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Superstition

Robert Green Ingersoll

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                The Works of ROBERT G. INGERSOLL

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                          SUPERSTITION.

                              1898
                               I.

                      WHAT IS SUPERSTITION?

     To believe in spite of evidence or without evidence.

     To account for one mystery by another.

     To believe that the world is governed by chance or caprice.

     To disregard the true relation between cause and effect.

     To put thought, intention and design back of nature.

     To believe that mind created and controls matter.

     To believe in force apart from substance, or in substance
apart from force.

     To believe in miracles, spells and charms, in dreams and
prophecies.

     To believe in the supernatural.

     The foundation of superstition is ignorance, the
superstructure is faith and the dome is a vain hope. Superstition
is the child of ignorance and the mother of misery.

     In nearly every brain is found some cloud of superstition.

     A woman drops a cloth with which she is washing dishes, and
she exclaims: "That means company."

     Most people will admit that there is no possible connection
between dropping the cloth and the coming of visitors. The falling
cloth could not have put the visit desire in the minds of people
not present, and how could the cloth produce the desire to visit
the particular person who dropped it? There is no possible
connection between the dropping of the cloth and the anticipated
effects.

     A man catches a glimpse of the new moon over his left
shoulder, and he says: "This is bad luck."

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                          SUPERSTITION.

     To see the moon over the right or left shoulder, or not to see
it, could not by any possibility affect the moon, neither could it
change the effect or influence of the moon on any earthly thing.
Certainly the left-shoulder glance could in no way affect the
nature of things. All the facts in nature would remain the same as
thought the glance had been over the right shoulder. We see no
connection between the left shoulder glance and any possible evil
effects upon the one who saw the moon in this way.

     A girl counts the leaves of a flower, and she says: "One, he
comes; two, he tarries; three, he courts; four, he marries; five,
he goes away."

     Of course the flower did not grow, and the number of its
leaves was not determined with reference to the courtship or
marriage of this girl, neither could there have been any
intelligence that guided her hand when she selected that particular
flower. So, counting the seeds in an apple cannot in any way
determine whether the future of an individual is to be happy or
miserable.

     Thousands of persons believe in lucky and unlucky days,
numbers, signs and jewels.

     Many people regard Friday as an unlucky day -- as a bad day to
commence a journey, to marry, to make any investment. The only
reason given is that Friday is an unlucky day.

     Starting across the sea on Friday could have no possible
effect upon the winds, or waves, or tides, any more than starting
on any other day, and the only possible reason for thinking Friday
unlucky is the assertion that it is so.

     So it is thought by many that it is dangerous for thirteen
people to dine together. Now, if thirteen is a dangerous number,
twenty-six ought to be twice as dangerous, and fifty-two four times
as terrible.

     It is said that one of the thirteen will die in a year Now,
there is no possible relation between the number and the digestion
of each, between the number and the individual diseases. If
fourteen dine together there is greater probability, if we take
into account only the number, of a death within the year, than
there would be if only thirteen were at the table.

     Overturning the salt is very unlucky, but spilling the vinegar
makes no difference.

     Why salt should be revengeful and vinegar forgiving has never
been told.

     If the first person who enters a theater is cross eyed, the
audience will be small and the "run" a failure.

     How the peculiarity of the eyes of the first one who enters,
changes the intention of a community, or how the intentions of a
community cause the cross-eyed man to go early, has never been

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                          SUPERSTITION.

satisfactorily explained. Between this so-called cause and the so-
called effect there is, so far as we can see, no possible relation.

     To wear an opal is bad luck, but rubies bring health. How
these stones affect the future, how they destroy causes and defeat
effects, no one pretends to know.

     So, there are thousands of lucky and unlucky things, warnings,
omens and prophecies, but all sensible, sane and reasoning human
beings know that every one is an absurd and idiotic superstition.

     Let us take another step:

     For many centuries it was believed that eclipses of the sun
and moon were prophetic of pestilence or famine, and that comets
foretold the death of kings, or the destruction of nations, the
coming of war or plague. All strange appearances in the heavens --
the Northern Lights, circles about the moon, sun dogs, falling
stars -- filled our intelligent ancestors with terror. They fell
upon their knees -- did their best with sacrifice and prayer to
avoid the threatened disaster. Their faces were ashen with fear as
they closed their eyes and cried to the heavens for help. The
clergy, who were as familiar with God then as the orthodox
preachers are now, knew exactly the meaning of eclipses and sun
dogs and Northern Lights; knew that God's patience was nearly
exhausted; that he was then whetting the sword of his wrath, and
that the people could save themselves only by obeying the priests,
by counting their beads and doubling their subscriptions.

     Earthquakes and cyclones filled the coffers of the church. In
the midst of disasters the miser, with trembling hands, opened his
purse. In the gloom of eclipses thieves and robbers divided their
booty with God, and poor, honest, ignorant girls, remembering that
they had forgotten to say a prayer, gave their little earnings to
soften the heart of God.

     Now we know that all these signs and wonders in the heavens
have nothing to do with the fate of kings, nations or individuals;
that they had no more reference to human beings than to colonies of
ants, hives of bees or the eggs of insects. We now know that the
signs and eclipses, the comets, and the falling stars, would have
been just the same if not a human being had been upon the earth. We
know now that eclipses come at certain times and that their coming
can be exactly foretold.

     A little while ago the belief was general that there were
certain healing virtues in inanimate things, in the bones of holy
men and women, in the rags that had been torn from the foul
clothing of still fowler saints, in hairs from martyrs, in bits of
wood and rusty nails from the true cross, in the teeth and finger
nails of pious men, and in a thousand other sacred things.

     The diseased were cured by kissing a box in which was kept
some bone, or rag, or bit of wood, some holy hairs, provided the
kiss was preceded, or followed by a gift -- a something for the
church.

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                          SUPERSTITION.

     In some mysterious way the virtue in the bone, or rag, or
piece of wood, crept or flowed from the box, took possession of the
sick who had the necessary faith, and in the name of God drove out
the devils who were the real disease.

     This belief in the efficacy of bones or rags and holy hair was
born of another belief -- the belief that all diseases were
produced by evil spirits. The insane were supposed to be possessed
by devils. Epilepsy and hysteria were produced by the imps of
Satan. In short, every human affliction was the work of the
malicious emissaries of the god of hell. This belief was almost
universal, and even in our time the sacred bones are believed in by
millions of people.

     But to-day no intelligent man believes in the existence of
devils -- no intelligent man believes that evil spirits cause
disease -- consequently, no intelligent person believes that holy
bones or rags, sacred hairs or pieces of wood, can drive disease
out, or in any way bring back to the pallid cheek the rose of
health.

     Intelligent people now know that the bone of a saint has in it
no greater virtue than the bone of any animal. That a rag from a
wandering beggar is just as good as one from a saint, and that the
hair of a horse will cure disease just as quickly and surely as the
hair of a martyr. We now know that all the sacred relics are
religious rubbish; that those who use them are for the most part
dishonest, and that those who rely on them are almost idiotic.

