Why I Quit Going To Church
With Answers to Critics and Correspondents
Author of "THE OLD NEST," "WITHIN THESE WALLS,"
EXCUSE ME," Etc.
Freethought Press Association New York Copyright, 1924,
There was a time in this country when I should have been punished for not going to church. In the good old Puritan and Pilgrim days, though only a third or a sixth of the citizens were church members, the parsons were in power and they fined people and put them in the stocks if they stayed away or if the pastor did not like their expressions.
They whipped more than one for criticizing a sermon. They tried to sell two Boston children into slavery because they could not pay their fine for staying away from the church. And they would have done it, too, if the ungodly shipmasters had not refused to carry the children off.
It is incessantly astonishing how often the laity have had to restrain the clergy from cruelty. The Puritan elders held that “the gathering of sticks on the Sabbath may be punished with death.” Sometimes a mob would rescue Quaker women from the whips, but in Cambridge, Benanuel Bower, a Quaker who obstinately stayed away from the Puritan church, was fined annually for twenty years, hauled down a flight of steps by the heels, kept in prison for more than a year, and with his wife publicly whipped several times.
But in these wicked and degenerate times, not only can I stay away from church without getting arrested, but I can tell why without being any more than reviled.
I did not quit going to church because I was lazy or frivolous or poetically inclined to “worship God in the Great Outdoors near to Nature’s Heart.” I don’t believe that nature has a heart.
I quit because I came to believe that what is preached in the churches is mainly untrue and unimportant, tiresome, hostile to genuine progress, and in general not worth while. As for the necessity of paying homage to the deity, I began to feel that I did not know enough about God to pay him set compliments on set days. As for the God who is preached in the churches, I ceased to worship him because I could no longer believe in him or respect what is alleged of him.
I cannot respect a deity who would want or even endure the hideous monotony and mechanism of most of the worship paid him by hired men, hired prayer-makers and their supporters. When I think of the millions of repetitions of the same phrases of prayer and song smoking up to a helpless deity I feel sorry for him. No wonder he gets farther away each year. No wonder the ex-priest Alfred Loisy says (in his “My Duel with the Vatican”) that “the eternal immutable, omniscient, omnipotent, etc.,” who created the universe “by a caprice very imperfectly benevolent … begins to be conceived with increasing difficulty.”
As for the picture of God in heaven, “sitting on the Cherubim” or riding on a cherub (2 Samuel xxii, 11), and listening to everlasting praises of himself, it is simply appalling. I can no longer adore in a god what I despise in a man.
I say this in no spirit of cheap defiance, like Ajax defying the lightning, for the statement puts me with such an enormous majority that it carries no distinction. The God of the Christians never has been believed in by as much as a tenth of the world’s population. Two or three other religions have today far more followers; and, even in this country, a great many millions less than half of the population is even “affiliated” with any of the churches. About 40 per cent. of the free population is affiliated with one church or another, and about 90 per cent of the criminals in the penitentiaries. That is the only place where the church people have a pronounced majority.
In our nation of over 110 million inhabitants, the latest church census claimed less than 48 million church members of all denominations, including all Catholic children over seven years of age. all Jews, Mormons, Unitarians, etc.
Church mathematics is almost as unreliable as church history. Some enthusiasts have claimed that the church is gaining on the population, having increased 118 per cent. in the last 32 years, while the population increased only 68 per cent.
Thus they say (using their own wild figures for the church and the government’s censuses for the population) that in 1890 there were 21,500,000 church members in a nation of 63,000,000 people; in 1922, there were all of 47,500,000 church members in a population of only 108,000,000.
They overlook the fact that according to their own figures there were in this country only 42 million People outside the church in 1890 and in 1922 sixty million outside; or practically as many outside the church now as there were in the entire nation in 1890.
The trick of percentages is dangerous. I joined a club in 1904 that had only ten members. In twenty years it has increased 3,000 per cent. while the population has increased only 68 per cent. The club now numbers 300 members and the population only 112 million.
An important point to remember also is that while the governmental censuses are fairly accurate, the church figures are ridiculous by their own admission.
The Rector of Trinity Church recently quoted with approval a statement that “the membership claims, in all honesty, are about 50 per cent. too high. In other words, millions of names are on the church rolls because the churches keep them there, and not because their owners by any legitimate right claim membership.”
This would reduce the membership to 24 million, still including all Catholic children over seven.
The Christian Herald recently requested 1200 newspapers to gather data on church attendance, and the results indicated that 36 per cent. of the population are regular attendants, 64 per cent. casual or non-attendants.
Exhaustive studies just made by the Institute of Social and Religious Research show that the rural attendance is now only half as great as it was a generation ago. In a typical Vermont community, in spite of an increase of population, attendance has decreased 52 per cent. Reading an old church magazine of 1808 the other night, I learned that even back there the churches were almost deserted and that the country was in a godless condition.
The World Service Commission of the Methodist Church notes a decrease of $4,000,000 in its receipts last year. The gifts to the Presbyterian missionary causes decreased $50,000 in the first half of the year. The deficit for the Methodist publications was nearly $750,000. In the Christian Advocate, which lost a hundred thousand dollars, it was stated that there is not a single Christian left in one of the very homes of early Christianity in the Orient.
As for those who are affiliated, I cannot believe that a very large percentage is sincerely convinced. Recently in New York a pastor read the Apostles’ Creed through to a large congregation and asked everybody who believed it to stand up. Not one person arose! The anonymous author of a recent magazine article called “Why I Go to Church” admitted that he did not believe any of the creed.
I once knew that creed by heart, repeated it aloud with sincerity, and believed that I believed it. Now while I recognize the music, poetry, and eloquence of it, I do not believe a word of it, and it offends such intelligence and information as I happen to have.
From numberless conversations with church-members and church- goers I am honestly assured that very, very few of them really believe in their heart of hearts one-quarter of what their church- creeds assert — not to emphasize the fact that nobody really knows what most of the high-sounding theological phrases mean. I know that countless ministers are driven by all sorts of pressure from within and without to continue preaching what they no longer believe. They do it for the imaginary good of their poor congregations, as nice people go on telling infants that there is a Santa Claus.
I do not believe in a Santa Claus for grown-ups, and I do not believe that the vast number of church-people are doing the world any good by promulgating false ideas and false ideals.
They say, and doubtless believe, that their motives are good, but I am of such poor moral fibre that I do not believe in telling lies for the glory of God. I am not up to the standard of the Apostle Paul who asks (Romans iii, 7): “For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie, why yet am I also judged as a sinner?” Well, I am just mean enough to judge him a sinner and to consider Christian lies as peculiarly ugly sins. Furthermore, I dislike St. Paul even more than St. Peter did, and I consider him one of the greatest purveyors of falsehood and mischief that ever lived.
It seems to my perverted brain not quite honest, for instance, to pretend that Christianity has only one God. The Christian religion is polytheistic if ever a religion were, for it includes God the Father, Christ the Son, the Holy Ghost, Mary the Mother, an almost omnipotent God of Evil known as Satan, and an infinite number of invisible angels and devils with superhuman powers, not to mention the saints, who have all performed miracles and are to be prayed to for special favors.
The Christian religion is intensely polytheistic. Gods warred with gods in heaven as on Mount Olympus, and hosts of angels were thrown over the walls. The god Michael fought with the god Devil for Moses’ body (Jude 9). Christ is quoted as saying that he himself saw Satan fall from heaven (Luke x, 18). Yet Satan disputed with God the sway over the earth and had the power to pick Christ up and carry him to the pinnacle of God’s (or Christ’s) own temple, then to the top of a mountain, and to tempt him until be was repulsed. Think of it: Satan offered to give the Son of God what already belonged to him! Then the devil left Christ and “behold, angels came and ministered unto him.”
If this was not a duel of wits between two gods, what was it?
If there is anything more polytheistic in Greek or any other mythology, where is it? If Apollo, Mars, Pluto, and Mercury were gods, so were Satan and Michael and Gabriel. It seems to me unutterably dishonest for Christians to denounce other religions for having many gods and to pretend that the Christians believe in only one. The Book of Job (i, 6) refers to the “sons of God” in the plural, and I know of nothing in heathendom more pagan or more cruel than this story of Job, according to which Satan bets God that he can make the “perfect and upright” Job curse his maker. God thereupon takes the bet and delivers his faithful worshiper over to all the fiendish cruelty and torture that the devil can devise, cruelty involving the burning alive of Job’s sheep and shepherds and the slaughter of all his children. If this tremendous story is only fiction, what is it doing in the Holy Bible? If it is truth, how can one deny the existence of two rival gods, and wherein is Jehovah any kinder or more reliable than Satan?
Is not Jehovah the lesser, feebler god, since Satan wins infinitely more victories and prisoners, and constantly makes Christ’s sacrifice a failure, according to the admissions of the Christians?
As for idolatry, either Christianity is idolatrous or no religion ever was, for the Christian churches are, with certain exceptions, full of images and emblems. The Buddhist does not believe that each of his innumerable little statues is the real god. He prays to it or runs his water-wheel of prayers just as many Christians tell their beads or give jewels to Madonnas or burn candles or have their prayers said for them by paid clergymen. Jehovah was carried in a cart and kept in an ark.
As for his omnipresence, it is several times stated that he walked in a garden and brought people up on mountains to see him. When the rumor of the Tower of Babel finally reached him, he could not have been all-knowing as alleged, because he went down to find out what was going on, then went back “up” and said, “Go to, let us go down and there confound their language.”
Who were “us”? Where was “up”? Did God not know that the world is a globe?
The Bible itself destroys the claim of God’s omnipotence, for in judges i, 19, it states, “The Lord was with Judah and he drave out the inhabitants of the mountain; but could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley because they had chariots of iron.”
The astounding and inconsistent God of the Bible calls Moses up into the mountains to see him — has him brought up on eagle’s wings. Later he lets not only Moses but seventy-three others see him (Exodus xxiv, 9, 10). Still later, forgetting this, God says, “There shall no man see me and live.” Seventy-four people have seen him and he is exactly described, yet a little later he covers Moses’ face with his hand till he has passed.
Yet Christian preachers make fun of the anthropomorphic gods of the heathen and prate of the glory of our religion with its one God, all-Wise, all-knowing, all-powerful, unchanging and ubiquitous!
According to the Bible, God was ignorant, a ruthless liar and cheat; he broke his pledges, changed his mind so often that he grew weary of repenting. He was a murderer of children, ordered his people to slay, rape, steal, and lie and commit every foul and filthy abomination in human power. In fact, the more I read the Bible the less I find in it that is either credible or admirable.
I do not go to church because I find no honesty in the pulpit toward the religion preached or the religions preached against. I am constantly horrified by the extreme unfairness of Christians toward men of other religions. There is no distortion or concealment that they will not stoop to in their zeal.
It is no wonder that the foreign missionaries have such difficulties and are losing ground generally all over the world, by their own admission. Also the church is losing ground in its own countries. It nowhere grows so fast as the population and it is torn everywhere by virulent dissensions.
As for those who “keep the faith” I know that many of them are holding on for dear life by shutting their souls up against any appeals to their reason for fear they may be compelled to let go.
A man recently told me of a conversation he held with a woman who spoke of the Virgin Mary. She expressed amazement when he referred to Christ’s brothers and sisters. She ridiculed such an idea and he asked her to look up Matthew xii, 46, and xiii, 55, 56 (where it speaks of Christ’s mother and his brethren, and names James and Joses and Simon and Judas and refers to “all his sisters”). But the horrified woman exclaimed:
“I don’t want to look it up! It might destroy my dear faith. And I don’t want to lose my belief.”
Of how many million members must it be true, that they are afraid to examine their own Bible?
While I think this a hopelessly dishonest and almost sacrilegious frame of mind, I sympathize with it completely, for I went through just such a mental phase when my own faith was in the last throes and I desperately refused to argue.
For only a while, however, was my faith able to believe two or more contradictory things at once. One simply cannot ride two horses going in opposite directions very long.
I remember having occasion to quote what Pilate had put over Christ’s head on the cross. I looked it up in Matthew, and it was not as I remembered it. I looked further and found that each of the four gospels gives a different version of this inscription.
In the matter of the companions in the crucifixion John simply says that there were “two other with him, on either side one.” Matthew and Mark say that they were thieves and that both reviled him. Luke, however, makes the striking statement that only one of the malefactors railed on him, and was rebuked by the other. Whereupon Christ said, “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.”
Yet elsewhere it is stated that Christ descended into hell for three days, then rose from the dead as he himself prophesied in Matthew xii, 40: “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”
This shows that Christ believed the Jonah story and that hell was in the earth underneath him.
In every detail concerning the birthplace, birth date, and the death of the Messiah, the four gospels are in complete contradiction. It is not agreed whether Christ was born 3 B.C. or 6 A.D. In “The New Archaeological Discoveries” by C.M. Cobern, D.D., it is stated that recent excavations definitely place Christ’s birth between 9 B.C. and 6 B.C., and his death on April 3, A.D. 33, making him between 39 and 42 when he died. This means that he was nearly 40 when he began his ministry of one or three years, though his virgin birth was announced by an angel and a star, as were most of the twenty-six virgin-born Savors who preceded him.
The dates and hour of the crucifixion do not agree in the gospels. These four gospels were selected from fifty gospels and one of the early fathers, Irenaeus, says that there are four gospels because the world has four corners, The Book of Revelation says that four angels stood on the four corners of the earth, and 1 Chronicles xvi, 30, says that “the world also shall be stable, that it be not moved.” Does Mr. Bryan believe this?
