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Secularists Catechism

Charles Watts

                        17 page printout

     From an old, undated, book published by Watts & Co. entitled:
          'Pamphlets by Charles Watts' Vol. I.

     The book contains the motto: --

          "To Believe without evidence and demonstration is an
     act of ignorance and folly." -- Volney.

                          ****     ****

                   THE SECULARIST'S CATECHISM:

                              BEING
              AN EXPOSITION OF SECULAR PRINCIPLES,

       Showing their Relation to the Political and Social
                      Problems of the Day.

                               by

                          CHARLES WATTS
        (Vice-President of the National Secular Society).
                             LONDON:

           WATTS & CO., 17, JOHNSON'S COURT, FLEET ST.
                              1896.

                        Price Threepence.

                          ****     ****

                   THE SECULARIST'S CATECHISM.

                             PROEM.

     IT has frequently occurred to me that the presentation of
Secular views in the form of question and answer would be an
advantage, not only to youthful inquirers, but also to adults who
lack either the opportunity or the inclination to study in detail
the nature of Secularism and its principles and teachings.
Moreover, I have often been asked to give a plain and concise
definition of Secular philosophy, and to point out wherein it
differs from New Testament Christianity, and in what way it is
superior to the Christian faith. Many inquiries have also reached
me as to what are the Secular views in reference to the nature and
destiny of man, the government of the universe, and to the
political and social problems of the day. I propose to comply with
these requests on the Socratic method -- that is, by putting
questions and supplying answers thereto. In doing this my endeavor
will be to employ language that may be readily understood by those
who wish to learn what the various phases of Secularism really are.

     This expository method appears to me to be necessary,
particularly at the present time, when we are constantly receiving
into our ranks, from the rising generation, numerous recruits, who
evince a laudable desire to have at their command a definite record
of Secular views, principles, objects, and aims. Of course I do not

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                   THE SECULARIST'S CATECHISM.

intend to give an elaborate disquisition of Secular philosophy, but
simply to furnish a concise, matter-of-fact epitome of our views as
they are explained by the National Secular Society, and also by the
leading writers of the Secular party.

     QUESTION. -- What is Secularism?

     ANSWER. -- In its etymological signification, it means the
age, the finite, belonging to this world. Secularists, however, use
the term in a more amplified sense, as embodying a philosophy of
life, and inculcating rules of conduct that have no necessary
association with any system of theology.

     Q. -- Have the Secularists an official statement of their
principles?

     A. -- Yes, those recognized and adopted by the National
Secular Society, which are as follows: -- Secularism teaches that
conduct should be based on reason and knowledge. It knows nothing
of divine guidance or interference; it excludes supernatural hopes
and fears; it regards happiness as mans proper aim, and utility as
his proper moral guide. Secularism affirms that progress is which
is only possible through liberty, which is at once a right and a
duty, and, therefore, seeks to remove every barrier to thought,
action, and speech. Secularism declares that theology is condemned
by reason as superstitious, and by experience as mischievous, and
assails it as the historic enemy of progress. Secularism
accordingly seeks to dispel superstition, to spread education, to
disestablish religion, to rationalize morality, to promote peace,
to dignify labor, to extend material well-being, and to realize the
self-government of the people.

     Q. -- What is the basis of Secularism?

     A. -- The exercise of Freethought, guided by reason,
experience, and general usefulness. By Freethought is here meant
the right to entertain any opinions that commend themselves to the
judgment of the honest and earnest searcher after truth, without
his being made the victim of social ostracism in this world, or
threatened with punishment in some other. Experience has proved the
impossibility of uniformity of belief upon theological questions;
therefore Freethought should be acknowledged as being the heritage
of the human race.

     Q. -- Are Secularism and Freethought identical?

     A. -- Not exactly. All Secularists must be Freethinkers, but
all Freethinkers are not necessarily Secularists. Freethought
represents a mental condition, but Secularism contains a code of
principles whereby human life can be regulated and human conduct
governed.

     Q. -- What is Reason?

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                   THE SECULARIST'S CATECHISM.

     A. -- We define reason as being man's highest intellectual
powers -- the understanding, the faculty of judgment, the power
which discriminates, infers, deduces, and judges, the ability to
premise future probabilities from past experience, and to
distinguish truth from error.

     Q. -- What is Truth?

     A. -- That may be taken as true which the best knowledge
endorses, the largest intellects accept, and the widest experience
vouches for. Many so-called truths are liable to be corrected,
modified, or superseded by more accurate power of judgment, or more
perfect experience.

     Q. -- What is Experience?

     A. -- Experience represents knowledge acquired through study,
investigation, and observation in the broadest sense possible. We
do not use the word in the limited form, as Whately employs it, of
individual experience, but as comprising the world's legacy of
thought, action, scientific application, and mental culture, so far
as we are enabled to avail ourselves of these intellectual
agencies.