     This belief in amulets and charms, in ghosts and devils, is
superstition, pure and simple.

     Our ancestors did not regard these relics as medicine, having
a curative power, but the idea was that evil spirits stood in dread
of holy things -- that they fled from the bone of a saint, that
they feared a piece of the true cross, and that when holy water was
sprinkled on a man they immediately left the premises. So, these
devils hated and dreaded the sound of holy bells, the light of
sacred tapers, and, above all, the ever-blessed cross.

     In those days the priests were fishers for money, and they
used these relics for bait.

                               II

     Let us take another step:

     This belief in the Devil and evil spirits laid the foundation
for another belief: Witchcraft.

     It was believed that the devil had certain things to give in
exchange for a soul. The old man, bowed and broken, could get back
his youth -- the rounded form, the brown hair, the leaping heart of
life's morning -- if he would sign and seal away his soul. So, it
was thought that the malicious could by charm and spell obtain
revenge, that the poor could be enriched, and that the ambitious
could rise to place and power. All the good things of this life

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                          SUPERSTITION.

were at the disposal of the Devil. For those who resisted the
temptations of the Evil One, rewards were waiting in another world,
but the Devil rewarded here in this life. No one has imagination
enough to paint the agonies that were endured by reason of this
belief in witchcraft. Think of the families destroyed, of the
fathers and mothers cast in prison, tortured and burned, of the
firesides darkened, of the children murdered, of the old, the poor
and helpless that were stretched on racks mangled and flayed!

     Think of the days when superstition and fear were in every
house, in every mind, when accusation was conviction, when
assertion of innocence was regarded as a confession of guilt, and
when Christendom was insane!

     Now we know that all of these horrors were the result of
superstition. Now we know that ignorance was the mother of all the
agonies endured. Now we know that witches never lived, that human
beings never bargained with any devil, and that our pious savage
ancestors were mistaken.

     Let us take another step:

     Our fathers believed in miracles, in signs and wonders,
eclipses and comets, in the virtues of bones, and in the powers
attributed to evil spirits. All these belonged to the miraculous.
The world was supposed to be full of magic; the spirits were
sleight-of-hand performers -- necromancers. There were no natural
causes behind events. A devil wished, and it happened. One who had
sold his soul to Satan made a few motions, uttered some strange
words, and the event was present. Natural causes were not believed
in. Delusion and illusion, the monstrous and miraculous, ruled the
world. The foundation was gone -- reason had abdicated. Credulity
gave tongues and wings to lies, while the dumb and limping facts
were left behind -- were disregarded and remained untold.

                       WHAT IS A MIRACLE?

     An act performed by a master of nature without reference to
the facts in nature. This is the only honest definition of a
miracle.

     If a man could make a perfect circle, the diameter of which
was exactly one-half the circumference, that would be a miracle in
geometry. If a man could make twice four, nine, that would be a
miracle in mathematics. If a man could make a stone, falling in the
air, pass through a space of ten feet the first second, twenty-five
feet the second second, and five feet the third second, that would
be a miracle in physics. If a man could put together hydrogen,
oxygen and nitrogen and produce pure gold, that would be a miracle
in chemistry. If a minister were to prove his creed, that would be
a theological miracle. If Congress by law would make fifty cents
worth of silver worth a dollar, that would be a financial miracle.
To make a square triangle would be a most wonderful miracle. To
cause a mirror to reflect the faces of persons who stand behind it,
instead of those who stand in front, would be a miracle. To make
echo answer a question would be a miracle. In other words, to do
anything contrary to or without regard to the facts in nature is to
perform a miracle.

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                          SUPERSTITION.

     Now we are convinced of what is called the "uniformity of
nature." We believe that all things act and are acted upon in
accordance with their nature; that under like conditions the
results will always be substantially the same; that like ever has
and ever will produce like. We now believe that events have natural
parents and that none die childless.

     Miracles are not simply impossible, but they are unthinkable
by any man capable of thinking.

     Now an intelligent man cannot believe that a miracle ever was,
or ever will be, performed.

     Ignorance is the soil in which belief in miracles grows.

                               III

     Let us take another step:

     While our ancestors filled the darkness with evil spirits,
enemies of mankind, they also believed in the existence of good
spirits. These good spirits sustained the same relation to God that
the evil ones did to the Devil. These good spirits protected the
faithful from the temptations and snares of the Evil One. They took
care of those who carried amulets and charms, of those who repeated
prayers and counted beads, of those who fasted and performed
ceremonies. These good spirits would turn aside the sword and arrow
from the breast of the faithful. They made poison harmless, they
protected the credulous, and in a thousand ways defended and
rescued the true believer. They drove doubts from the minds of the
pious, sowed the seeds of credulity and faith, saved saints from
the wiles of women, painted the glories of heaven for those who
fasted and prayed, made it possible for the really good to dispense
with the pleasures of sense and to hate the Devil.

     These angels watched over infants who had been baptized, over
persons who had made holy vows, over priests and nuns and wandering
beggars who believed.

     These spirits were of various kinds: Some had once been men or
women. some had never lived in this world, and some had been angels
from the commencement. Nobody pretended to know exactly what they
were, or exactly how they looked, or in what way they went from
place to place, or how they affected or controlled the minds of
men.

     It was believed that the king of all these evil spirits was
the Devil, and that the king of all the good spirits was God. It
was also believed that God was in fact the king of all, and that
the Devil himself was one of the children of this God. This God and
this Devil were at war, each trying to secure the souls of men. God
offered the rewards of eternal joy and threatened eternal pain. The
Devil baited his traps with present pleasure, with the
gratification of the senses, with the ecstasies of love, and
laughed at the joys of heaven and the pangs of hell. With malicious
hand he sowed the seeds of doubt -- induced men to investigate, to
reason, to call for evidence, to rely upon themselves; planted in

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                          SUPERSTITION.

their hearts the love of liberty, assisted them to break their
chains, to escape from their prisons and besought them to think. In
this way he corrupted the children of men.

     Our fathers believed that they could by prayer, by sacrifice,
by fasting, by performing certain ceremonies, gain the assistance
of this God and of these good spirits. They were not quite logical.
They did not believe that the Devil was the author of all evil.
They thought that flood and famine, plague and cyclone, earthquake
and war, were sometimes sent by God as punishment for unbelief.
They fell upon their knees and with white lips, prayed the good God
to stay his hand. They humbled themselves, confessed their sins,
and filled the heavens with their vows and cries. With priests and
prayers they tried to stay the plague. They kissed the relics, fell
at shrines, besought the Virgin and the saints, but the prayers all
died in the heartless air, and the plague swept on to its natural
end. Our poor fathers knew nothing of any science. Back of all
events they put spirits, good or bad, angels or demons, gods or
devils. To them nothing had what we call a natural cause.
Everything was the work of spirits. All was done by the
supernatural, and everything was done by evil spirits that they
could do to ruin, punish, mislead and damn the children of men.
This world was a field of battle, and here the hosts of heaven and
hell waged war.