The names of the twelve apostles are differently given in Matthew x and Luke vi. According to John, Christ was not at the Last Supper — at least the three Synoptic gospels say that he celebrated the Passover and was crucified the day after, while John, though describing a supper, states that Christ was crucified the day before the Passover. This caused a great debate among the church fathers.
Everywhere I turn I find the same flat contradictions. One proverb says, “Answer a fool according to his folly;” the next says, “Answer not a fool according to his folly” (Proverbs xxvi, 4, 5). When a skeptic mentioned this to me as a schoolboy, I laughed off the difficulty as mere quibbling. Yet I was terribly disturbed to find God giving his children two directly opposite bits of advice.
An awful task for a believer is a touch of arithmetic. It is hard to disbelieve arithmetic. Since there were 600,000 men in the throng that Moses took out of Egypt, there would have been about three million people all told. And they crossed the opening in the Red Sea (the bottom of which was doubtless quickly dried for them) in a few hours. They took with them also their flocks of cattle, which were incredibly large. It must have made the angels sweat to herd that livestock over. Now it took Napoleon, with just 300,000 trained soldiers, three days and nights to cross the Niemen on three bridges in 1812.
Of course Napoleon did not have a million miracles worked for him, but the miracles required in Moses’ case are too numerous to face — especially as they did not accomplish any good and the Israelites turned to the golden calf as soon as they were amazingly wafted across the split sea. I can’t understand a god who would fumble things so — always performing miracles that got him nowhere.
It is a mere detail that all of Pharaoh’s horses were drowned, though a plague had previously destroyed them, but it is not confusing that God should have had to perform so many miracles to persuade Pharaoh to let the Israelites go, since he had peculiarly hardened Pharaoh’s heart in advance — so that he could destroy all the first-born children in the land except where the kindly angels found blood smeared on the door-posts as a sign.
Almost stranger than the Mosaic miracles was the fact that it took 150,000 of Solomon’s workmen seven years to build a little temple 96 feet long, 32 feet wide, and 48 feet high — about the size of a moderate Union Depot.
In 2 Chronicles xiii it is told that God let his beloved people be slaughtered by Abijah, who killed 500,000 chosen men. Jeroboam thereupon retreated! At the greatest battle in the Civil War Lee had 80,000 men, Meade somewhat more. After three days of fierce conflict Lee retreated, having only 2,500 killed, and Meade with 3,000 killed dared not pursue for a day. That was the greatest battle in the history of this big nation, and we lost only one one- hundredth as many men as the half-king of a country whose area was about the size of our littlest state, Rhode Island.
I am tempted to say rudely that anybody who says he believes the Bible to be all true either lies or is ignorant of what he says. How can anybody believe contradictory statements, — and there are three hundred downright mathematical contradictions in the Bible. Jehoshaphat’s death is given sixteen different dates!
The God of the Bible punishes all who do not believe, including those who never heard of him. Trillions of them must be screaming somewhere for mercy. What then must be waiting for me? for I have not their excuse. I have heard the gospel. I had it put before me. I accepted it, and then let it slip!
Still, since I must pass into the flames with no promise of being a Shadrach or an Abednego, it is surely better for me to go there honestly, having told the truth as I see it, than to sneak into hell by the back-door of lip-service or of hypocritical assent by silence — or to enter it by that gate reserved for preachers who have preached what they doubted.
I am no longer of the Christian faith, but this should not affect my standing as a citizen of the American republic which is dedicated to a churchless state and so declared by Washington. In the Senate treaty made with the Tripolitan Mohammedans in 1796 it is specifically announced that “the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion” and has no enmity to the laws or religion of the Mohammedans.
Theoretically this nation is free for all; as a matter of fact, persecutions are heaped upon those who honestly state their doubts and incessant pressure is brought to bear on our law-makers to give police power to the special tenets of Christian sects.
Because certain gentlemen on this fly-speck of an earth elect to play golf on a certain day called the Sabbath (though nobody pretends that our Sunday is the actual day on which God “rested”), the village constable in many of these non-Christian United States must arrest them for “sacrilege!” Pulpits are pounded in horror all over the country, and a society for Sabbath observance spends vast moneys and efforts and bullies the life out of Congress to deprive the free citizens of their freedom once a week.
What difference it could possibly make to any imaginable god what I do on Sunday, I cannot for the life and soul of me conceive. Why I should rest because God rested, I cannot see. Why he should want me to be eternally kow-towing to him and praising him, I cannot see. And if I fail, isn’t it his business rather than a clergyman’s to punish me?
My early life was, however, one of intense religions conviction. I had a lot of fun and did a normal amount of mischief, but I studied as hard as I played and I prayed and believed with my whole soul. I not only said my prayers every night but I prayed incessantly throughout the day; and I prayed publicly at prayer meetings and tried to convert other people to the faith.
At the age of thirteen I joined the Congregational Church because I happened to like the boys who went to that church. Besides, I enjoyed the Sunday school picnics. Then one of the Sunday school teachers got after my immortal soul and “saved” it — temporarily. If I had died in my youth I should now be safe in heaven; but unless I am one of those elect who cannot damn themselves no matter what they do I am on my way to hell “from now on.”
When I was fourteen I went to a preparatory school and was swept away by a fiery evangelist of the Methodist persuasion. He kindled my faith to great heat and I went up and down the aisle night after night pleading with white-bearded old gentlemen and others to come to the anxious bench. As I look back upon myself now, that solemn little fourteen-year-old looks rather amusing than glorious, and I wonder that some of the nice old gentlemen I nagged did not spank me.
The next year I went to another preparatory school and was active in the Y.M.C.A. work, giving public testimonials of my faith and praying fervently in the meetings as well as at my bedside.
At college I was again an eager church-goer; played the organ at the Y.M.C.A. assemblies and I prayed publicly and privately.
Then I began to slip in my belief and to get a little dubious about the value of my prayers, their value either to me or to the infinite intelligence I was annoying with my unimportant chatter. It was a terrible step I took when I stopped praying, but I gave it up because it ceased to mean anything.
My faith in the Bible as an inspired work went from me slowly, like sand slipping down a hill. I was reading the Bible from cover to cover, and being young and curious I was tempted to dip into the Song of Solomon. But I had read that it was considered by the old Israelites such delicate matter that Hebrews were not permitted to read it until they were thirty-five years old, though little American boys and girls were given rewards for reading it along with the entire Bible. I was sorely troubled, but I did what I thought very heroic and virtuous: I refrained from peeking into the Song of Solomon until I had read everything preceding it including every last one of the “begats” and all the filthy stories. Then I read Solomon’s Song with what solemnity I could muster.
Such literature for a boy to read! a compendium of the most lusciously lascivious amorous anatomy that could be devised. And at the top of each erotic chapter some such legend as “The Church and Christ congratulate one another,” “The Church having a taste of Christ’s love is sick of love,” “A Description of Christ by his graces.” I do not dare quote the text here; it is too voluptuous; yet it is given into the hands of children and it is left in the rooms of hotels by a society!
This now strikes me as the most appalling hypocrisy, indecency, dishonesty, and fanaticism, but when I first read it I was merely hurt and bewildered.
It confused me to find nothing in the early part of the Old Testament about a future life and to learn that the Hebrews did not apparently consider the matter till after captivity among the Assyrians, who did believe in a future life.
It terrified me to learn that the heresy of the Egyptians from which Moses saved the Israelites was a belief in a future life of rewards and punishments. I did not know which way to turn. And the Egyptians believed that a god came to earth, was born of a virgin and slain for the redemption of the faithful — not only long before Christ but before Moses led his sacred band from the heresy of immortality. Here was my beautiful sacred belief in the Divine Book destroyed by the Book itself!
I read every word of it from cover to cover, but try as I would, my feeble mind could not hang on to its early faith. When I got to the end of the Bible I was confronted by the ‘Book of Revelation. That shook me loose with a jolt. It seemed to me that its mental chaos matched the physical chaos of the beginning of the world.
How can anyone defend that picture of graves opening, hells yawning, sheep, goats, trumpets blaring, scarlet women riding; a city coming down from the sky dressed like a bride with twelve gates for the twelve tribes of Jews? How can the Christians hope to get into the New Jerusalem since it contains only entrances for Jews — and Christ himself said he came only to the lost sheep of Israel?
According to Revelation, God wipes away all tears from the chosen, but there is a lake of brimstone for the unbelievers; there are seven angels with seven vials full of seven plagues, and an angel with a reed who measures the city and proves it to be a cubical city — twelve thousand furlongs in length, in height and breadth. Just why this measurement should be necessary at that late date is not explained, Each gate is one solid pearl, the streets are gold transparent as glass. There is a bride there called “the Lamb’s wife.” Who was the Lamb and who his wife? Some say that the Lamb was Christ and his wife the Church. But Christ is elsewhere referred to independently, and there was no church yet.
The kings of the nations bring their glory to the city and the gates will never be shut; yet only those shall enter whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life! A strange Lamb, with a wife and a directory! There is a river coming from the Thrones of God and of the Lamb; a tree bearing twelve fruits and leaves of healing power. Outside are dogs and idolaters and liars, but within there is Jesus “the offspring of David,” also a Spirit and a Bride that say Come, and whosoever will may come, yet plagues await any who change the Book.
What all this means I can’t imagine, and I can’t imagine anybody else explaining it except by explanations that do not explain. I don’t believe anybody living believes that the Lamb had a wife. And if anybody says he believes it, I don’t believe him.
The Bible begins with two stories of creation by two different gods of two different names in two different orders — two ill- edited clumsy myths told by two ignorant barbarians; and ends with the clamorous hysteria of a color-mad, blood-thirsty lunatic with a magnificent literary style.
Nobody has more admiration for the literary beauties of the Bible than I. And nobody has less respect for the Scientific or historical value of literary beauty.
Between these two extremes is almost every conceivable kind of writing, including every known atrocity, indecency, degeneracy, nobility, a cyclopedia of anecdotes, genealogy, mythology, criminology, stories of incest, of sodomy, of bestiality; of angels, “sons of God,” coming to earth and taking women; of daughters having children by their fathers.
There is the sainted patriarch Abraham, whose ancient wife was so pretty that he was afraid her admirers would fancy her and kill him, so he told her to pretend to be his sister, whereupon Pharaoh enjoyed her and loaded Abraham with presents (Genesis xii). Pharaoh was horrified when he learned what Abraham had done.
There is only one dirty word in our language for this man, in whose bosom the blessed rest. After this experience the foul old creature played the same trick on Abimelech, but the Lord warned him in a dream just in time (Genesis xx). Abimelech was disgusted, but Abraham lost none of the Lord’s favor and his name is holy in all Christian teachings.
There is the story of the brother pretending to be sick in order to rape his sitter; of the harlot who saves spies and is sanctified for it; of chosen people who commit all known abominations; of a man Onan who is cursed for refusing to beget children upon his brother’s widow (and ever since wears a bad name for what he did not do) of a giant who carries off a gate and slays a multitude with a bone, loses his strength when his hair is cut, and is able to pull down a crowded temple when his hair grows out again; of children eaten by bears sent by God because they merely made fun of a bald man; of a runaway prophet who is brought back inside a fish — in short, an utterly amazing gallimaufry of events and fancies presided over by a god who does not know his own mind, is constantly defeated by his own cast-out angels and by his stubborn worshipers; who performs miracle after miracle only to fail of his purpose, and whose total record of infamies staggers the imagination.
This Israelitish god calls Moses up into the mountains and lets Moses see his “back parts” (Exodus xxxiii, 20-23). Think of it, the god of this infinite universe has back parts! But then he also sits on a throne, he has bowels, eyes, ears, nostrils, hair, loins, lips, tongue, feet. He begets, drinks, eats, smells, walks, rides, grows tired, is afraid, jealous, loves, hates, lies, cheats, enjoys wine, makes coats and shoes, laughs, sleeps and gets tired. And how he changes his mind! This god actually exclaims, in Jeremiah xv, 6, “I am weary with repenting.”
These Biblical accounts of God are not metaphor or poetic symbolism, as many pretend. They are given out as inspired fact, and it was once fatal to question them.
This god writes his laws on pieces of stone and gives them to Moses to govern the people for whom God has destroyed numberless Egyptians after annoying them with the most cruel plagues, and all in vain. These children whom he brought through a divided ocean, go back to heathen worship in spite of all the miracles they have seen, and Moses is so angry that be spitefully breaks the stone book he has received in God’s own autograph!
When I realize that I once accepted this, and that millions still say they accept it and are horrified if it is spoken of with doubt, I am tempted to think that in this silly world only the impossible can win belief.
If you give up Adam’s apple and his Fall and the sin of all his posterity, you rob Christ of his mission of atonement. Christ is repeatedly claimed to be of the seed of David; and to prove it, two genealogies are given, each contradictory of the other and of itself. But it was Joseph and not Mary who descended from David, and the Bible repeatedly states that Joseph was Christ’s father. Yet it also states that Mary was a virgin, There is absolutely nothing in the Bible of religious importance that it does not itself annul by its own contradictions.
And this David! He was such a villain as I should never dare use in the most melodramatic novel. His crimes are peculiarly despicable and versatile, from his earliest exploits to his later sex-manias, including the foul treatment of a soldier whose wife he desired, and his habit of warming his chill frame with a fresh girl every night. He was a traitor, an indefatigable liar, he drove women and children through burning brick kilns or tore them to pieces with harrows, he sawed them in two, and on his death-bed left instructions to kill a devoted man whom he had sworn to protect.
Yet this infamous perjurer, murderer, adulterer, butcher, was chosen for the peculiar favor of God, who in 2 Samuel vii, 14, adopts him as his son and promises that his house and his kingdom shall be established forever. It is a small matter, of course, that this promise, was forgotten and the kingdom perished. Where are his house and his kingdom now? “Where are the snows of yesteryear?”
