sin against God.

   4. All Christians believe that Jesus Christ is in some way necessary
      to Man's "salvation," and that without Christ Man will be "lost."

      But when we ask for the meaning of the terms "salvation" and "lost"
      the Christians give conflicting or divergent answers.

   5. All Christians believe in the immortality of the soul. And I
      think they all, or nearly all, believe in some kind of future
      punishment or reward.

   6. Most Christians believe that Christ was God.

   7. Most Christians believe that after crucifixion Christ rose from
      the dead and ascended into Heaven.

   8. Most Christians believe, or think they believe, in the efficacy
      of prayer.

   9. Most Christians believe in a Devil; but he is a great many different
      kinds of a Devil.

Of these beliefs I should say:

1. As to God. If there is no God, or if God is not a loving Heavenly
Father, who answers prayer, Christianity as a religion cannot stand.

I do not pretend to say whether there is or is not a God, but I deny
that there is a loving Heavenly Father who answers prayer.

2 and 3. If there is no such thing as Free Will Man could not sin
against God, and Christianity as a religion will not stand.

I deny the existence of Free Will, and possibility of Man's sinning
against God.

4. If Jesus Christ is not necessary to Man's "salvation," Christianity
as a religion will not stand.

I deny that Christ is necessary to Man's salvation from Hell or from
Sin.

5. I do not assert or deny the immortality of the soul. I know nothing
about the soul, and no man is or ever was able to tell me more than I
know.

Of the remaining four doctrines I will speak in due course.

I spoke just now of the religion I was taught in my boyhood, some forty
years ago. As that religion seems to be still very popular I will try to
express it as briefly as I can.

Adam was the first man, and the father of the human race. He was created
by God, in the likeness of God: that is to say, he was made "perfect."

But, being tempted of the Devil, Adam sinned: he fell. God was so angry
with Adam for his sin that He condemned him and all his descendants for
five thousand years to a Hell of everlasting fire.

After consigning all the generations of men for five thousand years to
horrible torment in Hell, God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, down on earth
to die, and to go Hell for three days, as an atonement for the sin of
Adam.

After Christ rose from the dead all who believed on Him and were
baptised would go to Heaven. All who did not believe on Him, or were not
baptised, would go to Hell, and burn for ever in a lake of fire.

That is what we were taught in our youth; and that is what millions
of Christians believe to-day. That is the old religion of the Fall, of
"Inherited Sin," of "Universal Damnation," and of atonement by the blood
of Christ.

There is a new religion now, which shuts out Adam and Eve, and the
serpent, and the hell of fire, but retains the "Fall," the "Sin against
God," and the "Atonement by Christ."

But in the new Atonement, as I understand, or try to understand it,
Christ is said to be God Himself, come down to win back to Himself Man,
who had estranged himself from God, or else God (as Christ) died to save
Man, not from Hell, but from Sin.

All these theories, old and new, seem to me impossible.

I will deal first, in a short way, with the new theories of the
Atonement.

If Christ died to save Man from sin, how is it that nineteen centuries
after His death the world is full of sin?

If God (the All-powerful God, who loves us better than an earthly father
loves his children) wished to forgive us the sin Adam committed ages
before we were born, why did He not forgive us without dying, or causing
His Son to die, on a cross?

If Christ is essential to a good life on earth, how is it that many who
believe in Him lead bad lives, while many of the best men and women of
this and former ages either never heard of Christ or did not follow Him?

As to the theory that Christ (or God) died to win back Man to Himself,
it does not harmonise with the facts.

Man never did estrange himself from God. All history shows that Man has
persistently and anxiously sought for God, and has served Him, according
to his light, with a blind devotion even to death and crime.

Finally, Man never did, and never could, sin against God. For Man is
what God made him; could only act as God enabled him, or constructed him
to act, and therefore was not responsible for his act, and could not sin
against God.

If God is responsible for Man's existence, God is responsible for Man's
act. Therefore Man cannot sin against God.

But I shall deal more fully with the subject of Free Will, and of the
need for Christ as our Saviour, in another part of this book.


Let us now turn to the old idea of the Fall and the Atonement.

First, as to Adam and the Fall and inherited sin. Evolution, historical
research, and scientific criticism have disposed of Adam. Adam was
a myth. Hardly any educated Christians now regard him as an historic
person.

But--no Adam, no Fall; no Fall, no Atonement; no Atonement, no Saviour.
Accepting Evolution, how can we believe in a Fall? _When_ did Man fall?
Was it before he ceased to be a monkey, or after? Was it when he was a
tree man, or later? Was it in the Stone Age, or the Bronze Age, or in
the Age of Iron?

There never _was_ any "Fall." Evolution proves a long slow _rise_.

And if there never was a Fall, why should there be any Atonement?

Christians accepting the theory of evolution have to believe that God
allowed the sun to form out of the nebula, and the earth to form
from the sun, that He allowed Man to develop slowly from the speck of
protoplasm in the sea. That at some period of Man's gradual evolution
from the brute, God found Man guilty of some sin, and cursed him. That
some thousands of years later God sent His only Son down upon the earth
to save Man from Hell.

But evolution shows Man to be, even now, an imperfect creature, an
unfinished work, a building still undergoing alterations, an animal
still evolving.

Whereas the doctrines of "the Fall" and the Atonement assume that he
was from the first a finished creature, and responsible to God for his
actions.

This old doctrine of the Fall, and the Curse, and the Atonement is
against reason as well as against science.

The universe is boundless. We know it to contain millions of suns, and
suppose it to contain millions of millions of suns. Our sun is but a
speck in the universe. Our earth is but a speck in the solar system.

Are we to believe that the God who created all this boundless universe
got so angry with the children of the apes that He condemned them all
to Hell for two score centuries, and then could only appease His rage by
sending His own Son to be nailed upon a cross? Do you believe that? Can
you believe it?

No. As I said before, if the theory of evolution be true, there was
nothing to atone for, and nobody to atone. _Man has never sinned against
God._ In fact, the whole of this old Christian doctrine is a mass of
error. There was no creation. There was no Fall. There was no Atonement.
There was no Adam, and no Eve, and no Eden, and no Devil, and no Hell.

If God is all-powerful, He had power to make Man by nature incapable of
sin. But if, having the power to make Man incapable of sin, God made Man
so weak as to "fall," then it was God who sinned against Man, and not
Man against God.

For if I had power to train a son of mine to righteousness, and I
trained him to wickedness, should I not sin against my son?

Or if a man had power to create a child of virtue and intellect, but
chose rather to create a child who was by nature a criminal or an idiot,
would not that man sin against his child?

And do you believe that "our Father in Heaven, our All-powerful God,
who is Love," would first create man fallible, and then punish him for
falling?

And if He did so create and so punish man, could you call that just or
merciful?

And if God is our "maker," who but He is responsible for our make-up?

And if He alone is responsible, how can Man have sinned against God?

I maintain that besides being unhistorical and unreasonable, the old
doctrine of the Atonement is unjust and immoral.

The doctrine of the Atonement is not just nor moral, because it implies
that man should not be punished or rewarded according to his own merit
or demerit, but according to the merit of another.

Is it just, or is it moral, to make the good suffer for the bad?

Is it just or moral to forgive one man his sin because another is
sinless? Such a doctrine--the doctrine of Salvation for Christ's sake,
and after a life of crime--holds out inducements to sin.

Repentance is only good because it is the precursor of reform. But no
repentance can merit pardon, nor atone for wrong. If, having done wrong,
I repent, and afterwards do right, that is good. But to be sorry and not
to reform is not good.

If I do wrong, my repentance will not cancel that wrong. An act
performed is performed for ever.

If I cut a man's hand off, I may repent, and he may pardon me. But
neither my remorse nor his forgiveness will make the hand grow again.
And if the hand could grow again, the wrong I did would still have been
done.

That is a stern morality, but it is moral. Your doctrine of pardon
"for Christ's sake" is not moral. God acts unjustly when He pardons for
Christ's sake. Christ acts unjustly when He asks that pardon be granted
for his sake. If one man injures another, the prerogative of pardon
should belong to the injured man. It is for him who suffers to forgive.

If your son injure your daughter, the pardon must come from her. It
would not be just for you to say: "He has wronged you, and has made no
atonement, but I forgive him." Nor would it be just for you to forgive
him because another son of yours was willing to be punished in his
stead. Nor would it be just for that other son to come forward, and
say to you, and not to his injured sister, "Father, forgive him for my
sake."

He who wrongs a fellow-creature wrongs himself as well, and wrongs both
for all eternity. Let this awful thought keep us just. It is more moral
and more corrective than any trust in the vicarious atonement of a
Saviour.

Christ's Atonement, or any other person's atonement, cannot _justly_
be accepted. For the fact that Christ is willing to suffer for another
man's sin only counts to the merit of Christ, and does not in any way
diminish the offence of the sinner. If I am bad, does it make my offence
the less that another man is so much better?

If a just man had two servants, and one of them did wrong, and if the
other offered to endure a flogging in expiation of his fault, what would
the just man do?

To flog John for the fault of James would be to punish John for being
better than James. To forgive James because John had been unjustly
flogged would be to assert that because John was good, and because the
master had acted unjustly, James the guilty deserved to be forgiven.

This is not only contrary to reason and to justice: it is also a very
false sentiment.



DETERMINISM

CAN MAN SIN AGAINST GOD?


I have said several times that Man could not and cannot sin against God.

This is the theory of Determinism, and I will now explain it.

_If God is responsible for Man's existence, God is responsible for Man's
acts._

The Christian says God is our Maker. God _made_ Man.

Who is responsible for the quality or powers of a thing that is made?

The thing that is made cannot be responsible, for it did not make
itself. But the maker is responsible, for he _made_ it.

As Man did not make himself, and had neither act, nor voice, nor
suggestion, nor choice in the creation of his own nature, Man cannot be
held answerable for the qualities or powers of his nature, and therefore
cannot be held responsible for his acts.

If God made Man, God is responsible for the qualities and powers of
Man's nature, and therefore God is responsible for Man's acts.

Christian theology is built upon the sandy foundation of the doctrine of
Free Will. The Christian theory may be thus expressed:

God gave Man a will to choose. Man chose evil, therefore Man is wicked,
and deserves punishment.

The Christian says God _gave_ Man a will. The will, then, came from God,
and was not made nor selected by Man.

And this Will, the Christian says, is the "power to choose."

Then, this "power to choose" is of God's making and of God's gift.

Man has only one will, therefore he has only one "power of choice."
Therefore he has no power of choice but the power God gave him. Then,
Man can only choose by means of that power which God gave him, and he
cannot choose by any other means.

Then, if Man chooses evil, he chooses evil by means of the power of
choice God gave him.

Then, if that power of choice given to him by God makes for evil,
it follows that Man must choose evil, since he has no other power of
choice.

Then, the only power of choice God gave Man is a power that will choose
evil.

Then, Man is unable to choose good because his only power of choice will
choose evil.

Then, as Man did not make nor select his power of choice, Man cannot be
blamed if that power chooses evil.

Then, the blame must be God's, who gave Man a power of choice that would
choose evil.

Then, Man cannot sin against God, for Man can only use the power God
gave him, and can only use that power in the way in which that power
will work.

The word "will" is a misleading word. What is will? Will is not a
faculty, like the faculty of speech or touch. The word will is a symbol,
and means the balance between two motives or desires.

Will is like the action of balance in a pair of scales. It is the
weights in the scales that decide the balance. So it is the motives in
the mind that decide the will. When a man chooses between two acts
we say that he "exercises his will"; but the fact is, that one motive
weighs down the other, and causes the balance of the mind to lean to the
weightier reason. There is no such thing as an exterior will outside the
man's brain, to push one scale down with a finger. Will is abstract, not
concrete.

A man always "wills" in favour of the weightier motive. If he loves
the sense of intoxication more than he loves his self-respect, he will
drink. If the reasons in favour of sobriety seem to him to outweigh the
reasons in favour of drink, he will keep sober.

Will, then, is a symbol for the balance of motives. Motives are born of
the brain. Therefore will depends upon the action of the brain.

God made the brain; therefore God is responsible for the action of the
brain; therefore God is responsible for the action of the will.

Therefore Man is not responsible for the action of the will. Therefore
Man cannot sin against God.

Christians speak of the will as if it were a kind of separate soul, a
"little cherub who sits up aloft" and gives the man his course.

Let us accept this idea of the will. Let us suppose that a separate soul
or faculty called the will governs the mind. That means that the "little
cherub" governs the man.

Can the man be justly blamed for the acts of the cherub?

No. Man did not make the cherub, did not select the cherub, and is
obliged to obey the cherub.

God made the cherub, and gave him command of the man. Therefore God
alone is responsible for the acts the man performs in obedience to the
cherub's orders.

If God put a beggar on horseback, would the horse be blamable for
galloping to Monte Carlo? The horse must obey the rider. The rider was
made by God. How, then, can God blame the horse?

If God put a "will" on Adam's back, and the will followed the beckoning
finger of Eve, whose fault was that?

The old Christian doctrine was that Adam was made perfect, and that he
fell. (How could the "perfect" fall?)

Why did Adam fall? He fell because the woman tempted him.