                               IV

     Now no man in whose brain the torch of reason burns, no man
who investigates, who really thinks, who is capable of weighing
evidence, believes in signs, in lucky or unlucky days, in lucky or
unlucky numbers. He knows that Fridays and Thursdays are alike;
that thirteen is no more deadly than twelve. He knows that opals
affect the wearer the same as rubies, diamonds or common glass. He
knows that the matrimonial chances of a maiden are not increased or
decreased by the number of leaves of a flower or seeds in an apple.
He knows that a glance at the moon over the left shoulder is as
healthful and lucky as one over the right. He does not care whether
the first comer to a theater is cross-eyed or hump-backed, bow-
legged, or as well-proportioned as Apollo. He knows that a strange
cat could be denied asylum without bringing any misfortune to the
family. He knows that an owl does not hoot in the full of the moon
because a distinguished man is about to die. He knows that comets
and eclipses would come if all the folks were dead. He is not
frightened by sun dogs, or the Morning of the North when the
glittering lances pierce the shield of night. He knows that all
these things occur without the slightest reference to the human
race. He feels certain that floods would destroy and cyclones rend
and earthquakes devour; that the stars would shine; that day and
night would still pursue each other around the world; that flowers
would give their perfume to the air, and light would paint the
seven-hued arch upon the dusky bosom of the cloud if every human
being was unconscious dust.

     A man of thought and sense does not believe in the existence
of the Devil. He feels certain that imps, goblins, demons and evil
spirits exist only in the imagination of the ignorant and
frightened. He knows how these malevolent myths were made. He knows

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                          SUPERSTITION.

the part they have played in all religions. He knows that for many
centuries a belief in these devils, these evil spirits, was
substantially universal. He knows that the priest believed as
firmly as the peasant. In those days the best educated and the most
ignorant were equal dupes. Kings and courtiers, ladies and clowns,
soldiers and artists, slaves and convicts, believed as firmly in
the Devil as they did in God.

     Back of this belief there is no evidence, and there never has
been. This belief did not rest on any fact. It was supported by
mistakes, exaggerations and lies. The mistakes were natural, the
exaggerations were mostly unconscious and the lies were generally
honest. Back of these mistakes, these exaggerations, these lies,
was the love of the marvelous. Wonder listened with greedy ears,
with wide eyes, and ignorance with open mouth.

     The man of sense knows the history of this belief, and he
knows, also, that for many centuries its truth was established by
the Holy Bible. He knows that the Old Testament is filled with
allusions to the Devil, to evil spirits, and that the New Testament
is the same. He knows that Christ himself was a believer in the
Devil, in evil spirits, and that his principal business was casting
out devils from the bodies of men and women. He knows that Christ
himself, according to the New Testament, was not only tempted by
the Devil, but was carried by his Satanic Highness to the top of
the temple. If the New Testament is the inspired word of God, then
I admit that these devils, these imps, do actually exist and that
they do take possession of human beings.

     To deny the existence of these evil spirits, to deny the
existence of the Devil, is to deny the truth of the New Testament.
To deny the existence of these imps of darkness is to contradict
the words of Jesus Christ. If these devils do not exist, if they do
not cause disease, if they do not tempt and mislead their victims,
then Christ was an ignorant, superstitious man, insane, an
impostor, or the New Testament is not a true record of what he said
and what he pretended to do. If we give up the belief in devils, we
must give up the inspiration of the Old and New Testament. We must
give up the divinity of Christ. To deny the existence of evil
spirits is to utterly destroy the foundation of Christianity. There
is no half-way ground. Compromise is impossible. If all the
accounts in the New Testament of casting out devils are false, what
part of the Blessed Book is true?

     As a matter of fact, the success of the Devil in the Garden of
Eden made the coming of Christ a necessity, laid the foundation for
the atonement, crucified the Savior and gave us the Trinity.

     If the Devil does not exist, the Christian creeds all crumble,
and the superstructure known as "Christianity," built by the
fathers, by popes, by priests and theologians -- built with
mistakes and falsehoods, with miracles and wonders, with blood and
flame, with lies and legends borrowed from the savage world,
becomes a shapeless ruin.

     If we give up the belief in devils and evil spirits, we are
compelled to say that a witch never lived. No sensible human being
now believes in witchcraft. We know that it was a delusion. We now

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                          SUPERSTITION.

know that thousands and thousands of innocent men, women and
children were tortured and burned for having been found guilty of
an impossible crime, and we also know, if our minds have not been
deformed by faith, that all the books in which the existence of
witches is taught were written by ignorant and superstitious men.
We also know that the Old Testament asserted the existence of
witches. According to that Holy Book, Jehovah was a believer in
witchcraft, and said to his chosen people: "Thou shalt not suffer
a witch to live."

     This one commandment -- this simple line -- demonstrates that
Jehovah was not only not God, but that he was a poor, ignorant,
superstitious savage. This one line proves beyond all possible
doubt that the Old Testament was written by men, by barbarians.

     John Wesley was right when he said that to give up a belief in
witchcraft was to give up the Bible.

     Give up the Devil, and what can you do with the Book of Job?
How will you account for the lying spirits that Jehovah sent to
mislead Ahab?

     Ministers who admit that witchcraft is a superstition will
read the story of the Witch of Endor -- will read it in a solemn,
reverential voice -- with a theological voice -- and will have the
impudence to say that they believe it.

     It would be delightful to know that angels hover in the air;
that they guard the innocent, protect the good; that they bend over
the cradles and give health and happy dreams to pallid babes; that
they fill dungeons with the light of their presence and give hope
to the imprisoned; that they follow the fallen, the erring, the
outcasts, the friendless, and win them back to virtue, love and
joy. But we have no more evidence of the existence of good spirits
than of bad. The angels that visited Abraham and the mother of
Samson are as unreal as the ghosts and goblins of the Middle Ages.
The angel that stopped the donkey of Baalim, the one who walked in
the furnace flames with Meshech, Shadrack and Abednego, the one who
slew the Assyrians and the one who in a dream removed the
suspicions of Joseph, were all created by the imagination of the
credulous, by the lovers of the marvelous, and they have been
handed down from dotage to infancy, from ignorance to ignorance,
through all the years. Except in Catholic countries, no winged
citizen of the celestial realm has visited the world for hundreds
of years. Only those who are blind to facts can see these beautiful
creatures, and only those who reach conclusions without the
assistance of evidence can believe in their existence. It is told
that the great Angelo, in decorating a church, painted some angels
wearing sandals. A cardinal looking at the picture said to the
artist: "Whoever saw angels with sandals?" Angelo answered with
another question: "Whoever saw an angel bare-footed?"

     The existence of angels has never been established. Of course,
we know that millions and millions have believed in seraphim and
cherubim; have believed that the angel Gabriel contended with the
Devil for the body of Moses; that angels shut the mouths of the
lions for the protection of Daniel that angels ministered unto

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                          SUPERSTITION.

