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´╗┐Title: Morality Without God - A Lecture Delivered Before the Independent Religious Society
Author: Mangasarian, M. M. (Mangasar Mugurditch), 1859-1943
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Morality Without God - A Lecture Delivered Before the Independent Religious Society" ***

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MORALITY WITHOUT GOD

Including Letter to Right Rev. Bishop Anderson

A Lecture Delivered Before the Independent Religious Society.

Orchestra Hall, Michigan Ave. and Adams, Chicago, Sunday at 11 A. M.

By M. M. Mangasarian

1905



Right Rev. Bishop Anderson, Chicago, Ill. Reverend and Dear Sir:--

Last Sunday's papers announced that the Episcopal Church has arranged
for a series of meetings in this city "to arouse a national revival
of interest in church extension at home and abroad." The report also
furnished the names of the distinguished speakers who will address these
meetings at Orchestra Hall.

I write this note to suggest that, if agreeable to you and your
committee, a representative of your church be sent next Sunday morning
to deliver an address before the Independent Religious Society, which
holds its Sunday meetings at Orchestra Hall. We shall be very much
pleased to have you deliver this address, but it will be equally
agreeable to us to welcome anyone whom you may delegate in your place.

If you have no objection, I request that your address be on the
following important and timely question: "Can there be any morality
without a belief in God?" This subject will offer you, or your
representative whom you may send in your place, an opportunity to show
the importance of the church in the moral education of the people.

It is understood, of course, that the lecturer of the Independent
Religious Society will be upon the platform with you at Orchestra Hall,
to introduce you, and to present his thoughts on the same subject You
may speak first, or if you prefer to make the closing address, there
will be no objection to it.

Let me assure you that this meeting will not be in the nature of
a debate, as no interruptions from the audience or comments by the
lecturer upon your address will be permitted. Immediately upon the
conclusion of the two addresses, the house will be dismissed.

If it will be a help to you to know in advance what position I will take
on the subject of the proposed addresses, let me say as clearly as I
can, that I will try to show that morality is independent of a belief
in God or gods, and that, therefore, church attendance is not essential,
but that, on the contrary, often church going retards both intellectual
and moral progress; and further, that the countries in which a larger
proportion of the people go to church, and the Ages of Faith, in which
everybody went to church, are and have been, the least moral.

Hoping that you will not refuse to come and present your views on this
serious question to the large audience which will receive you most
cordially at Orchestra Hall, next Sunday morning,--or if you cannot
come next Sunday, on any other Sunday morning that you may appoint,--I
remain,

Yours with all good wishes,

M. M. Mangasasian.



MORALITY WITHOUT GOD


|When I invited Bishop Anderson of the Episcopal Church of this city to
address you, it was from a sincere desire to give you an opportunity to
hear in this house, and under the auspices of this movement, a strong
and comprehensive statement from the other side, if I may use that
expression. I invited the bishop because he is freer on Sundays than the
average clergyman who has his own people to preach to, and in the second
place, because he has the authority to send someone in his place if he
could not come himself. In the third place, I addressed my letter to the
Episcopalians because they were to have a convention in this same hall
for the purpose of rousing interest in church work.

The Right Reverend Bishop Anderson of Chicago should have accepted
cordially our invitation, yet not even of the courtesy of a reply has
he deemed either you or me worthy. I do not know how to explain the good
bishop's indifference to our invitation, except by saying that, either
the bishop considered us hopelessly beyond the saving power of his
religion, or that in his own heart he considered his creed, while good
enough for the unquestioning, a little antiquated for an inquiring
American audience. But the fact is now on record that he was invited
to deliver his message to us, and he has not even acknowledged the
invitation. To reconcile such action with the spirit of "brotherly
love," publicly professed by the bishop, or with the divine command to
preach the gospel to every creature, will require considerable mental
dexterity.