At times even God could not stomach David. Once God grew so angry that he slew seventy thousand Jews by a pestilence just for spite; then suddenly, as on many other occasions, he “repented” and let David die “in a good old age, full of days, riches and honor; and Solomon his son reigned in his stead.”
Solomon was the son of a murderous adulterer. His mother was Bathsheba, wife of Uriah. David saw her washing herself, fell in love with her and sent for her. She bore him a child and went back to her faithful husband, a brave and religious soldier whose death David treacherously arranged. Then David added Bathsheba to his group of wives and concubines and eventually she bore Solomon, who improved on his father’s mania for women and became an idolater — after the Lord had chosen him and “magnified him exceedingly.”
And these two terrible creatures were the particular stars of the history of the chosen people!
My college studies taught me that the Bible was absolutely unbelievable as a book of fact. Its astronomy, geology, zoology, geography, hygiene, ethnology — what not? were simply ludicrous. It does not claim to be a text book, but it claims to be the inspired word of an all-knowing God, and there is ferocious pressure to put it in our public schools as a text book and to drive out all scientific treatises that contradict it. Mr. Bryan has fought for this purpose; but would even he trust himself on a ship whose captain believed in a four-cornered earth, as did the authors of Revelation and other portions of the Bible?
As one who intended to be an author, I was dazed by the facts, admitted by all honest theologians, that practically none of the books of the Bible were written by the authors ascribed to them; that the texts are infinitely corrupt and contradictory and far distant copies of copies of copies, with never an original in existence. The oldest manuscript of the New Testament dates from the fourth century after Christ; the oldest manuscript of the Old Testament dates from the tenth century after Christ! And the ancient texts differ so much that they are almost original.
Reading such a book as “The God of the Early Christians,” by Dr. A.C. McGiffert, reveals to an honest mind that Christ himself was uncertain of his identity and mission and that the doctrines now preached were arrived at after centuries of groping and disputation in which the rival theorists often butchered each other.
In a fascinating volume recently published by the Oxford Press, “The Last Journey of Jesus to Jerusalem,” the learned author, a doctor of theology, Wm. H. Cadman, minutely examining and comparing the texts, comes to the conclusion that Christ did not know what was before him and that his intended mission was thwarted by the unforeseen betrayal of Judas; he did not die for our sins; he died in vain: History confirms this view.
Such a book as Symes’ “The Evolution of the New Testament,” written by a believer, reveals the chaos and conflict among the apostles, and the amazing condition of the manuscripts. I cannot see how any honest man can read Remsburg’s fine work “The Bible,” Doane’s “Bible Myths,” or Robert Blatchford’s beautiful “God and my Neighbor,” and continue to preach the Bible as a divine work.
Always devoted to Greek art, history, and literature, I was dazed to find that hundreds of years before Christ there were people who believed more in brotherly love and gracious kindliness and democracy than many of the Christians did — or do. It somehow humiliated me to learn that the Greeks knew that the earth was round; that they had figured its circumference out almost exactly. They knew that the insane are only sick people to be treated kindly, though Christ apparently believed the earth to be four- cornered and flat and that insanity was caused by intrusive devils who could be evicted or transferred to somebody’s convenient drove of swine. Greeks had advanced far in surgery, and the temples of AEsculapius were true hospitals.
There is an impediment in my soul that has always prevented me from believing in devils or ghosts. I never did as a child, though I tried to pretend I did and I prayed the Lord nightly not to commit the astounding cruelty of leading me into temptation, Yet Christ believed in devils and not only cast them out but gave his apostles and seventy others the power to cast out devils. On the other hand, he implies in Luke xi, 24-26, that it is unwise to cast a devil out of a man, since after a time the devil will decide to go back and finding the man’s soul “swept and garnished, taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first.”
I say in all meekness that if Christ really said this, he spoke as arrant nonsense as was ever uttered. For eighteen centuries because Christ said that they were inhabited by devils, the Christians treated the insane with devilish cruelty. As late as 1810 George III, King of England, was horse-whipped daily by his butler because of his devilish insanity. Because of this devil- theory, Christianity gave the poor deluded wretches torture, whippings, revilings, neglect, while other religions gave them either superstitious deference or at least gentleness. What an infinity of undeniable kindnesses Christians must show to atone for this inconceivable torture of innumerable invalids!
Liberal clergymen and believers protest against a literal reading of the Bible and speak of the sublimity of Christ’s wisdom and the glorious model of his life.
But what is that model? Shall each of us forbear to marry, hate his family, gain a reputation as a wine-bibber, deny the value of industry, neither toil nor spin nor save, and utter alternately protestations of lowliness and boasts of equality with God? Yet that was exactly “the Christ-life.”
And where is there a saying of Christ’s that is possible and important and new? Where is a vital utterance that he did not himself contradict? What hid he really know about himself? In one saying, he was the only one that ever rose from the dead; yet the dead were raised before him, and he raised them himself. He promised in Matthew xix, 28, that his twelve apostles should sit on twelve thrones in heaven and judge the twelve tribes. This gives Judas a throne in heaven. Yet in John vi, 70, he said, “Have I not chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?”
How much did he know? In Mark v, 8, Christ said to a devil, “Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit.” And he asked him, “What is thy name?” and he answered, saying, “My name is Legion; for we are many.” Thereupon the devils filled a whole herd of swine and ran into the sea. No wonder the herdsmen besought Christ to depart.
But how did it come that Christ thought the poor man had only one devil in him when he really had two thousand?
In spite of all Christ’s healing of the sick, the halt, the blind, and his highly remarkable gift of raising the dead, he grew increasingly unpopular and was more or less lynched. Nowadays a man who really cured people of even the disease of death would be exceedingly popular.
There are many good people who can say that these things do not matter. But I cannot accept as an infinite eternal god a man of such ignorance, impotence, and uncertainty as to his own nature. How can any honest soul deny that Christ was guilty of promulgating an odious savage superstition contrary to science as to humanity? And what can we say of Christ’s celebrated tenderness and mercy after we read what he says in Mark iv, 12, that be used parables in order to deceive those “without the mysteries” lest they should understand them and “lest at any time they should be converted and their sins should be forgiven them”? I was taught that the parables were beautiful stories told in that form so that simple souls could understand. But Christ says he told them in order to hoodwink those whom he didn’t want to save. It is ghastly! It makes my blood run cold! And then there grows a wonder at the whole existence of the tremendous industry of Christianity among the Gentiles. In spite of all the atrocities committed upon the Jews by the Gentiles, only the Gentiles are Christians. They rely upon Christ as the Savior of the world though Christ definitely stated that he came only to save the Jews and considered all others dogs!
What could be plainer? In Matthew xv, 24, it tells how a woman of Canaan came to Christ and he refused to be bothered with her (as he often refused to be bothered with the throngs imploring his miracles). He said: “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of Israel. It is not meet to take the children’s bread and to cast it to the dogs.”
Didn’t Christ himself know what he was here for? The Jews would not have him, and Paul rearranged his gospel to convert the Gentiles. Yet Christ said he came only to Israel.
And in the Book of Revelation, to repeat, it is plainly stated that the New Jerusalem has only twelve gates, one for each of the tribes of Israel.
Where do the Gentiles come in? How is it possible that this incredible building of churches, waging of crusades, butchery of millions, expenditure of billions for centuries, should have been carried on by Gentiles whom Christ was not interested in? If he was, where and when did he say so?
The whole matter of Christ was a spiritual crucifixion for me at first. In spite of his cursing a fig-tree for not bearing fruit out of season and in spite of his running away from the crowds that besought him for cures; in spite of his implying that Gentiles are dogs not worth healing (Mark vii, 27), there is something so adorable about his gentler moods and his poetic promises and his pitiful fate that I clung to a kind of frantic belief in him long after I lost the ability to accept the Old Testament. But finally I yielded to the appalling contradictions in his two genealogies, in the accounts of his mother’s estate and his birth, and his own ideas as to his divinity.
Hell went next. I simply could not stomach a god who could devise and conduct such an infamous institution. Yet Christ believed in hell, in actual fires and eternal torments.
Whatever my fault may be, the cogs of my poor brain simply lock when I try to understand the central theme of Christianity: the theory of vicarious atonement. I can’t even understand the beginning of it. God created a man, then a woman, and forbade them the fruit of a certain tree, which when his children ate with childish curiosity and at the suggestion of a snake (which God never warned them against) eternal damnation was apportioned to them and to all their descendants for thousands of years. I could not tolerate such a god and his revolting sense of persecution. I could not understand his logic: because Adam sinned, we are all born in sin and as Cotton Mather says, “man’s best works are a stench in God’s nostrils.”
After 4004 years of almost universal damnation, something happened in heaven, the details of which the churches have never quite agreed upon: God decided to beget a son upon a virgin. It makes a pretty picture, but why a virgin is better than an honest wife I can’t see, though there is alleged to be such peculiar virtue in female sterility that according to certain creeds Mary not only was a virgin but always will be one to the final eternity and beyond.
There is much confusion among theologians as to whether Christ was in heaven originally or was begotten for a special purpose. If Christ existed from primeval times I can not see how God could beget him again. In fact, I cannot find any two Christians who agree on all the details of this infinitely important matter.
Furthermore, why was Christ born as an infant and why did he live thirty or forty years before he began saving the world, and then only spend a year or two at it, leaving it so unutterably bewildered that one of his disciples betrayed him and one of them denied him? Why is it that Christ himself was not a Christian and that St. Paul, who never saw him, had to invent Christianity? Why did Christ say he was coming back in the life-time of his apostles and let them all die without seeing him again? Why has he never come back?
But waiving all these stupefying riddles, I could not understand how it helped God’s sense of justice to put his own and only son on earth and let him be condemned to a shameful death so painful that Christ himself thought that he was abandoned on the cross and died long before the two thieves died. In any case, I could not, and I cannot, see what Christ’s death has to do with the salvation of the human race.
Beyond that difficulty lies another: only those are saved who believe that he saved them. This implies that belief is a voluntary matter and disbelief a thing of malicious meditation.
Christ said he came to save the Jews; yet to this day they are not saved. Since the World War among the Christians a few Jews are going back to Palestine, but as Jews, not as Christians. The number of Jews who accepted the sacrifice of God’s own son was so small that Paul decided to take the religion to the Gentiles, which brought about a furious quarrel with Peter. The Romans had to save Paul from the Jews. Christ was a circumcised Jew, and yet circumcision is not practiced by the Christians.
The doctrines of election and of infant damnation struck me as absolutely perfect logical deductions from the Bible, and yet as so intolerably revolting to any idea of justice or mercy that I would rather reject a dozen religions than believe them.
I began to wonder if it were not a higher compliment to God to let him alone altogether than to ascribe to him such fiendishness as no maniac in human history ever approached.
They say that if you find a watch, you are sure it had a maker; therefore the universe must have had a maker. Even if it had, it could not have had such a maker as the Christian God. And after that one must still ask, who made the maker? It is no solution of a mystery to call it God. It is a vast increase of the mystery.
It is easy enough to laugh this off as beyond finite understanding. All right. So it must be. Then so is the whole problem, and I will drop it from my thoughts.
While I was still a troubled youth the Revised Version of the Bible came along and met with ferocious hostility. It seemed that religious people not only disagreed in their interpretations but resented correct translations. The revisers tried to keep as close as they could to the King James Version, but they had to make one hundred thousand changes! And the English and the American committees got out separate versions.
When I left college I was in a state of collapse as a Christian. I did not know what to believe but I had a vast baggage of disbeliefs that I could not shake off. I went out into the world and found that a man’s religion had no apparent relation to his character. I learned of the huge amount of crime committed by religious people. I met with a huge amount of goodness among irreligious people.
I simply let religion slide and went about my business, trying to be as decent and honest and kindly as I could. Finally a tremendous thing came to me: the offer of a job as assistant editor of a great history of the world in twenty-five volumes. I was actually paid a salary to sit at a desk and read or go to a great library and delve among books. For four years I read history from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. The history of every nation went through my head. It was paradise on earth. But a serpent seems to be part of the furniture of every paradise.
So now I had to read the religious history of every country. And I was unutterably dismayed to find that the worst crimes in every nation were committed in the name of religion by religious people. In every country the blackest pages were the religious pages, and of all the religions, savage or civilized, the Christian religion had the most horrible record.
By “religion” I do not mean the ingrained instincts of goodness, bravery, love, and loyalty that influence all mankind and many of the animals. I mean the belief in and obedience to a definite superhuman power. It seems to me as dishonest to use the word “religion” for everything decent as it is to pretend that “God-fearing” people are any more honest, pure, or kindly than anybody else.
I know and love and revere many intensely religious people, priests, clergymen, and church-workers, but I know, detest, and despise many in tensely religious people, priests, clergymen and church-workers, and life has deeply convinced me that religion is not to credit for the humanity of good people, but is to blame for the worst inhumanities of mankind.
Where in all the grisly records of human cruelty is there anything to match the Inquisition of Spain, the Crusade against the Albigenses, and the religious tortures of all the Christian nations? I shudder and ache to think of the screams of tortured myriads, the smell of burning flesh, the crackle of broken bones, the mad appeals for mercy, the vain protestations of belief.
In the name of Christ, Christian potentates sat with their women and children and watched helpless Christians burn; great vicars of Christ sat and gloated while Christians bound to stakes shrieked amid slow flames purposely kept at a distance. They screamed as their flesh seared and cackled: “In the name of the sweet Jesus whom I worship, bring the fire closer.” But their appeals were mocked. Not once, not twice, but tens of thousands of times!