Christ, and that countless angels will accompany the Savior when he
comes to take possession of the world. And we know that all these
millions believe through blind, unreasoning faith, holding all
evidence and all facts in theological contempt.

     But the angels come no more. They bring no balm to any wounded
heart. Long ago they folded their pinions and faded from the earth
and air. These winged guardians no longer protect the innocent; no
longer cheer the suffering; no longer whisper words of comfort to
the helpless. They have become dreams -- vanished visions.

                                V

     In the dear old religious days the earth was flat -- a little
dishing, if anything -- and just above it was Jehovah's house, and
just below it was where the Devil lived. God and his angels
inhabited the third story, the Devil and his imps the basement, and
the human race the second floor.

     Then they knew where heaven was. They could almost hear the
harps and hallelujahs. They knew where hell was, and they could
almost hear the groans and smell the sulphurous fumes. They
regarded the volcanoes as chimneys. They were perfectly acquainted
with the celestial, the terrestrial and the infernal. They were
quite familiar with the New Jerusalem, with its golden streets and
gates of pearl. Then the translation of Enoch seemed reasonable
enough, and no one doubted that before the flood the sons of God
came down and made love to the daughters of men. The theologians
thought that the builders of Babel would have succeeded if God had
not come down and caused them to forget the meaning of words.

     In those blessed days the priests knew all about heaven and
hell. They knew that God governed the world by hope and fear, by
promise and threat, by reward and punishment. The reward was to be
eternal and so was the punishment. It was not God's plan to develop
the human brain, so that man would perceive and comprehend the
right and avoid the wrong. He taught ignorance, nothing but
obedience, and for obedience he offered eternal joy. He loved the
submissive -- the kneelers and crawlers. He hated the doubters, the
investigators, the thinkers, the philosophers. For them he created
the eternal prison where he could feed forever the hunger of his
hate. He loved the credulous -- those who believed without evidence
-- and for them he prepared a home in the realm of fadeless light.
He delighted in the company of the questionless.

     But where is this heaven, and where is this hell? We now know
that heaven is not just above the clouds and that hell is not just
below the earth. The telescope has done away with the ancient
heaven, and the revolving world has quenched the flames of the
ancient hell. These theological countries, these imagined worlds,
have disappeared. No one knows, and no one pretends to know, where
heaven is; and no one knows, and no one pretends to know, the
locality of hell. Now the theologians say that hell and heaven are
not places, but states of mind-conditions.

     The belief in gods and devils has been substantially
universal. Back of the good, man placed a god; back of the evil, a

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                          SUPERSTITION.

devil; back of health, sunshine and harvest was a good deity; back
of disease, misfortune and death he placed a malicious fiend.

     Is there any evidence that gods and devils exist? The evidence
of the existence of a god and of a devil is substantially the same.
Both of these deities are inferences; each one is a perhaps. They
have not been seen -- they are invisible -- and they have not
ventured within the horizon of the senses. The old lady who said
there must be a devil, else how could they make pictures that
looked exactly like him, reasoned like a trained theologian -- like
a doctor of divinity.

     Now no intelligent man believes in the existence of a devil --
no longer fears the leering fiend. Most people who think have given
up a personal God, a creative deity. They now talk about the
"Unknown," the "Infinite Energy," but they put Jehovah with
Jupiter. They regard them both as broken dolls from the nursery of
the past.

     The men or women who ask for evidence -- who desire to know
the truth -- care nothing for signs; nothing for what are called
wonders; nothing for lucky or unlucky jewels, days or numbers;
nothing for charms or amulets; nothing for comets or eclipses. and
have no belief in good or evil spirits, in gods or devils. They
place no reliance on general or special providence -- on any power
that rescues, protects and saves the good or punishes the vile and
vicious. They do not believe that in the whole history of mankind
a prayer has been answered. They think that all the sacrifices have
been wasted, and that all the incense has ascended in vain. They do
not believe that the world was created and prepared for man any
more than it was created and prepared for insects. They do not
think it probable that whales were invented to supply the Eskimo
with blubber, or that flames were created to attract and destroy
moths. On every hand there seems to be evidence of design, design
for the accomplishment of good, design for the accomplishment of
evil. On every side are the benevolent and malicious -- something
toiling to preserve, something laboring to destroy. Everything
surrounded by friends and enemies -- by the love that protects, by
the hate that kills. Design is as apparent in decay, as in growth;
in failure, as in success; in grief, as in joy. Nature with one
hand building, with one hand tearing down, armed with sword and
shield -- slaying and protecting, and protecting but to slay. All
life journeying toward death, and all death hastening back to life.
Everywhere waste and economy, care and negligence.

     We watch the flow and ebb of life and death -- the great drama
that forever holds the stage, where players act their parts and
disappear; the great drama in which all must act -- ignorant and
learned, idiotic and insane -- without rehearsal and without the
slightest knowledge of a part, or of any plot or purpose in the
play. The scene shifts; some actors disappear and others come, and
again the scene shifts; mystery everywhere. We try to explain, and
the explanation of one fact contradicts another. Behind each veil
removed, another. All things equal in wonder. One drop of water as
wonderful as all the seas; one grain of sand as all the world; one
moth with painted wings as all the things that live; one egg from
which warmth, in darkness, woos to life an organized and breathing

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                  Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201
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                          SUPERSTITION.

form -- a form with sinews, bones and nerves, with blood and brain,
with instincts, passions, thoughts and wants -- as all the stars
that wheel in space.

     The smallest seed that, wrapped in soil, has dreams of April
rains and days of June, withholds its secret from the wisest men.
The wisdom of the world cannot explain one blade of grass, the
faintest motion of the smallest leaf. And yet theologians, popes,
priests, parsons, who speechless stand before the wonder of the
smallest thing that is, know all about the origin of worlds, know
when the beginning was, when the end will be, know all about the
God who with a wish created all, know what his plan and purpose
was, the means he uses and the end he seeks. To them all mysteries
have been revealed, except the mystery of things that touch the
senses of a living man.

     But honest men do not pretend to know; they are candid and
sincere; they love the truth; they admit their ignorance, and they
say, "We do not know."

     After all, why should we worship our ignorance why should we
kneel to the Unknown, why should we prostrate ourselves before a
guess?

     If God exists, how do we know that he is good, that he cares
for us? The Christians say that their God has existed from
eternity; that he forever has been, and forever will be, infinite,
wise and good. Could this God have avoided being God? Could he have
avoided being good? Was he wise and good without his wish or will?

     Being from eternity, he was not produced. He was back of all
cause. What he is, he was, and will be, unchanged, unchangeable. He
had nothing to do with the making or developing of his character.
Nothing to do with the development of his mind. What he was, he is.
He has made no progress. What he is, he will be, there can be no
change. Why then, I ask, should we praise him? He could not have
been different from what he was and is. Why should we pray to him?
He cannot change.

     And yet Christians implore their God not to do wrong.