We have heard the bishop and his people sing the hymn=

```Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war."=

Where are the soldiers? Why do they avoid a conflict if they _are
soldiers?_ We did not invite them to a fight: we did not ask them to a
debate; we did not care to enter into a "duel of words," as some papers
have put it. Far from it: we assured the bishop that there would be no
questions asked by the audience, and no comments permitted. He would
listen to our message and deliver his. But suppose we had invited him
to a clash of ideas--to an argument--suppose we had asked him to give us
"the reasons for the hope that is in him," as the Bible says--how could
he decline such an invitation? The Apostle Paul reasoned before
pagan rulers, and from Mars Hill, in Athens, he preached to pagan
philosophers--to doubters. Why should Bishop Anderson have less courage,
or be more cautious?

When a great cause, or a cause that has been great once, declines a
public opportunity to advance its interests, to justify its claims,
to convince--to convert, it is a pretty sure sign that its fires are
burning low, and that it has fallen into the "sere and yellow leaf."

Christianity, once an aggressive and virile movement, now resorts to
apologetics, compromise and concession to prolong her life. She seeks
shelter against the spirit of the age. She is cultivating the art of
silence. Yes, Christianity is seeking a lower level. It attacks wooden
idols seven thousand miles away, but at home,--in the presence of
intellectual inquiry, it is paralyzed.

Of course it could be said that if we wished to hear the bishop's gospel
we could have gone to his church. Yes, we could. But so could he have
come to us. Furthermore, the bishop does not say to the Hindoo, or to
the Japanese, "If you want my religion, come and get it." He sends it
to them, and he even asks for iron-clads to compel the Japanese and
the Chinese to hear his gospel. Yet at home he will not step around the
corner to deliver his message to us.

The invitation to the bishop is a standing one; it will never be
withdrawn.

The same invitation is extended herewith, this morning, to any clergyman
or layman who is willing to come and deliver his message to us and to
hear ours--on one condition, however--that the clergyman or the layman
who accepts our invitation shall come as the representative of his
denomination or church--he must come with his credentials--he must be
commissioned by his church to speak for the church. And whenever any
denomination in this city or country shall send a delegate to address
us, he will be received with the greatest cordiality, and his message
shall be listened to in a spirit of fairness.

The question: Can there be any morality without a belief in God, is a
fundamental one, and the fact that we are willing to study it proves
that we take more than a superficial interest in what might be
called radical problems. To this question the first answer is that of
philosophy, and the second is that of history. This morning we will
confine ourselves to the theoretical or philosophical aspect of the
question.

What is there in a belief in God which should be indispensable to the
moral life? Why should the moral life be inseparably associated with a
belief in God? The theological position, in which you and I were
brought up, is, that morality is impossible without a belief in God. The
scientist's position is that morality is independent of a belief in God.
The scientist does not deny dogmatically, the existence of a God. The
scientist is far from denying even that there is at the heart of the
universe a mystery,--an insoluble problem, at least a problem that
hitherto has refused to reveal its secret to the human mind,--but
he contends that to associate the moral life with this mystery, this
insoluble problem, is to envelope it in darkness and uncertainty.

"No God, no morals," says the theologian. He even earnestly desires
all unbelievers in his creed to be immoral. He is really grieved and
disappointed when he finds goodness among unbelievers in his religion.
he knows that the people must have morality. He knows that the world
cannot last without morality, and if he can get the people to think that
they can't have morality without his creed, the future of his creed will
be secure.

He either denies that goodness without his creed is goodness at all, or
he tries to show that the credit of it really belongs to his religion.
These good unbelievers are really believers, without knowing it, argues
the theologian. If the Japanese can be patriotic and honest, it is due
to Christian missions, declares the preacher. If Darwin and Huxley
were noble men, it was because they lived in a Christian atmosphere. In
short, directly or indirectly, according to the theologian, his religion
is responsible for all the goodness in the world. We shall not stop to
inquire, for the present, how so conceited and partisan a spirit can
be reconciled with true morality. But it is evident that in associating
belief with morality the preacher is trying to save "belief," not
morality.

But how are we going to dislodge him from his position? It is as if the
Czar of Russia, whose people are having a strenuous time just now, were
to say to them, "You cannot have either order or peace in Russia without
the autocracy." He knows the people desire order and security, and hopes
to make autocracy permanent by associating it with the things the people
want. It is like the Republican party going before the country and
saying "You cannot have prosperity in America, unless you keep the
Republican party in power," or the Democrat-claiming that they alone can
save the country. It is taking advantage of the people's dependence upon
order, peace and prosperity to promote partisan politics. And so the
theologian who says "You cannot have morality unless you have my creed,"
is trying to play the role of a politician. He too would see the country
ruined if that would advance his party or church.

We wish to see this morning how much truth there is in the theological
position. The believer in God argues that to question the existence of
God is a crime. He insinuates, nay, he declares boldly, that only the
wicked question the existence of the deity,--just as only rebels would
question the right of the Czar to be a despot.

But to call the man who questions the existence of God wicked, is no
answer to his question at all. When you have no way of meeting the
argument of your opponent and you attack his character, you only prove