     Q. -- What is Secular Morality?

     A. -- We teach that morality consists in the performance of
acts that will exalt and ennoble human character, and in avoiding
conduct that is injurious either to the individual or to society at
large.

     Q. -- What do Secularists mean by the term Duty?

     A. -- By "duty" we mean an obligation to perform actions that
have a tendency to promote the welfare of others, as well as that
of ourselves. Obligations are imposed upon us by the very nature of
things and the requirements of society.

     Q. -- From a Secular point of view, why should we speak the
truth?

     A. -- Because experience teaches that lying and deceit tend
to destroy that confidence between man and man which has been found
to be necessary to maintain the stability of mutual social
intercourse.

     Q. -- Why should we be honest?

     A. -- Because a dishonest act is an infringement upon the
rights of others.

     Q. -- Why should we be just?

     A. -- Because history and observation have shown that where
injustice has prevailed, there the happiness and well-being of the
people have been impaired.

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                   THE SECULARIST'S CATECHISM.

     Q. -- What explanation is given to the word "ought" when it
is said we "ought" to do so and so?

     A. -- The only explanation orthodox Christianity gives to
this term is pure selfishness. It says you "ought" to do so and so
for "Christ's sake," that through him you may avoid eternal
perdition. On the other hand, Secularism finds the meaning of
"ought" in the very nature of things, as involving duty, and
implying that something is due to others.

     Q. -- Wherein is Secularism superior to Christianity?

     A. -- In the fact that Secularism affirms certain rights
which are denied by the orthodox Christianity of the Churches and
the New Testament. These are: -- 1. The right of a person to reject
any or all of the religions in the world, without fear of
excommunication here, or condemnation hereafter. Christianity
condemns this right in teaching: "But though we, or an angel from
heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have
preached unto you, let him be accursed" (Gal. i. 8). "He that
believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not
shall be damned" (Mark xvi. 16). 2. The right to refuse to regard
all that Christ is supposed to have taught as "true gospel."
Christianity denies this, and says to those who do not accept
Christ's gospel, that he will come "in flaming fire, taking
vengeance on them" (2 Thess. 8). 3. The right of anyone adhering to
Freethought, even if it culminates in the denial of the very
foundation of the Christian faith. This is denied by Christianity,
which says: "For whosoever will deny me before men, him will I also
deny before my father which is in heaven" (Matt. x. 33). 4. The
right to act upon the opinion that attention should be given to
this world in preference to any other. Christianity discourages
this right, inasmuch as it teaches: "Take no thought for your life,
... but seek ye first the kingdom of God" (Matt. vi. 25, 33). 5.
The right to regard Science as being more valuable than theological
faith. The New Testament teaches the opposite to this in saying:
"Is any sick among you? ... The prayer of faith shall save the
sick" (James v. 14, 15). "By grace are ye saved through faith ...
Not of works, lest any man should boast" (Eph. ii. 8, 9). 6. The
right to deem salvation quite possible apart altogether from
Christ. The scripture says no, "for there is none other name
[except Christ's] under heaven given among men, whereby we must be
saved" (Acts iv. 12).

     Q. -- What is the difference between Secularism and
Christianity?

     A. -- "Christianity," in the words of Mr. G.J. Holyoake,
"treats of two sets of duties -- to God and to man: we hold that
the duties to man take precedence in importance, and, indeed,
include the highest possible duties to a benevolent God.
Christianity holds that faith in Christ alone will save us: we hold
that faith in good works will better save us, as humanity is higher
than dogmas. Christianity teaches that prayer is a means of
providential help: we teach that Science is the sole available
means of temporal help. Christianity professes to supply the
highest Motives and the surest consolations: we say no motives can

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                   THE SECULARIST'S CATECHISM.

be purer or stronger than the love of goodness for its own sake,
which brings consolation sweeter than dignities and loftier than
talents. Christianity assumes that the moral sense cannot be
educated without the Bible : we answer that the high culture
attained in Greece, before the days of the Bible, is possible, in
a purer and more universal sense, in these days of scientific
civilization; we answer that the Bible, which has been understood
in opposite senses by the ablest men -- the Bible, which has
divided the holiest churches, and which down to this hour dictates
harshness of language and bitterness of spirit -- cannot be a book
of moral culture to the people. Christianity declares it has the
promise of this life and of that which is to come: Secularism
secures the realization of this life, and establishes fair desert
also in any life to come for the 'best use of both worlds' is the
secular use of this. Christianity contends that if the Christian is
wrong he will be no worse off than ourselves hereafter; while, if
he is right, we shall be in danger: but this only proves that our
system is more generous than the Christian, because our system
still provides no harm for the Christian hereafter, while his
system does provide harm for those who do not accept it.
Christianity either denies that there can be sincere dissent from
its doctrines, or it teaches that for conscientious difference of
opinion the last hour of life will be the beginning of never-ending
misery. Secularism, on the contrary, says that that solemn moment
when Death exerts his inexorable dominion, and the anguish of
separating affection blanches the cheek; when even the dumb brute
betrays inarticulate sympathy, and the grossest natures are
refined, and rude lips spontaneously distil the silvery words of
sympathy when the unfeeling volunteer acts of mercy, and tyranny
pauses in its pursuit of vengeance, and the tempest of passion is
stilled, and the injured forgive, and hate is subdued to love, and
insensibility to affection -- we say, that can never be the moment
chosen by a God of love in which to commence the execution of a
purpose which humanity cannot conceive without terror, nor
contemplate without dismay."