The preachers do not preach of this nowadays. It is old- fashioned, old stuff. But it must have hurt to be burned alive even in the name of Christ.
There were good women of pure life who were enmeshed in the infamous nets of doctrinal dispute and after hours of loathsome ritual and pious humiliation were seated in public squares and cooked over slow fires that gradually consumed the hinder parts first. Carefully handled, a strong woman would live for two hours as she baked.
This was not the work of illiterates in the jungle. It was the careful, prayerful work of the most enlightened Christians, and the infamy was committed not upon one or two poor souls but upon thousands, upon myriads. It was committed in all the cities and towns of Christendom.
Voltaire, who ardently believed in a God though not in Christianity, quotes the remarkable summing up of arguments against Christianity by Freret:
“His most terrible argument is, that if God had deigned to make himself a man and a Jew, and to die in Palestine by an infamous punishment, to expiate the crimes of mankind and to banish sin from the earth, there ought no longer to have been any sin or crime on the face of it; whereas, says he, the Christians have been more abominable monsters than all the sectaries of the other religions put together.
“He brings, for an evident proof of this, the massacres, the wheels, the gibbets, and the burnings at the stake, in the Cevennes, and near a hundred thousand human creatures that perished under our eyes in that province; the massacres in the valleys of Piedmont; the massacres of the Valteline, in the time of Charles Borromeo; the massacre of the Anabaptists, massacred and massacrers; the massacres of the Lutherans and Papists, from the Rhine to the extremities of the North; the massacres in Ireland, England, and Scotland in the times of Charles I who was himself massacred; the massacres ordered by Mary and by her father Henry VIII; the massacres on St. Bartholomew’s, in France, and forty years more of other massacres between Francis II and the entry of Henry IV into Paris; the massacres by the Inquisition; massacres, perhaps, yet more execrable as being judicially committed; in short, the Massacre of twelve millions of the inhabitants of the new world, executed crucifix in hand; and this without reckoning all the massacres previously committed in the name of Jesus Christ, without reckoning above twenty schisms and twenty wars of Popes against Popes and Bishops against Bishops; without reckoning the poisons, the assassinations, the rapines of the Popes John XI, John XII, John XVIII, John XXII, of a Gregory VIII, of a Boniface VIII, of an Alexander VI, and of so many other Popes who exceeded in wickedness a Nero or a Caligula.
“In short, he claims that this horrid and almost uninterrupted chain of religious wars for fourteen centuries never subsisted but among Christians, and that no people but themselves ever spilt a drop of human blood for theological dispute.”
How can a Christian hold his head up and admit that myriads of women were burned alive for witchcraft? John Wesley said that if you give up witchcraft you must give up the Bible. He is right. The choice is easy for me.
I do not believe in Buddhism, yet it is older and purer than Christianity and has made enormously more converts without bloodshed or persecution.
Wherein lies this so much trumpeted beauty of Christianity, when it is plain, indisputable fact that no other religion ever approached or attempted to approach the unbearable beastliness of Christianity? It stings me to think of it. I could break down and sob with pity for the poor dear people that were caught in those traps of theology and tormented slowly into their graves. Yet these things happened at the very zenith of the power of the Christian religion.
Montezuma was a heathen and his religion included, like the early Christian religion, human sacrifices and hideous cruelty. Yet when the Christians conquered him their cruelties made him seem merciful by contrast. This American continent of ours, discovered and colonized by Christians, was largely depopulated by the lust for murder that seemed inherent in the faith. The pages of Las Casas can hardly be read without agony; yet according to Lea’s “Inquisition in the Spanish Dependencies” the whole object of the Spanish conquest of America was the propagation of the Christian faith, and it was so stated in a bull of Pope Alexander VI.
After the New World was rid of its primitive peoples, after the beautiful civilization of the Incas was destroyed, after the Mayas and all their books were annihilated and their country restored to the jungle, the Christians had only themselves to practice on.
Then I read what my own Congregationalists did in this country — those noble Pilgrims and Puritans of whom so much good is spoken and so little truth told. My historical research led me to an acquaintance with their fiendish brutality. Tears filled my eyes for the anguishes of harmless old Quaker women stripped and whipped and driven through the snow of village after village with their blood freezing on their half-flayed backs. I read of Baptists lashed “till their skin hung in bloody rags,” of all manner of cruel tyranny inflicted on the minds and bodies of their own people and their visitors.
Believing that freedom of soul, mind and body is the most important privilege of humanity and the one hope of progress, I was stunned to find on reading the history of the world that the religious mind has always been opposed to liberty and equality.
Religious men as individuals have lived and fought and died for liberty, but the various churches have never failed to oppose it until it was established, then tried to seize on the new reins of power.
The United States of America was inspired and led by men of little or no religion, and the clergymen protested fiercely against the republic as godless. John Wesley in 1777 wrote that letters from New York showed him that all the Methodists there were firm for the government and on that account persecuted by the rebels. He preached against our forefathers as rebels against God. When Washington drove the British out of Boston, every Episcopal clergyman there sailed away, except one who was persuaded to remain.
After the war was won, Patrick Henry led a successful movement to prevent clergymen from being eligible as members of the Assembly of Virginia. Long debates over the mention of God in the Constitution ended in a negative decision. For fifty years vain efforts were made to force it in by amendment.
Of the first Presidents, Jefferson was a notorious Infidel. Washington was vestryman in a church because he had to be as a tax- payer; but he never was a communicant and would not stay in the church during communion. The story of his kneeling in prayer on the battlefield is an admitted fable; he never would kneel in church, never recognized Christ in any statement, made contracts on Sunday and went fox-hunting.
Lincoln wrote an atheistic essay as a young man and was called “the atheist Congressman.” His widow said “he lived and died without faith or hope.”
Yet only recently a clergyman broadcasted a sermon in praise of prayer and credited the successes of Washington and Lincoln to the fact that they were “men of prayer.” The clergymen may be slow to accept a new scientific truth, but they never let go of an ancient fable. Where can one find fearless honesty or scientific candor in a pulpit? Every historian expects to find the minimum of truth in an ecclesiastical historian. As Renan says in his preface to the 13th edition of his “Life of Jesus”: “There is one thing that a theologian can never be — a historian.”
The whole principle of human equality has always been fought by priestcraft. As the French republic was opposed by the religious, so were all the American republics. Only a few months ago the Turkish republic found it necessary to banish the sacred Caliphate. The other day the Persians trying to found a republic were told that it was a sacrilege to the Persian religion.
In the United States state churches clung to the revenue until they were pried off. My Congregational Church could not be shaken loose from state appropriations in Massachusetts until 1817. The Church of England still taxes the people. The churches of this country are immense and extravagant edifices, yet they pay no taxes though they meddle with politics at every turn.
The churches fought male suffrage, fought female suffrage, popular education. When a visiting countess introduced forks into France, a great churchman denounced her in a sermon, since God invented fingers. When she died a little later, he said her death was a judgment of God. What a multitude of things have been called “judgments of God,” from boils to earthquakes! Every Sunday the preachers howl nonsensical diatribes against fashions and passing whims. What cyclones of wind they have wasted reviling youth and all its amusements, and all the arts and sciences!
Though churches have always been peculiarly liable to lightning, clergymen preached against lightning-rods as impious, because lightning was God’s particular missile as thunder was his voice. They opposed quinine for malaria, and anesthetics for women in travail, since it was God’s good pleasure that women should cry aloud at that time.
Today William Jennings Bryan goes about like a raging lion getting laws passed forbidding the teaching of evolution and demanding that Genesis be accepted as the final authority on the creation of man — Genesis, that amazing chaos which tells how God created light four days before he made the “two great lights,” the sun and the moon. Even Mr. Bryan knows that the moon is not a light.
Then God split the waters and put the sky in between. Surely Mr. Bryan does not believe that there is another ocean above the sky. In Genesis i, 27, it states that God created male and female in his own image and gave them “every tree.” In Genesis ii, 5, it states that God found there was “not a man to till the ground.” So he formed one out of dust and breathed life into its nostrils and made a garden for it and put in that garden the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, also some rivers that cannot now be traced. Then God told Adam not to eat of the tree of knowledge, “for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” The snake knew better, it seems, for he told Eve that she would not die if she ate, and she did not. Adam did not die for nine hundred and thirty years after he ate the fruit (Genesis v, 5). Did Jehovah ever guess right?
As someone has said: “The first lie man ever heard was spoken by God, and the first truth by the devil.”
I cannot find when Eve died, but she lived till Cain and Able were grown up; for a hundred and thirty years after the Fall she bore Adam a son Seth, who, like Cain, found somewhere a wife in a world in which Eve the first woman had never borne a daughter. Cain after killing Able was afraid that “everyone that findeth me shall slay me,” though there was nobody else in the world but his father and mother. He took a wife — where? Some say he married his sister, but Adam begat no daughters till after Seth was born. It is all insanely mixed.
This incredible matter is what Mr. Bryan and millions of others insist upon as the sufficient mental pabulum of our children. It renders geology and biology and astronomy unnecessary and perilous, and the theory of evolution a thing to be mocked at and lied about outrageously. Mr. Bryan is so stubbornly unfair in his statements about evolution that he must be guilty of two sins: he is either ignorant of what he denounces or he is wilfully mendacious. I should like to know just what books he has read on the glorious and impregnable theory of evolution. Yet laws are being passed or urged all over the United States to force school teachers to accept what the intellect of man rejects with contempt as soon as the fear of churchly persecution is removed.
That fear is incessant. The ancient persecutions will come back the moment the religious fanatics recapture power. This very year a clergyman in New jersey made a bonfire of books — they happened to be religious books, Unitarian and Christian Science books; but the spirit is there.
In this very year a Congressman from Brooklyn introduced a bill making it a penal offence to cast aspersions on any man’s religion. If the bill had passed I might have had not only hell here-after, but several years in the penitentiary for writing this statement of views I can’t help holding. It is hard to keep up a republic!
On May 21, 1924, the Presbyterian Church in its general assembly officially announced its belief that “Adam and Eve were created body and soul by immediate acts of almighty power” and that “any doctrine at any variance therewith is a dangerous error.” Other churches followed suit.
Dr. John Roach Straton, the sweet-souled Baptist who thunders at nearly everything and everybody and who says even worse things of Baptist clergymen who are not Fundamentalists than be has said about the wicked theater and its vicious people — Dr. Straton accuses the Museum of Natural History in New York of “treason to God Almighty and libel against the human race.” He says: “It has been my terrible and woeful experience to witness thousands of little children flocking to the museum to have their juvenile minds poisoned by the foul miasma of evolution.”
And all this typical pulpit-music because of a row of actual skulls of men of different periods tending to confirm the theory modestly and honestly recommended by Darwin and all other scientists as an explanation of what their researches disclose!
The pulpit bullies the politicians. The North Carolina Board of Education, headed by the Governor of the State, has this year barred from the State high schools “all books which in any way intimate an origin of the human race other than that described in the Bible.”
Many people who doubt the creeds of Christianity have been so impressed by its prolonged and ingenious advertisements and the peculiar pressure brought upon them in their childhood that they say: Even if Christianity is not true, who would want to live in a town without a church? would you dare contemplate the closing of all the churches? what would happen if Christianity were removed from the nation?
For answer, consider the facts.
If you could prove by statistics that there are 68,000 Atheists and Infidels in the prisons of this country and only 150 church members, you would have marvelous evidence of the moral value of Christianity, wouldn’t you? You would hear of those figures from the pulpit, in all probability.
Did you ever hear from any pulpit the true statistics? Franklin Steiner has compiled the figures obtained from the authorities concerned and they may be found in his book “Religion and Roguery” with its shocking appendix listing “Crimes of Preachers” and showing their addiction to murder and sex-crimes.
In the penal institutions of the United States and Canada he found 68,863 persons with church affiliation, 8,134 with no church preference, 5,389 Jews, and 150 Infidels, Atheists, and pagans. In 29 states there were only 15 downright unbelievers.
Curiously in striking confirmation of these figures, even as I revised this text (on November 8, 1924), the Crime Commission of Los Angeles completed a survey at the county jail and was surprised to find that “out of 200 prisoners interviewed, 184 professed adherence to some religious faith, only nine denied having any religious faith. Seven declined to answer the question.”
Everywhere we turn we find just that proportion. In Europe as well as in America the churches that are represented by the most criminals are the ones that are most rigid in their creed and most evangelic in their nature. Try this on your own county jail or your state penitentiary or reform schools.
The most ruthless of the pirates and buccaneers observed the Sabbath and often shot dead the irreverent who interrupted divine service. They had their own churches. But the vilest pirates never approached the bloodiness, the perjury, the confiscatory frauds and treacheries of the Christian churches in certain times of power.
There is much of passion in religion as in crime; and even those religious people who keep out of jail are apt to be distinguished by a persecuting tendency, a meddlesome tyrannical spirit either to make rules or to break them. The Bible exploits a god of cruelty, rapacity, heathen ruthlessness, and makes saints of foul criminals. How could it save men from crime?
Furthermore, does not religion itself commit a crime whenever it endeavors to coerce a soul or a nation? Is not the crime of crimes the hostility to spiritual freedom and expression? Is there any influence today that so retards frank and honest study and facing of the facts of existence and of human welfare as the religious influence? Every time a scientist or philanthropist investigates the truth for its own sake, he encounters abuse from the defenders of dogma, which might be described as petrified theory.