yourself to be in great distress. To call a man whose questions you can
not answer, a "monster," a "blasphemer," a "devil," is, if I may have
permission to say it, the policy of cowards. If you cannot answer his
question, why attack his character?

But the theologian knows what he is about. If he can get people to
believe that whoever questions his creed is a scoundrel and a wretch, he
will succeed in associating, in the popular mind, inquiry or doubt with
immorality, and thereby he will be strengthening his position that only
believers in his creed could be good. Another result would be that, if
he succeeds in defaming the character of the inquirer, people will avoid
him--it will not be respectable to be seen in his company or to think
as he does, all of which will protect him a little longer against the
disturbing inquirer.

But, listen to this: Let us suppose that every one who questions the
existence of God is a villain, would that relieve clergymen from the
solemn obligation of producing their evidence--of proving their dogmas?

The other day a mass meeting was held in one of our public schools to
denounce reckless automobile driving. One of the speakers, a clergyman,
said that Darwinism and infidelity were responsible for criminal
driving. This was the clergyman's way of confuting Darwinism. He thinks
that if he can prove that the evolutionists kill people, he will have
disproved Darwinism. But Darwinism is a scientific theory, and if it is
true, why, even if it killed people wholesale, that would not prove it
false. If Darwinism is false, on the other hand, all the painstaking
and respect for human life on the part of Darwinian automobiles would not
make it true. Darwinism does not stand or fall with the characters
of automobilists. But this clergyman had no other way of answering
Darwinism, so he said that. It is the argument of sheer desperation. He
is trifling with a subject he feels is beyond him. Instead of discussing
it, he calls it names. Small talk for small people!

The Christian religion in which we were brought up, teaches that to
believe is a virtue, and--not to believe is a crime. Is it true? If I
were to say to you, "You must believe that George Washington was the
first president of America," would you deserve any credit for believing
it? The evidence is so overwhelming that you cannot help but believe
it. There is no virtue in believing in a statement which cannot be
reasonably doubted.

But suppose I were to say "'You must also believe that George Washington
invented the theory of evolution." Could you be blamed for refusing to
credit a statement which there is no evidence to establish? You believe
in the first statement because it agrees with the facts, you object to
the second because it does not agree with the facts. In other words, you
believe or question according to the nature or force of the evidence.

It is precisely the same with religion. The priest says "God made the
world in six days." If he can prove it we have to believe it. If he
can not prove it, we are not to be blamed for saying "not proven." The
priest says Jesus was born of a Virgin. We don't deny it--we ask for
evidence. If a doctrine or proposition should be accepted as true in the
absence of convincing evidence, why then is not Mohammedanism as true
as Christianity? Why is not a bit of blue glass as good as a God? To
believe intelligently, one must have evidence; to believe blindly, one
religion is as good as another.

The existence of God has always been disputed and is still in dispute
today. A hundred books are written to prove his existence; a hundred
others question his existence. A great thinker in the eighteenth
century said "That which is the subject of eternal dispute cannot be
a foundation for anything." The scientist, therefore, in striving
to separate morality from theology (for it is theology and not true
religion that we object to) is rendering a great service to the cause
of righteousness. He is removing morality from the sphere of uncertainty
and controversy into the air and light of day.

But it is not about the existence of God alone that there is
uncertainty; there is misunderstanding and disagreement also about his
character. It is not enough to say there is a God,--we must agree
about his character. Yet that question is even more in dispute than
his existence. If the mere belief in a God is enough, why is not the
Mohammedan God enough? The Christian god has a son, and you cannot
approach him except through his son. The Mohammedan god has no son. How
can they be the same being? The god of the Christian believes in the
atoning blood of Christ. The Mohammedan god repudiates such an idea. How
can they be the same being? What are we going to do,--if we associate
morality with a being whose character is in dispute? Are they the
friends of the moral life, who perplex our conscience with conundrums?
Even when we have decided that the Mohammedan god is no god at all, and
agreed upon our own deity, are we sure that his character as represented
to us is calculated to encourage the moral life? That is an important
point. What do we know about the character of God except what the
priests tell us, and what we read in their books about him.

Now, I wish to make an explanation. It is not the first time I have
been compelled to make it either. It is very unpleasant to say unpopular
things. To stand up here and say the things which make me appear
sacrilegious and blasphemous in the eyes of the respectable majority is
not, I assure you, a pleasure; it is a sacrifice. But I have undertaken
the work and I must do it.

The character of God as painted for us in the Bible is not calculated,
in my humble opinion, to encourage the moral life. The god of the Jewish
and Christian scriptures is not a moral being. He does not live up to
his profession. He violates his own commandments. I do not say this
hastily or carelessly,--I have studied the question. Take the
commandment, "Thou shalt not kill." Jehovah breaks that commandment a
hundred times, if the Bible is reliable. No sooner had Moses descended
from Mt. Sinai, with the Ten Commandments, than God urged him to get the
Jews to kill one another, and fifty thousand were slain in one passion.
The repeated commandment of God to the Jews to exterminate their
neighbors,--to put men, women and children to the edge of the sword,
would indicate that he did not mean to live up to his profession.

In the same way he commands "Thou shalt not steal," and then tells his