Then Adam was not strong enough to resist the woman. Then, the woman had
power to overcome Adam's will. As the Christian would express it, "Eve
had the stronger will."

Who made Adam? God made him. Who made Eve? God made her. Who made the
Serpent? God made the Serpent.

Then, if God made Adam weak, and Eve seductive, and the Serpent subtle,
was that Adam's fault or God's?

Did Adam choose that Eve should have a stronger will than he, or that
the Serpent should have a stronger will than Eve? No. God fixed all
those things.

God is all-powerful. He could have made Adam strong enough to resist
Eve. He could have made Eve strong enough to resist the Serpent. He need
not have made the Serpent at all.

God is all-knowing. Therefore, when He made Adam and Eve and the Serpent
He knew that Adam and Eve _must_ fall. And if God knew they _must_ fall,
how could Adam help falling, and how _could_ he justly be blamed for
doing what he _must_ do?

God made a bridge--built it _Himself_, of His own materials, to His own
design, and knew what the bearing strain of the bridge was.

If, then, God put upon the bridge a weight equal to double the bearing
strain, how could God justly blame the bridge for falling?

The doctrine of Free Will implies that God knowingly made the Serpent
subtle, Eve seductive, and Adam weak, and then damned the whole human
race because a bridge He had built to fall did not succeed in standing.

Such a theory is ridiculous; but upon it depends the entire fabric of
Christian theology.

For if Man is not responsible for his acts, and therefore cannot sin
against God, there is no foundation for the doctrines of the Fall, the
Sin, the Curse, or the Atonement.

If Man cannot sin against God, and if God is responsible for all Man's
acts, the Old Testament is not true, the New Testament is not true, the
Christian religion is not true.

And if you consider the numerous crimes and blunders of the Christian
Church, you will always find that they grew out of the theory of
Free Will, and the doctrines of Man's sin against God, and Man's
responsibility and "wickedness."

St. Paul said, "As in Adam all men fell, so in Christ are all made
whole." If Adam did not fall St. Paul was mistaken.

Christ is reported to have prayed on the cross, "Father, forgive them,
for they know not what they do."

That looks as if Jesus knew that the men were not responsible for their
acts, and did not know any better. But if they knew not what they did,
why should God be asked to _forgive_ them?

But let us go over the Determinist theory again, for it is most
important.

_If God is responsible for Man's existence, God is responsible for Man's
acts_.

The Christians say Man sinned, and they talk about his freedom of
choice. But they say God made Man, as He made all things.

Now, if God is all-knowing, He knew before He made Man what Man would
do. He knew that Man could do nothing but what God had enabled him to
do. That he could do nothing but what he was foreordained by God to do.

If God is all-powerful, He need not have made Man at all. Or He could
have made a man who would be strong enough to resist temptation. Or He
could have made a man who was incapable of evil.

If the All-powerful God made a man, knowing that man would succumb to
the test to which God meant to subject him, surely God could not justly
blame the man for being no better than God had made him.

If God had never made Man, then Man never could have succumbed to
temptation. God made Man of His own divine choice, and made him to His
own divine desire.

How, then, could God blame Man for anything Man did?

God was responsible for Man's _existence_, for God made him. If God had
not made him, Man could never have been, and could never have acted.
Therefore all that Man did was the result of God's creation of Man.

All man's acts were the effects of which his creation was the cause: and
God was responsible for the cause, and therefore God was responsible for
the effects.

Man did not make himself. Man could not, before he existed, have asked
God to make him. Man could not advise nor control God so as to influence
his own nature. Man could only be what God caused him to be, and do what
God enabled or compelled him to do.

Man might justly say to God: "I did not ask to be created. I did not ask
to be sent into this world. I had no power to select or mould my nature.
I am what You made me. I am where You put me. You knew when You made
me how I should act. If You wished me to act otherwise, why did You not
make me differently? If I have displeased You, I was fore-ordained to
displease You. I was fore-ordained by You to be and to do what I am
and have done. Is it my fault that You fore-ordained me to be and to do
thus?"

Christians say a man has a will to choose. So he has. But that is only
saying that one human thought will outweigh another. A man thinks with
his brain: his brain was made by God.

A tall man can reach higher than a short man. It is not the fault of the
short man that he is outreached: he did not fix his own height.

It is the same with the will. A man has a will to jump. He can jump over
a five-barred gate; but he cannot jump over a cathedral.

So with his will in moral matters. He has a will to resist temptation,
but though he may clear a small temptation, he may fall at a large one.

The actions of a man's will are as mathematically fixed at his birth as
are the motions of a planet in its orbit.

God, who made the man and the planet, is responsible for the actions of
both.

As the natural forces created by God regulate the influences of Venus
and Mars upon the Earth, so must the natural forces created by God have
regulated the influences of Eve and the Serpent on Adam.

Adam was no more blameworthy for failing to resist the influence of Eve
than the Earth is blameworthy for deviating in its course around the
Sun, in obedience to the influences of Venus and Mars.

Without the act of God there could have been no Adam, and therefore no
Fall. God, whose act is responsible for Adam's existence, is responsible
for the Fall.

_If God is responsible for man's existence, God is responsible for all
Man's acts._

If a boy brought a dog into the house and teased it until it bit him,
would not his parents ask the boy, "Why did you bring the dog in at
all?"

But if the boy had trained the dog to bite, and knew that it would bite
if it were teased, and if the boy brought the dog in and teased it until
it bit him, would the parents blame the dog?

And if a magician, like one of those at the court of Pharaoh,
deliberately made an adder out of the dust, knowing the adder would
bite, and then played with the adder until it bit some spectator, would
the injured man blame the magician or the adder?

How, then, could God blame Man for the Fall?

But you may ask me, with surprise, as so many have asked me with
surprise, "Do you really mean that no man is, under any circumstances,
to be blamed for anything he may say or do?"

And I shall answer you that I do seriously mean that no man can, under
any circumstances, be justly blamed for anything he may say or do. That
is one of my deepest convictions, and I shall try very hard to prove
that it is just.

But you may say, as many have said: "If no man can be justly blamed
for anything he says or does, there is an end of all law and order, and
society is impossible."

And I shall answer you: "No, on the contrary, there is a beginning of
law and order, and a chance that society may become civilised."

For it does not follow that because we may not blame a man we may not
condemn his acts. Nor that because we do not blame him we are bound to
allow him to do all manner of mischief.

Several critics have indignantly exclaimed that I make no difference
between good men and bad, that I lump Torquemada, Lucrezia Borgia,
Fenelon, and Marcus Aurelius together, and condone the most awful
crimes.

That is a mistake. I regard Lucrezia Borgia as a homicidal maniac, and
Torquemada as a religious maniac. I do not _blame_ such men and women.
But I should not allow them to do harm.

I believe that nearly all crimes, vices, cruelties, and other evil acts
are due to ignorance or to mental disease. I do not hate the man who
calls me an infidel, a liar, a blasphemer, or a quack. I know that he is
ignorant, or foolish, or ill-bred, or vicious, and I am sorry for him.

Socrates, as reported by Xenophon, put my case in a nutshell. When a
friend complained to Socrates that a man whom he had saluted had not
saluted him in return, the father of philosophy replied: "It is an odd
thing that if you had met a man ill-conditioned in body you would not
have been angry; but to have met a man rudely disposed in mind provokes
you."

This is sound philosophy, I think. If we pity a man with a twist in his
spine, why should we not pity the man with a twist in his brain? If we
pity a man with a stiff wrist, why not the man with a stiff pride? If we
pity a man with a weak heart, why not the man with the weak will? If we
do not blame a man for one kind of defect, why blame him for another?

But it does not follow that because we neither hate nor blame a criminal
we should allow him to commit crime.

We do not blame a rattlesnake, nor a shark. These creatures only fulfil
their natures. The shark who devours a baby is no more sinful than the
lady who eats a shrimp. We do not blame the maniac who burns a house
down and brains a policeman, nor the mad dog who bites a minor poet.
But, none the less, we take steps to defend ourselves against snakes,
sharks, lunatics, and mad dogs.

The _Clarion_ does not hate a cruel sweater, nor a tyrannous landlord,
nor a shuffling Minister of State, nor a hypocritical politician: it
pities such poor creatures. Yet the _Clarion_ opposes sweating and
tyranny and hypocrisy, and does its best to defeat and to destroy them.

If a tiger be hungry he naturally seeks food. I do not blame the tiger;
but if he endeavoured to make his dinner off our business manager, and
if I had a gun, I should shoot the tiger.

We do not hate nor blame the blight that destroys our roses and our
vines. The blight is doing what we do: he is trying to live. But we
destroy the blight to preserve our roses and our grapes.

So we do not blame an incendiary. But we are quite justified in
protecting life and property. Dangerous men must be restrained. In cases
where they attempt to kill and maim innocent and useful citizens, as,
for instance, by dynamite outrages, they must, in the last resort, be
killed.

"But," you may say, "the dynamiter knows it is wrong to wreck a street
and murder inoffensive strangers, and yet he does it. Is not that free
will? Is he not blameworthy?"

And I answer that when a man does wrong he does it because he knows no
better, or because he is naturally vicious.

And I hold that in neither case is he to blame: for he did not make
his nature, nor did he make the influences which have operated on that
nature.

Man is a creature of Heredity and Environment. He is by Heredity what
his ancestors have made him (or what God has made him). Up to the
moment of his birth he has had nothing to do with the formation of his
character. As Professor Tyndall says, "that was done _for_ him, and not
_by_ him." From the moment of his birth he is what his inherited nature,
and the influences into which he has been sent without his consent, have
made him.

An omniscient being--like God--who knew exactly what a man's nature
would be at birth, and exactly the nature of the influences to which he
would be exposed after his birth, could predict every act and word of
that man's life.

Given a particular nature; given particular influences, the result will
be as mathematically inevitable as the speed and orbit of a planet.

Man is what heredity (or God) and environment make him. Heredity gives
him his nature. That comes from his ancestors. Environment modifies his
nature: environment consists of the operation of forces external to
his nature. No man can select his ancestors; no man can select
his environment. His ancestors make his nature; other men, and
circumstances, modify his nature.

Ask any horse-breeder why he breeds from the best horses, and not from
the worst. He will tell you, because good horses are not bred from bad
ones.

Ask any father why he would prefer that his son should mix with good
companions rather than with bad companions. He will tell you that evil
communications corrupt good manners, and pitch defiles.

Heredity decides how a man shall be bred; environment regulates what he
shall learn.

One man is a critic, another is a poet. Each is what heredity and
environment have made him. Neither is responsible for his heredity nor
for his environment.

If the critic repents his evil deeds, it is because something has
happened to awake his remorse. Someone has told him of the error of his
ways. That adviser is part of his environment.

If the poet takes to writing musical comedies, it is because some
evil influence has corrupted him. That evil influence is part of his
environment.

Neither of these men is culpable for what he has done. With nobler
heredity, or happier environment, both might have been journalists; with
baser heredity, or more vicious environment, either might have been a
millionaire, a Socialist, or even a Member of Parliament.

We are all creatures of heredity and environment. It is Fate, and not
his own merit, that has kept George Bernard Shaw out of a shovel hat and
gaiters, and condemned some Right Honourable Gentlemen to manage State
Departments instead of planting cabbages.

The child born of healthy, moral, and intellectual parents has a
better start in life than the child born of unhealthy, immoral, and
unintellectual parents.

The child who has the misfortune to be born in the vitiated atmosphere
of a ducal palace is at a great disadvantage in comparison with the
child happily born amid the innocent and respectable surroundings of a
semi-detached villa in Brixton.

What chance, then, has a drunkard's baby, born in a thieves' den, and
dragged up amid the ignorant squalor of the slums?

Environment is very powerful for good or evil. Had Shakespeare been born
in the Cannibal Islands he would never have written _As You Like
It_; had Torquemada been born a Buddhist he never would have taken to
roasting heretics.

But this, you may say, is sheer Fatalism. Well! It seems to me to be
_truth_, and philosophy, and sweet charity.

And now I will try to show the difference between this Determinism,
which some think must prove so maleficent, and the Christian doctrine of
Free Will, which many consider so beneficent.

Let us take a flagrant instance of wrong-doing. Suppose some person
to persist in playing "Dolly Grey" on the euphonium, or to contract a
baneful habit of reciting "Curfew shall not Ring" at evening parties,
the Christian believer in Free Will would call him a bad man, and would
say he ought to be punished.

The philosophic Determinist would denounce the offender's _conduct_, but
would not denounce the _offender_.

We Determinists do not denounce _men_; we denounce _acts_. We do not
blame men; we try to teach them. If they are not teachable we restrain
them.

You will admit that our method is different from the accepted method.
I shall try to convince you that it is also materially better than the
accepted, or Christian, method.

Let us suppose two concrete cases: (1) Bill Sikes beats his wife; (2)
Lord Rackrent evicts his tenants.

Let us first think what would be the orthodox method of dealing with
these two cases?

What would be the orthodox method? The parson and the man in the street
would say Bill Sikes was a bad man, and that he ought to be punished.

The Determinist would say that Bill Sikes had committed a crime, and
that he ought to be restrained, and taught better.

You may tell me there seems to be very little difference in the
practical results of the two methods. But that is because we have not
followed the two methods far enough.