     Q. -- Is Secularism a necessity?

     A. -- Yes; for the three following reasons: (1) Because
theology has failed to regenerate society; (2) because there are
thousands of honest inquirers who cannot accept as true any of the
supernatural faiths of the world; (3) because some guide for human
conduct is desirable, therefore Secularism is a necessity to those
who are unable to believe in theological teachings.

     Q. -- What do Secularists seek to destroy?

     A. -- Not the truths that are contained either in
Christianity or in the Bible; these are for the service of mankind,
irrespective of any religious profession. Our aim is to destroy the
errors of theology -- such as the belief in its creeds and dogmas;
dependence upon alleged supernatural power as a means of help; the
notion that the prayer of supplication is of value; that man is
necessarily a depraved being; that an ill-spent life can be atoned
for by death-bed repentance; that salvation can be obtained through

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                   THE SECULARIST'S CATECHISM.

the merits of Christ; that, if there be a heaven, the only passport
to it is faith in the Christian scheme of redemption; that there
exist a personal Devil and a material hell; and that the Bible is
an infallible record.

     Q. -- What is the Secular view of the Bible?

     A. -- Secularism affirms that the Bible is a merely human
production, abounding in the errors and superstitions specially
common to ancient human works, the venerable days of old being the
infancy of mankind. Secularists regard the Bible as a book composed
of a large number of distinct and incongruous pamphlets, quite
unauthenticated, written by various persons, nobody really knows by
whom; at far distant periods, nobody exactly knows when; which have
been floated down to us, as the "accidents of time" determined, by
oral traditions and written copies, subject to all the blunders and
perversions of ignorant and fanatical men, in ages perfectly
uncritical and unscrupulous; whose originals have irretrievably
perished; which frequently refer to prior authorities that have
utterly perished also, and whose various readings are counted by
tens of thousands. The various books which compose the New
Testament were first circulated at a time when ignorance was the
rule, and knowledge the exception; when the critical spirit was
non-existent, and true believers accounted all forgeries in favor
of their religion not only permissible, but praiseworthy. The
amount of falsification prevalent which can be demonstrated even
now, when so many of the required testimonies are lost, is
astounding, and even appalling, to one who newly enters upon the
inquiry by studying the works of some competent and impartial
scholar. Of these falsifications and uncertainties the ordinary
Christian knows nothing; and the learned Christians, who are
thoroughly aware of them, are anything but anxious to point them
out to their less informed brethren. The Secularist, knowing these
facts, together with the equally demonstrated truth that both the
Old and New Testaments are contradictory in their statements and
teachings, estimates the book by its merits, and not by its
supposed authority. The Bible, like all books, should be our
servant, and not our master. Secularism applies the eclectic
principle to all books, and, being bound by no authority save
cultivated reason, the evil, folly, and errors of each are
discarded, while the good, wise, and true are retained to assist in
making a noble, dignified, and happy life for mankind on earth.

     Q. -- Are Secularists Atheists?

     A. -- Not necessarily so. Mr. George Jacob Holyoake, the
founder of Secularism, says to the reader in his preface to the
Trial of Theism: "All we beg of him is not to confound Atheism with
Secularism, which is an entirely different question, It is not
necessary to Secularism to say God does not exist, nor to question
the alleged proofs of such existence. The sphere of Secularism is
irrespective of Theism, Atheism, or the Bible. Its province is the
ethics of nature. Secularism does not declare why nature exists, or
how it exists. Nature is. Secularism commences with this ample,
indisputable, and infinite fact of wonder, study, and progress."

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                   THE SECULARIST'S CATECHISM.

     Q. -- Did not Mr. Bradlaugh say that Secularism leads to
Atheism when logically reasoned out?

     A. -- Yes; but he also said, in his debate with Dr. McCann:
"Clearly, all Secularists are not Atheists. Clearly, many people
who believe themselves to be sincere Theists can sign the
declarations and principles which I have read to you [those of the
National Secular Society], without doing any violation to their
honest declaration; but, so far as I am personally concerned, and
probably many will agree with me, I contend that the result of
Secularism is Atheism. Only don't put it on all, Don't put it on
the Society. There are many Atheists in the Society, and some who
are not." Besides, if Secularism and Atheism were necessarily one,
then Mr. Bradlaugh's words would have no meaning when he said that
Secularism led, when logically carried out, to Atheism. If it leads
to Atheism, then it is not Atheism.