     The meanest thing charged against the Devil is that he leads
the children of men into temptation, and yet, in the Lord's Prayer,
God is insultingly asked not to imitate the king of fiends.

     "Lead us not into temptation."

     Why should God demand praise? He is as he was. He has never
learned anything; has never practiced any self-denial; was never
tempted, never touched by fear or hope, and never had a want. Why
should he demand our praise?

     Does anyone know that this God exists; that he ever heard or
answered any prayer? Is it known that he governs the world; that he
interferes in the affairs of men; that he protects the good or
punishes the wicked? Can evidence of this be found in the history
of mankind? If God governs the world, why should we credit him for

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                          SUPERSTITION.

the good and not charge him with the evil? To Justify this God we
must say that good is good and that evil is also good. If all is
done by this God we should make no distinction between his actions
-- between the actions of the infinitely wise, powerful and good.
If we thank him for sunshine and harvest we should also thank him
for plague and famine. If we thank him for liberty, the slave
should raise his chained hands in worship and thank God that he
toils unpaid with the lash upon his naked back. If we thank him for
victory we should thank him for defeat.

     Only a few days ago our President, by proclamation, thanked
God for giving us the victory at Santiago. He did not thank him for
sending the yellow fever. To be consistent the President should
have thanked him equally for both.

     The truth is that good and evil spirits -- gods and devils --
are beyond the realm of experience; beyond the horizon of our
senses; beyond the limits of our thoughts; beyond imagination's
utmost flight.

     Man should think; he should use all his senses; he should
examine; he should reason. The man who cannot think is less than
man; the man who will not think is traitor to himself; the man who
fears to think is superstition's slave.

                               VI

     What harm does superstition do? What harm in believing in
fables, in legends?

     To believe in signs and wonders, in amulets, charms and
miracles, in gods and devils, in heavens and hells, makes the brain
an insane ward, the world a madhouse, takes all certainty from the
mind, makes experience a snare, destroys the kinship of effect and
cause -- the unity of nature -- and makes man a trembling serf and
slave. With this belief a knowledge of nature sheds no light upon
the path to be pursued. Nature becomes a puppet of the unseen
powers. The fairy, called the supernatural, touches with her wand
a fact, it disappears. Causes are barren of effects, and effects
are independent of all natural causes. Caprice is king. The
foundation is gone. The great dome rests on air. There is no
constancy in qualities, relations or results. Reason abdicates and
superstition wears her crown.

     The heart hardens and the brain softens.

     The energies of man are wasted in a vain effort to secure the
protection of the supernatural. Credulity, ceremony, worship,
sacrifice and prayer take the place of honest work, of
investigation, of intellectual effort, of observation, of
experience. Progress becomes impossible.

     Superstition is, always has been, and forever will be, the
enemy of liberty.

     Superstition created all the gods and angels, all the devils
and ghosts, all the witches, demons and goblins, gave us all the
augurs, soothsayers and prophets, filled the heavens with signs and

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                          SUPERSTITION.

wonders, broke the chain of cause and effect, and wrote the history
of man in miracles and lies. Superstition made all the popes,
cardinals, bishops and priests, all the monks and nuns, the begging
friars and the filthy saints, all the preachers and exhorters, all
the "called" and "set apart." Superstition made men fall upon their
knees before beasts and stones, caused them to worship snakes and
trees and insane phantoms of the air, beguiled them of their gold
and toil, and made them shed their children's blood and give their
babes to flames. Superstition built the cathedrals and temples, all
the altars, mosques and churches, filled the world with amulets and
charms, with images and idols, with sacred bones and holy hairs,
with martyrs' blood and rags, with bits of wood that frighten
devils from the breasts of men. Superstition invented and used the
instruments of torture, flayed men and women alive, loaded millions
with chains and destroyed hundreds of thousands with fire.
Superstition mistook insanity for inspiration and the ravings of
maniacs for prophesy, for the wisdom of God. Superstition
imprisoned the virtuous, tortured the thoughtful, killed the
heroic, put chains on the body, manacles on the brain, and utterly
destroyed the liberty of speech. Superstition gave us all the
prayers and ceremonies; taught all the kneelings, genuflections and
prostrations; taught men to hate themselves, to despise pleasure,
to scar their flesh, to grovel in the dust, to desert their wives
and children, to shun their fellow-men, and to spend their lives in
useless pain and prayer. Superstition taught that human love is
degrading, low and vile; taught that monks are purer than fathers,
that nuns are holier than mothers, that faith is superior to fact,
that credulity leads to heaven, that doubt is the road to hell,
that belief is better than knowledge, and that to ask for evidence
is to insult God. Superstition is, always has been, and forever
will be, the foe of progress, the enemy of education and the
assassin of freedom. It sacrifices the known to the unknown, the
present to the future, this actual world to the shadowy next. It
has given us a selfish heaven, and a hell of infinite revenge; it
has filled the world with hatred, war and crime, with the malice of
meekness and the arrogance of humility. Superstition is the only
enemy of science in all the world.

     Nations, races, have been destroyed by this monster. For
nearly two thousand years the infallible agent of God has lived in
Italy. That country has been covered with nunneries, monasteries,
cathedrals and temples -- filled with all varieties of priests and
holy men. For centuries Italy was enriched with the gold of the
faithful. All roads led to Rome, and these roads were filled with
pilgrims bearing gifts, and yet Italy, in spite of all the prayers,
steadily pursued the downward path, died and was buried, and would
at this moment be in her grave had it not been for Cavour, Mazzini
and Garibaldi. For her poverty, her misery, she is indebted to the
holy Catholic Church, to the infallible agents of God. For the life
she has she is indebted to the enemies of superstition. A few years
ago Italy was great enough to build a monument to Giordano Bruno --
Bruno, the victim of the "Triumphant Beast;" -- Bruno, the
sublimest of her sons.

     Spain was at one time owner of half the earth, and held within
her greedy hands the gold and silver of the world. At that time all
nations were in the darkness of superstition. At that time the

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                          SUPERSTITION.

world was governed by priests. Spain clung to her creed. Some
nations began to think, but Spain continued to believe. In some
counties, priests lost power, but not in Spain. The power behind
her throne was the cowled monk. In some countries men began to
interest themselves in science, but not in Spain. Spain told her
beads and continued to pray to the Virgin. Spain was busy saving
her soul. In her zeal she destroyed herself. She relied on the
supernatural; not on knowledge, but superstition. Her prayers were
never answered. The saints were dead. They could not help, and the
Blessed Virgin did not hear. Some countries were in the dawn of a
new day, but Spain gladly remained in the night. With fire and
sword she exterminated the men who thought. Her greatest festival
was the Auto da Fe. Other nations grew great while Spain grew
small. Day by day her power waned, but her faith increased. One by
one her colonies were lost, but she kept her creed. She gave her
gold to superstition, her brain to priests, but she faithfully
counted her beads. Only a few days ago, relying on her God and his
priests, on charms and amulets, on holy water and pieces of the
true cross, she waged war against the great Republic. Bishops
blessed her armies and sprinkled holy water on her ships, and yet
her armies were defeated and captured, her ships battered, beached
and burned, and in her helplessness she sued for peace. But she has
her creed; her superstition is not lost. Poor Spain, wrecked by
faith, the victim of religion.