If you will allow me to follow the two methods further you will, I hope,
agree with me that their results will not be identical, but that our
results will be immeasurably better.

For the orthodox method is based upon the erroneous dogma that Bill
Sikes had a free will to choose between right and wrong, and, having
chosen to do wrong, he is a bad man, and ought to be punished.

But the Determinist bases his method upon the philosophical theory that
Bill Sikes is what heredity and environment have made him; and that he
is not responsible for his heredity, which he did not choose, nor for
his environment, which he did not make.

Still, you may think the difference is not effectively great. But it is.
For the Christian would blame Bill Sikes, and no one but Bill Sikes.
But the Determinist would not blame Sikes at all: he would blame his
environment.

Is not that a material difference? But follow it out to its logical
results. The Christian, blaming only Bill Sikes, because he had a "free
will," would punish Sikes, and perhaps try to convert Sikes; and there
his effort would logically end.

The Determinist would say: "If this man Sikes has been reared in a slum,
has not been educated, nor morally trained, has been exposed to all
kinds of temptation, the fault is that of the social system which has
made such ignorance, and vice, and degradation possible."

That is _one_ considerable difference between the results of a good
religion and a bad one. The Christian condemns the man--who is a victim
of evil social conditions. The Determinist condemns the evil conditions.
It is the difference between the methods of sending individual sufferers
from diphtheria to the hospital and the method of condemning the drains.

But you may cynically remind me that nothing will come of the
Determinists' protest against the evil social conditions. Perhaps not.
Let us waive that question for a moment, and consider our second case.

Lord Rackrent evicts his tenants. The orthodox method is well known. It
goes no further than the denunciation of the peer, and the raising of a
subscription (generally inadequate) for the sufferers.

The Determinist method is different. The Determinist would say: "This
peer is what heredity and environment have made him. We cannot blame him
for being what he is. We can only blame his environment. There must be
something wrong with a social system which permits one idle peer to ruin
hundreds of industrious producers. This evil social system should be
amended, or evictions will continue."

That Determinist conclusion would be followed by the usual inadequate
subscription.

And now we will go back to the point we passed. You may say, in the case
of Sikes and the peer, that the logic of the Determinist is sound, but
ineffective: nothing comes of it.

I admit that nothing comes of it, and I am now going to tell you _why_
nothing comes of it.

The Determinist cannot put his wisdom into action, because he is in a
minority.

So long as Christians have an overwhelming majority who will not touch
the drains, diphtheria must continue.

So long as the universal verdict condemns the victim of a bad system,
and helps to keep the bad system in full working order, so long will
evil flourish and victims suffer.

If you wish to realise the immense superiority of the Determinist
principles over the Christian religion, you have only to imagine what
would happen if the Determinists had a majority as overwhelming as the
majority the Christians now hold.

For whereas the Christian theory of free will and personal
responsibility results in established ignorance and injustice, with no
visible remedies beyond personal denunciation, the prison, and a few
coals and blankets, the Determinist method would result in the abolition
of lords and burglars, of slums and palaces, of caste and snobbery.
There would be no ignorance and no poverty left in the world.

That is because the Determinist understands human nature, and the
Christian does not. It is because the Determinist understands morality,
and the Christian does not.

For the Determinist looks for the cause of wrong-doing in the
environment of the wrong-doer. While the Christian puts all the wrongs
which society perpetrates against the individual, and all the wrongs
which the individual perpetrates against his fellows down to an
imaginary "free will."

Some Free-Willers are fond of crying out: "Once admit that men are not
to be blamed for their actions, and all morality and all improvement
will cease." But that is a mistake. As I have indicated above, a good
many evils now rife would cease, because then we should attack the
evils, and not the victims of the evils. But it is absurd to suppose
that we do not detest cholera because we do not detest cholera patients,
or that we should cease to hate wrong because we ceased to blame
wrong-doers.

Admit the Determinist theory, and all would be taught to do well, and
most would take kindly to the lesson. Because the fact that environment
is so powerful for evil suggests that it is powerful for good. If man is
what he is made, it behoves a nation which desires and prizes good men
to be very earnest and careful in its methods of making them.

I believe that I am what heredity and environment made me. But I know
that I can make myself better or worse if I try. I know that because I
have learnt it, and the learning has been part of my environment.

My claim, as a Determinist, is that it is not so good to punish an
offender as to improve his environment. It is good of the Christians to
open schools and to found charities. But as a Determinist I am bound to
say that there ought to be no such things in the world as poverty and
ignorance, and one of the contributory causes to ignorance and poverty
is the Christian doctrine of free will.

Take away from a man all that God gave him, and there will be nothing of
him left.

Take away from a man all that heredity and environment have given him,
and there will be nothing left.

Man is what he is by the act of God, or the results of heredity and
environment. In either case he is not to blame.

In one case the result is due to the action of his ancestors and
society, in the other to the act of God.

Therefore a man is not responsible for his actions, and cannot sin
against God.

_If God is responsible for Man's existence, God is responsible for Man's
acts._

A religion built upon the doctrine of Free Will and human responsibility
to God is built upon a misconception and must fall.

Christianity is a fabric of impossibilities erected upon a foundation of
error.

Perhaps, since I find many get confused on the subject of Free Will from
their consciousness of continually exercising the "power of choice," I
had better say a few words here on that subject.

You say you have power to choose between two courses. So you have, but
that power is limited and controlled by heredity and environment.

If you have to choose between a showy costume and a plain one you will
choose the one you like best, and you will like best the one which your
nature (heredity) and your training (environment) will lead you to like
best.

You think your will is free. But it is not. You may think you have power
to drown yourself; but you have not.

Your love of life and your sense of duty are too strong for you.

You might think I have power to leave the _Clarion_ and start an
anti-Socialist paper. But I know I have not that power. My nature
(heredity) and my training and habit (environment) are too strong for
me.

If you knew a lady was going to choose between a red dress and a grey
one, and if you knew the lady very well, you could guess her choice
before she made it.

If you knew an honourable man was to be offered a bribe to do a
dishonourable act, you would feel sure he would refuse it.

If you knew a toper was to be offered as much free whisky as he could
drink, you would be sure he would not come home sober.

If you knew the nature and the environment of a man thoroughly well,
and the circumstances (_all_ the circumstances) surrounding a choice
of action to be presented to him, and if you were clever enough to work
such a difficult problem, you could forecast his choice before he made
it, as surely as in the case of the lady, the toper, and the honourable
man above mentioned.

You have power to choose, then, but you can only choose as your heredity
and environment _compel_ you to choose. And you do not select your own
heredity nor your own environment.



CHRISTIAN APOLOGIES CHRISTIAN APOLOGIES


Christian apologists make some daring claims on behalf of their
religion. The truth of Christianity is proved, they say, by its
endurance and by its power; the beneficence of its results testifies to
the divinity of its origin.

These claims command wide acceptance, for the simple reason that those
who deny them cannot get a hearing.

The Christians have virtual command of all the churches, universities,
and schools. They have the countenance and support of the Thrones,
Parliaments, Cabinets, and aristocracies of the world, and they have the
nominal support of the World's Newspaper Press. They have behind them
the traditions of eighteen centuries. They have formidable allies in the
shape of whole schools of philosophy and whole libraries of eloquence
and learning. They have the zealous service and unswerving credence of
millions of honest and worthy citizens: and they are defended by solid
ramparts of prejudice, and sentiment, and obstinate old custom.

The odds against the Rationalists are tremendous. To challenge the
claims of Christianity is easy: to get the challenge accepted is very
hard. Rationalists' books and papers are boycotted. The Christians will
not listen, will not reason, will not, if they can prevent it, allow
a hostile voice to be heard. Thus, from sheer lack of knowledge, the
public accept the Christian apologist's assertions as demonstrated
truth.

And the Christians claim this immunity from attack as a triumph of their
arms, and a further proof of the truth of their religion. Religion has
been attacked before, they cry, and where now are its assailants? And
the answer must be, that many of its assailants are in their graves, but
that some of them are yet alive, and there are more to follow. But the
combat is very unequal. If the Rationalists could for only a few
years have the support of the Crowns, Parliaments, Aristocracies,
Universities, Schools, and Newspapers of the world; if they could preach
Science and Reason twice every Sunday from a hundred thousand pulpits,
perhaps the Christians would have less cause for boasting.

But as things are, we "Infidels" must cease to sigh for whirlwinds, and
do the best we can with the bellows.

So: the Christians claim that their religion has done wonders for the
world; a claim disputed by the Rationalists.

Now, when we consider what Christianity has done, we should take account
of the evil as well as the good. But this the Christians are unwilling
to allow.

Christians declare that the divine origin and truth of their religion
are proved by its beneficent results.

But Christianity has done evil as well as good. Mr. G. K. Chesterton,
while defending Christianity in the _Daily News_, said:

     Christianity has committed crimes so monstrous that the sun might
     sicken at them in heaven.

And no one can refute that statement.

But Christians evade the dilemma. When the evil works of their
religion are cited, they reply that those evils were wrought by false
Christianity, that they were contrary to the teachings of Christ, and so
were not the deeds of Christians at all.

_The Christian Commonwealth_, in advancing the above plea as to real
and false Christianity, instances the difference between Astrology and
Astronomy, and said:

     We fear Mr. Blatchford, if he has any sense of consistency,
     must, when he has finished his tirade against Christianity,
     turn his artillery on Greenwich Observatory, and proclaim the
     Astronomer Royal a scientific quack, on account of the follies
     of star-gazers in the past.

But that parallel is not a true one. Let us suppose that the follies of
astrology and the discoveries of astronomy were bound up in one book,
and called the Word of God. Let us suppose we were told that the whole
book--facts, reason, folly, and falsehoods--was divinely inspired and
literally true. Let us suppose that any one who denied the old crude
errors of astrology was persecuted as a heretic. Let us suppose that any
one denying the theory of Laplace or the theory of Copernicus would
be reviled as an "Infidel." Let us suppose that the Astronomer Royal
claimed infallibility, not only in matters astronomical, but also
in politics and morals. Let us suppose that for a thousand years the
astrological-astronomical holy government had whipped, imprisoned,
tortured, burnt, hanged, and damned for everlasting every man, woman, or
child who dared to tell it any new truth, and that some of the noblest
men of genius of all ages had been roasted or impaled alive for being
rude to the equator. Let us suppose that millions of pounds were still
annually spent on casting nativities, and that thousands of expensive
observatories were still maintained at the public cost for astrological
rites. Let us suppose all this, and then I should say it would be quite
consistent and quite logical for me to turn my verbal artillery on
Greenwich Observatory.

Would the Christians listen to such a plea in any other case? Had
Socialists been guilty of tyranny, or war, of massacre, or torture, of
blind opposition to the truth of science, of cruel persecution of the
finest human spirits for fifteen centuries, can anyone believe for
a moment that Christians would heed the excuse that the founders of
Socialism had not preached the atrocious policy which the established
Socialist bodies and the recognised Socialist leaders had put in force
persistently during all those hundreds of cruel years?

Would the Christian hearken to such a defence from a Socialist, or
from a Mohammedan? Would a Liberal accept it from a Tory? Would a Roman
Catholic admit it from a Jew?

Neither is it right to claim credit for the good deeds, and to avoid
responsibility for the evil deeds of the divine religion.

And the fact must be insisted upon, that _all_ religion, in its very
nature, makes for persecution and oppression. It is the assumption that
it is wicked to doubt the accepted faith and the presumption that one
religion ought to revenge or justify its God upon another religion, that
leads to all the pious crimes the world groans and bleeds for.

This is seen in the Russian outrages on the Jews, and in the Moslem
outrages upon the Macedonians to-day. It is religious fanaticism that
lights and fans and feeds the fire. Were all the people in the world
of one, or of no, religion to-day, there would be no Jews murdered by
Christians and no Christians murdered by Moslems in the East. The cause
of the atrocities would be gone. The cause is religion.

Why is religious intolerance so much more fierce and bitter than
political intolerance? Just because it _is_ religious. It is the
supernatural element that breeds the fury. It is the feeling that their
religion is divine and all other religions wicked: it is the belief that
it is a holy thing to be "jealous for the Lord," that drives men into
blind rage and ruthless savagery.

We have to regard two things at once, then: the good influences of
Christ's ethics, and the evil deeds of those who profess to be His
followers.

As to what some Christians call "the Christianity of Christ," I suggest
that the teachings of Christ were imperfect and inadequate. That they
contain some moral lessons I admit. But some of the finest and most
generally admired of those lessons do not appear to have been spoken
by Christ, and for the rest there is nothing in His ethics that had
not been taught by men before, and little that has not been extended or
improved by men since His era.

The New Testament, considered as a moral and spiritual guide for
mankind, is unsatisfactory. For it is based upon an erroneous estimate
of human nature and of God.

I am sure that it would be easy to compile a book more suitable to
the needs of Man. I think it is a gross blunder to assume that all the
genius, all the experience, all the discovery and research; all the
poetry, morality, and science of the entire human race during the past
eighteen hundred years have failed to add to or improve the knowledge
and morality of the first century.