     Q. -- What is the difference between Secularism and Atheism?

     A. -- Secularism is a practical philosophy, providing rules
for human guidance in daily life, while Atheism represents certain
theories in reference to the supposed existence of God and the
supernatural in the universe.

     Q. -- Have Christians in their teachings anything analogous
to the stated relation between Secularism and Atheism?

     A. -- Yes; many Christians believe that the logical outcome
of their teachings is Calvinism, while others will not admit that
Calvinism is any part of Christianity.

     Q. -- Where is the Secular science, and where are the
hospitals and other institutions of the Secular party?

     A. -- All science is secular, and it did not originate in any
supernatural faith. Hospitals, and other benevolent institutions,
are the result of human sympathy. They existed long before the dawn
of Christianity, and to-day Secularists and all classes of
unbelievers contribute towards their support. The Christians built
no hospitals until the fourth century A.D.

     Q. -- What is the reason that professed Christians suppose
they have done more useful work than Secularists?

     A. -- Because they have had more time, greater wealth, and
better opportunities than Secularists have had. Christians claim a
history of two thousand years, during which time they have
possessed untold wealth, and almost unlimited power. Secularism, on
the other hand, has only existed, as an organization, for about
fifty years, funds left for its propagation have been stolen by
Christians, and Christian laws have made Secular advocacy illegal.

     Q. -- Have Secularists accomplished as much in their fifty
years of existence, as the Christians did during the first half
century of their existence?

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                   THE SECULARIST'S CATECHISM.

     A. -- Undoubtedly, and more. The early Christians had no
science worthy of the name; they achieved no political or social
reforms, and they gave the masses no real education. It was not
until the third century that Christian places of worship were
erected. Secularists have several halls throughout the country, and
they would have many more but for the disgraceful fact that, as
already stated, Christians have appropriated to themselves money
left for Secular purposes.

     Q. -- What Progressive movements have Secularists taken part
in?

     A. -- In the struggles for the abolition of slavery; the
repeal of the taxes upon knowledge; the establishment of a national
system of education; the various efforts that have been made to
extend the franchise among the masses; the securing of the right of
free speech and a free press; the substitution of affirmation
instead of swearing; the improvement of the social status of woman;
the fostering of kindness to animals; tho cultivation of peace and
goodwill among nations; the settlement of disputes by intellectual
arbitration rather than by brute force; the better adjustment of
the relations between Capital and Labor, and the entire cessation
of prosecution for the holding of opinions, let them be what they
may.

     Q. -- Are there any records of special acts of benevolence
upon the part of unbelievers in the Christian faith?

     A. -- Yes, many. Among the numerous bequests left by rich
men, the gifts of Freethinkers have appeared conspicuous. The
founder of Girard College, not a believer in Christianity, in
addition to the six million dollars required for the establishment
of that college, gave, throughout his lifetime and at his death,
thirty thousand dollars to the hospitals, twenty thousand dollars
to the deaf and dumb asylum, twenty thousand dollars to the orphan
asylum, twenty thousand dollars to the Lancaster schools, ten
thousand dollars to provide fuel for the Philadelphia poor, ten
thousand dollars to aid distressed sea-captains, twenty thousand
dollars for the relief of poor masons, fifty thousand dollars for
various other charities in Philadelphia, and three hundred thousand
dollars for the absolute poor. James Smithson left five thousand
dollars to found the institution named after him at Washington;
John Redmond gave three hundred thousand dollars to support three
beds in the Boston Hospital; James Lick gave one million dollars to
found an astronomical observatory; William M'Clure gave half a
million dollars to aid the working men; and George Ilford gave
thirty thousand dollars for the scientific training of women. Mr.
Butland, a prominent member of the Toronto Secular Society,
bequeathed fifty thousand dollars to the general hospitals of
Toronto. In Glasgow the Mitchell Library was established at the
cost of seventy thousand pounds by a Freethinker; and in the same
city Mr. George Baillie left eighteen thousand pounds to establish
unsectarian schools, reading-rooms, etc.

     Q. Have Secularists any faith or religion?

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                   THE SECULARIST'S CATECHISM.

     A. -- That depends upon the meaning attached to the words
"faith" and "religion." If these terms are understood as
representing theological and dogmatic teachings, we have neither.

     Q. -- How do Secularists understand the terms here mentioned?

     A. -- Our faith is limited to possible results in this life,
and it is based upon the experience of the past, not upon
conjectures as to a future existence. Religion, with us, signifies
morality -- that is, practical duties, not speculative opinions.
This is the etymological meaning of the word.

     Q. -- Have Secularists any standard of right, such as the
Christian's "Golden Rule," which is: "Whatsoever ye would that men
should do to you, do ye even to them"?