people how they may spoil their neighbors, destroy their altars and
temples and seize their lands.

He says "Thou shalt not commit adultery," and then commands his
soldiers to capture the daughters of the Gentiles and keep them
forcibly.

He says "Thou shalt not bear false witness," and on every page in
the Old Testament, everything base is said of the Egyptians, the
Babylonians, the Assyrians, whose character modern research has
vindicated, and it has been proved that their civilization was far in
advance of that of their accusers.

He says "Thou shalt not covet"--and then shows them the pleasant lands
and homes of other peoples, to arouse their covetousness, to satisfy
which they wade through a sea of blood from Egypt to the land of Canaan.

How can a being, who does not live up to his profession,--who breaks
his own commandments, be our moral ideal or model? In our attempt to
reconcile God's conduct with morality, we resort to sophistry. We say
God is not bound by the same moral law that we are: He can take away
life, land, or property from one man and give it to another. He is above
all law. He is good even when he does that which if we did it would
make us criminals, and so on. Thus, sophistry becomes a profession. We
develop Jesuitical powers; we become intellectual gymnasts, dancing
on ropes and splitting hairs to prove that God can break all the moral
commandments and still be our model and pattern for morality.

It is a fact, moreover, that close indentification with such a being
has contributed to corrupt both the church and the state. Tyrants have
claimed the right to violate the moral law when ever it interfered with
their personal pleasures. As the anointed of God, kings have tried to
answer all protests against their misdeeds by quoting the example of
God. Priests have persecuted and exterminated whole races, and
have given the example of God who destroys the heretics as their
justification. The atmosphere created about us by the consciousness that
our moral teacher has himself done the very things he has forbidden is
an evil one.

But it may be answered that the Old Testament is no longer the authority
it once was, and that the New Testament, or rather, the character of God
as revealed in Christ, is our ideal. I have the highest reverence for
the beautiful things Jesus is reported to have said. I rejoice that some
of his words have made twenty centuries of the world's life fragrant
I would sooner die this instant than feel that I am guilty of
misrepresenting the facts, of taking a fact and twisting it into an
argument for my party. If I have any happiness in life, if I have any
self-respect, it is from this source,--that I am honest with the facts.

Yet the teachings of Jesus condensed in his direct command not to resist
evil is the very negation of morality. We had recently the yellow fever
in New Orleans. What did we do? We organized against it, threw ourselves
against it, resisted it. It is the only way physical evil can be
destroyed. There was a time when if the cholera came to a city it was
said that God had sent it, and it was useless to fight it. Today we
don't care who sent it, we don't want it, and shall not have it. We
shall resist it. Consider the disclosures of dishonest banking houses
and insurance companies. What do we do? We drag the guilty into the
light; we examine, we investigate, we expose, we punish, we do not say
to these people, you have taken so much of our money, take also what is
left. We resist evil. In politics, in commerce, in every department of
life we find that in resistance alone is our salvation, and yet Jesus,
the Oriental monk, believing the end of the world to be close at hand,
would tie our hands, paralyze our will and give evil, physical or moral,
a free field. If we do not resist evil we will soon be so incapacitated
for effort, so emptied of energy and ambition that we will become the
victim not only of every physical pest but also of every moral iniquity.
"Resist not" is just what a priest would say to his people, and a king
to his subjects. But "resist" is what the liberator would say to his
fellowmen.

But are there not examples of the highest morality in the Christian
world? Yes, surely, and I am glad to admit it, but it is in spite of the
Christian creed. It shows that,--listen to this,--theology is listened
to only one day in the week, the other six days we listen to common
sense. We are better than our beliefs, better than our creeds. The
Asiatic theology which we call inspired has not succeeded in perverting
Anglo-Saxon human nature. That is what it proves.

What importance did Jesus attach to the moral life? Let us see. You know
that when he was on the cross there were two thieves crucified with him.
One of them reviled him, the other said to him "Lord, when thou comest
into thy kingdom remember me," and Jesus said, "This day shall thou be
with me in Paradise." Ah, indeed!

What had this man done to deserve such sudden glorification?

It gives me pain to say, but say I must, that a greater slight upon
morality could not have been placed. Think of saying to a malefactor
whom the laws of society were justly punishing,--that his life of
guilt and crime, that the thefts and perhaps murders which he had
committed,--were all forgiven him. Is the moral life as easy as that? Is
it possible that by simply calling Jesus "Lord," and by accepting him as
the Son of God, a malefactor can enter heaven, while the man whose whole
life has been above reproach must go to perdition if he has not the
faith of the malefactor? Why then be moral at all? What is required
of men is that they use deferential language to Jesus, call him
"Lord"--believe in him, and all their wickedness shall not prevent them
from glory. If in one moment, and by a mere profession, a thief and
a murderer can step ahead of the righteous and the honest, then the
Christian religion is right, righteousness is but "filthy rags." No
deeper accusation could be brought against Christianity than that
it calls righteousness "filthy rags." But is such a religion--is the
example of the malefactor taken to heaven, and his victims permitted
to go to everlasting destruction--calculated to command the respect of
noble minds? Charles Spurgeon must have had the example of Jesus in
mind when he said to his hearers, in the London Tabernacle, that "thirty
years of sin will take less than thirty minutes to wipe out in." To him
repentance at the last moment was better than a whole life of "godless"