Mixed with much that is questionable or erroneous, the New Testament
contains some truth and beauty. Amid the perpetration of much bloodshed
and tyranny, Christianity has certainly achieved some good. I should not
like to say of any religion that all its works were evil. But Christ's
message, as we have it in the Gospels, is neither clear nor sufficing,
and has been obscured, and, at times almost obliterated, by the pomps
and casuistries of the schools and churches. And just as it is difficult
to discover the actual Jesus among the conflicting Gospel stories of
His works and words, so it is almost impossible to discover the genuine
authentic Christian religion amid the swarm of more or less antagonistic
sects who confound the general ear with their discordant testimonies.



CHRISTIANITY AND CIVILISATION


It is a common mistake of apologists to set down all general
improvements and signs of improvements to the credit of the particular
religion or political theory they defend. Every good Liberal knows that
bad harvests are due to Tory government. Every good Tory knows that
his Party alone is to thank for the glorious certainties that Britannia
rules the waves, that an Englishman's house is his castle, and that
journeymen tailors earn fourpence an hour more than they were paid in
the thirteenth century.

Cobdenites ascribe every known or imagined improvement in commerce, and
the condition of the masses, to Free Trade. Things are better than
they were fifty years ago: Free Trade was adopted fifty years ago.
_Ergo_--there you are.

There is not a word about the development of railways and steamships,
about improved machinery, about telegraphs, the cheap post and
telephones; about education and better facilities of travel; about the
Factory Acts and Truck Acts; about cheap books and newspapers; and who
so base to whisper of Trade Unions, and Agitators, and County Councils?

So it is with the Christian religion. We are more moral, more civilised,
more humane, the Christians tell us, than any human beings ever were
before us. And we owe this to the Christian religion, and to no other
thing under Heaven.

But for Christianity we never should have had the House of Peers, the
_Times_ newspaper, the Underground Railway, the _Adventures of Captain
Kettle_, the Fabian Society, or Sir Thomas Lipton.

The ancient Greek Philosophers, the Buddhist missionaries, the Northern
invaders, the Roman laws and Roman roads, the inventions of printing,
of steam, and of railways, the learning of the Arabs, the discoveries
of Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Herschel, Hunter, Laplace, Bacon,
Descartes, Spencer, Columbus, Karl Marx, Adam Smith; the reforms
and heroisms and artistic genius of Wilberforce, Howard, King Asoka,
Washington, Stephen Langton, Oliver Cromwell, Sir Thomas More, Rabelais,
and Shakespeare; the wars and travels and commerce of eighteen hundred
years, the Dutch Republic, the French Revolution, and the Jameson Raid
have had nothing to do with the growth of civilisation in Europe and
America.

And so to-day: science, invention, education, politics, economic
conditions, literature and art, the ancient Greeks and Oriental Wisdom,
and the world's Press count for nothing in the moulding of the nations.
Everything worth having comes from the pulpit, the British and Foreign
Bible Society, and the _War Cry_.

It is not to our scientists, our statesmen, our economists, our authors,
inventors, and scholars that we must look for counsel and reform: such
secular aid is useless, and we shall be wise to rely entirely upon His
Holiness the Pope and His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury.

In the England of the Middle Ages, when Christianity was paramount,
there was a cruel penal code, there was slavery, there were barbarous
forest laws, there were ruthless oppression and insolent robbery of the
poor, there were black ignorance and a terror of superstition, there
were murderous laws against witchcraft, there was savage persecution
of the Jews, there were "trial by wager of battle," and "question" of
prisoners by torture.

Many of these horrors endured until quite recent times. Why did
Christianity with its spiritual and temporal power, permit such things
to be?

Did Christianity abolish them? No. Christianity nearly always opposed
reform. The Church was the enemy of popular freedom, the enemy of
popular education; the friend of superstition and tyranny, and the
robber baron.

Those horrors are no more. But Christianity did not abolish them. They
were abolished by the gradual spread of humane feelings and the light
of knowledge; just as similar iniquities were abolished by the spread of
humane doctrines in India, centuries before the birth of Christ.

Organised and authoritative religion the world over makes for ignorance,
for poverty and superstition. In Russia, in Italy, in Spain, in
Turkey, where the Churches are powerful and the authority is tense, the
condition of the people is lamentable. In America, England, and Germany,
where the authority of the Church is less rigid and the religion is
nearer Rationalism, the people are more prosperous, more intelligent,
and less superstitious. So, again, the rule of the English Church seems
less beneficial than that of the more rational and free Nonconformist.
The worst found and worst taught class in England is that of the
agricultural labourers, who have been for centuries left entirely in the
hands of the Established Church.

It may be urged that the French, although Catholics, are as intelligent
and as prosperous as any nation in the world. But the French are a
clever people, and since their Revolution have not taken their religion
so seriously. Probably there are more Sceptics and Rationalists in
France than in any other country.

My point is that the prosperity and happiness of a nation do not depend
upon the form of religion they profess, but upon their native energy and
intelligence and the level of freedom and knowledge to which they have
attained.

It is because organised and authoritative religion opposes education and
liberty that we find the most religious peoples the most backward. And
this is a strange commentary upon the claim of the Christians,
that their religion is the root from which the civilisation and the
refinement of the world have sprung.



CHRISTIANITY AND ETHICS


Christianity, we are told, inaugurated the religion of humanity and
human brotherhood. But the Buddhists taught a religion of humanity and
universal brotherhood before the Christian era; and not only taught the
religion, but put it into practice, which the Christians never succeeded
in doing, and cannot do to-day.

And, moreover, the Buddhists did not spread their religion of
humanity and brotherhood by means of the sword, and the rack, and the
thumb-screw, and the faggot; and the Buddhists liberated the slave, and
extended their loving-kindness to the brute creation.

The Buddhists do not depend for the records of their morality on books.
Their testimony is written upon the rocks. No argument can explain away
the rock edicts of King Asoka.

King Asoka was one of the greatest Oriental kings. He ruled over a vast
and wealthy nation. He was converted to Buddhism, and made it the State
religion, as Constantine made Christianity the State religion of Rome.
In the year 251 B.C., King Asoka inscribed his earliest rock edict.
The other edicts from which I shall quote were all cut more than two
centuries before our era. The inscription of the Rupuath Rock has the
words: "Two hundred and fifty years have elapsed since the departure of
the teacher." Now, Buddha died in the fifth century before Christ.

The Dhauli Edict of King Asoka contains the following:

     Much longing after the things [of this life] is a disobedience,
     I again declare; not less so is the laborious ambition of
     dominion by a prince who would be a propitiator of Heaven.
     Confess and believe in God, who is the worthy object of obedience.

From the Tenth Rock Edict:

     Earthly glory brings little profit, but, on the contrary,
     produces a loss of virtue.  To toil for heaven is difficult
     to peasant and to prince, unless by a supreme effort he gives
     up all.

This is from the Fourteenth Edict:

     Piyadasi, the friend of the Devas, values alone the harvest
     of the next world.  For this alone has this inscription been
     chiselled, that our sons and our grandsons should make no new
     conquests.  Let them not think that conquests by the sword
     merit the name of conquests.  Let them see their ruin, confusion,
     and violence.  True conquests alone are the conquests of _Dharma_.

Rock Edict No. 1 has:

     Formerly in the great refectory and temple of King Piyadasi,
     the friend of the Devas, many hundred thousand animals were
     daily sacrificed for the sake of food meat... but now the
     joyful chorus resounds again and again that henceforward not
     a single animal shall be put to death.

The Second Edict has:

     In committing the least possible harm, in doing abundance of
     good, in the practice of pity, love, truth, and likewise purity
     of life, religion consists.

The Ninth Edict has:

     Not superstitious rites, but kindness to slaves and servants,
     reverence towards venerable persons, self-control with respect
     to living creatures... these and similar virtuous actions
     are the rites which ought indeed to be performed.

The Eighth Edict has:

     The acts and the practice of religion, to wit, sympathy,
     charity, truthfulness, purity, gentleness, kindness.

The Sixth Edict has:

     I consider the welfare of all people as something for which
     I must work.

The Dhauli Edict has:

     If a man is subject to slavery and ill-treatment, from this
     moment he shall be delivered by the king from this and other
     captivity.  Many men in this country suffer in captivity,
     therefore the stupa containing the commands of the king has
     been a great want.

Is it reasonable to suppose that a people possessing so much wisdom,
mercy, and purity two centuries before Christ was born could need to
borrow from the Christian ethics?

Mr. Lillie says of King Asoka:

     He antedates Wilberforce in the matter of slavery.  He antedates
     Howard in his humanity towards prisoners.  He antedates Tolstoy
     in his desire to turn the sword into a pruning-hook.  He antedates
     Rousseau, St. Martin, Fichte in their wish to make interior
     religion the all in all.

King Asoka abolished slavery, denounced war, taught spiritual religion
and purity of life, founded hospitals, forbade blood sacrifices, and
inculcated religious toleration, two centuries before the birth of
Christ.

Centuries before King Asoka the Buddhists sent out missionaries all over
the world.

Which religion was the borrower from the other--Buddhism or
Christianity?

Two centuries before Christ, King Asoka had cut upon the rocks these
words:

     I pray with every variety of prayer for those who differ with
     me in creed, that they, following after my example, may with
     me attain unto eternal salvation.  And whoso doeth this is
     blessed of the inhabitants of this world; and in the next
     world endless moral merit resulteth from such religious charity
     --_Edict XI_.

How many centuries did it take the Christians to rise to that level of
wisdom and charity? How many Christians have reached it yet?

But the altruistic idea is very much older than Buddha, for it existed
among forms of life very much earlier and lower than the human, and has,
indeed, been a powerful factor in evolution.

Speaking of "The Golden Rule" in his _Confessions of Faith of a Man of
Science_, Haeckel says:

     In the human family this maxim has always been accepted as
     self-evident; as ethical instinct it was an inheritance
     derived from our animal ancestors.  It had already found a
     place among the herds of apes and other social mammals; in a
     similar manner, but with wider scope, it was already present
     in the most primitive communities and among the hordes of the
     least advanced savages.  Brotherly love--mutual support,
     succour, protection, and the like--had already made its
     appearance among gregarious animals as a social duty; for
     without it the continued existence of such societies is
     impossible.  Although at a later period, in the case of man,
     these moral foundations of society came to be much more highly
     developed, their oldest prehistoric source, as Darwin has shown,
     is to be sought in the social instincts of animals.  Among the
     higher vertebrates (dogs, horses, elephants, etc.), as among
     the higher articulates (ants, bees, termites, etc.), also, the
     development of social relations and duties is the indispensable
     condition of their living together in orderly societies.  Such
     societies have for man also been the most important instrument
     of intellectual and moral progress.

It is not to revelation that we owe the ideal of human brotherhood, but
to evolution. It is because altruism is better than selfishness that it
has survived. It is because love is stronger and sweeter than greed that
its influence has deepened and spread. From the love of the animal for
its mate, from the love of parents for their young, sprang the ties of
kindred and the loyalty of friendship; and these in time developed
into tribal, and thence into national patriotism. And these stages of
altruistic evolution may be seen among the brutes. It remained for Man
to take the grand step of embracing all humanity as one brotherhood and
one nation.

But the root idea of fraternity and mutual loyalty was not planted by
any priest or prophet. For countless ages universal brotherhood has
existed among the bison, the swallow, and the deer, in a perfection to
which humanity has not yet attained.

For a fuller account of this animal origin of fraternity I recommend the
reader to two excellent books, _The Martyrdom of Man_, by Winwood Reade
(Kegan Paul), and _Mutual Aid_, by Prince Kropotkin (Heinemann).

But the Christian claims that Christ taught a new gospel of love, and
mercy, and goodwill to men. That is a great mistake. Christ did not
originate one single new ethic.

The Golden Rule was old. The Lord's Prayer was old. The Sermon on
the Mount was old. With the latter I will deal briefly. For a fuller
statement, please see the R.P.A. sixpenny edition of Huxley's _Lectures
and Essays_, and _Christianity and Mythology_, by J. M. Robertson.

Shortly stated, Huxley's argument was to the following effect:

That Mark's Gospel is the oldest of the Synoptic Gospels, and that
Mark's Gospel does not contain, nor even mention, the Sermon on the
Mount. That Luke gives no Sermon on the Mount, but gives what may be
called a "Sermon on the Plain." That Luke's sermon differs materially
from the sermon given by Matthew. That the Matthew version contains one
hundred and seven verses, and the Luke version twenty-nine verses.

Huxley's conclusion is as follows:

     "Matthew," having a _cento_ of sayings attributed--rightly or
     wrongly it is impossible to say--to Jesus among his materials,
     thought they were, or might be, records of a continuous discourse
     and put them in a place he thought likeliest.  Ancient historians
     of the highest character saw no harm in composing long speeches
     which never were spoken, and putting them into the mouths of
     statesmen and warriors; and I presume that whoever is represented
     by "Matthew" would have been grievously astonished to find that
     any one objected to his following the example of the best models
     accessible to him.

But since Huxley wrote those words more evidence has been produced. From
the Old Testament, from the Talmud, and from the recently-discovered
_Teaching of the Twelve Apostles_ (a pre-Christian work) the origins of
the Sermon on the Mount have been fully traced.