     A. -- We do not accept this as the best standard of right,
but only as an expression of likes and dislikes. Besides, it
belongs to the Pagan world, and it is not the unique teaching of
Christianity. We hold that the best conduct is to do that which is
conducive to the general good, independently of what we would that
others should do to us. Conduct that results in being useful to
others and ourselves is undoubtedly the best for all mankind.

     Q. -- Does this express the Secular idea of duty?

     A. -- Yes, inasmuch as it represents that conduct which grows
out of our relation to each other. It includes our obligation to
parents, family, and the State, to whom, and to which, we are
individually indebted for benefits received.

     Q. -- Is there no other duty?

     A -- No; because our only concern is with this world and its
inhabitants, beyond which we recognize no moral duty or
responsibility. The only demand we admit is, that our conduct
should be in harmony with what the best interests of the community
require of its members.

     Q. -- What motive have Secularists for compliance with this
demand?

     A. -- The desire to maintain social affinity, and to raise
the standard of ethical culture and general intelligence by the
example of right-doing. Experience proves that this is the surest
way of promoting the general good.

     Q. -- But is not that reducing morality to a personal
advantage?

     A. -- Quite so; and herein lies the excellence of the Secular
method, for the general good is the result of personal action. It
is a mistake to suppose that individual happiness is possible while
we are surrounded with ignorance and vice; therefore Secularists
urge that their neighbors should be well instructed in order that
all, individually, may share the highest good.

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                   THE SECULARIST'S CATECHISM.

     Q. -- Do Secularists believe in a future life?

     A. -- Some do, and others do not. That is a question left to
each person to decide for himself. The National Secular Society
does not dogmatize upon the subject either pro or con. It cannot
affirm there is such a life, because to prove it is impossible; it
cannot deny a future life, because we know nothing of it, and to
deny that of which we acknowledge we know nothing would be
illogical.

     Q. -- Is the Secular position upon this subject a safe one?

     A. -- We think so; for, by making the best of this life,
physically, morally, and intellectually, we are pursuing the wisest
course, whatever the issues in reference to a future life may be.
If there should be another life, the Secularist must share it with
his opponent. Our opinions do not affect the reality in the
slightest degree. If we are to sleep forever, we shall so sleep,
despite the belief in immortality; and if we are to live forever,
we shall so live, despite the belief that possibly death ends all.
It must also be remembered that, if man possesses a soul, that soul
will be the better through being in a body that has been properly
trained; and if there is to be a future life, that life will be the
better if the higher duties of the present one have been fully and
honestly performed.

     Q. -- Have Secularists no fear of future punishment,
supposing they are wrong?

     A. -- Certainly not; for if there be a just God, before whom
we are to appear to be judged, he will never punish those to whom
he has not vouchsafed the faculty of seeing beyond the grave,
because they honestly avowed that their mental vision was limited
to this side of the tomb. Thus the Secularists feel quite safe as
regards any futurity that may be worth having. If the present be
the only life, then it will be all the more valuable if we give it
our undivided attention. If, on the other hand, there is to be
another life, then, in that case, we shall have won the right to
its advantages through having been faithful to our convictions,
just to our fellows, and in having striven to leave the world purer
than we found it.

     Q. -- Do not Secularists miss a great consolation in not
believing in a future life?

     A. -- Decidedly not; for the reason that the belief is only
speculative, having no foundation in known facts. Besides, we have
the conviction that our secular conduct on earth will entitle us to
the realization of its fullest pleasure. And this conviction is not
marred by the belief that the majority of the human race will be
condemned to a fate "which humanity cannot conceive without terror,
nor contemplate without dismay."

     Q. -- Is not the belief in a future life necessary as a
motive to moral conduct?

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                   THE SECULARIST'S CATECHISM.

     A. -- No; because people live good lives without such a
belief, while many who believe in "a life beyond the grave" are
guilty of the most immoral conduct. The consideration that our
actions affect, for good or for evil, our follow creatures here
ought to supply a sufficient motive for right living.

     Q. -- But are not the hope of heaven and the fear of hell
among the strongest incentives to virtue, and the most potent
deterrents to vice?

     A. -- In some cases this may be so, but that is the result of
a false education. The highest incentive to good conduct should be
our personal honor and the welfare of others; the strongest
deterrent to bad conduct ought to be the knowledge that it results
in injurious consequences upon the whole of the community.

     Q. -- Do Secularists believe in what is termed the "Divine
Providence" of the universe?

     A. -- They do not. Our only providence is that which is
derived from science, forethought, industry, and human effort. We
have no faith in miracles or in the efficacy of prayer. Other
conditions being equal, we believe that the crops of an unbeliever
will ripen quite as well upon his estate as those upon the estate
of the most pious.

     Q. -- What injunction do Secularists give in accordance with
their view of life?

     A. -- That we should trust to ourselves, and not rely upon
supposed heavenly favor. That we should seek in the order of nature
a basis for practical precepts in life, and regard the laws of
nature and man as being the foundation of all virtue and
prosperity.