In the words of Jacolliot’s “The Bible in India” in which he shows the horrible effects of Hindu religion as well as of Christianity:
“We have seen human hecatombs on the burning piles of faith and the altar reddened with blood. Ages have passed away; we are but wakening to the progress of Freethought. But let us expect struggles without end, until the day when we shall have the courage to arraign all sacerdotalism at the bar of liberty.”
In sober reason, then, one might argue that if Christianity were to disappear overnight from the hearts of the citizens, the prisons would be almost entirely emptied and crime would almost disappear.
I do not press this argument, but has it not far better foundation than the tremendously trumpeted falsehood that morals depend on religion and that Christianity is the only salvation? Does it not render ludicrous the plea that children should be taught to read the Bible — the greatest collection of crime- inspiration and justification ever compiled?
How can we say that Christianity benefitted this continent — especially when we read the appalling denunciations all the preachers make of the spiritual state of this continent today? If they would admit that we are good today — if preachers had even once admitted that their own times were good — there might be some argument. But they never did. They don’t. They never will.
Yet they continue to insist that they have saved the world in the only way it can be saved. Offering a religion filled with Orientalism, modified by Greek principles, and full of stories forcibly borrowed from the worship of Mithra, they dare to pretend that Christians are somehow mystically better than the Greeks or the Orientals; that Christians of evil life are infinitely superior to non-believers however virtuous.
To sustain this outrageous and immoral doctrine they stop at nothing. They attack school-books that tell the children the truth. They commit the infamy of attacking the very souls of the infants and staining them with legends that can never be quite forgotten.
In California this year the clergy made an onslaught on the State Board of Education in an endeavor to drive from the schools no less than fifty text-books. All over the nation the same holy crusade is preached by fanatics. In one of the states school- teachers are compelled to take an oath annually that they believe in a literally inspired Bible, a personal devil, and a real hell.
The pulpiteers don’t want researches made. They won’t have the Bible examined or its interpretation or its manuscripts or its evolution considered. They won’t have the rocks and the waters looked into. The won’t have microscopes and telescopes believed. They have it all written down once for all in a book of which there are no two similar translations, and concerning which the pulpiteers themselves are at eternal war.
And not one of them obeys Christ’s definite instructions not to pray in public (Matthew vi, 6) not one of them sells all his goods and gives to the poor; not one of them is meek and indifferent to blows.
One of my greatest reasons for giving up going to church is my belief that the pulpit is the greatest power ever known for persecution, bigotry, ignorance, dishonesty, and reaction.
It is well said that “eternal vigilance is the price of liberty,” and I am confirmed every day in my intense conviction that the church as the church is the enemy of freedom. While protesting loudly its faith in the Truth with a capital T, “the truth that shall make us free,” it fights at every step every effort to learn the truth and publish it and be guided by it.
I find that crime is encouraged by these haters of truth and freedom. Believing in, or at least proclaiming, the all- righteousness of such a criminal god, the list of infamies committed by clergymen is appalling. Clergymen are represented in the penitentiaries by far more than their quota and for every crime imaginable. I have a list of over six thousand crimes by clergymen, which I shall not attempt to quote.
Many of the newspapers suppress or minimize the crimes of the clergy. When recently a Detroit clergyman committed a murder and was tried and convicted for it, a Detroit paper devoted to the entire story one-quarter of a column, though it had published 114 columns concerning the still unexplained murder of a moving-picture director.
When the moving pictures were shaken up by this mysterious death and by the trial and acquittal of a comedian, nearly every pulpit in the land throbbed with demands for an investigation and governmental control of the pictures, for the expulsion from them of everybody whom scandal touched, and the suppression of all pictures in which anybody appeared against whom a charge should ever be made. Steps were taken, slanders shouted, and great injury done to the whole art and industry.
A little later, in the East and the West, two clergymen were shot dead with women known for some time to be their mistresses. I waited in vain to hear one clergyman mention this from the pulpit or in an interview. Not a synod or assembly called for investigation of all churches and choirs, not a step was taken for the censorship of the lives and utterances of preachers. I wrote an article about this and an editor said he would not dare to publish it, true as it was. Why must the religion of the infinite God fear fair play and the truth?
When the two young men Loeb and Leopold kidnapped and murdered a boy in Chicago, the reporters announced that the boys believed in evolution. That was enough. From almost every pulpit there rose a trumpeter who cried that this proved the horrid influence of the theory of evolution and the need of belief in the Bible. Almost all the ministers demanded the lives of these wretches and called their quite common-place atrocity “the unparalleled crime of the century.” Always they want somebody’s blood.
At the same time the far more appalling deeds of a Methodist minister, also of Illinois, came to light. He had indulged in long illicit relations with the wife of a miner. From his very pulpit he had exchanged signals with her for their rendezvous. He persuaded her to poison her husband and as the victim died, the minister prayed over him and announced that the miner had died “redeemed,” the clergyman had saved his soul from hell. Later the clergyman’s wife fell ill and he held her up in bed to drink the coffee in which he had put poison enough to kill her. She died, and investigations started. Confessions were dragged at last from the paramour and the parson and he begged to be made a chaplain in the penitentiary so that he might “save” other souls.
Did the preachers confess from their pulpits that one of their venerable number had far outdone the viciousness of the two young “evolutionists”? They did not! They never do! They never will!
Yet they continue to proclaim the unfailing merits of their cure-alls. They publish great advertisements in the papers announcing that the only way to be washed white is in the blood of the lamb. They struggle to keep from their natural victims, the ignorant children, all books of true knowledge, and fight incessantly to place in their hands as a divine model the Bible which showers the blessings of a heartless deity on the most frightful and contemptible scoundrels.
Innumerable sermons are preached, laying the blame for crime on the love of amusement. But there is silence concerning the crimes of people driven mad by religious ecstasy. A girl in Florida recently stamped her father to death as a religious offering; just as that unspeakable dog Abraham had the knife at the throat of his son (whom he had ordered to gather wood for his own funeral pyre) when the whimsical Lord told him to sacrifice a poor ram instead. I have a sermon in my library in which a minister denounced an Infidel as a man who would never have followed the beautiful example of Abraham even if God told him to!
A few months ago a young man burned his family alive in a gasoline-soaked bed because they were anti-Christ. No preacher pointed to his act as the result of religious training. We call him a maniac and feel sorry for him. Yet he did exactly what thousands of Christian potentates did publicly with prayers to tens of thousands of other Christians.
The conventions of clergymen are appallingly expensive and appallingly futile. They have recently gone in for a war against war; they will “outlaw war” because Christ was the Prince of Peace (though he truly boasted that he brought a sword into the world). Yet the Sunday School Times for November 8, 1924, calls upon “countless thousands of God’s children throughout the world” to pray for the military success of the Chinese general Feng, not because they know anything about the war but because Feng is a Christian convert and his soldiers sing Christian hymns with Feng’s own words. Feng has been called a traitor, a Benedict Arnold, because he betrayed his own allies, “but those who have followed the consecrated and sacrificial life of this Christian general cannot but believe that he acted in accordance with his own deepest convictions of God’s will and after much prayer.” So all Christians “who know how to pray” are asked to “be faithful to Feng.” This is surely the very vomit of hypocrisy.
Indecency is the pulpiteer’s prerogative. Every preacher discusses morals from the pulpit in a way that no one else is allowed to approach.
One of the best sellers of the day is Papini’s “Life of Christ,” in which he pronounces the Sermon in the Mount (which is made up of old proverbs and which no one understands, believes literally, or acts upon) to be the very highest achievement of divinity in mankind. Yet Papini refers to the Protestants as “the hemorrhoids of Luther” and calls them various other names of equal grace and Christian charity. Papini was once a violent Atheist and if I believed in prophecy I would prophesy that he will soon be denouncing his own Christianity. He is of the violent weather-wane type.
The churches talk glibly today of Christianity as the foundation of the brotherhood and equality of man, though the Greeks had a democracy hundreds of years before Christ, and all absolute monarchs, from Constantine to the Kaiser, have claimed to take their dominion from God.
The Christian church supported slavery for centuries. At a time when England forbade slavery, one of the greatest slave- traders to foreign ports was the head of the English church.
The Methodist, Baptist, and other churches in the United States took official steps to forbid their clergymen from favoring abolition. American clergymen used to stand at the auction block and tell the negro merchandise that it was God’s will that they should be slaves and that they should find comfort in obedience. The Bible indeed is full of slavery with never a word against it. God himself told his people just how to put the slave against a door and drive a hole through his ear with an awl to mark him for life.
The present equality and freedom of women was secured in defiance of the orders of the Bible and the frantic opposition of all the churches. To this day eminent clergymen denounce women for throwing off their scriptural servitude.
In all my lifetime of history reading I find not one instance where the Christian creed of itself prevented a cruelty or an atrocity, but I find innumerable instances where it provoked the vilest evils and the most fiendish cruelties.
A year or two ago I read that the Presbyterian Church had voted from its funds $175,000 for the conversion of Jews to Christianity. This is absolutely amusing, and yet it is ghastly to realize that nearly two thousand years after Christ came to save the chosen people, after thousands of them were tortured to death, it should seem ridiculous to try to convert a Jew to Christianity.
The Christians have found it easier to convert them to the graveyard, and pogroms still break out and will break out. Chesterton, who is an ardent believer in Christianity, said that the crimes of Christianity must sicken the very sun.
I read recently that the church architects this year were to meet and consider the best way to take care of this year’s budget of $200,000,000 which is to be devoted to building and rebuilding churches. Add to this the salaries of the church armies and the billions on billions invested in church property and tell me if it is a paying investment. It pays no taxes. Does it pay anything real?
No population is so at grips with poverty that its church element does not extract enough money to build some temple of worship and support a religious institution more expensive than it can afford and serving no really useful purpose. Servant girls, scrubwomen, poor farmers and half-starved villagers are everywhere frightened and cajoled into sacrificing their scant savings for the construction of vast edifices where superstition rears its gorgeous head.
General Grant in a presidential message to Congress in 1875, strongly urged “taxation of all property equally, whether church or corporation,” and he gave the warning that there might be “sequestration through blood” if church property were not peacefully taxed. In a speech that same year he cried, “Keep the church and the state forever separate.”
The churches ought either to be forced to pay taxes, or to allow their empty edifices to be used as schools during the week. This would save billions of taxpayers’ money and save tens of thousands of children from going to school in tents or not at all.
The churches do not tell the truth and are not interested in facts as facts. They claim to be superior to facts. As if anybody could be! Surely if there is a God, facts are his most definite statements.
In the course of my four years’ work as a historian I learned that no religious historian is reliable on a religious topic. The Protestant accounts of the Catholics are even fiercer than the Catholic accounts of the Protestants. If the outsider believes either of them, he must be afraid of both of them. Even when a theologian tries to include the crimes of his church, he veils them in language that conceals their horror, saving his strong words for the evils of his opponents.
Much that I attack here is also assailed by the more liberal and advanced among the clergy. They will feel that they are unjustly ignored. But they are themselves ferociously abused by the fundamentalists of their own sects and by the preachers of other sects. The peril from the fanatics is manifest; it is daily; it is everywhere.
The liberal theologian is chained to a corpse by a short chain that rattles as he struggles and drags him back when he would progress. I agree with the fundamentalists in their claim that the Bible must be taken entire or let alone; that you must take all of Christ or give him up as a supreme teacher and as a savior.
As for living the Christ life, it cannot be done, and it ought not to be done. Too much ugliness is included in the sweetness.
The church papers are always asking why people do not go to church. They have always been asking that. I will guarantee to find the query in any given year of the Christian history of which there is liberal record.
People do not go to church in large numbers, because, for all they may say and think they think, they know it is a waste of time.
In staying away from church I can’t believe that I miss much. In the Monday morning papers I read the subjects of the sermons preached in many cities, and sometimes I read excerpts from the sermons. They seem to me to be mostly unimportant when true and as a rule appallingly false. The claims made by the various sects for their peculiar brands of cure-all; the amazing contradictions and inane recommendations; the ferocious injustices to one another, to fact, to the unbelievers, make the pulpit anything but a source of reliable information or of practical inspiration.
If “the supreme happiness of salvation” is an argument for belief, then happiness is as legitimate a pursuit as our Declaration proclaims. I do not find happiness in religion any more. I simply cannot believe any longer. I haven’t the brain for it. To my perverted and muddy soul that sublime utterance of Tertullian’s “I believe it because it is impossible” (Credo quia impossible est) would belong in “Alice in Wonderland” if it were not silly without being funny. The vast literature of the Church Fathers and their arguments on the subjects they chose simply disgust me with the human race.
I am so constituted that it strikes me as disgraceful for Christians to claim that their religion is so superior to others when the facts are plain that Christian countries are no better than other countries. In this country, for example, crime of all sorts exceeds that in all other countries to an overwhelming degree.
Nobody honestly believes that church-members are less likely to embezzle, flirt, or be brutal than non-church-members; or that Christians are more honest than Chinamen. On the testimony of the missionaries life is as safe in the African jungle as it is in the most Christian cities, and so is a woman’s virtue. Before the Christians destroyed the Incas, a woman could walk the whole length of Peru without peril. Everybody knows that a man’s creed has nothing whatever to do with his character or his conduct. To deny this is to deny everyday experience.
In my own case I know the loss of religion has not made the least difference in my character, either for good or evil, for sorrow or for happiness. People often say, “If I ceased to believe in God and a future life, I’d go mad.” I say, “Oh no, you wouldn’t. I didn’t. I don’t feel any change.”
For if you believe in the Christian future life you must believe that hell is infinitely more crowded than heaven. I can’t see how a decent human being could endure heaven knowing that most of his family and friends are in everlasting woe. Good old Christians used to say that the chief bliss of the saved will be in watching the tortures of the damned. That’s good Christianity, but as humanity it is outrageous beyond endurance.