Agnostic criticism now takes an attitude towards this sermon which may
be thus expressed:

   1. The sermon never was preached at all. It is a written compilation.

   2. The story of the mount is a myth. The name of the mount is not
      given.  It is not reasonable to suppose that Jesus would lead a
      multitude up a mountain to speak to them for a few minutes.  The
      mountain is an old sun-myth of the Sun God on his hill, and the
      twelve apostles are another sun-myth, and represent the signs of
      the Zodiac.

   3. There is nothing in the alleged sermon that was new at the time
      of its alleged utterance.

Of course, it may be claimed that the arrangement of old texts in a new
form constitutes a kind of originality; as one might say that he who
took flowers from a score of gardens and arranged them into one bouquet
produced a new effect of harmony and beauty. But this credit must be
given to the compilers of the gospels' version of the Sermon on the
Mount.

Let us take a few pre-Christian morals.

Sextus said: "What you wish your neighbours to be to you, such be also
to them."

Isocrates said: "Act towards others as you desire others to act towards
you."

Lao-tze said: "The good I would meet with goodness, the not-good I would
also meet with goodness."

Buddha said: "Hatred does not cease by hatred at any time: hatred ceases
by love."

And again: "Let us live happily, not hating those who hate us."

In the Talmud occur the following Jewish anticipations of Christian
morals:

     Love peace, and seek it at any price.

     Remember that it is better to be persecuted than persecutor.

     To whom does God pardon sins?--To him who himself forgives injuries.

     Those who undergo injuries without returning it, those who
     hear themselves vilified and do not reply, who have no motive
     but love, who accept evils with joy; it is of them that the
     prophet speaks when he says the friends of God shall shine
     one day as the sun in all his splendour.

     It is not the wicked we should hate, but wickedness.

     Be like God, compassionate, merciful.

     Judge not your neighbour when you have not been in his place.

     He who charitably judges his neighbour shall be charitably judged
     by God.

     Do not unto others that which it would be disagreeable to you
     to suffer yourself, that is the main part of the law; all the
     rest is only commentary.

From the Old Testament come such morals as:

     Let him give his cheek to him that smiteth him (Lam. iii. 30).

     Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself (Lev. xix. 18).

     He that is of a lowly spirit shall obtain honour (Prov. xxix. 23)

     The meek shall inherit the land (Ps. xxxvii 11).

History and ancient literature prove that Christianity did not bring
a new moral code, did not inaugurate peace, nor purity, nor universal
brotherhood, did not originate the ideal human character: but checked
civilisation, resisted all enlightenment, and deluged the earth with
innocent blood in the endeavour to compel mankind to drink old moral
wine out of new theological bottles.

Three of the greatest blessings men can have are freedom, liberty of
conscience, and knowledge. These blessings Christianity has not given,
but has opposed.

It is largely to the ancient Greeks and Romans, to the Arabs and
the Indians, to patriots, heroes, statesmen, scholars, scientists,
travellers, inventors, discoverers, authors, poets, philanthropists,
rebels, sceptics, and reformers that the world owes such advance as it
has made towards liberty and happiness and universal loving-kindness.

This advance has been made in defiance of Christian envy, hatred, and
malice, and in defiance of Christian tyranny and persecution. After
fighting fiercely to defeat the advance of humanity, after slaying
and cursing the noblest sons and daughters of the ages, the defeated
Christians now claim to have conquered the fields they have lost,
to have bestowed the benefits they have denied, to have evolved the
civilisation they have maimed and damned.

As a Democrat, a Humanist, and a Socialist, I join my voice to the
indignant chorus which denies those claims.



THE SUCCESS OF CHRISTIANITY


We are told that the divine origin and truth of Christianity are proved
by the marvellous success of that religion. But it seems to me that the
reverse is proved by its failure.

Christianity owed its magnificent opportunities (which it has wasted) to
several accidental circumstances. Just as the rise of Buddhism was made
possible by the act of King Asoka in adopting it as the State Religion
of his vast Indian kingdom, was the rise of Christianity made possible
by the act of the Emperor Constantine in adopting it as the State
religion of the far-stretched Roman Empire.

Christianity spread rapidly because the Roman Empire was ripe for a
new religion. It conquered because it threw in its lot with the ruling
powers. It throve because it came with the tempting bribe of Heaven
in one hand, and the withering threat of Hell in the other. The older
religions, grey in their senility, had no such bribe or threat to
conjure with.

Christianity overcame opposition by murdering or cursing all who
resisted its advance. It exterminated scepticism by stifling knowledge,
and putting a merciless veto on free thought and free speech, and by
rewarding philosophers and discoverers with the faggot and the chain. It
held its power for centuries by force of hell-fire, and ignorance, and
the sword; and the greatest of these was ignorance.

Nor must it be supposed that the persecution and the slaughter of
"Heretics" and "Infidels" was the exception. It was the rule. Motley,
the American historian, states that Torquemada, during eighteen years'
command of the Inquisition, burnt more than ten thousand people alive,
and punished nearly a hundred thousand with infamy, confiscation of
property, or perpetual imprisonment.

To be a Jew, a Moslem, a Lutheran, a "wizard," a sceptic, a heretic was
to merit death and torture. One order of Philip of Spain condemned to
death as "heretics" _the entire population of the Netherlands_. Wherever
the Christian religion was successful the martyrs' fires burned, and the
devilish instruments of torture were in use. For some twelve centuries
the Holy Church carried out this inhuman policy. And to this day the
term "free thought" is a term of reproach. The shadow of the fanatical
priest, that half-demented coward, sneak, and assassin, still blights
us. Although that holy monster, with his lurking spies, his villainous
casuistries, his flames and devils, and red-hot pincers, and whips of
steel, has been defeated by the humanity he scorned and the knowledge
he feared, yet he has left a taint behind him. It is still held that it
ought to be an unpleasant thing to be an Infidel.

And, yes, there were other factors in the "success" of Christianity. The
story of the herald angels, the wise men from the east, the manger,
the child God, the cross, and the gospel of mercy and atonement, and
of universal brotherhood and peace amongst the earthly children of
a Heavenly Father, whose attribute was love--this story, possessed a
certain homely beauty and sentimental glamour which won the allegiance
of many golden-hearted and sweet-souled men and women. These lovely
natures assimilated from the chaotic welter of beauty and ashes called
the Christian religion all that was pure, and rejected all that was
foul. It was the light of such sovereign souls as Joan of Arc and
Francis of Assisi that saved Christianity from darkness and the pit; and
how much does that religion owe to the genius of Wyclif and Tyndale, of
Milton and Handel, of Mozart and Thomas a Kempis, of Michael Angelo and
Rafael, and the compilers of the Book of Common Prayer?

There are good men and good women by millions in the Christian ranks
to-day, and it is their virtue, and their zeal, and their illumination
of its better qualities, and charitable and loyal shelter of its follies
and its crimes, that keep the Christian religion still alive.

Christianity has been for fifteen hundred years the religion of the
brilliant, brave, and strenuous races in the world. And what has it
accomplished? And how does it stand to-day?

Is Christianity the rule of life in America and Europe? Are the masses
of people who accept it peaceful, virtuous, chaste, spiritually minded,
prosperous, happy? Are their national laws based on its ethics? Are
their international politics guided by the Sermon on the Mount? Are
their noblest and most Christlike men and women most revered and
honoured? Is the Christian religion loved and respected by those outside
its pale? Are London and Paris, New York and St. Petersburg, Berlin,
Vienna, Brussels, and Rome centres of holiness and of sweetness and
light? From Glasgow to Johannesburg, from Bombay to San Francisco is God
or Mammon king?

If a tree should be known by its fruit, the Christian religion has small
right to boast of its success.

But the Christian will say, "This is not Christianity, but its
caricature." Where, then, is the saving grace, the compelling power,
of this divine religion, which, planted by God Himself, is found after
nineteen centuries to yield nothing but leaves?

After all these sad ages of heroism and crime, of war and massacre,
of preaching and praying, of blustering and trimming; after all this
prodigal waste of blood and tears, and labour and treasure, and genius
and sacrifice, we have nothing better to show for Christianity than
European and American Society to-day.

And this ghastly heart-breaking failure proves the Christian religion to
be the Divine Revelation of God!



THE PROPHECIES


Another alleged proof of the divine verity of the Christian religion
is the Prophecies. Hundreds of books--perhaps I might say thousands
of books--have been written upon these prophecies. Wonderful books,
wonderful prophecies, wonderful religion, wonderful people.

If religious folk did not think by moonlight those books on the
prophecies would never have been written. There are the prophecies of
Christ's coming which are pointed out in the Old Testament. That the
Jews had many prophecies of a Jewish Messiah is certain. But these are
indefinite. There is not one of them which unmistakably applies to Jesus
Christ; and the Jews, who should surely understand their own prophets
and their own Scriptures, deny that Christ was the Messiah whose coming
the Scriptures foretold.

Then, we have the explicit prophecy of Christ Himself as to His second
coming. That prophecy at least is definite; and that has never been
fulfilled.

For Christ declared in the plainest and most solemn manner that He would
return from Heaven with power and glory within the lifetime of those to
whom He spoke:

     Verily, I say unto you, this generation shall not pass, till
     all these things be fulfilled.

These prophecies by Christ of His return to earth may be read in the
Gospels of Matthew and Luke. They are distinct, and definite, and
solemn, and--untrue.

I could fill many pages with unfulfilled prophecies from the Old and New
Testaments. I think the one I give is enough.

Jesus Christ distinctly says that He will come in glory with all His
angels before "this generation" all have passed away.

This is the year 1903. Christ uttered His prophecy about the year 31.



THE UNIVERSALITY OF RELIGIOUS BELIEF


Christians declare the religious sentiment to be universal. Even if it
were so, that would show a universal spiritual hunger; but would not
prove the Christian religion to be its only food.

But the religious sentiment is not universal. I know many young people
who have never been taught religion of any kind, who have never read
Bible nor Gospel, who never attended any place of worship; and they are
virtuous and courteous and compassionate and happy, and feel no more
need of spiritual comfort or religious consolation than I do.

They are as gentle, sweet, and merry, and do their duty as faithfully as
any Christian, yet to them Heaven and Hell are meaningless abstractions;
God and the soul are problems they, with quiet cheerfulness, leave time
to solve.

If the craving for religion were universal these young folk would not
be free from spiritual hunger. As they are free from spiritual hunger,
I conclude that the craving for religion is not born in us, but must be
inculcated.

Many good men and women will look blank at such heresy. "What!" they
will exclaim, "take away the belief in the Bible, and the service of
God? Why, our lives would be empty. What would you give us in exchange?"

To which I answer, "The belief in yourselves, and the belief in your
fellow-creatures, and the service of Man."

Such belief and such service will certainly increase the sum of
happiness on earth. And as for the Hereafter--no man knoweth. _No_ man
knoweth. IS CHRISTIANITY THE ONLY HOPE?


Christians tell us that their religion is our only refuge, that Christ
is our only saviour. From the wild Salvation Army captain, thundering
and beseeching under his banner of blood and fire, to the academic
Bishop reconciling science and transfiguring crude translations in the
dim religious light of a cathedral, all the apostles of the Nazarene
carpenter insist that He is the only way. In this the Christian
resembles the Hindu, the Parsee, the Buddhist, and the Mohammedan. There
is but one true religion, and it is his.

The Rationalist locks on with a rueful smile, and wonders. He
sees nothing in any one of these religions to justify its claim to
infallibility or pre-eminence. It seems to him unreasonable to assert
that any theology or any saviour is indispensable. He realises that
a man may be good and happy in any church, or outside any church. He
cannot admit that only those who follow Jesus, or Buddha, or Mahomet,
or Moses can be "saved," nor that all those who fail to believe in the
divine mission of one, or all of these will be lost.

Let us consider the Christian claim. If the Christian claim be valid,
men cannot be good, nor happy, cannot be saved, except through Christ.
Is this position supported by the facts?

One Christian tells me that "It is in the solemn realities of life that
one gets his final evidence that Christianity is true." Another tells me
that "In Christ alone is peace"; another, that "Without Christ there is
neither health nor holiness."

If these statements mean anything, they mean that none but true
Christians can live well, nor die well, nor bear sorrow and pain with
fortitude, do their whole duty manfully, nor find happiness here and
bliss hereafter.

But I submit that Christianity does not make men lead better lives
than others lead who are not Christians, and there are none so abjectly
afraid of death as Christians are. The Pagan, the Buddhist, the
Mohammedan, and the Agnostic do not fear death nearly so much as do the
Christians.

The words of many of the greatest Christians are gloomy with the fears
of death, of Hell, and of the wrath of God.

The Roman soldier, the Spartan soldier, the Mohammedan soldier did not
fear death. The Greek, the Buddhist, the Moslem, the Viking went to
death as to a reward, or as to the arms of a bride. Compare the writings
of Marcus Aurelius and of Jeremy Taylor, of Epictetus and John Bunyan,
and then ask yourself whether the Christian religion makes it easier for
men to die.

There are millions of Europeans--not to speak of Buddhists and
Jews--there are millions of men and women to-day who are not Christians.
Do they live worse or die worse, or bear trouble worse, than those who
accept the Christian faith?