morality.

But let us get a little closer to our subject: When the preachers state
that morality is impossible without God, they really mean--without the
Christian religion. As we intimated above, the Mohammedan God and the
Christian God, not being the same, can not both be true. And it is not
enough to believe in the Christian God, one must also believe in Christ,
the Holy Ghost, the atonement, and so on. Hence, the Christian religion
is the only power that can save the world, according to the preachers.
Let us follow this thought and see where it will lead us to. If you have
imagination try to bring the whole world before your mind's eye.
Think of the millions upon millions of human beings dwelling upon its
surface--of the five hundred millions of Buddhists, the two hundred
millions of Moslems, the one hundred and fifty millions of Brahmans, and
to these add the millions who follow Confucius, who profess Shintoism,
Judaism, Jainism, and the millions who once followed Zoroaster, Zeus,
Apollo, Mithra and Isis. Compare with this tremendous host the number
of people who during the last two thousand years have called themselves
Christians, and tell me if it would be inspiring to think that the
Christians who are but a handful compared with this innumerable majority
are the only people who can be moral? If the heathen, so called by
Christians, can be as moral as ourselves, then Christianity can not
claim to be the only divine faith, but if it is, as the preachers claim,
the only power that can save, then think of the gloom and the despair
which must be the portion of every sensitive soul who realizes the
hopelessness of the situation! For thousands of years our humanity was
denied the Christian religion, and even now, twenty centuries after the
birth of Jesus, only a handful, compared with the earth's population,
have accepted the only true religion. Is this inspiring?

If we were to paint the globe in two colors--black and white--allowing
the black to represent the "heathen," and the white the Christian, we
would see spread before our eyes a limitless sea of inky blackness, with
a few white dots floating in it. Oh, how long will it take before this
black earth of ours shall change its color? If we feel uncomfortable
when we see an animal maltreated, how can we have the heart to subscribe
to a doctrine that denies to the great majority of our human fellows,
not only future bliss, but even the right to be moral? If instead of
being a religion of love, Christianity were a religion of hate, could
it be less generous? If instead of being the religion of the "meek and
lowly" it were the religion of the proud and the haughty, could it have
been more conceited? That people can enjoy a religion which blackens the
face of all mankind outside its pale is a pitiful commentary on human
nature.

But let us follow the lead of the preacher a little further. He says
there can be no morality without God, which means, no morality without
the Christian religion. But which Christian religion does he mean? The
Catholics denounce protestantism as a perversion; the Protestants call
Catholicism an imposture. Which, then, is the Christian religion without
which there can be no morality? If the one is as Christian as the other,
why then do they try to convert each other--why do the Catholics send
missionaries to the Protestants? Evidently, it must be the protestant
religion which is alone Christian, at least we in this country seem
to think so. If true, then there is no morality possible without the
protestant faith. Now see to what a small faith and to what a pale
and sickly hope the preacher has brought us. Ah! he has led us into an
alley--moldy, stuffy, and choking. The world is no longer in sight, the
sun and stars have disappeared, the winds that sweep the face of the
earth and the sky are heard no more. Yes, we are in an alley!

Now this protestant religion which is alone the hope of the world, what
is it? A moment ago we asked, which is the Christian religion? We now
ask, which is the protestant religion? Is it the church of England?
Is it Lutheranism? Is it Methodism? Is it Presbyterianism? Is it
Unitarianism? Is it the Baptist Church? Is it Christian Science? We
believe we have mentioned enough to select from. It will not do to
say that all these sects are equally Christian. Why, then, are they
separated? Why do not the Baptists commune at the Lord's table with the
Presbyterians, and why do the Episcopalians claim that they alone have
the apostolic ordination? A Methodist preacher is not allowed to speak
from an Episcopal altar--his ordination is not considered valid, and his
church is only a sect in, the eyes of the church of England. Which of
these, then, is the true protectant religion without which no morality
is possible in this world or salvation in the next? The proposition that
there can be no morality without God when analyzed, comes to this: There
can be no morality without the protestant religion, and it is as yet
uncertain which is the Protestant religion.

How educated people can find cheer and comfort in an alley and mistake
its darkness for a horizon--how they can be happy in the belief that
no one can be good or brave without believing as they do,--is beyond my
comprehension. And when we remember that this Protestant religion did
not exist before the sixteenth century--that it is only about three
hundred years old, and that, if it is the only true religion, it waited
a long time--until mankind had reached middle life--until the world had
begun to turn gray--before it commenced to minister to its needs--we
begin to realize that there is no thoroughfare to the alley to which
the preacher has conducted us--for it is a _blind_ alley, and we feel
creeping upon us the chill of death and despair!

Oh, let us turn back! Let us hasten out of this darkness! Let us return
to the kisses of the sun and the wind, to the air and the light! To
think that the whole world, past and present, has been, is, and will
be irrevocably lost, unless it accepts our three hundred years old
and much-divided religion! What gentle and refined mind can stand
the strain? Who can walk straight under the weight of such crushing
pessimism? Is it not fortunate that only one day in seven is devoted to
church-going?

When I was a Presbyterian minister, one of the hymns we used to sing in
church began with the words "From Greenland's Icy Mountains," and went
on to speak of "India's Coral Strands" and "Africa's Sunny Fountains,"
ending with this sentiment.=