I do not believe that all I believe is true. Deeply as I am convinced of certain things, I am utterly afraid of my own opinions. I would not enforce them on any other person. I would not silence his contradictions of me. I want to keep my mind open to new aspects of truth and new opinions, I want my opponents to have every freedom to express everything whatsoever.
Sincerely as I dread and abhor the teachings of most of the churches and churchmen, I would not lift my little finger to prevent one of them from absolute freedom of utterance.
I do not believe in censorship of others or of myself. I could wish as much freedom as I grant. It seems to me that this republic has no more important task than to remember that it was the first nation, whose first government put the church out of political power. The church is always trying to get back in. In spite of the fearful history of religious power the ardent churchmen still will meddle with the government of men. This country has been spared the most horrible experiences of other nations. It can escape permanently only by an unceasing fear of letting religion acquire a foothold in the government, for the moment the churchman comes in at the door with power, that moment freedom flies out of the window.
The church has shown what it can do to its subjects: the gag, the thumbscrew, the dungeon, the fiery stake, excommunication, hell here and hereafter for those who question the divine will. Let us never forget, or we are lost.
The true freeman, the true American, realizes that his right to liberty and equality compels him to grant liberty and equality. He dreads above all things the coercion of another soul, the suppression of free thought and free speech.
The strangest, saddest thing about religious opposition to the freedom of the soul is the ferocity, the ruthlessness of it. Men dispute earnestly about many things and are good sports after the fight. Democrats, Republicans call names, make wild charges and are good friends afterwards. Scientists, historians, business men, artists wrangle violently and yet observe the code of the duel.
But religious disputes and wars are to the death and to hell afterwards. The truth is never sough regardless of consequences. The dogma is not based on examination and proof, with a day in court for the opponent. But faith is fanatic, conscienceless, and fatal. Where the clergy are all-powerful, liberalism is doomed in advance.
They even oppose those they should help most. When certain men tried to free the slaves in this country — when earlier men tried to free this country, almost all the pulpits assailed them with anathema.
When Golden Rule Jones was Mayor of Toledo and tried to put the Golden Rule into practice the churches were solid against him. When the true saint Judge Ben Lindsey organized a children’s court where he could suffer the little children to come to learn justice in words of one syllable, he began a lifelong martyrdom under the assaults of the churches. The politicians were bad enough, but the clergy almost unanimously waged unscrupulous war.
There are good, brave, glorious clergymen, and almost all of them are sincere, but most of them are prisoners on the treadmill of their own set creeds and rituals. I should think they would drive God mad with the eternal repetitiousness of their services, their groveling flatteries and insulting servilities. As a class they dread progress.
The thing that makes churchmen such dangerous citizens is their belief that they have a god directing them and that those who oppose them are opposing God. This is the secret origin of all the horrors. A man alone is subject to evil impulses enough, but a man and a god are a thousand times as dangerous.
Surely, surely the world has lived long enough and poured out enough blood and piled up enough corpses to make this one lesson final: that religion in power is the greatest curse of mankind.
And now for my lastly: If in anything I have written I have hurt or shocked any gentle soul or any cruel fanatic, let them both realize that I speak with simple sincerity, with ardor only for the truth, with doubt only of oppression.
It is because I am weak and silly that I fear those who are so confident of their beliefs that they will act upon them ruthlessly. I am afraid of the Christians because I have read too much about them and pondered them too long. I am so myopic that they look to me like the very devils in which I do not believe.
I am so womanish that I sicken at the very thought of the millions of poor, charred, broken, and slaughtered men, women, and children whom the Christians and the priests of other creeds have put to utter torment of flesh and spirit.
Christians have done and do beautiful, beautiful things. But so it is with savages and dogs and apes.
Christ is much praised for driving from the Temple the money- changers and them that sold doves; but he made no protest against the heartless slaughter of doves, the burning of lambs and all the age-long horror of cooking animals in order that the sweet savor of their flesh might tickle the nostrils of a god whom he imagined sitting within reach of the fragrant smoke, and willing to accept the death of a goat, an ox, or a child as an atonement for a sin. He even accepted the death of his own son as an expiation for the sins of all mankind!
God watches the sparrow fall, but does not rescue it from the hawk. If he is such a being as the Bible describes, he will put me in that inconceivably vast multitude of the damned whose cries must surely drown the harp music and the hallelujahs of the few whom he has elected to serve about his throne. He has a throne and sits on it with Christ at his right hand. Yet he is everywhere and hears everything. So he will hear me howl.
Many good souls protest against a destructive criticism of Christianity and demand a substitute. I do not feel any obligation to substitute a new god for the old ones. I should gladly let them all go. I do not approve of cancer, and yet I do not feel that I have no right to attack a quack who promises a false cure until I have a real cure to propose. As someone said: he who helps destroy the bollweevil has done as constructive work as he who plants the seed.
As for those who protest that I am robbing people of the great comfort and consolation they gain from Christianity, I can only say that Christianity includes hell, eternal torture for the vast majority of humanity, for most of your relatives and friends.
Christianity includes a devil who is really more powerful than God, and who keeps gathering into his furnaces most of the creatures whom God turns out and for whom he sent his son to the cross in vain.
If I could feel that I had robbed anybody of his faith in hell, I should not be ashamed or regretful.
For the present I am happier than any Christian I know. Now I have a wonderful peace of soul in letting the universe run itself and in trying to ride on it and keep out from under the wheels without trying to talk to the Motorman. If I have offended your God, your God is quick to punish when he is ready. He has room for me in his hell and fuel to spare. So let us go our separate ways: you to bliss, and I to blister.
If it shall prove to be true that my failure to believe is itself a crime against God; if my failure to pay him the kind of worship which I cannot, to save me, make sure he wants, is an offense against him, as against you, then you can surely leave my punishment to him.
Believers call me a Materialist and say that I miss the “spiritual significance,” the loftiness of religious yearnings. But the true “materialist” seems to me the man who believes that a sprinkling of baptismal water has an effect on sins and on encircling devils; that sin can be washed in the blood of a lamb; that eating bread and drinking wine called the flesh and the blood of a god can have a cannibalistic virtue; that words and music can please the ears of god, and sweet smells, costly robes and loud shoutings can win his favor.
Browning said: “There may be heaven; there must be hell: meanwhile there is our earth here — well?”
Our earth here! that is parish enough for us. Knowledge relieves miseries, brings comfort, saves lives, spreads beauty within the reach of the poorest. If the billions spent in huge empty buildings were devoted to housing the sick and the poor; if the billions spent on the wages of myriads of clergymen who waste their lives in calling aloud to their god Baal or whatever they call him, were spent in really useful human works, these often well-meaning and often gifted men would not squander so much history, so much power, so much eloquence on the hideous folly that “the fear of god is the beginning of wisdom” and the secret of virtue.
Two hundred million dollars spent this year in this country to adding to the number of half-empty warehouses of piety! Thousands of Ministers warring with one another and with common sense. If there is a god such as they insist on immortalizing from the fancies of ancient and ignorant nomads, what need has he of these innumerable dollars?
If there is a god and he is a god of love, God knows he must wish that his children’s treasure and their toil and their fervor should be spent upon one another and on the countless miseries of this unhappy world, which might be made so beautiful. Instead of sanctifying piety, let us make a religion of pity, of mutual help, of the search for truth and power, and the increase of freedom.
Answers to Critics and Correspondents
I never heard or read of an Infidel who protested against any religion because it hampered his evil instincts and made vice difficult; or because religious people were too good, too pure, too sweet, too honest to be endured.
Every attack on religion I ever encountered was inspired by a revulsion against the corruptions, the cruelties, and the shameless lies of religious people. We who attack are revolted by the dishonesty of their documents, the trickiness of their politics, the hypocrisy of many of their followers, the bloodthirstiness and greed of their priests and their history, their outrageous pretensions, their hostility to mercy, to friendliness, to peace and to progress.
One thing religious people seem never to understand; one thing for all their imagination they seem incapable of imagining: and that is that the man who speaks against their religion may be actuated by just as great a fervor, just as warm a conviction of eternal truth, just as keen an eagerness for the welfare and nobility of humanity, as the best of them can feel.
Christians never hesitate to revile other religions, or to send among them missionaries generally ignorant and often insolent. They freely revile the innumerable other sects of their own church. They assail and ridicule the most sacred tenets of alien faiths. But when their own is attacked they are struck with horror.
The motive of the attack is the first thing they suspect. It must always be base, though their own motives are always lofty. This is particularly true of one who attacks not a mere phase of religion, but religion itself.
The purposes of Infidels and Atheists are of course always infamous, ruthless, and heartless.
For years I hesitated to write the article which is the first part of this book and which has caused my name to be held up to obloquy in countless pulpits, countless articles, countless letters.
But my heart was so enraged by the ancient atrocities still being committed incessantly today against honesty, history, science, common sense, common decency and the duty of mankind to itself, that I could keep silent no longer.
I am by nature the most amiable of men, a sentimentalist whose sense of the ridiculous does not always save him from the accusation of mawkishness. I hate nobody and would harm nobody, least of all good people of beautiful hope.
It does not amuse or stimulate me to be insulted or to insult. But I could not forever contain my wrath against mountainous deception. I felt it my solemn inescapable duty to make what protest I could against the unbounded ambitions, the craft and the subtle poisons of professional religionists.
And so I proposed to the editor of The Cosmopolitan an article telling the truth about the evils of Christianity and its marked decline in power throughout the world. He answered that he felt it would be more interesting and less perilous if I wrote it in the form of a personal experience.
I did, and he published it, omitting for reasons of space and other considerations which the publisher of a general magazine must keep in mind, those portions of the article which I have here restored and revised.
Immediately on the appearance of the magazine the storm broke about my head — a storm of gratitude and approval from innumerable anti-Christians of every age and condition; a storm of abuse and protest ranging from the hard-shelled parsons (who demanded that the magazine be forever debarred from circulation and all my works consigned to hasty oblivion) to the liberal parsons and pulpit evolutionists (who said I was attacking long-exploded beliefs, a procession that had long since passed, a devil, a god, a hell, a heaven, a Bible that nobody believed in literally any more).
From the religious laity came letters ranging from anonymous promises of hell-fire to promises of prayer and hope for my eventual redemption. One sent me my picture with added horns, tail and pitch-fork; another called me her little baby and wanted to take me in her lap and teach me my early piety again.
Some pious souls must forever be making new Christs, and it may be my fate to be added to the numberless Messiahs. I have already been nominated as John the Baptist and my mother as the Mother of the Universe. On December first, a woman called me on the telephone (the modern voice from the sky) and told me that she had a revelation from heaven, a clear voice stating that I had paved the way for him who died on the cross to return — he would come again soon to correct the errors with which wicked men had filled the Bible in order to frustrate his first advent.
She added the interesting detail that Christ was really a woman who had taken a man’s form in his previous incarnation because of the world’s hostility to women. The voice from heaven told her that my mother was really the Mother of the Universe, the true Virgin Mary.
When I explained that I was too busy for a personal call and asked her to write me the rest, she promised to do so, saying that her pen was controlled by the deity, but that the people around her were hostile to her.
Harsh critics will make certain remarks about this fervent soul, but, after all, is not her evidence as good as much of the Christian doctrine — is her inspiration any more hallucinatory? Do not the loudest preachers display the same logic, the same trust in voices, impulses, and inspirations?
The attention my article received from the pulpits of all sects amazed me. It would seem that hardly a city or village in the land failed to hear of me from one or more pulpits, sometimes two or three a Sunday in the same town. Our unfailing shouting parson, Dr. John Roach Straton, devoted two sermons to me in New York, after flaying me alive in Kentucky.
One evangelist advertised in large type: “Do you believe Jesus Christ or Rupert Hughes?” To which my answer was: I advise you to believe neither. I do not offer my own writings as gospels, and the only writing Christ was ever known to do was on sand when he annihilated the law against adultery by the beautiful but devastating principle that only the absolutely innocent could begin the punishment: a principle which Christian law-makers and judges have never seen fit to follow.
The more liberal clergymen ridiculed me less as a vile and infamous liar than as a poor ignoramus who was not aware of the fact that most clergymen believed in an evolution of religion and conceded that the Bible was only folk-lore and that the virgin birth, the trinity, the vicarious atonement, etc., were obsolete fossils of outworn faiths. But as I see it now, if you let go all these ancient pretensions, Christ becomes simply one of countless erring philosophers and deserves no more than his fair share of consideration.
One clergyman preached: on “Rupert Hughesism — its Cause, Cure and Prevention.” The headlines howled, “Rupert Hughes Driven to Religious Suicide by Unreasonable Theology.”
A few clergymen wrote me letters revealing great kindliness, sympathy, and tolerance, and endeavored to reason with me. I could imagine that these preachers were really beautiful souls; but the ferocity, dishonesty, and slander of most of them did not enhance my opinion of the individuals or indicate that their religion had sweetened and hallowed them as much as the advertisements would indicate.
Few of them seem to realize how much they belittle their all- powerful god when they grow so excited over the fact that a tiny worm has reared its head against Him. They seem to fear that their god cannot take care of Himself if questioned.
Almost without exception the clergy denounced my article as an insult, an outrage, something that had no right to publication. Which is curious in our alleged republic, with its boast of religious freedom and its sacred constitutional guaranty of free speech and free press.
In 1546 an archbishop of Naples fastened to his palace door an edict absolutely forbidding the laity to discuss creeds. This sounds medieval as one finds it in Lea’s “Inquisition in the Spanish Dependencies,” but the edict seems to be still in force if the response of the cloth to my impertinence is any test.