     Q. -- Do Secularists accept any authority, or is every man
allowed to do as he likes?

     A. -- We accept the authority of cultivated reason, and facts
that have been verified by experience. No one should be permitted
to do as he likes, if in so doing his acts tend to injure others,
and to disturb the harmony and well-being of the social state.

     Q. -- What, from a Secular standpoint, principally influences
man's character?

     A. -- His physical organization, early education, and general
environment. These are the main conditions that determine the
nature of human character and conduct.

     Q. -- What is meant by education?

     A. -- Not merely the possession of knowledge, but the ability
to use knowledge so that it may be beneficial both to the
individual and to the general community.

                         Bank of Wisdom
                  Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201
                               11

                   THE SECULARIST'S CATECHISM.

     Q. -- Are men, their surroundings and natural laws, the only
forces that are concerned with the affairs of life?

     A. -- We believe that life is what it is through men acting
and reacting upon each other, and in consequence of their
complying, or non-complying, with the laws of existence, and making
those laws subservient to their various objects in life as means to
an end.

     Q. -- Is there no power over human existence except natures
laws and man's effort?

     A. -- That is more than we can say with our limited
knowledge. But, so far as we know at present, these are the only
agencies or factors that can be relied upon to sustain and regulate
human affairs.

     Q. -- How do Secularists account for the origin of nature and
her laws?

     A. -- We do not attempt to do so, inasmuch as we know nothing
of what are called "final causes." Still, we accept the theory that
probably nature and her laws may have always existed under some
conditions -- that there is one eternal existence of which all
known forms are modes of manifestation.

     Q. -- Which theory do Secularists regard as being the more
reasonable -- that of Special Creation, or that of Evolution?

     A. -- Undoubtedly the theory of Evolution, for that accords
with certain discoveries in science, and, moreover, it recognizes
the fact that all forms of nature are subject to perpetual change,
and that the whole universe is the theater of incessant activity.

     Q. -- What is the difference between Evolution and Special
Creation?

     A. -- Evolution may be defined as an unfolding, opening-out,
or unwinding; a disclosure of something which was not previously
known, but which existed before in a more condensed or hidden form.
According to this theory, there is no new existence called into
being, but a making conspicuous to our eyes that which was
previously concealed. "Evolution teaches that the universe and man
did not always exist in their present form; neither are they the
product of a sudden creative act, but rather the result of
innumerable changes from the lower to the higher, each step in
advance being an evolution from a pre-existing condition." On the
other hand, the special creation doctrine teaches that, daring a
limited period, God created the universe and man, and that the
various phenomena are not the result simply of natural law, but the
outcome of supernatural design. According to Mr. Herbert Spencer,
the whole theory of Evolution is based upon three principles --
namely, that matter is indestructible, motion continuous, and force
persistent.

     Q. -- What are the objections to the theory of Special
Creation?

                         Bank of Wisdom
                  Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201
                               12

                   THE SECULARIST'S CATECHISM.

     A. -- To accept this theory as being true, we have to think
of a time when there was no time -- of a place where there was no
place. Is this possible? If it were, it would be interesting to
learn where an infinite God was at that particular period, and how,
in "no time," he could perform his creative act. Besides, if a
being really exist who created all things, the obvious question at
once is, "Where was this being before anything else existed?" "Was
there a time when God over all was God over nothing? Can we believe
that a God over nothing began to be out of nothing, and to create
all things when there was nothing?" More over, if the universe was
created, from what did it emanate? From nothing? But "from nothing
nothing can come." Was it created from something that already was?
If so, it was no creation at all, but only a continuation of that
which was in existence. Further, "creation needs action; to act is
to use force; to use force implies the existence of something upon
which that force can be used. But if that 'something' were there
before creation, the act of creating was simply the re-forming of
pre-existing materials."

     Q. -- Is there any other serious objection to the belief that
an infinite God created the universe?

     A. -- Yes. If God is infinite, he is everywhere. if
everywhere, he is in the universe; if in the universe now, he was
always there. If he were always in the universe, there never was a
time when the universe was not; therefore, it could never have been
created.

     Q. -- Is it reasonable to believe in the theory of Special
Creation, when science proclaims the stability of natural law?

     A. -- We think not; for, as the late Professor Tyndall, in
his lecture on "Sound," remarked, if there is one thing that
science has demonstrated more clearly than another, it is the
stability of the operations of the laws of nature. We feel assured
from experience that this is so, and we act upon such assurance in
our daily life.