````"Where every prospect pleases

````And man alone is vile."=

Think of the essentially unmoral mind of the man who could write such
a hymn, and of the callousness of the people who can sing it! Think of
putting so false, so uncharitable, so conceited, so mean and small
a thought into music, and singing it! If they wept over it, if they
mourned over it, it would be less incongruous, but to sit in their pews
and with the help of organ and piano to sing about the vileness of the
earth's greater population seems to me in my haste, to lend considerable
support to the doctrine of total depravity. The Christian will trade
with the "heathen," he will travel into their country, he will trust
them in business, but, on Sunday, when he is in church, when he is
kneeling at the altar, in the house of his God, he calls them "vile."
If the only way we can appreciate our own morality is by defaming the
majority of humanity, how contemptible must our morality he? When we
sing that all the Hindoos, the Chinese, the Japanese and the rest of the
non-Christian world are "vile,"--that there is no love, no devotion, no
patriotism, no honesty, no friendship, no temperance, no philanthropy,
no chastity, no truthfulness, no mercy and no honor, in these heathen
lands--when we deny that in these parts of the world any virtue can
exist, are we not bearing false witness against our neighbors?

To preach the brotherhood of man in one breath, and in the next, to call
your brothers who do not believe in your creed "vile," has about it
the unmistakable air of cant and hypocrisy. Is it any wonder that the
"heathen" distrust the Christian nations of Europe and America?

A clergyman of Chicago, one of our leading, popular, successful,
talented, and respected preachers--one who has had phenomenal success
as a minister of the Gospel, and who addresses the largest Christian
audiences in the country, speaking to the Young Men's Christian
Association, declared that "this earth would have been a hell if Christ
had not died on Golgotha." There must be something of the nature of
a blight in a creed that can force from the lips of an educated
and benevolent man such unlovely words. And there is. It is so
self-centered, so intolerant, so exclusive, that in its eyes the
whole world, except its own little corner, is nothing but "a hell." To
intimate that the world which gave us our republic, the world which gave
us our constitution--our jurisprudence, our law courts--the world which
has crowded our galleries with works of imperishable beauty, and our
libraries with immortal poetry, literature and philosophy--which has
given to our universities their classical curriculum--which created
Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Pericles, Seneca, Cicero and the
Antonines--a world whose ruins are more wonderful than anything we
possess, whose dead are more immortal than our living--to suggest that
this pre-Christian world as well as the non-Christian countries to-day,
was "a hell," takes my breath away. I never imagined that this fearful
Asiatic creed could smite or sting an otherwise wholesome soul into
such a contortion. What is there in this Palestinian Jew whom our famous
preacher worships as his god that can tempt a man to bear even false
witness for his sake? Heavens! How can a man with the example of heroic
Japan fresh and fragrant before him, think of this earth as a hell
without his "shibboleth?" Victor Hugo says "It is a terrible thing
to have been a priest once;" it is not less terrible to be an orthodox
protestant preacher to-day. And why?

Because for the preacher there is something higher than the truth--his
creed.

But the proposition that there can be no morality without God--that the
earth would be a hell without Christ, in its final analysis means this:
People will not be moral without the belief in a future life. It is the
hope of future rewards which gives to the God idea its value. St. Paul
himself admitted that if the Christians believed in Christ for this life
only "they were of all men the most miserable." Were the clergy to tell
their flocks this morning that although they felt sure of the existence
of God, they had their doubts about another life, how many of them would
return to worship on the following Sunday? Yes, it is the mingled hope
and fear of the future which gives the belief in a God its importance.
If there were no death--if men could live here forever, they would not
much concern themselves about spirits and invisible beings. It is the
idea that when we die we fall into the hands of God, the idea that it
is a terrible thing, as the Bible says, to fall into the hands of the
living God--it is this idea which lights the altars, bends the knee,
and builds churches. To placate the deity that he may reward us in the
future is, frankly, the object of all religious ceremonies. If this be
true, then the proposition that without God there can be no morality
amounts to this: Without future rewards and punishments no man will live
a moral life.

This doctrine leads to the following conclusions: First, man is
naturally immoral, and the only way he can be arrested in his career
of vice and crime is to promise him future rewards if he will behave
himself, and to menace him with hell fire if he will not. Secondly, the
proposition implies that morality _per se_ is not desirable, that no
one could be virtuous enough to desire virtue for its own sake, and that
without great and eternal rewards morality would go a-begging. And this
is religion! What then is atheism?

Why do people desire health? Certainly not for any postmortem rewards.
The health of the body is cultivated for its own beautiful sake. Health
is joy, it is power, it is beauty, it is strength. Are not these enough
to make it sacred to all men? But if the health of the body does not
need the prop of future rewards to commend itself to us, what good
reason have we to think that morality, which is the health of the
mind, is a wretched investment if there be no other life? Morality is
temperance. How can our ideas about the unseen world change the nature
of temperance so that instead of being a virtue it would become a stupid
and irksome restraint? If it is good to be temperate in the pursuit of
pleasure or wealth, or in the gratification of desire, why should our
speculations about the hereafter alter our attitude toward the value of
temperance and self-control in everything? God or no God, a future life
or no future life, is not temperance better than intemperance? To ask