Some of us have come through "the solemn realities of life," and have
_not_ realised that Christianity is true. We do not believe the Bible;
we do not believe in the divinity of Christ; we do not pray, nor feel
the need of prayer; we do not fear God, nor Hell, nor death. We are as
happy as our even Christian; we are as good as our even Christian; we
are as benevolent as our even Christian: what has Christianity to offer
us?

There are in the world some four hundred and fifty millions of
Buddhists. How do they bear themselves in "the solemn realities of
life"?

I suggest that consolation, and fortitude, and cheerfulness, and
loving-kindness are not in the exclusive gift of the Christian religion,
but may be found by good men in _all_ religions.

As to the effects of Christianity on life. Did Buddha, and King Asoka,
and Socrates, and Aristides lead happy, and pure, and useful lives? Were
there no virtuous, nor happy, nor noble men and women during all the
millions of years before the Crucifixion? Was there neither love, nor
honour, nor wisdom, nor valour, nor peace in the world until Paul turned
Christian? History tells us no such gloomy story.

Are there no good, nor happy, nor worthy men and women to-day outside
the pale of the Christian churches? Amongst the eight hundred millions
of human beings who do not know or do not follow Christ, are there none
as happy and as worthy as any who follow Him?

Are we Rationalists so wicked, so miserable, so useless in the world,
so terrified of the shadow of death? I beg to say we are nothing of
the kind. We are quite easy and contented. There is no despair in our
hearts. We are not afraid of bogeys, nor do we dread the silence and the
dark.

Friend Christian, you are deceived in this matter. When you say that
Christ is the _only_ true teacher, that He is the _only_ hope of
mankind, that He is the _only_ Saviour, I must answer sharply that I do
not believe that, and I do not think you believe it deep down in your
heart. For if Christ is the only Saviour, then thousands of millions of
Buddhists have died unsaved, and you know you do not believe that.

Jeremy Taylor believed that; but you know better.

Do you not _know_, as a matter of fact, that it is as well in this
world, and shall be as well hereafter, with a good Buddhist, or Jew, or
Agnostic, as with a good Christian?

Do you deny that? If you deny it, tell me what punishment you think
will be inflicted, here or hereafter on a good man who does not accept
Christianity.

If you do not deny it, then on what grounds do you claim that Christ
is _the_ Saviour of all mankind, and that "only in Christ we are made
whole"?

You speak of the spiritual value of your religion. What can it give you
more than Socrates or Buddha possessed? These men had wisdom, courage,
morality, fortitude, love, mercy. Can you find in all the world to-day
two men as wise, as good, as gentle, as happy? Yet these men died
centuries before Christ was born.

If you believe that none but Christians can be happy or good; or if you
believe that none but Christians can escape extinction or punishment,
then there is some logic in your belief that Christ is our only Saviour.
But that is to believe that there never was a good man before Christ
died, and that Socrates and Buddha, and many thousands of millions of
men, and women, and children, before Christ and after, have been _lost_.

Such a belief is monstrous and absurd.

But I see no escape from the dilemma it places us in. If only Christ
can save, about twelve hundred millions of our fellow-creatures will be
lost.

If men can be saved without Christ, then Christ is not our only Saviour.

Christianity seems to be a composite religion, made up of fragments of
religions of far greater antiquity. It is alleged to have originated
some two thousand years ago. It has never been the religion of more than
one-third of the human race, and of those professing it only ten per
cent at any time have thoroughly understood, or sincerely followed,
its teachings. It was not indispensable to the human race during the
thousands (I say millions) of years before its advent. It is not now
indispensable to some eight hundred millions of human beings. It had no
place in the ancient civilisations of Egypt, Assyria, and Greece. It was
unknown to Socrates, to Epicurus, to Aristides, to Marcus Aurelius, to
King Asoka, and to Buddha. It has opposed science and liberty almost
from the first. It has committed the most awful crimes and atrocities.
It has upheld the grossest errors and the most fiendish theories as
the special revelations of God. It has been defeated in argument and
confounded by facts over and over again, and has been steadily driven
back and back, abandoning one essential position after another, until
there is hardly anything left of its original pretensions. It is losing
more and more every day its hold upon the obedience and confidence
of the masses, and has only retained the suffrages of a minority of
educated minds by accepting as truths the very theories which in the
past it punished as deadly sins. Are these the signs of a triumphant
and indispensable religion? One would think, to read the Christian
apologists, that before the advent of Christianity the world had neither
virtue nor wisdom. But the world very old. Civilisation is very old. The
Christian religion is but a new thing, is a mere episode in the history
of human development, and has passed the zenith of its power.



SPIRITUAL DISCERNMENT


Christians say that only those who are naturally religious can
understand religion, or, as Archdeacon Wilson puts it, "Spiritual truths
must be spiritually discerned." This seems to amount to a claim that
religious people possess an extra sense or faculty.

When a man talks about "spiritual discernment," he makes a tacit
assertion which ought not to be allowed to pass unchallenged. What is
that assertion or implication? It is the implication that there is a
spiritual discernment which is distinct from mental discernment. What
does that mean? It means that man has other means of understanding
besides his reason.

This spiritual discernment is a metaphysical myth.

Man feels, sees, and reasons with his brain. His brain may be more
emotional or less emotional, more acute or less acute; but to invent a
faculty of reason distinct from reason, or to suggest that man can feel
or think otherwise than with his brain, is to darken counsel with a
multitude of words.

There is no ground for the assertion that a spiritual faculty exists
apart from the reason. But the Christian first invents this faculty, and
then tells us that by this faculty religion is to be judged.

Spiritual truths are to be spiritually discerned. What is a "spiritual
truth"? It is neither more nor less than a mental idea. It is an idea
originating in the brain, and it can only be "discerned," or judged, or
understood, by an act of reason performed by the brain.

The word "spiritual," as used in this connection, is a mere affectation.
It implies that the idea (which Archdeacon Wilson calmly dubs a "truth")
is so exalted, or so refined, that the reason is too gross to appreciate
it.

John says: "I know that my Redeemer liveth." Thomas asks: "How do you
know?" John says: "Because I _feel_ it." Thomas answers: "But that is
only a rhapsodical expression of a woman's reason: 'I know because I
_know_.' You say your religion is true because you feel it is true. I
might as well say it is not true because I feel that it is not true."

Then John becomes mystical. He says: "Spiritual truths must be
spiritually discerned." Thomas, who believes that _all_ truths, and all
errors, must be tried by the reason, shrugs his shoulders irreverently,
and departs.

Now, this mystical jargon has always been a favourite weapon of
theologians, and it is a very effective weapon against weak-minded, or
ignorant, or superstitious, or very emotional men.

We must deal with this deception sternly. We must deny that the
human reason, which we know to be a fact, is inferior to a postulated
"spiritual" faculty which has no existence. We must insist that to
make the brain the slave of a brain-created idea is as foolish as to
subordinate the substance to the shadow.

John declares that "God is love." Thomas asks him how he _knows_. John
replies that it is a "spiritual truth," which must be "spiritually
discerned." Thomas says: "It is not spiritual, and it is not true. It
is a mere figment of the brain." John replies: "You are incapable of
judging: you are spiritually blind." Thomas says: "My friend, you are
incapable of reasoning: you are mentally halt and lame." John says
Thomas is a "fellow of no delicacy."

I think there is much to be said in excuse for Thomas. I think it is
rather cool of John to invent a faculty of "spiritual discernment," and
then to tell Thomas that he (Thomas) does not possess that faculty.

That is how Archdeacon Wilson uses me. In a sermon at Rochdale he is
reported to have spoken as follows:

     As regards the first axiom, the archdeacon reaffirmed his
     declaration as to Mr. Blatchford's disqualification for such
     a controversy... Whether Mr. Blatchford recognised the fact
     or not, it was true that there was a faculty among men which,
     in its developed state, was as distinct, as unequally distributed,
     as mysterious in its origin and in its distribution, as was
     the faculty for pure mathematics, for music, for metaphysics,
     or for research.  They might call it the devotional or religious
     faculty.  Just as there were men whose faculties of insight
     amounted to genius in other regions of mental activity, so
     there were spiritual geniuses, geniuses in the region in which
     man holds communion with God, and from this region these who
     had never developed the faculty were debarred.  One who was
     not devotional, not humble, not gentle in his treatment of
     the beliefs of others, one who could lightly ridicule the
     elementary forms of belief which had corresponded to the
     lower stages of culture, past and present, was not likely
     to do good in a religious controversy.

Here is the tyranny of language, indeed! Here is a farrago of myths and
symbols. "There is a faculty--we may call it the devotional or religious
faculty--there are geniuses in the region in which man holds communion
with God"!

Why the good archdeacon talks of the "region in which man holds
communion with God" as if he were talking of the telephone exchange.
He talks of God as if he were talking of the Postmaster-General. He
postulates a God, and he postulates a region, and he postulates a
communication, and then talks about all these postulates as if they were
facts. I protest against this mystical, transcendental rhetoric. It is
not argument.

Who has seen God? Who has entered that "region"? Who has communicated
with God?

There is in most men a desire, in some men a passion, for what is good.
In some men this desire is weak, in others it is strong. In some it
takes the form of devotion to "God," in others it takes the form of
devotion to men. In some it is coloured by imagination, or distorted
by a love of the marvellous; in others it is lighted by reason, and
directed by love of truth. But whether a man devotes himself to God and
to prayer, or devotes himself to man and to politics or science, he is
actuated by the same impulse--by the desire for what is good.

John says: "I feel that there is a God, and I worship Him." Thomas says:
"I do not know whether or not there is a God, and if there is, He does
not need my adoration. But I know there are men in darkness and women in
trouble, and children in pain, and I know they _do_ need my love and my
help. I therefore will not pray; but I will work."

To him says John: "You are a fellow of no delicacy. You lack spiritual
discernment. You are disqualified for the expression of any opinion
on spiritual truths." This is what John calls "humility," and "gentle
treatment of the beliefs of others." But Thomas calls it unconscious
humour.

Really, Archdeacon Wilson's claim that only those possessing spiritual
discernment can discern spiritual truths means no more than that those
who cannot believe in religion do not believe in religion, or that a man
whose reason tells him religion is not true is incapable of believing
religion is true. But what he means it to mean is that a man whose
reason rejects religion is unfit to criticise religion, and that only
those who accept religion as true are qualified to express an opinion as
to its truth. He might as well claim that the only person qualified
to criticise the Tory Party is the person who has the faculty for
discerning Tory truth.

My claim is that ideas relating to spiritual things must be weighed by
the same faculties as ideas relating to material things. That is to
say, man can only judge in religious matters as he judges in all other
matters, by his reason.

I do not say that all men have the same kind or quantity of reason.
What I say is, that a man with a good intellect is a better judge on
religious matters than a man, with an inferior intellect; and that by
reason, and by reason alone, can truth of any kind be discerned.

The archdeacon speaks of spiritual geniuses, "geniuses in the region in
which man holds communion with God." The Saints, for example. Well, if
the Saints were geniuses in matters religious, the Saints ought to have
been better judges of spiritual truth than other men. But was it so? The
Saints believed in angels, and devils, and witches, and hell-fire
and Jonah, and the Flood; in demoniacal possession, in the working of
miracles by the bones of dead martyrs; the Saints accepted David and
Abraham and Moses as men after God's own heart.

Many of the most spiritually gifted Christians do not believe in these
things any longer. The Saints, then, were mistaken. They were mistaken
about these spiritual matters in which they are alleged to have been
specially gifted.

We do not believe in sorcerers, in witches, in miracle-working relics,
in devils, and eternal fire and brimstone. Why? Because science has
killed those errors. What is science? It is reason applied to knowledge.
The faculty of reason, then, has excelled this boasted faculty of
spiritual discernment in its own religious sphere.

It would be easy to multiply examples.

Jeremy Taylor was one of the most brilliant and spiritual of our
divines. But his spiritual perception, as evidenced in his works, was
fearfully at fault. He believed in hell-fire, and in hell-fire for all
outside the pale of the Christian Church. And he was afraid of God, and
afraid of death.

Archdeacon Wilson denies to us this faculty of spiritual perception.
Very well. But I have enough mental acuteness to see that the religion
of Jeremy Taylor was cowardly, and gloomy, and untrue.

Luther and Wesley were spiritual geniuses. They both believed in
witchcraft. Luther believed in burning heretics. Wesley said if we gave
up belief in witchcraft we must give up belief in the Bible.

Luther and Wesley were mistaken: their spiritual discernment had led
them wrong. Their superstition and cruelty were condemned by humanity
and common sense.

To me it appears that these men of "spiritual discernment" are really
men of abnormally credulous and emotional natures: men too weak to face
the facts.

We cannot allow the Christians to hold this position unchallenged. I
regard the religious plane as a lower one than our own. I think
the Christian idea of God is even now, after two thousand years of
evolution, a very mean and weak one.

I cannot love nor revere a "Heavenly Father" whose children have to pray
to Him for what they need, or for pardon for their sins. My children do
not need to pray to me for food or forgiveness; and I am a mere earthly
father. Yet Christ, who came direct from God--who _was_ God--to teach
all men God's will, directed us to pray to God for our daily bread, for
forgiveness of our trespasses against Him, and that He would not lead us
into temptation! Imagine a father leading his children into temptation!