     Q. -- What is the correct meaning of Agnosticism?

     A. -- It has been well said that, to clearly understand what
Agnosticism is, it is desirable to remember the fact that one of
the very first heresies which distracted the early Catholic Church
was that of the Gnostics. They took their name from the Greek word
for knowledge (or science); but, of course, they used it within
certain sufficiently-marked limits. They did not mean that they
possessed universal knowledge of all things, but only that they had
the knowledge of what the Christian religion really was, or ought
to be. This is here offered as a parallel example of the
application of a general term to one particular subject or object
of human knowledge. Precisely similar are the limits of the word
which the addition of the little negative particle 'a' (without)
makes to signify precisely the opposite of Gnosticism. Gnosticism
meant a full, complete, and accurate knowledge of the origin,
nature, attributes, and mode of operation of the deity;
Agnosticism, on the contrary, signifies the very opposite of this.
It declares that we have no knowledge of God; that we cannot

                         Bank of Wisdom
                  Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201
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                   THE SECULARIST'S CATECHISM.

pretend to say that such a Supreme Intelligence exists; and that we
are absolutely precluded from affirming that the universe is really
destitute of such a central 'Nous,' or Highest Intelligence. "Canat
thou," asked the writer of the grand old Semitic drama -- "Canst
thou by searching find out God?" This interrogation the honest
Agnostic has put to himself, and, after long and earnest
exercitation of mind, after the intensest study of the world
external and of the inner consciousness, he arrives at the
conclusion that the question cannot be satisfactorily answered,
either Affirmatively or negatively. The Agnostic does not argue
that, "because we cannot see God, therefore he [God) is not." The
Agnostic knows too well his own limited nature and the boundary of
the knowable to claim for himself a God-like degree and measure of
knowledge.

     Q. -- Is it not a fact that many of the principles of the
National Secular Society are not new?

     A. -- Probably that is so, but we are not aware that any
sect, Christian or anti-Christian, possesses a special vested
interest in goodness, or a monopoly of truth. Everything that is
worth having belongs to man everywhere, and the principles of
Secularism most certainly do not claim to be any exception to this
rule. Truth is the universal prerogative of mankind in general, and
goodness and virtue are qualities fortunately placed within the
reach of humanity at large. If the principles of Secularism cannot
lay claim to originality because they have been taught before, this
is an objection that would apply with quite as much force, and
certainly with as much truth, to most other systems, including
Christianity itself. The ethical maxims to be met with in the Now
Testament may all be found in some form or other in heathen
philosophies propounded long before Jesus of Nazareth is supposed
to have trodden the shores of Galilee. It is surely a most puerile
charge to bring against a system, that the whole of its teachings
are not new. Morality is as old as humanity, and virtue coexistent
with human action. But if Secularism or any other system can do
something towards extending the domain of the one, and causing the
other to take deeper root in the human mind, it deserves the
respect of all good men, and it ought not to be sneered at because
it has nothing new to teach.

     Q. -- How do Secularists, as a rule, propose to deal with
what they regard as the errors of Christianity?

     A. -- There are three principal modes of criticizing the
pretensions set forth on behalf of popular Christianity. First, it
is alleged such pretensions are entirely destitute of truth, and
that they have been of no service whatever to mankind. This view we
certainly cannot endorse. Many of the superstitions of the world
have been allied with some fact, and have, in their exercise upon
the minds of a portion of their devotees, served, for a time no
doubt, a useful purpose. In the second place, certain opponents of
Christianity regard it as being deserving of immediate extinction.
This, in our opinion, is unjust to its adherents, who have as much
right to possess what they hold to be true as we have to entertain
views which we believe to be correct. Theological faiths should be
supplanted by intellectual growth, not crushed by dogmatic force.

                         Bank of Wisdom
                  Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201
                               14

                   THE SECULARIST'S CATECHISM.

The third and, as we think, the most sensible and fair mode of
dealing with Christianity is to regard it as not being the only
system of truth; as not having had a special origin; as not being
suited to all minds as having fulfilled its original purpose, and
as possessing no claim of absolute domination. This attitude of
Secularism towards popular orthodoxy is based upon the voice of
history and the philosophy of the true liberty of thought.

     Q. -- What does Secularism teach in reference to marriage?

     A. -- It teaches that marriage should be the result of mutual
affection, and that such a union creates the responsibility of
undivided allegiance, mutual fidelity, and mutual consideration. It
affirms that in the domestic circle there should be no one-sided,
absolute authority; that husband and wife should be partners, not
only in theory, but in deed, and animated alike by the desire to
promote one another's happiness. The genuine Secularist must be a
brave, kindly, sincere, and just man. His Secularism will be felt
as a radiating blessing first, and most warmly and brightly, in his
own home. If a man neglects and illtreats his wife and children, we
must distinctly disavow him as a Secularist.

     Q. -- What does the term "happiness" imply?

     A. -- It implies, firstly, material well-being, sufficiency
of food, clothing, and house-room, with good air, good water, and
good sanitary conditions; for these things are necessary to bodily
health, which, in turn, is essential to the health of the mind, for
only in health is real happiness possible. Again, it implies mental
well-being, sufficiency of instruction and education for every one,
so that the intellect may be nourished and developed to the full
extent of its capabilities. Given the sound mind in the sound body,
the term "happiness" further implies free exercise of these,
absolutely free in every respect so long as the equal rights of
others are not trenched upon, or the common good is not impeded. In
this full development of mind as well as body it need scarcely be
said that true happiness brings into its service all the noblest
and most beautiful arts of life.