why a man should practice temperance even if it be granted that it is
better than intemperance is to go back to the terrible charge that man
is by nature a monster, and that he will not behave well unless he is
promised enormous returns in the shape of eternal rewards--palaces,
mansions, crowns, thrones, in the next world.

Well, if the preachers are right it is a serious question whether so
depraved a creature as man deserves to be saved at all. To have created
so contemptible a creature was a great enough blunder, but think of
perpetuating his race forever and ever!

Let us see how much truth there is in the preacher's estimate of human
nature. Take the example of a father who is devoted to his little
motherless girl. He lives for her, cares for her, protects her, and
provides for her future that she may feel his blessing long after he
has passed away. Will this father be less a father without the belief
in future rewards? But to love and care for one's child is only natural
morality, replies the clergyman. Of course it is. And that is why it
is genuine, sweet, spontaneous, and untainted with expectations of a
reward. It never enters his mind that he is going to be paid big wages
for being good to his motherless child. He loved her, and that was
heaven enough for him. It is artificial morality that pines for rewards
and sickens and dies when the expected reward is questioned. If there is
no future glory, who will abstain from meat on Friday, or sprinkle
his children, or read the Bible or listen to sermons? But the natural
virtues will spring up like flowers in the human soil. Men and women
will love, will sacrifice, will perform heroic deeds of devotion,
whatever may be their theories concerning the hereafter.

Let us take another case. Why is an employer of labor good to his men?
Is it because he expects to be rewarded for it in the next life? Analyze
his motives and you will find that if he treats his hands well it is
because he believes it to be the best way to get along with them, to
earn their good will, to keep his own self-respect, and to merit the
approval of the community in which he lives. He is not going to
change his conduct toward his employees, nor will the motives which now
influence his conduct lose their force immediately after he finds out
that there is nothing coming to him in the next world for being good and
just to his workmen.

The theologians appear to labor under the impression that morality being
irksome and undesirable, it would be an injustice not to reward the
people who put up with it with a paradise of some kind. They think that
the man who did not rob his neighbor, beat his wife and children, or get
drunk, ought to be rewarded. Certainly he ought--if it is for a future
reward that he does not do these things. If we have an influence at all
we shall see that these people who have denied themselves the pleasure
of cutting their neighbors' throats, or of leading an intemperate,
dishonest and brutal life, shall receive their reward.

There is no doubt that some people are kept from doing wrong by the fear
of a distant hell, and others are provoked to good works by the hope of
a heavenly crown. But the mistake of the theologian consists in thinking
that anybody actuated by such motives can be moral. A vicious dog is not
made gentle by chaining him--he is only prevented from doing harm. It is
true that to prevent a savage beast from hurting people is a service
to humanity. It is also true that if by preaching the fear of hell the
churches succeed in preventing vicious men from doing harm, they are
benefactors. Fear, while not the highest motive, is nevertheless quite
effective with some people. Of course, as far as my own preference goes,
I would not preach the doctrine of everlasting hell even if I could be
assured it was the only thing that could save mankind. I would not care
to save mankind under those conditions.

There is nothing more immoral than the idea of unending torture. The
worst criminals are not half so immoral as the creators and perpetrators
of the unquestionable hell of Christian theology. I can not think of
a greater insult to the human conscience than to say that this fearful
establishment with its everlasting stench in our nostrils is the parent
of all virtue, and that if its fires were to be extinguished there would
be an end to human morality.

"It is quite easy," I imagine the preacher saying, "to talk in this
strain now, but wait until you are on your death-bed." But the frightful
death-bed scenes we read of in religious literature are generally
fictitious. When they are not impostures, a careful investigation
will show that they are the effect of pulpit sensationalism. The dying
thoughts of a sane and brave man or woman are as free from torture as
the sleep which closes the tired eye-lids. What does a mother think of
in her last moments? She thinks of her dear ones--her chil dren! whom
she has to leave motherless in the world. How noble is human nature!
And it is this nobility which makes theology jealous. The dying mother
should be thinking of her God,--her soul, her creed--she should be
trembling with fear, and be filled with consternation, instead of
thinking lovingly and tearfully of her little ones! And when theology
can not get horrible death bed scenes, she invents them. In _Theron
Ware_, the deacons of the Methodist church say to their minister, "Give
us more of the death-bed scenes of Voltaire and Thomas Paine." For a
long time it was a part of the vocation of the theologians to postpone
the attack upon an intellectual giant until he was dead or dying.

It is not true that when people come to die they confess that the
preacher's hell and his heaven are real after all. The other day a negro
shot his wife and babe fatally and ran away. When the neighbors arrived
upon the scene of the tragedy, they found the dying mother with her arms
around her infant trying to soothe its pains. She had torn a fragment
of her bodice to stop with it the bleeding wound in the child's arm.
Motherhood! Was she worrying about her own soul, about eternity, about
God, about the devil, about heaven, about hell! Oh, no! She had one
thought which puts all preaching to shame--to ease the pain of her dying
child. She forgot she was dying herself. She forgot all about her future
reward--but she did not forget her child. That is the way mothers die.
No Christian can die a better death.

When preachers can speak to us of a God who can love like this negro
mother,--or who in the words of the English poet, Wordsworth, will=