What is there so superior or so meritorious in the attitude of a
religious man towards God? This good man prays: for what? He prays that
something be given to him or forgiven to him. He prays for gain or fear.
Is that so lofty and so noble?

But you will say: "It is not all for gain or for fear. He prays for
love: because he loves God." But is not this like sending flowers and
jewels to the king? The king is so rich already: but there are many
poor outside his gates. God is not in need of our love: some of God's
children are in need. Truly, these high ideals are very curious.

Mr. Augustine Birrell, in his _Miscellanies_, quotes a passage from "Lux
Mundi"; and although I cannot find it in that book, it is too good to
lose:

     If this be the relation of faith to reason, we see the explanation
     of what seems at first sight to the philosopher to be the most
     irritating and hypocritical characteristic of faith.  It is
     always shifting its intellectual defences.  It adopts this or
     that fashion of philosophical apology, and then, when this is
     shattered by some novel scientific generalisation of faith,
     probably after a passionate struggle to retain the old position,
     suddenly and gaily abandons it, and takes up the new formula,
     just as if nothing had happened.  It discovers that the new
     formula is admirably adapted for its purposes, and is, in fact,
     what it always meant, only it has unfortunately omitted to
     mention it.  So it goes on again and again; and no wonder that
     the philosophers growl at those humbugs, the clergy.

That passage has a rather sinister bearing upon the Christian's claim
for spiritual genius.

But, indeed, the claim is not admissible. The Churches have taught many
errors. Those errors have been confuted by scepticism and science. It is
no thanks to spiritual discernment that we stand where we do. It is to
reason we owe our advance; and what a great advance it is! We have
got rid of Hell, we have got rid of the Devil, we have got rid of
the Christian championship of slavery, of witch-murder, of martyrdom,
persecution, and torture; we have destroyed the claims for the
infallibility of the Scriptures, and have taken the fetters of the
Church from the limbs of Science and Thought, and before long we shall
have demolished the belief in miracles. The Christian religion has
defended all these dogmas, and has done inhuman murder in defence
of them; and has been wrong in every instance, and has been finally
defeated in every instance. Steadily and continually the Church has been
driven from its positions. It is still retreating, and we are not to
be persuaded to abandon our attack by the cool assurance that we are
mentally unfit to judge in spiritual matters. Spiritual Discernment has
been beaten by reason in the past, and will be beaten by reason in
the future. It is facts and logic we want, not rhetoric.



SOME OTHER APOLOGIES


Christianity, we are told, vastly improved the relations of rich and
poor.

How comes it, then, that the treatment of the poor by the rich is better
amongst Jews than amongst Christians? How did it fare with the poor all
over Europe in the centuries when Christianity was at the zenith of its
power? How is it we have twelve millions of Christians on the verge of
starvation in England to-day, with a Church rolling in wealth and an
aristocracy decadent from luxury and self-indulgence? How is it that
the gulf betwixt rich and poor in such Christian capitals as New York,
London, and Paris is so wide and deep?

Christianity, we are told, first gave to mankind the gospel of peace.
Christianity did not bring peace, but a sword. The Crusades were holy
wars. The wars in the Netherlands were holy wars. The Spanish Armada was
a holy expedition. Some of these holy wars lasted for centuries and
cost millions of human lives. Most of them were remarkable for the
barbarities and cruelties of the Christian priests and soldiers.

From the beginning of its power Christianity has been warlike, violent,
and ruthless. To-day Europe is an armed camp, and it is not long since
the Christian Kaiser ordered his troops to give no quarter to the
Chinese.

There has never been a Christian nation as peaceful as the Indians and
Burmese under Buddhism. It was King Asoka, and not Jesus Christ or St.
Paul, who first taught and first established a reign of national and
international peace.

To-day the peace of the world is menaced, not by the Buddhists, the
Parsees, the Hindoos, or the Confucians, but by Christian hunger for
territory, Christian lust of conquest, Christian avarice for the opening
up of "new markets," Christian thirst for military glory, and jealousy,
and envy amongst the Christian powers one of another.

Christianity, we are told, originated the Christ-like type of character.
The answer stares us in the face. How can we account for King Asoka, how
can we account for Buddha?

Christianity, we are told, originated hospitals.

Hospitals were founded two centuries before Christ by King Asoka in
India.

Christianity, we are told, first broke down the barrier between Jew and
Gentile.

How have Christians treated Jews for fifteen centuries? How are
Christians treating Jews to-day in Holy Russia? How long is it since
Jews were granted full rights of citizenship in Christian England?

All this, the Christian will say, applies to the false and not to the
true Christianity.

Let us look, then, for an instant, at the truest and best form of
Christianity, and ask what it is doing. It is preaching about Sin,
Sin, Sin. It is praying to God to do for Man what Man ought to do for
himself, what Man can do for himself, what Man must do for himself; for
God has never done it, and will never do it for him.

And this fault in the Christian--the highest and truest
Christian--attitude towards life does not lie in the Christians: it lies
in the truest and best form of their religion.

It is the belief in Free Will, in Sin, and in a Heavenly Father, and
a future recompense that leads the Christian wrong, and causes him to
mistake the shadow for the substance.



COUNSELS OF DESPAIR


"If you take from us our religion," say the Christians, "what have you
to offer but counsels of despair?" This seems to me rather a commercial
way of putting the case, and not a very moral one. Because a moral man
would not say: "If I give up my religion, what will you pay me?" He
would say: "I will never give, up my religion unless I am convinced
it is not _true_." To a moral man the truth would matter, but the cost
would not. To ask what one may _gain_ is to show an absence of all real
religious feeling.

The feeling of a truly religious man is the feeling that, cost what it
may, he must do _right_. A religiously-minded man _could_ not profess a
religion which he did not believe to be true. To him the vital question
would be, not "What will you give me to desert my colours?" but "What is
the _truth_?"

But, besides being immoral, the demand is unreasonable. If I say that
a religion is untrue, the believer has a perfect right to ask me for
proofs of my assertion; but he has no right to ask me for a new promise.
Suppose I say this thing is not true, and to believe anything which is
untrue is useless. Then, the believer may justly demand my reasons. But
he has no right to ask me for a new dream in place of the old one. I am
not a prophet, with promises of crowns and glories in my gift.

But yet I will answer this queer question as fully as I can.

I do not say there is no God. I do not say there is no "Heaven," nor
that the soul is not immortal. There is not enough evidence to justify
me in making such assertions.

I only say, on those subjects, that I do not _know_.

I do not know about those things. There may be a God, there may be a
"Heaven," there may be an immortal soul. And a man might accept all I
say about religion without giving up any hope his faith may bid him hold
as to a future life.

As to those "counsels of despair" the question puzzles me. Despair of
what?

Let me put the matter as I see it. I think sometimes, in a dubious
way, that perhaps there may be a life beyond the grave. And that is
interesting. But I think my stronger, and deeper, and more permanent
feeling is that when we die we die finally, and for us there is no more
life at all. That is, I suppose, my real belief--or supposition. But do
I despair? Why should I? The idea of immortality does not elate me very
much. As I said just now, it is interesting. But I am not excited about
it. If there is another innings, we will go in and play our best; and we
hope we shall be very much better and kinder than we have been. But if
it is sleep: well, sleep is rest, and as I feel that I have had a really
good time, on the whole, I should consider it greedy to cry because I
could not have it all over again. That is how I feel about it. Despair?
I am one of the happiest old fogeys in all London. I have found life
agreeable and amusing, and I'm glad I came. But I am not so infatuated
with life that I should care to go back and begin it all again. And
though a new start, in a new world, would be--yes, interesting--I am
not going to howl because old Daddy Death says it is bed-time. I think
somebody, or something, has been very good to allow me to come in and
see the fun, and stay so long, especially as I came in, so to speak "on
my face." But to beg for another invitation would be cheeky. Some of you
want such a lot for nothing.

"But," you may say, "the poor, the failures, the wretched--what of
them?" And I answer: "Ah! that is one of the weak points of _your_
religion, not of mine." Consider these unhappy ones, what do you offer
them? You offer them an everlasting bliss, not because they were starved
or outraged here--not at all. For your religion admits the probability
that those who came into this world worst equipped, who have here been
most unfortunate, and to whom God and man have behaved most unjustly,
will stand a far greater chance of a future of woe than of happiness.

No. According to your religion, those of the poor or the weak who get
to Heaven will get there, not because they have been wronged and must be
righted, but because they believe that Jesus Christ can save them.

Now, contrast that awful muddle of unreason and injustice with what
you call my "counsels of despair." I say there may be a future life and
there may not be a future life. If there is a future life, a man will
deserve it no less, and enjoy it no less, for having been happy here.
If there is no future life, he who has been unhappy here will have lost
both earthly happiness and heavenly hope.

Therefore, I say, it is our duty to see that all our fellow-creatures
are as happy here as we can make them.

Therefore I say to my fellow-creatures, "Do not consent to suffer, and
to be wronged in this world, for it is immoral and weak so to submit;
but hold up your heads, and demand your rights, here and now, and leave
the rest to God, or to Fate."

You see, I am not trying to rob any man of his hope of Heaven; I am only
trying to inspire his hope on earth.

But I have been asked whether I think it right and wise to "shake the
faith of the poor working man--the faith that has helped him so long."

What has this faith helped him to do? To bear the ills and the wrongs
of this life more patiently, in the hope of a future reward? Is that the
idea? But I do not want the working man to endure patiently the ills and
wrongs of this life. I want him, for his own sake, his wife's sake,
his children's sake, and for the sake of right and progress, to demand
justice, and to help in the work of amending the conditions of life on
earth.

No, I do not want to rob the working-man of his faith: I want to awaken
his faith--in himself.

Religion promises us a future Heaven, where we shall meet once more
those "whom we have loved long since and lost awhile," and that is the
most potent lure that could be offered to poor humanity.

How much of the so-called "universal instinct of belief" arises from
that pathetic human yearning for reunion with dear friends, sweet wives,
or pretty children "lost awhile"? It is human love and natural longing
for the dead darlings, whose wish is father to the thought of Heaven.
Before that passionate sentiment reason itself would almost stand
abashed: were reason antagonistic to the "larger hope"--which none can
prove.

Few of us can keep our emotions from overflowing the bounds of reason in
such a case. The poor, tearful desire lays a pale hand on reason's lips
and gazes wistfully into the mysterious abyss of the Great Silence.

So I say of that "larger hope," cherish it if you can, and if you feel
it necessary to your peace of mind. But do not mistake a hope for a
certainty. No priest, nor pope, nor prophet can tell you more about that
mystery than you know. It is a riddle, and your guess or mine may be as
near as that of a genius. We can only guess. We do not know.

Is it wise, then, to sell even a fraction of your liberty of thought or
deed for a paper promise which the Bank of Futurity may fail to honour?
Is it wise, is it needful, to abandon a single right, to abate one just
demand, to neglect one possibility of happiness here and now, in order
to fulfil the conditions laid down for the attainment of that promised
Heaven by a crowd of contradictory theologians who know no more about
God or about the future than we know ourselves?

Death has dropped a curtain of mystery between us and those we love. No
theologian knows, nor ever did know, what is hidden behind that veil.

Let us, then, do our duty here, try to be happy here, try to make others
happy here, and when the curtain lifts for us--we shall see.



CONCLUSION THE PARTING OF THE WAYS


I have been asked why I have "gone out of my way to attack religion,"
why I do not "confine myself to my own sphere and work for Socialism,
and what good I expect to do by pulling down without building up."

In reply I beg to say:

   1. That I have not "gone out of my way" to attack religion. It was
      because I found religion _in_ my way that I attacked it.

   2. That I am working for Socialism when I attack a religion which is
      hindering Socialism.

   3. That we must pull down before we can build up, and that I hope to
      do a little building, if only on the foundation.

But these questions arose from a misconception of my position and
purpose.

I have been called an "Infidel," a Socialist, and a Fatalist. Now, I
am an Agnostic, or Rationalist, and I am a Determinist, and I am a
Socialist. But if I were asked to describe myself in a single word, I
should call myself a Humanist.

Socialism, Determinism, and Rationalism are factors in the sum; and the
sum is Humanism.

Briefly, my religion is to do the best I can for humanity. I am a
Socialist, a Determinist, and a Rationalist because I believe that
Socialism, Determinism, and Rationalism will be beneficial to mankind.

I oppose the Christian religion because I do not think the Christian
religion is beneficial to mankind, and because I think it is an obstacle
in the way of Humanism.

I am rather surprised that men to whom my past work is well known should
suspect me of making a wanton and purposeless attack upon religion.
My attack is not wanton, but deliberate; not purposeless, but very
purposeful and serious. I am not acting irreligiously, but religiously.
I do not oppose Christianity because it is good, but because it is not
good enough.

There are two radical differences between Humanism and Christianity.

Christianity concerns itself with God and Man, putting God first and Man
last.

Humanism concerns itself solely with Man, so that Man is its first and
last care. That is one radical difference.

Then, Christianity accepts the doctrine of Free Will, with its
consequent rewards and punishments; while Humanism embraces Determinist
doctrines, with their consequent theories of brotherhood and prevention.
And that is another radical difference.