     Portugal, slowly dying, growing poorer every day still clings
to the faith. Her prayers are never answered, but she makes them
still. Austria is nearly gone, a victim of superstition. Germany is
traveling toward the night. God placed her Kaiser on the throne.
The people must obey. Philosophers and scientists fall upon their
knees and become the puppets of the divinely crowned.

                               VII

     The believers in the supernatural, in a power superior to
nature, in God, have what they call "inspired books." These books
contain the absolute truth. They must be believed. He who denies
them will be punished with eternal pain. These books are not
addressed to human reason. They are above reason. They care nothing
for what a man calls "facts." Facts that do not agree with these
books are mistakes. These books are independent of human
experience, of human reason.

     Our inspired books constitute what we call the "Bible." The
man who reads this inspired book, looking for contradictions,
mistakes and interpolations, imperils the salvation of his soul.
While he reads he has no right to think, no right to reason. To
believe is his only duty.

     Millions of men have wasted their lives in the study of this
book -- in trying to harmonize contradictions and to explain the
obscure and seemingly absurd. In doing this they have justified
nearly every crime and every cruelty. In its follies they have
found the profoundest wisdom. Hundreds of creeds have been
constructed from its inspired passages. Probably no two of its
readers have agreed as to its meaning. Thousands have studied
Hebrew and Greek that they might read the Old and New Testament in

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                          SUPERSTITION.

the languages in which they were written. The more they studied,
the more they differed. By the same book they proved that nearly
everybody is to be lost, and that all are to be saved; that slavery
is a divine institution, and that all men should be free; that
polygamy is right, and that no man should have more than one wife;
that the powers that be are ordained of God, and that the people
have a right to overturn and destroy the powers that be; that all
the actions of men were predestined -- preordained from eternity,
and yet that man is free; that all the heathen will be lost; that
all the heathen will be saved; that all men who live according to
the light of nature will be damned for their pains; that you must
be baptized by sprinkling; that you must he baptized by immersion;
that there is no salvation without baptism that baptism is useless;
that you must believe in the Trinity; that it is sufficient to
believe in God. that you must believe that a Hebrew peasant was God
that at the same time he was half man, that he was of the blood of
David through his supposed father Joseph, who was not his father,
and that it is not necessary to believe that Christ was God; that
you must believe that the Holy Ghost proceeded; that it makes no
difference whether you do or not; that you must keep the Sabbath
holy; that Christ taught nothing of the kind; that Christ
established a church; that he established no church; that the dead
are to he raised; that there is to be no resurrection; that Christ
is coming again; that he has made his last visit; that Christ went
to hell and preached to the spirits in prison; that he did nothing
of the kind; that all the Jews are going to perdition; that they
are all going to heaven; that all the miracles described in the
Bible were performed, that some of them were not, because they are
foolish, childish and idiotic; that all the Bible is inspired; that
some of the books are not inspired; that there is to be a general
judgment, when the sheep and goats are to be divided; that there
never will be any general judgment; that the sacramental bread and
wine are changed into the flesh and blood of God and the Trinity;
that they are not changed; that God has no flesh or blood; that
there is a place called "purgatory;" that there is no such place;
that unbaptized infants will be lost; that they will be saved; that
we must believe the Apostles' Creed; that the apostles made no
creed; that the Holy Ghost was the father of Christ; that Joseph
was his father; that the Holy Ghost had the form of a dove; that
there is no Holy Ghost; that heretics should be killed; that you
must not resist evil; that you should murder unbelievers that you
must love your enemies; that you should take no thought for the
morrow, but should be diligent in business; that you should lend to
all who ask, and that one who does not provide for his own
household is worse than an infidel.

     In defence of all these creeds, all these contradictions,
thousands of volumes have been written, millions of sermons have
been preached, countless swords reddened with blood, and thousands
and thousands of nights made lurid with the faggot's flames.

     Hundreds and hundreds of commentators have obscured and
darkened the meaning of the plainest texts, spiritualized dates,
names, numbers and even genealogies. They have degraded the poetic,
changed parables to history, and imagery to stupid and impossible
facts. They have wrestled with rhapsody and prophecy, with visions
and dreams, with illusions and delusions, with myths and miracles,

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                          SUPERSTITION.

with the blunders of ignorance, the ravings of insanity and the
ecstasy of hysterics. Millions of priests and preachers have added
to the mysteries of the inspired book by explanation, by showing
the wisdom of foolishness, the foolishness of wisdom, the mercy of
cruelty and the probability of the impossible.

     The theologians made the Bible a master and the people its
slaves. With this book they destroyed intellectual veracity, the
natural manliness of man. With this book they banished pity from
the heart, subverted all ideas of justice and fairness, imprisoned
the soul in the dungeon of fear and made honest doubt a crime.

     Think of what the world has suffered from fear. Think of the
millions who were driven to insanity. Think of the fearful nights
-- nights filled with phantoms, with flying, crawling monsters,
with hissing serpents that slowly uncoiled, with vague and formless
horrors, with burning and malicious eyes.

     Think of the fear of death, of infinite wrath, of everlasting
revenge in the prisons of fire, of an eternity, of thirst, of
endless regret, of the sobs and sighs, the shrieks and groans of
eternal pain.

     Think of the hearts hardened, of the hearts broken, of the
cruelties inflicted, of the agonies endured, of the lives darkened.

     The inspired Bible has been and is the greatest curse of
Christendom, and will so remain as long as it is held to be
inspired.

                              VIII

     Our God was made by men, sculptured by savages who did the
best they could. They made our God somewhat like themselves, and
gave to him their passions, their ideas of right and wrong.

     As man advanced he slowly changed his God -- took a little
ferocity from his heart, and put the light of kindness in his eyes.
As man progressed he obtained a wider view, extended the
intellectual horizon and again he changed his God, making him as
nearly perfect as he could, and yet this God was patterned after
those who made him. As man became civilized, as he became merciful,
he began to love justice, and as his mind expanded his ideal became
purer, nobler, and so his God became more merciful, more loving.

     In our day Jehovah has been outgrown. He is no longer the
perfect. Now theologians talk, not about Jehovah, but about a God
of love, call him the Eternal father and the perpetual friend and
providence of man. But, while they talk about this God of love,
cyclones wreck and rend, the earthquake devours, the flood
destroys, the red bolt leaping from the cloud still crashes the
life out of men, and plague and fever still are tireless reapers in
the harvest fields of death.

     They tell us now that all is good; that evil is but blessing
in disguise, that pain makes strong and virtuous men -- makes
character -- while pleasure enfeebles and degrades. If this be so,

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                          SUPERSTITION.

the souls in hell should grow to greatness, while those in heaven
should shrink and shrivel.