```"Never blend his pleasure or his pride

```With sorrow of the meanest thing that feels,"=

then, we shall worship him,--not for his heaven, nor from fear of his
hell, but for his own blessed self.

Others may be able to tell whether or not there is another life. I can
not. But whether or not there is a life beyond the grave, I know that
spring will come every year, that the gentle rains will fall, the
sunlight will woo and kiss all it meets, the harvests will wave, and the
world will sleep and wake each day. In the same way I know that whatever
the preachers may say about a godless morality, the charities, the
devotions, the humanities, the friendships, and the loves, will spring
up eternal in our daily lives, and beauty and glory shall never perish
from human nature.

"Conscience is born of love," wrote Shakespeare. In the alembic of this
glorious truth all the terrors of the Jewish-Christian religion dissolve
into nothingness. A word from Shakespeare, and the nightmares of the
past are no more. Love!--attachment, devotion, friendship, behold the
cradle in which conscience was born! Fear is a tomb--it lives upon hell.
Love is a cradle, nursing into being and maturity all that is good, all
that is true, all that is beautiful. Says Tennyson:=

``"Perplext in faith, but pure in deeds

```At last he beat his music out.

``There lives more faith in honest doubt,

`Believe me, than in half the creeds."=

This _is_ music, and it descends over the babel of wrangling creeds, as
the sunlight, after a long storm, over the spent and weary waves.


THE INDEPENDENT RELIGIOUS SOCIETY

Believes

``That the greatest good in life is Truth.

``Without Truth--love, hope, charity ``and all other human virtues dark
``en. Truth is to life what the sun ``is to the world. We believe that
``the only Truth which can be trusted ``is that which can be tested.





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