As a cross-section of American religious opinion I think the responses to my article have a vivid value and are worthy of the large space I give them. It would take volumes to include all the sermons and letters.
The letters completely convince me of one thing: that genuine fervent Christian faith occupies an exceedingly small number of American hearts, minds, and lives.
Sermons by many of the most ferocious preachers against me were sent by members of their congregations who ridiculed their pastors unmercifully and expressed a disgust with them and their doctrines.
Of the minute percentage of Americans who attend church regularly, it is evident that a large number go because they have formed the habit from childhood compulsion, neighborhood custom, and a dearth of other entertainment.
The warmth of the letters from the multitudinous unbelievers has heartened me greatly. But the irreligious people are unorganized. They have no tremendous vested interests, no meeting- places, tax-exempt and almost exempt from criticism, no priesthood devoted to keeping the cause aglow and the salaries alive. Yet the unbelievers constitute an immense power, a silent mass. They are that unexpected rock that ministers run against so frequently when they combine for political action and find their divine activities unsupported, find the men they have denounced triumphantly elected. The unbelievers say little, but think deep.
It is gratifying to find that the letters in approval of my article far outnumber those in disapproval. I had in fact many telegrams of enthusiastic praise, some of them signed by a group of names. Naturally, many of my religious critics are abusive and vicious, but it is interesting to note the chaos of their contradictions of one another. It was painful to note how many of the religious zealots were anonymous.
Though it may look like vanity, I include a few, and only a few, of the letters of approval as an indication of their general tone and of the cordiality of modern skepticism.
The editor of The Cosmopolitan was deluged as I was with letters of terrific denunciation, but also with letters of most cordial gratitude for his courage. A great many readers went so far in their approval as to send in subscriptions!
Perhaps other editors will take heart from his experience and realize that it is not absolutely fatal to give occasional space to the enormous longing for expression of honest religious doubt in this vauntedly free country.
DEAR RUPERT: Stick to the novel — fiction allows so many ridiculous and impossible vaporings to pass unchallenged.
When I read your “Why I Quit Going to Church” I found you to be a bigger jackass than your dry, driveling, unoriginal novels have already sufficiently indicated.
A CHURCH GOER,
(More Than Ever.)
WEST NEWTON, MASS.
To RUPERT HUGHES: From your story in Cosmopolitan you lead me to believe that you are somewhat of a nut. Even your picture on page forty-five shows that your not a human being but you like to be in the publicly. A man that talks like do should be cremated to find out what your brain looks like. Try reading a Bible that has some facts. You read all this junk the Protestants have. They never had a bible. Every Protestant church has a different fraze for the bible and your one of them. I think your perverted brain needs attention by some specialist. There seems to be a lot of nuts like you but they general winds up in asylums.
THE WRITER ABOVE,
Oh, Rupert Hughes, “how have the mighty fallen!”
I’m not a religious fanatic. I seldom go to church because my family won’t go with me. Our boy was educated at one of the big universities. It was there he got your ideas. I never discuss the subject because it breaks my heart. It cost us $10,000 to get him to doubt the Bible. Perhaps you would say: “Would you have me a hypocrite to cover up what I believe?” No. But you have a tremendous influence. No matter what you or anyone else says, there is a God, and the Bible will stand as long as the world. If I had no faith I might as well be a cat or a dog.
I believe as firmly as I believe I see the mountains from my window, that your popularity will now be on the wale. Even though you have told the truth as you see it, there are thousands who will say as I do. “Poor Rupert Hughes! I’m so sorry!” I’ll never feel that glow of pride again as I read your stories. Something fine has gone away. Poor Rupert Hughes. I’m so sorry.
JUST A READER..
DEAR LITTLE RUPERT HUGHES: Dear little boy of mine, I am writing this with The Cosmopolitan, containing your article and picture, right by me, and I look at your dear “little boy” face, and in spirit I am holding you fast in my arms the while I gently rock you to and fro as my dear mother used to do for me when my wee heart was broken, and when she found sometimes the break was hard to mend she’d say, “Well, dear, if you can’t be happy, then mother must cry too, because unless you can stop you’re going to break your mother’s heart.” And that always “fetched” me, for I never could bear to see my mother weep.
So, dear babe of mine, I read your piece and smiled also, and even laughed at your expression; but oh, the tears were very near, and I say to you “If you cannot be happy you will break my heart.” Now I am going to try to make you happy, and myself dear to you. … I do believe I can guide you to the light again and something will sing in your heart and will never more be still. It sings now in mine, the while I rock you, poor little lost boy of mine — mother’s right here.” … I have a curious little “doll” I’d love to let you play with — a faith, in other words, that is so immovable and so sure that no sorrow, no evil, no treachery, no wrong, no injustice can do more than make me say, “Oh, I’m so sorry for everything in all the world that isn’t beautiful and good and happy” or in other words, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” And never have I failed to look up and smile through tears to say to my “doll:” “Thank God, you’re a gentleman.”
With all my heart I am “little mother” of yours, Rupert boy,
(From a Baptist Evangelist)
THE ENLISTMENT DEPARTMENT, GEORGIA BAPTIST CONVENTION, ATLANTA, GA.
Evangelists: T.F. Callaway, E.C. Cowan.
Of all the jackassical (apologies to the jack ass) articles I ever wasted time in wading through, your illuminating effusions as to Why you don’t go to Church had about the loudest brag. As if anybody cared.
I am sure your presence at church is greatly missed. Furthermore, you have completely annihilated the church and I am sure that even God is duly squelched.
I know Moses, Paul, and even Jesus have been highly enlightened by your super-wisdom and will henceforth correct all errors.
No, Bud, the reason you don’t go to church is because of that SIN in your life and you don’t want to be reminded of it. What sin is it? Honest, is it Adultery? Is it Booze? Is it Poker?
Get your back on that sin, accept Christ as your Saviour; then the church won’t be so continually pricking your heart.
Bud, you might as well try to dig down Gibraltar with a pen knife as to attempt to blast at the Rock of Ages. God, the Bible, and the church were here thousands of years before you ever contributed the light of your wisdom to it, and will be here thousands of years after you have made your exploring expedition into hell and found out that there is a Hell.
Excuse me while I vomit,
Yours for Christ and His Church,
ANSWER TO A METHODIST BISHOP
(In the Atlanta Journal for October 12, Bishop Candler of the M.E. Church contributed an article of extraordinary violence, and Dr. C.B. Wilmer another of much less ferocity. I wrote the following reply, which the journal published November 23, 1924.)
I do not know whether the heading “Why This Senseless Scream?” carried by Bishop Candler’s ferocious assault on me, refers to his article or to mine. In either case, his tone would justify the headline.
He invites me to take up my abode in another country since I am dissatisfied with this Christian land. But in the first place my ancestors on both sides came to Virginia before there was a Methodist Church; and in the second place, I might ask Bishop Candler if he remembers that John Wesley, the founder of Methodism and its leading light, preached two sermons denouncing the Americans for rebelling against their royal and divine master the king of England. The sermons are to be found in Volume I of his Collected Sermons as published by the Methodist Book Concern.
In Volume VI of that work there are two pamphlets, written in 1775, again opposing the American claims to independence. Furthermore in Volume VII will be found a letter to Joseph Benson, dated London, January 1, 1777, in which John Wesley says:
“I have just received two letters from New York. They inform me that all the Methodists there were firm for the government, and on that account persecuted by the rebels only not to death; that the preachers are still persecuted, but not stopped.”
Bishop Candier belongs to the Methodist Episcopal Church; and he can learn that when Washington drove the British out of Boston, eighteen Episcopal clergymen also left, but sent one of their number back so that the church might not be entirely unrepresented.
This Republic was founded by men who were almost unanimously denounced for their Infidelity, and many of them, like Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and various others were notoriously or gloriously unchristian.
I cannot therefore permit even a Methodist bishop to order me out of the country. He advises Russia, but I decline to go there also. Russia has suffered horrible tyranny in the past from vicious monarchs who were also religious men supported by the Russian Christians. The Czar was in a sense the Pope of the Greek Church.
The atrocities of the Bolshevists win no approval from me, although it is not hard to understand the excesses of men who saw the hideous cruelty and tyranny of monarchs supported by the church. After the French Revolution the reaction against the church was similarly vicious.
As for the sweetness, tolerance, and gentle persuasiveness of Bishop Candier’s article, I might quote another sentence from Wesley’s sermons, Vol. II, p. 439: “Why has Christianity done so little good, even among the Methodists?” Surely it ought to be possible in this free country whose Constitution guarantees religious liberty, for a man to come out with a statement of his reasons for disbelieving the churches as conducted, without being assailed as a combination of criminal and imbecile.
I do not object to his calling me “a novelist of the second class.” He may be a critic of the second class.
I do not mind his dubbing my article “flippant and foolish.” It does not hurt me that he accuses me of telling lies both in my article and “daily elsewhere.” But I do object to his statement that I do not “advance one single objection to the Bible that has more force than the common talk of coarse and ignorant men who in former days resorted to saloons and gambling dens to pour forth such ribaldry. … It is amazing that such a respectable magazine will lay such offal before its readers.”
The article had no ribaldry in it; and “offal” is not a polite term.
The Bishop asks what would happen to this country “if all the people should quit going to church and the structures of worship should be torn down.” He asks: “Would life, liberty, and property be secure in it?”
Life, liberty, and property were just as secure in ancient Greece before Christianity and without Christianity as they have ever been in any Christian country. Before the Christians ever arrived in Peru theft was practically unknown, and it was a boast that a woman might walk from one end of the land to the other without being insulted. I have a book written by a missionary woman who states that she spent about fifty years in Africa walking alone through the jungles and never suffered molestation but once, when a drunken native was impertinent to her until she slapped his face.
It is generally admitted that never in times of peace have life, liberty, and property been so insecure as they are at present in America, which Bishop Candler calls “our Christian nation.” These things are facts, and even a Bishop with the ferocity of Bishop Candler cannot overthrow them. He assails Voltaire and blames him for “anarchy, misery, and bloodshed of ceaseless revolutions.” Voltaire risked his life incessantly by advocating human freedom and opposing the unspeakable tyrannies, murders, and confiscations of the only Christian church he knew. He pleaded for human mercy and brotherly love, and was a strong believer in a living God, though he did not believe in the Christian God. To accuse Voltaire of causing anarchy, misery, and bloodshed is simply outrageous slander.
The Bishop asks “why all such attacks upon the Bible and Christianity have failed so ignominiously in the past; why must they always fail in the future?” The answer to this is that the first statement is untrue; and the second is wild prophecy.
The Bishop takes the credit for all the colleges, hospitals, orphanages, benevolence, heroisms, and beauties of human existence. But hospitals were founded by King Asoka two hundred and fifty years before Christ came to earth. Christian ministers fought quinine, anesthetics, education, the kindly treatment of the insane, and practically every other form of progressive mercy.
The Christian Church is diminishing in this country. The reports of the churches themselves show this. The cause of righteousness does not depend upon Christianity. There were just as good men before Christ came to earth as there have ever been since. There are just as good men who do not believe in Christianity as there are Christians. Atheists and Infidels have never persecuted or tortured people for their beliefs.
Bishop Candler quotes Dr. J.G. Holland with high approval, when he utters what Bishop Candler well calls “those weighty words”.
“Whether true or false, the Bible is our all — the one regenerative, redemptive agency in the world — the only word that ever sounds as if it came from the other side of the grave. If we lose it, we are lost.”
If I cared to use Bishop Candier’s tone I might call this the ravings of a maniac or the testimonial of a patent medicine man. His principle is to claim everything and admit nothing.
If the Bible is such a marvelous agency and the Methodist Church so important to the redemption of the world, will he please tell me why there has been such an orgy of crime recently and always among Methodist ministers? why Methodists and their ministers fill so large a space in our penal institutions? Here are facts for the Bishop to explain. They are not slanders of mine, nor wild statements; they are statistics. Let the Bishop devote himself to keeping more of his parishioners out of crime and more of his preachers out of slander, and he will do more to adorn the church which he will not permit me even to stay out of in peace.
The Bishop’s claims for the Bible are in great contrast with the attitude of Dr. C.B. Wilmer, whose attack on my article was published on the same page of the Atlanta Journal. Dr. Wilmer is apparently as much disgusted with the Fundamentalists as I am; and I judge that Bishop Candler is a Fundamentalist of the deepest fundament. Dr. Wilmer admits that the Bible is full of contradictions and inconsistencies of all sorts, but he is satisfied with it even though he has many unpleasant things to say of my article. I could answer his criticisms in detail, but I have already taken up space enough. It is sufficient for me that the Atlanta Journal publishes on the same page the attacks of two clergymen who are frankly attacking me from opposite directions. The important thing is that they are flatly opposed to each other in things that I consider essential to the divinity of Christianity.
I have no objection whatever to their attacks. I expected to be denounced quite as violently as I have been. It may surprise these gentlemen, however, to know what an enormous majority of the letters I receive concerning this article comes from people who approve of it and denounce the ministers in far stronger terms than any editor would publish.
The one thing I wish to reaffirm is that this country was founded on a rock of religious freedom, and that it ought to be possible for a man to state as vigorously as he can his opinions on any religious topic without personal attack upon his other articles or his “infamous impudence.”
One would never suspect, from Dr. Wilmer’s article, that I have studied the religious question all my life and have documented every statement I made in my article with the most powerful authorities. From Bishop Candler’s storm of abuse one might think that an American citizen has no right whatever and an American editor no right whatever to criticize preachers or their sacred text.