     But we know that good is good. We know that good is not evil,
and that evil is not good. We know that light is not darkness, and
that darkness is not light. But we do not feel that good and evil
were planned and caused by a supernatural God. We regard them both
as necessities. We neither thank nor curse. We know that some evil
can be avoided and that the good can be increased. We know that
this can be done by increasing knowledge, by developing the brain.

     As Christians have changed their God, so they have accordingly
changed their Bible. The impossible and absurd, the cruel and the
infamous, have been mostly thrown aside, and thousands are now
engaged in trying to save the inspired word. Of course, the
orthodox still cling to every word, and still insist that every
line is true. They are literalists. To them the Bible means exactly
what it says. They want no explanation. They care nothing for
commentators. Contradictions cannot disturb the faith. They deny
that any contradictions exist. They loyally stand by the sacred
text, and they give it the narrowest possible interpretation. They
are like the janitor of an apartment house who refused to rent a
flat to a gentleman because he said he had children. "But," said
the gentleman, "my children are both married and live in Iowa."
"That makes no difference," said the janitor, "I am not allowed to
rent a flat to any man who has children."

     All the orthodox churches are obstructions on the highway of
progress. Every orthodox creed is a chain, a dungeon. Every
believer in the "inspired book" is a slave who drives reason from
her throne, and in her stead crowns fear.

     Reason is the light, the sun of the brain. It is the compass
of the mind, the ever-constant Northern Star, the mountain peak
that lifts itself above all clouds.

     There were centuries of darkness when religion had control of
Christendom. Superstition was almost universal. Not one in twenty
thousand could read or write. During these centuries the people
lived with their back to the sunrise, and pursued their way toward
the dens of ignorance and faith. There was no progress, no
invention, no discovery. On every hand cruelty and worship,
persecution and prayer. The priests were the enemies of thought, of
investigation. They were the shepherds, and the people were their
sheep and it was their business to guard the flock from the wolves
of thought and doubt. This world was of no importance compared with
the next. This life was to be spent in preparing for the life to
come. The gold and labor of men were wasted in building cathedrals
and in supporting the pious and the useless. During these Dark Ages
of Christianity, as I said before, nothing was invented, nothing
was discovered, calculated to increase the well-being of men. The
energies of Christendom were wasted in the vain effort to obtain
assistance from the supernatural.

     For centuries the business of Christians was to wrest from the
followers of Mohammed the empty sepulcher of Christ. Upon the altar
of this folly millions of lives were sacrificed, and yet the

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                          SUPERSTITION.

soldiers of the impostor were victorious, and the wretches who
carried the banner of Christ were scattered like leaves before the
storm.

     There was, I believe, one invention during these ages. It is
said that, in the thirteenth century, Roger Bacon, a Franciscan
monk, invented gunpowder, but this invention was without a fellow.
Yet we cannot give Christianity the credit, because Bacon was an
infidel, and was great enough to say that in all things reason must
be the standard. He was persecuted and imprisoned, as most sensible
men were in those blessed days. The church was triumphant. The
scepter and maitre were in her hand and yet her success was the
result of force and fraud, and it carried within itself the seeds
of its defeat. The church attempted the impossible, it endeavored
to make the world of one belief; to force all minds to a common
form, and utterly destroy the individuality of man. To accomplish
this it employed every art and artifice that cunning could suggest.
It inflicted every cruelty by every means that malice could invent.

     But, in spite of all, a few men began to think. They became
interested in the affairs of this world -- in the great panorama of
nature. They began to seek for causes, for the explanations of
phenomena. They were not satisfied with the assertions of the
church. These thinkers withdrew their gaze from the skies and
looked at their own surroundings. They were unspiritual enough to
desire comfort here. They became sensible and secular, worldly and
wise.

     What was the result? They began to invent, to discover, to
find the relation between facts, the conditions of happiness and
the means that would increase the well-being of their fellow-men.

     Movable types were invented, paper was borrowed from the
Moors, books appeared, and it became possible to save the
intellectual wealth so that each generation could hand it to the
next. History began to take the place of legend and rumor. The
telescope was invented. The orbits of the stars were traced, and
men became citizens of the universe. The steam engine was
constructed, and now steam, the great slave, does the work of
hundreds of millions of men. The Black Art, the impossible, was
abandoned, and chemistry, the useful, took its place. Astrology
became astronomy. Kepler discovered the three great laws, one of
the greatest triumphs of human genius, and our constellation became
a poem, a symphony. Newton gave us the mathematical expression of
the attraction of gravitation. Harvey discovered the circulation of
the blood. He gave us the fact, and Draper gave us the reason.
Steamships conquered the seas and railways covered the land. Houses
and streets were lighted with gas. Through the invention of matches
fire became the companion of man. The art of photography became
known; the sun became an artist. Telegraphs and cables were
invented. The lightning became a carrier of thought, and the
nations became neighbors. Anaesthetic were discovered and pain was
lost in sleep. Surgery became a science. The telephone was invented
-- the telephone that carries and deposits in listening ears the
waves of words. The phonograph, that catches and retains in marks
and dots and gives again the echoes of our speech.

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                          SUPERSTITION.

     Then came electric light that fills the night with day, and
all the wonderful machines that use the subtle force -- the same
force that leaps from the summer cloud to ravage and destroy.

     The Spectrum Analysis that tells us of the substance of the
sun; the Roentgen rays that change the opaque to the transparent.
The great thinkers demonstrated the indestructibility of force and
matter -- demonstrated that the indestructible could not have been
created. The geologist, in rocks and deposits and mountains and
continents, read a little of the story of the world -- of its
changes, of the glacial epoch -- the story of vegetable and animal
life.

     The biologists, through the fossil forms of life, established
the antiquity of man and demonstrated the worthlessness of Holy
Writ. Then came evolution, the survival of the fittest and natural
selection. Thousands of mysteries were explained and science
wrested the scepter from superstition. The cell theory was
advanced, and embryology was studied; the microscope discovered
germs of disease and taught us how to stay the plague. These great
theories and discoveries, together with countless inventions, are
the children of intellectual liberty.

                                X

     After all we know but little. In the darkness of life there
are a few gleams of light. Possibly the dropping of a dishcloth
prophesies the coming of company, but we have no evidence. Possibly
it is dangerous for thirteen to dine together, but we have no
evidence. Possibly a maiden's matrimonial chances are determined by
the number of seeds in an apple, or by the number of leaves on a
flower, but we have no evidence. Possibly certain stones give good
luck to the wearer, while the wearing of others brings loss and
death. Possibly a glimpse of the new moon over the left shoulder
brings misfortune. Possibly there are curative virtues in old
bones, in sacred rags and holy hairs, in images and bits of wood,
in rusty nails and dried blood, but the trouble is we have no
evidence. Possibly comets, eclipses and shooting stars foretell the
death of kings, the destruction of nations or the coming of plague.
Possibly devils take possession of the bodies and minds of men.
Possibly witches, with the Devil's help, control the winds, breed
storms on sea and land, fill summer's lap with frosts and snow, and
work with charm and spell against the public weal, but of this we
have no evidence. It may be that all the miracles described in the
Old and New Testament were performed; that the pallid flesh of the
dead felt once more the thrill of life; that the corpse arose and
felt upon his smiling lips the kiss of wife and child. Possibly
water was turned into wine, loaves and fishes increased, and
possibly devils were expelled from men and women; possibly fishes
were found with money in their mouths; possibly clay and spittle
brought back the light to sightless eyes, and possibly words cured
disease and made the leper clean, but of this we have no evidence.