     Q. -- Are there not other requisites to happiness besides
those just mentioned?

     A. -- Yes; we must add, as essential to true happiness, what
are commonly called the virtues of the heart, the fervor of Zeal or
Enthusiasm, and the finer fervor of Benevolence, Sympathy, or, to
use the best name, Love. For, if Wisdom gives the requisite light,
Love alone can give the requisite vital heat; Wisdom, climbing the
arduous mountain solitudes, must often let the lamp slip from her
benumbed fingers, must often be near perishing in fatal lethargy
amidst ice and snow-drifts, if Love be not there to cheer and
revive her with the glow and the flames of the heart's quenchless
fires.

     Q. -- Has the National Secular Society any political program
advocating party polities?

                         Bank of Wisdom
                  Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201
                               15

                   THE SECULARIST'S CATECHISM.

     A. -- No. Each member of the Society is allowed to entertain
whatever political opinions may commend themselves to his or her
judgment. There is, however, one requirement which we urge, and
that is that all should do their best to promote political justice
among every section of the community. The method to be adopted to
secure this object is left to individual choice.

     Q. -- What is the teaching of Secularism in reference to the
social problems of the day?

     A. -- It teaches as a duty that we should recognize the
necessity of discovering the best possible solutions, and, when
those solutions are found, to apply them with all the moral force
at our command. This useful work must be carried on by each of us
in our capacity as social reformers -- a task which will be
inspired by the genius of Secularism, for no consistent Secularist
can remain idle while evils abound that mar the happiness of the
human family. The special duty of a member of the Secular
organization consists in demanding that freedom which will enable
every reformer to carry on his good work without intimidation or
persecution of any kind, and also in doing his utmost to remove
such impediments to progress as have been caused by priestly
invention, and by the false conceptions of human duty which have
been engendered by theological teachings.

     Q. -- What is the official attitude of Secularism towards
Socialism, Individualism, and Anarchism?

     A. -- The relation of Secularism to all the "isms" named is
the same as it is towards the political and religious movements of
the day -- namely, Eclectic -- that is, it selects the best from
among them all. Provided he does his best to combat existing evils,
each member of the Secular party is at liberty to support any
movement that seems to him wise and useful, supposing it to be
based upon "peace, law, and order." In fact, Secularists should
feel bound to investigate, as far as possible, all proposals made
for the redemption of mankind, regardless of sect or party. Special
care, however, should always be taken to discriminate between true
and false methods, and not to confound vain theories with practical
remedies.

     Q. -- Has not the National Secular Society any published
authoritative statement as to the duty of its members in reference
to the political questions of the day?

     A. -- Yes, it distinctly teaches that freedom of thought, of
speech, and of action for all is a claim consistent with reason,
and essential to human progress; that the exercise of personal
liberty, which does not infringe upon the freedom of others, is the
right of all, without any regard to class distinctions. This
principle Secularists maintain, without committing themselves to
all that is taught in the exercise of that right. The official
position taken by the National Secular Society in reference to
reforms of general social matters may be seen from its published
statement, under the heading of "Immediate Practical Objects," in
the Secular Almanack, which is published annually.

                            _________

                         Bank of Wisdom
                  Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201
                               16

                   THE SECULARIST'S CATECHISM.

     I have now concluded an exposition of the leading features of
Secularism and its teachings, and my sincere hope is that this
humble effort may prove an advantage to earnest searchers after
truth. Secularists find ample work to be done; for, as time rolls
on, one improvement suggests another. The watchword of Secular
philosophy is "Onward, and onward still." It has been well
remarked, human progress is like the ascent of a mountain, whose
crest does not look very high from the distant plain, but which, as
we climb it, heaves shoulder beyond shoulder, each fresh one
discovered as we reach the summit of the inferior, and each summit
in its turn seeming the very utmost peak as we are toiling towards
it. True, the Secularistic fabric may be slow in its erection, as
imperceptible as is the construction of a coral reef; it is,
however, certain in its growth. And although at present we have to
encounter the obstacles of superstition and the spite of
intolerance, the work of progress still goes on. This inspires us
with hope for the future. We believe the time will arrive when
fancy will give place to reality, and imagination will yield to the
facts of life. Then, instead of the evils of priestcraft, the reign
of bigotry and the strife of theology, we trust to have
manifestations of sincere love of man to man; an awe-inspiring
happiness in the majestic presence of universal nature, and "man,
the great master of all," shall live a life of enduring service to
the cause of individual and national redemption.

                          ****     ****

    Reproducible Electronic Publishing can defeat censorship.

                          ****     ****

   The 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. If you have such books
please send us a list that includes Title, Author, publication
date, condition and price.

                          ****     ****

                         Bank of Wisdom
                  Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201
                               17

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

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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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