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Charles Bradlaugh Roberts Bradlaugh Night5 5bradlaugh3

Mr. BRADLAUGH: The remark has been made that if we take this book as a human production we cannot understand it. How useful that is. We have no other books of a similar character to which similar objections apply? Have we Lord Amberley’s new book, in which he has two sub-divisions, one of which he applies to holy persons and the other to holy books:

"Under the title ‘Holy Persons’, we have Confucius or Khung-fu-tsze, the founder of Confucianism; Lao-tse, the founder of Taouism; Sakyamuni or Guatama Bhudda, the founder of Buddhism; Zarathustra or Zoroaster, the founder of Parseeism; Mahommed or Mahomet, the founder of Islamism."

Each of these has religious books, some more and some less ancient than ours, to which similar objections do apply. Then Mr. Roberts says, "I won’t answer Mr. Bradlaugh’s objections to the Bible now, because that is not now my business. I will do it in another discussion." Why, during three nights, we have diminished considerably as regards the number of the audience; and if we continue to diminish till the sixth night, there will be nobody left but the disputants and their committee. I am not so foolish as to incur a second infliction of this sort if I can help it. I accepted Mr. Robert’s challenge in this case because I knew he was regarded as a fair representative man of a body of religionists whom I had heard well spoken of here and in America. I have met with strong men and weak men among them, but all I believe reasonable and respectable men; but, as regards Mr. Roberts, I have done my whole duty in accepting this challenge. If Mr. Roberts has the victory, I shall be quite content, and if he thinks I am unwise enough to submit to another six nights, all I can say is he don’t know me as well as I know myself. But I will tell you what I will do. If he can get half-a-dozen clergymen of the Church of England or ministers of other bodies to back him as their representative, then I am bound to meet him in a second debate; but I have accepted now his challenge, and my reason for not accepting a second is that I don’t think he is competent to treat the subject he has undertaken to treat. I don’t think it would be doing justice to Christians to do it. And I will tell you why. I would not willingly have chosen a weak man, when I might have had a stronger man. I do not, therefore, fear; for I have occupied too many years upon the platform to be afraid. I call a weak man a man who pretends to quote works he is unacquainted with. You here, to-night, who have listened so far, especially ladies, will bear with me for a moment. I have not chosen to consider when I have been speaking to believers or unbelievers, but I have an extract from A String of Pearls, collected and strung together by my friend Mr. C.C. Cattell:–"A believer is one who takes for granted anything, sense or nonsense; while he who examines for himself into the truth or falsehood of any statement, and has the courage to avow his conclusion, is by the ignorant and prejudiced, designated an infidel. Such were, in their time, the great reformers, the philosophers, and the best men of past times, who were severely persecuted; as Aristotle, Descartes, Socrates, Virgilius, Trithemisis, Pythagoras, and others" – (A VOICE: "Has he got his portrait in the book?") Yes, and if yours had been beside it, it would have been the portrait of an indecent donkey who could not keep quiet.

What I wanted to point out to you when that indecent interruption took place was that, if it be true that I shall suffer so severe a penalty as has been foreshadowed at some future time at the coming of Christ, the more reason you have for bearing with me and try to convince me and convert me now–the more reason because it is not alone for myself. You think my denials deserve a penalty, but there are thousands whom my voice influences–thousands of young men whom my voice is influencing. You may think I am not in earnest, but where is the inducement to be an infidel? An outlaw in early life from my country for my opinions, it is enough that they have stopped my way in many a walk in life. Say what you will, you will not deny me some powers of speech; you won’t deny me the acquaintance necessary to deal with these subjects. If a desire to improve my home later in my life should draw me from public view to make my means of life, my advocacy would still continue amongst those with whom I lived. I find the whole of the religion of the world centred against myself, and those young men around me. You won’t destroy my influence with hisses and such like demonstrations. You can only do so by meeting us man for man and woman for woman, and in the spirit of your book try and convert us, but not by taking up the first stone to smite us to the earth.

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