     Possibly iron floated, rivers divided, waters burst from dry
bones, birds carried food to prophets and angels flourished drawn
swords, but of this we have no evidence.

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                          SUPERSTITION.

     Possibly Jehovah employed lying spirits to deceive a king, and
all the wonders of the savage world may have happened, but the
trouble is there is no proof.

     So there may be a Devil, almost infinite in cunning and power,
and he may have a countless number of imps whose only business is
to sow the seeds of evil and to vex, mislead, capture and imprison
in eternal flames the souls of men. All this, so far as we know, is
possible. All we know is that we have no evidence except the
assertions of ignorant priests.

     Possibly there is a place called "hell," where all the devils
live -- a hell whose flames are waiting for all the men who think
and have the courage to express their thoughts, for all who fail to
credit priests and sacred books, for all who walk the path that
reason lights, for all the good and brave who lack credulity and
faith -- but of this, I am happy to say, there is no proof.

     And so there may be a place called "heaven," the home of God,
where angels float and fly and play on harps and hear with joy the
groans and shrieks of the lost in hell, but of this there is no
evidence.

     It all rests on dreams and visions of the insane.

     There may be a power superior to nature, a power that governs
and directs all things, but the existence of this power has not
been established.

     In the presence of the mysteries of life and thought, of force
and substance, of growth and decay, of birth and death, of joy and
pain, of the sufferings of the good, the triumphs of wrong, the
intelligent honest man is compelled to say: "I do not know."

     But we do know how gods and devils, heavens and hells, have
been made. We know the history of inspired books -- the origin of
religions. We know how the seeds of superstition were planted and
what made them grow. We know that all superstitions, all creeds,
all follies and mistakes, all crimes and cruelties, all virtues,
vices, hopes and fears, all discoveries and inventions, have been
naturally produced. By the light of reason we divide the useful
from the hurtful, the false from the true.

     We know the past -- the paths that man has traveled -- his
mistakes, his triumphs. We know a few facts, a few fragments, and
the imagination, the artist of the mind, with these facts, these
fragments, rebuilds the past, and on the canvas of the future
deftly paints the things to be.

     We believe in the natural, in the unbroken and unbreakable
succession of causes and effects. We deny the existence of the
supernatural. We do not believe in any God who can be pleased with
incense, with kneeling, with bell-ringing, psalm-singing, bead-
counting, fasting or prayer -- in any God who can be flattered by
words of faith or fear.

                         Bank of Wisdom
                  Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201
                               21

                          SUPERSTITION.

     We believe in the natural. We have no fear of devils, ghosts
or hells. We believe that Mahatmas, astral bodies, materializations
of spirits, crystal gazing, seeing the future, telepathy, mind
reading and Christian Science are only cunning frauds, the
genuineness of which is established by the testimony of
incompetent, honest witnesses. We believe that Cunning plates fraud
with the gold of honesty, and veneers vice with virtue.

     We know that millions are seeking the impossible -- trying to
secure the aid of the supernatural -- to solve the problem of life
-- to guess the riddle of destiny, and to pluck from the future its
secret. We know that all their efforts are in vain.

     We believe in the natural. We believe in home and fireside --
in wife and child and friend -- in the realities of this world. We
have faith in facts -- in knowledge -- in the development of the
brain. We throw away superstition and welcome science. We banish
the phantoms, the mistakes and lies and cling to the truth. We do
not enthrone the unknown and crown our ignorance. We do not stand
with our backs to the sun and mistake our shadow for God.

     We do not create a master and thankfully wear his chains. We
do not enslave ourselves. We want no leaders -- no followers. Our
desire is that every human being shall be true to himself, to his
ideal, unbribed by promises, careless of threats. We want no tyrant
on the earth or in the air.

     We know that superstition has given us delusions and
illusions, dreams and visions, ceremonies and cruelties, faith and
fanaticism, beggars and bigots, persecutions and prayers, theology
and torture, piety and poverty, saints and slaves, miracles and
mummeries, disease and death.

     We know that science has given us all we have of value.
Science is the only civilizer. It has freed the slave, clothed the
naked, fed the hungry, lengthened life, given us homes and hearths,
pictures and books, ships and railways, telegraphs and cables,
engines that tirelessly turn the countless wheels, and it has
destroyed the monsters, the phantoms, the winged horrors that
filled the savage brain.

     Science is the real redeemer. It will put honesty above
hypocrisy; mental veracity above all belief. It will teach the
religion of usefulness. It will destroy bigotry in all its forms.
It will put thoughtful doubt above thoughtless faith. It will give
us philosophers, thinkers and savants, instead of priests,
theologians and saints. It will abolish poverty and crime, and
greater, grander, nobler than all else, it will make the whole
world free.

                          ****     ****

    Reproducible Electronic Publishing can defeat censorship.

   The Bank of Wisdom is always looking for more of these old,
hidden, suppressed and forgotten books that contain needed facts
and information for today. If you have such books please contact
us, we need to give them back to America.

                         Bank of Wisdom
                  Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201
                               22

Bank of Wisdom

The Bank of Wisdom is run by Emmett Fields out of his home in Kentucky. He painstakingly scanned in these works and put them on disks for others to have available. Mr. Fields makes these disks available for only the cost of the media.

Files made available from the Bank of Wisdom may be freely reproduced and given away, but may not be sold.

Reproducible Electronic Publishing can defeat censorship.

Bank of WisdomThe Bank of Wisdom is a collection of the most thoughtful, scholarly and factual books. These computer books are reprints of suppressed books and will cover American and world history; the Biographies and writings of famous persons, and especially of our nations Founding Fathers. They will include philosophy and religion. all these subjects, and more, will be made available to the public in electronic form, easily copied and distributed, so that America can again become what its Founders intended --

The Free Market-Place of Ideas.

The Bank of Wisdom is always looking for more of these old, hidden, suppressed and forgotten books that contain needed facts and information for today. If you have such books please contact us, we need to give them back to America.

Bank of Wisdom
Box 926
Louisville, KY 40201

/library/historical/disclaimer.html
The Historical Library is provided for those doing research into the history of nontheism. It is not intended to be--and should not be used as--a source of modern, up-to-date information regarding atheistic issues. DO NOT CONTACT US ABOUT THESE DOCUMENTS. Please read the full Historical Library Disclaimer
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