Because the Christian regards the hooligan, the thief, the wanton, and
the drunkard as men and women who have done wrong. But the Humanist
regards them as men and women who have been wronged.

The Christian remedy is to punish crime and to preach repentance and
salvation to "sinners." The Humanist remedy is to remove the causes
which lead or drive men into crime, and so to prevent the manufacture of
"sinners."

Let us consider the first difference. Christianity concerns itself with
the relations of Man to God, as well as with the relations between man
and man. It concerns itself with the future life as well as with the
present life.

Now, he who serves two causes cannot serve each or both of them as well
as he could serve either of them alone.

He who serves God and Man will not serve Man as effectually as he who
gives himself wholly to the service of Man.

As the religion of Humanism concerns itself solely with the good of
humanity, I claim that it is more beneficial to humanity than is the
Christian religion, which divides its service and love between Man and
God.

Moreover, this division is unequal. For Christians give a great deal
more attention to God than to Man.

And on that point I have to object, first, that although they _believe_
there is a God, they do not _know_ there is a God, nor what He is like.
Whereas they do know very well that there are men, and what they are
like. And, secondly, that if there be a God, that God does not need
their love nor their service; whereas their fellow-creatures do need
their love and their service very sorely.

And, as I remarked before, if there is a Father in Heaven, He is likely
to be better pleased by our loving and serving our fellow-creatures (His
children) than by our singing and praying to Him, while our brothers
and sisters (His children) are ignorant, or brutalised, or hungry, or in
trouble.

I speak as a father myself when I say that I should not like to think
that one of my children would be so foolish and so unfeeling as to erect
a marble tomb to my memory while the others needed a friend or a meal.
And I speak in the same spirit when I add that to build a cathedral, and
to spend our tears and pity upon a Saviour who was crucified nearly two
thousand years ago, while women and men and little children are being
crucified in our midst, without pity and without help, is cant, and
sentimentality, and a mockery of God.

Please note the words I use. I have selected them deliberately and
calmly, because I believe that they are true and that they are needed.

Christians are very eloquent about Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus
Christ, and Our Father which is in Heaven. I know nothing about gods and
heavens. But I know a good deal about Manchester and London, and about
men and women; and if I did not feel the real shames and wrongs of the
world more keenly, and if I did not try more earnestly and strenuously
to rescue my fellow-creatures from ignorance, and sorrow, and injustice
than most Christians do, I should blush to look death in the face or
call myself a man.

I choose my words deliberately again when I say that to me the most
besotted and degraded outcast tramp or harlot matters more than all the
gods and angels that humanity ever conjured up out of its imagination.

The Rev. R. F. Horton, in his answer to my question as to the need of
Christ as a Saviour, uttered the following remarkable words:

     But there is a holiness so transcendent that the angels veil
     their faces in the presence of God.  I have known a good many
     men who have rejected Christ, and men who are living without
     Him, and, though God forbid that I should judge them, I do not
     know one of them whom I would venture to take as my example if
     I wished to appear in the presence of the holy God.  They do
     not tremble for themselves, but I tremble for myself if my
     holiness is not to exceed that of such Scribes and Pharisees.
     Oh, my brothers, where Christ is talking of holiness He is
     talking of such a goodness, such a purity, such a transcendent
     and miraculous likeness of God in human form, that I believe
     it is true to say that there is but one name, as there is but
     one way, by which a man can be holy and come into the presence
     of God; and I look, therefore, upon this word of Christ not
     only as the way of salvation, but as the revelation of the
     holiness which God demands.

     I close these answers to the questions with a practical word
     to everyone that is here.  It is my belief that you may be
     good enough to pass through the grave and to wander in the
     dark spaces of the world which is still earthly and sensual,
     and you may be good enough to escape, as it were, the torments
     of the hell which result from a life of debauchery and cruelty
     and selfishness; but if you are to stand in the presence of God,
     if you are ever to be pure, complete, and glad, "all rapture
     through and through in God's most holy sight," you must believe
     in the name and in the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, the
     only begotten son of God, who came into the world to save
     sinners, and than whose no other name is given in heaven or
     earth whereby we may be saved.

Such talk as that makes me feel ill. Here is a cultured, educated,
earnest man rhapsodising about holiness and the glory of a God no mortal
eye has ever seen, and of whom no word has ever reached us across the
gulf of death. And while he rhapsodised, with a congregation of honest
bread-and-butter citizens under him, trying hard with their blinkered
eyes and blunted souls, to glimpse that imaginary glamour of ecstatic
"holiness," there surged and rolled around them the stunted, poisoned,
and emaciated life of London.

Holiness!--Holiness in the Strand, in Piccadilly, in Houndsditch, in
Whitechapel, in Park Lane, in Somerstown, and the Mint.

Holiness!--In Westminster, and in Fleet Street, and on 'Change.

Holiness!--In a world given over to robbery, to conquest, to vanity, to
ignorance, to humbug, to the worship of the golden calf.

Holiness!--With twelve millions of our workers on the verge of famine,
with rich fools and richer rogues lording it over nations of untaught
and half-fed dupes and drudges.

Holiness!--With a recognised establishment of manufactured paupers,
cripples, criminals, idlers, dunces, and harlots.

Holiness!--In a garden of weeds, a hotbed of lies, where hypnotised
saints sing psalms and worship ghosts, while dogs and horses are
pampered and groomed, and children are left to rot, to hunger, and to
sink into crime, or shame, or the grave.

Holiness! For shame. The word is obnoxious. It has stood so long for
craven fear, for exotistical inebriation, for selfish retirement from
the trials and buffets and dirty work of the world.

What have we to do with such dreamy, self-centred, emotional holiness,
here and now in London?

What we want is citizenship, human sympathy, public spirit, daring
agitators, stern reformers, drains, houses, schoolmasters, clean water,
truth-speaking, soap--and Socialism.

Holiness! The people are being robbed. The people are being cheated. The
people are being lied to. The people are being despised and neglected
and ruined body and soul.

Yes. And you will find some of the greatest rascals and most impudent
liars in the "Synagogues and High Places" of the cities.

Holiness! Give us common sense, and common honesty, and a "steady supply
of men and women who can be trusted with small sums."

Your Christians talk of saving sinners. But our duty is not to save
sinners; but to prevent their regular manufacture: their systematic
manufacture in the interests of holy and respectable and successful and
superior persons.

Holiness! Cant, rant, and fustian! The nations are rotten with dirty
pride, and dirty greed, and mean lying, and petty ambitions, and
sickly sentimentality. Holiness! I should be ashamed to show my face at
Heaven's gates and say I came from such a contemptible planet.

Holiness! Your religion does not make it--its ethics are too weak, its
theories too unsound, its transcendentalism is too thin.

Take as an example this much-admired passage from St. James:

     Pure religion and undefiled is this before God and the Father,
     to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and
     to keep oneself unspotted from the world.

The widows and the fatherless are our brothers and sisters and our flesh
and blood, and should be at home in our hearts and on our hearths. And
who that is a man will work to keep himself unspotted from the world if
the service of the world needs him to expose his flesh and his soul to
risk?

I can fancy a Reverend Gentleman going to Heaven, unspotted from the
world, to face the awful eyes of a Heavenly Father whose gaze has been
on London.

A good man mixes with the world in the rough-and-tumble, and takes his
share of the dangers, and the falls, and the temptations. His duty is
to work and to help, and not to shirk and keep his hands white. His
business is not to be holy, but to be useful.

In such a world as this, friend Christian, a man has no business reading
the Bible, singing hymns, and attending divine worship. He has not
_time_. All the strength and pluck and wit he possesses are needed in
the work of real religion, of real salvation. The rest is all "dreams
out of the ivory gate, and visions before midnight."

There ought to be no such thing as poverty in the world. The earth is
bounteous: the ingenuity of man is great. He who defends the claims of
the individual, or of a class, against the rights of the human race is a
criminal.

A hungry man, an idle man, an ignorant man, a destitute or degraded
woman, a beggar or pauper child is a reproach to Society and a witness
against existing religion and civilisation.

War is a crime and a horror. No man is doing his duty when he is not
trying his best to abolish war.

I have been asked why I "interfered in things beyond my sphere," and why
I made "an unprovoked attack" upon religion. I am trying to explain. My
position is as follows:

Rightly or wrongly, I am a Democrat. Rightly or wrongly, I am for the
rights of the masses as against the privileges of the classes. Rightly
or wrongly, I am opposed to Godship, Kingship, Lordship, Priestship.
Rightly or wrongly, I am opposed to Imperialism, Militarism, and
Conquest. Rightly or wrongly, I am for universal brotherhood and
universal freedom. Rightly or wrongly, I am for union against disunion,
for collective ownership against private ownership. Rightly or wrongly,
I am for reason against dogma, for evolution against revelation; for
humanity always; for earth, not Heaven; for the holiest Trinity of
all--the Trinity of Man, Woman, and Child.

The greatest curse of humanity is ignorance. The only remedy is
knowledge.

Religion, being based on fixed authority, is naturally opposed to
knowledge.

A man may have a university education and be ignorant. A man may be a
genius, like Plato, or Shakespeare, or Darwin, and lack more knowledge.
The humblest of unlettered peasants can teach the highest genius
something useful. The greatest scientific and philosophical achievements
of the most brilliant age are imperfect, and can be added to and
improved by future generations.

There is no such thing as human infallibility. There is no finality
in human knowledge and human progress. Fixed authority in matters of
knowledge or belief is an insult to humanity.

Christianity degrades and restrains humanity with the shackles of
"original sin." Man is not born in sin. There is no such thing as sin.
Man is innately more prone to good than to evil; and the path of his
destiny is upward.

I should be inclined to call him who denies the innate goodness of
mankind an "Infidel."

Heredity breeds different kinds of men. But all are men whom it breeds.
And all men are capable of good, and of yet more good. Environment can
move mountains. There is a limit to its power for good and for evil, but
that power is almost unimaginably great.

The object of life is to improve ourselves and our fellow-creatures, and
to leave the world better and happier than we found it.

The great cause of crime and failure is ignorance. The great cause of
unhappiness is selfishness. No man can be happy who loves or values
himself too much.

As all men are what heredity and environment have made them, no man
deserves punishment nor reward. As the sun shines alike upon the evil
and the good, so in the eyes of justice the saint and the sinner are as
one. No man has a just excuse for pride, or anger, or scorn.

Spiritual pride, intellectual pride, pride of pedigree, of caste, of
race are all contemptible and mean.

The superior person who wraps himself in a cloak of solemn affectations
should be laughed at until he learns to be honest.

The masterful man who puts on airs of command and leadership insults his
fellow-creatures, and should be gently but firmly lifted down many pegs.

Genius should not be regarded as a weapon, but as a tool. A man of
genius should not be allowed to command, but only to serve. The human
race would do well to watch jealously and restrain firmly all superior
persons. Most kings, jockeys, generals, prize-fighters, priests,
ladies'-maids, millionaires, lords, tenor singers, authors,
lion-comiques, artists, beauties, statesmen, and actors are spoiled
children who sadly need to be taught their place. They should be treated
kindly, but not allowed too many toys and sweetmeats, nor too much
flattery. Such superior persons are like the clever minstrels, jesters,
clerks, upholsterers, storytellers, horse-breakers, huntsmen, stewards,
and officers about a court. They should be fed and praised when
they deserve it, but they cannot be too often reminded that they are
retainers and servants, and that their Sovereign and Master is--


The People.


In a really humane and civilised nation:

There should be and need be no such thing as poverty.

There should be and need be no such thing as ignorance.

There should be and need be no such thing as crime.

There should be and need be no such thing as idleness.

There should be and need be no such thing as war.

There should be and need be no such thing as slavery.

There should be and need be no such thing as hate.

There should be and need be no such thing as envy.

There should be and need be no such thing as pride.

There should be and need be no such thing as greed.

There should be and need be no such thing as gluttony.

There should be and need be no such thing as vice.

But this is not a humane and civilised nation, and never will be while
it accepts Christianity as its religion.

These are my reasons for opposing Christianity. If I have said anything
to give pain to any Christian, I am sorry, and ask to be forgiven.
I have tried to maintain "towards all creatures a bounteous friendly
feeling."

As to what I said about holiness, I cannot take back a word. Dr. Horton
said that without that form of holiness which only a belief in Christ
can give we shall only be good enough to barely escape Hell, and, "after
passing through the grave, to wander in the dark spaces of the world,
which is still earthly and sensual."

I say earnestly and deliberately that if I can only attain to Heaven and
to holiness as one of a few, if I am to go to Heaven and leave millions
of my brothers and sisters to ignorance and misery and crime, I will
hope to be sent instead into those "dark spaces of the world which is
still earthly and sensual" and there to be permitted to fight with all
my strength against pain and error and injustice and human sorrow. I
know I shall be happier so. I think I was made for that kind of work,
and I fervently wish that I may be allowed to do my duty as long as ever
there is a wrong in the world that I can help to right, a grief I can
help to soothe, a truth I can help to tell.

Let the Holy have their Heaven. I am a man, and an Infidel. And this is
my Apology.

Besides, gentlemen, Christianity is not _true_.





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