This is peculiar in a country whose independence was in such great debt to Thomas Paine and in a section of the country which always votes the Democratic ticket and accounts Thomas Jefferson as something less than God. Thomas Jefferson was so horrified by a vast part of the Bible that he made an edition of his own. And incidentally, the first chaplain of Congress, in his autobiography, which I possess, comments upon the fact that the Infidel Thomas Jefferson was the only man in Congress who was respectful to him during his prayers; the others, including the highly religious members, paid no attention to him during the solemn invocations.
ANSWER TO AN EPISCOPALIAN
(Among the numberless attacks on my article was one in The Living Church, called the leading weekly of the Episcopal Church, for October 11, 1924, to which I made the following reply, which was published in a later issue.)
A clergyman has sent me a copy of your editorial denouncing me in the most scathing fashion. I note that on the next page, Dr. Fosdick, who considers himself an ardent Christian, is handled with equal though briefer contempt.
The author of the diatribe against me ridicules my lack of conception of the language of symbolism. I admit I am impatient of symbols in a work handed down to us as the divinely inspired gospel direct from the hand of God and necessary to our salvation.
So I must plead guilty to bewilderment at the astounding picture of a young sheep and his spouse standing up in heaven while flocks of goats are driven down to eternal fire amid a fanfare of trumpets blown by angels standing on a four-cornered earth. Your critic may speak of this as “the chaste symbolism of a rhapsody,” but while I admit its chastity I cannot see its veracity.
When your critic speaks of my “misstatement of passage after passage from, probably, his deficient memory of the Bible,” I wish to call him a falsifier. My deficient memory was in each case bolstered by the exact quotation of the text and the reference to the text in question.
Your critic refers to the Bible as “the product of fallible men whom Almighty God used as the instrument of his revelation … a progressive revelation of himself from primeval times, through a religion first anthropomorphic, then local, then tribal, then national, then racial, then catholic,” and adds, “Of all of this Mr. Hughes knows nothing at all.”
In answer I may say that I know a great deal more than nothing at all. I am quite in touch with the liberal interpretation of the scriptures and the theories of religious evolution. But in my article I was not referring to the Modernist point of view. I was referring to the enormous and ferocious multitude of religious people who call themselves Fundamentalists and threaten the liberty not only of non-Christian people like me, but of the very believers who take the point of view of your critic. He says that be is no more impressed than I am with the figure of William Jennings Bryan, and asks if I have “observed that there are other Christians who are not ‘raging’ in the same way.” I know many of these clergymen intimately, as personal friends, and sympathize with the persecutions they have undergone. On the other hand, I feel a certain logic in the attitude of those who insist that the Bible must be taken entire or not at all, and who realize that the theory of evolution, if accepted, destroys the perfect man Adam who fell and whose fall required the coming of Christ.
Your critic easily explains my attack on Christian crimes by saying that the Christians sinned “because they were men and had not applied the sacramental power — of which Mr. Hughes knows nothing. But every time a Christian resists the impulse to do wrong and does right instead, he disproves Mr. Hughes’ contention.”
Your critic is a trifle over-fond of accusing me of ignorance. I confess that I know nothing of the sacramental power. I read much about it and I hear much boasting of it, but I fail to see that any Christian has ever done loftier or nobler things, for all his sacramental power, than have been done by men who preceded Christianity or who have known nothing of it or disbelieve in it.
I cannot follow him in his statement that “every time a Christian resists the impulse to do wrong, he disproves my contention,” because I am firmly convinced, and history and present-day statistics abundantly prove, that Christians are no better than non-Christians.
Your critic is really a pitiful instance of pharisaism. He refers to my youthful ardent acceptance of the Apostles’ Creed and the Congregational doctrine as “the parody upon Christianity which once he accepted,” and “the absurdly unintelligent faith” I once adopted. Can he not realize that it is just his attitude which drives so many people out of the Christian church and keeps so many people from ever joining it? The calm way in which certain sects lightly dismiss the solemn beliefs of other sects is almost more maddening than the bloody sincerity With which certain sects denounce and endeavor to destroy certain other sects — all within the bounds of Christianity and all in the sweet name of Christ.
It is outrageous for your critic to try to foist the two pitiful youths Leopold and Loeb upon me as an evidence of the fruits of my disbelief. It would be cheap and easy for me to retort with the Rev. Mr. Hight, who was an ardent Christian minister and prayed at the beside of the man whose murder he connived at for his adulterous purposes. What a really disgraceful frame of mind your critic confesses when he wastes ink on an argument that because Leopold and Loeb rejected Christianity, therefore my arguments against Christianity are weakened!
What a waste of irony to imply that I ever suggested that materialists were a “swarm of angels.” How does he prove me a materialist? I maintain that the baptismal rites with actual water for the scattering of actual devils and the washing in the actual blood and the drinking of the actual blood and the eating of the actual flesh of Christ are the crudest forms of materialism.
ANSWER TO A PRESBYTERIAN SERMON
(A Presbyterian minister in Macon, Georgia, denounced my article from the pulpit, and my reply was published in the Macon News as follows.)
The Rev. Dr. George Stanley Frazer denounced me before “the largest crowd to attend the First Presbyterian Church in months” as one who “has so far forgotten himself as to invade the sanctities of our hearts and there commit outrages and abominations that are unworthy of one who calls himself a man.”
This is typical of the pulpit abuse that greets everybody who approaches a religious subject either from another sect of the Christian Church or from outside the Christian Church.
Dr. Frazer is typically dishonest and crooked in his method of answering my statements of the reasons that led me to lose my faith in Christianity.
For instance, he speaks of “the fall of Rome” and “the salvation of the world by the sweet faith of the simple peasant from the Galilean hills.” He neglected to tell his congregation (if the lengthy clipping from the newspaper report does him justice) that Rome did not fall until it had been Christianized for about a hundred years. One of the most abominable butchers and fiends of cruelty that ever lived was the Emperor Constantine, who annihilated his own family and made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire, though he retained numerous pagan institutions and Christianity calmly adopted numerous pagan holidays. The kind and gentle emperor who followed him, known as Julian the Apostate, abhorred the persecutions that began immediately upon the Christian accession to power, and has ever since been slandered and misrepresented.
So since Rome fell nearly a century after it became Christian, who was to blame?
In my four years’ work on a history of the world I found no sectarian work by a Christian minister which revealed even the ordinary principles of honesty in its treatment. Everything is propaganda. Since historians themselves laboriously twist history, it is not surprising that pulpit-pounders both twist it and ignore it.
Dr. Frazer calmly wipes out my statement that, according to John, Christ was not at the Last Supper, by referring his congregation to the 13th to the 17th chapters of that gospel. He was not honest enough, even to his own parishioners, to state that this is in flat contradiction to the three other gospels. I quote from Remsburg’s magnificent book “The Bible” (p. 132), which I recommend to all believers who wish to see the Bible honestly and frankly analyzed and examined, and its contradictions, impossibilities, and cruelties referred to by chapter and verse.
“The Synoptics state that Jesus celebrated the Passover with his disciples, and was crucified on the following day.
The author of John states that he was crucified on the previous day, and therefore did not partake of the Paschal supper. In the second century a great controversy arose in the church regarding this. Those who accepted the account given in the Synoptics observed the feast, while those who accepted the account given in the Fourth Gospel rejected it. Now, we have the testimony of Irenaeus that John himself observed this feast: ‘For neither could Anicetus persuade Polvcarp not to observe it, because he had ever observed it with John, the disciple of our Lord’ (Against Heresies, iii, 3). As John accepted the account which appears in the Synoptics and rejected that which appears in the Gospel of John, he could not have written the Fourth Gospel.”
In T.W. Doane’s splendid work. “Bible Myths,” it is stated on p. 312, Note 3:
“According to the ‘John’ narrator, Jesus ate no Paschal meal, but was captured the evening before Passover, and was crucified before the feast opened. According to the Synoptics, Jesus partook of the Paschal supper, was captured the first night of the feast, and executed on the first day thereof, which was on a Friday, If the ‘John’ narrator’s account is true, that of the Synoptics is not, or vice versa.”
While these books are hostile to Christianity, in John E. Symes’ “The Evolution of the New Testament,” written by an ardent believer, it is stated (on p. 264) concerning the Gospel according to John.
“Allowance must also be made for mistakes. An old man’s memory is not always trustworthy, but we have no right to assume that wherever there is a difference the earlier writers were correct. Take, for instance, the apparent contradiction as to the date of the Death of Jesus. From the Synoptic Gospels we gather that it took place on the fifteenth day of the month Nisan. This is on the face of it impossible, for on the afternoon of the fourteenth, the Paschal lambs would be slain that they might be eaten after sunset, from which time all men would keep twenty-four hours with Sabbatical rigor. Is it likely that the Arrest, Trial, and Crucifixion took place within these twenty-four hours? No doubt the responsibility for the law-breaking might be thrown upon the Roman authorities; but even if this were so, the women would not prepare ointments, nor would Joseph buy a linen cloth, nor would the Jewish authorities send out an armed band on the Feast day. In the Fourth Gospel the Death of Jesus is made to take place on the fourteenth of Nisan. This removes the difficulty, and the date is remarkable, because indirectly confirmed by Paul’s representation of Christ as our Passover, and as the First Fruits (1 Cor. v, 7, and xv, 20). If he was crucified, as the Fourth Gospel says, on the very day and at the very time when the Paschal lamb was being slain; if he arose again on the very day on which the First Fruits were offered, Paul’s expressions have an added significance; and Paul is, of course, an earlier authority than the Synoptics. If it be asked whether the latter were likely all to be mistaken on such a point, the answer must be that Matthew and Luke take over the date given by Mark, and that Mark himself, writing more than twenty years after the Crucifixion, was not unlikely to be led astray by an error in one of his authorities.”
Will Dr. Frazer explain to his congregation that the problem of Christ’s presence at the Last Supper is an ancient one, and not an invention of my own?
Dr. Frazer quotes Blackstone, “the acknowledged authority on evidence,” where he says: “No event in history is so amply substantiated by competent testimony as the resurrection of Christ.” This is characteristically crooked; for Blackstone was a master of legal evidence, of evidence that would convince a jury. But legal evidence and historical evidence are entirely different things, and there is just as much historical evidence for Buddha, Osiris, and the miracles of Mohammed as for the resurrection of Christ. In fact, there is no historical evidence whatever of a strictly historical character that Christ ever rose from the dead, and such documents as we have are not only so distant from the time referred to, but so contradictory in themselves, that they are worthless in any strict court of history.
Dr. Frazer says that “the name of Jesus did not emerge in the calendar until five centuries after his death. Had Christ been an impostor, he would have been forgotten by that time.” How about the Virgin-born son of God who died to save mankind and was worshiped in Egypt long before Moses (if there was such a man) led his three million Israelites across the Red Sea, with all their cattle, in a few hours?
Dr. Frazer does not refer to the fact that the 25th of December, which is accepted as the birthday of Christ, was a heathen holiday centuries before Christ’s birth, and that the day of Christ’s resurrection on Easter was the subject of centuries of battling among Christians, who finally settled on a day which not even a preacher would be reckless enough to claim as the real date of Christ’s resurrection.
If Christianity were true, Christians would be the mildest and sweetest of people and the most gentle toward those who contradict them. They have been unspeakably cruel not only to those who contradict them but to those inside their churches who disagree with them on small points of doctrine.
Dr. Frazer is quoted as saying: “The church is not afraid of truth, and it has been the agency and means throughout the ages for the preservation of the truth and growth of knowledge. The church kept the flame of learning lighted during the darkest ages.” Dr. Frazer ought to know that classic learning was destroyed as far as possible by the Christian church; that Rabelais, for instance, was compelled to stay in hiding for two years to save his life because it was learned that he was merely studying Greek; that the vast scientific achievements of the Greeks were suppressed until they were restored mainly through Arabian sources and in recent years have been given to light again through mummy-wrappings in Egypt. We are just now turning up in the North American wilderness the wonderful civilization of the Mayas, whose sacred books and histories were utterly destroyed by the Christians. The universities of the middle ages did not keep science alight, but burned books and heretics and taught nonsensical dogmas and insane squabblings over ridiculous points of doctrine.
The Christian Church is fighting tooth and nail against the teaching of evolution in our schools. It has already gained great headway in its effort to drive our people back to the dark ages, when their minds were filled with the ridiculous, outrageous, and contradictory nonsense put forth under the name of Moses.
If evolution is banned, the next victim will be geography which teaches that the earth is round instead of four-cornered and that the sun is a vast and distant body around which the world revolves. Now that American fliers have just circumnavigated the globe, let us remember the desperate debates that Christopher Columbus had with the churchmen who ridiculed and threatened him and all others who taught that this world is a sphere.
Numberless sermons have been preached against me, and from the reports I receive not one of them has honestly met any of my arguments and not one of them has been preached with that sweet gentleness so much advertised as a fruit of Christianity and so rarely observed.
To this Dr. Frazer replied in the Macon ‘News of October 20th, as follows:
I do not care in this brief statement to more than refer to the embittered attack which Mr. Hughes has made upon me and Christian ministers in general. I have not the slightest fear that thoughtful, earnest people will give his charges one moment of serious consideration. Its very spirit will consign it to its rightful place in the catalog of infamy.
I do not regret the fact that Mr. Hughes read the article and felt that it merited his consideration and reply. Perhaps it will cause him to think more deeply and to speak less glibly. There is no great probability that his supplementary statements in his reply to my address will make the slightest impression on thoughtful people. They will be quick to recognize his arguments as a jazz edition of a discarded and discredited Infidelity. He seeks to substantiate them by references to authorities who do not and can not speak with authority.
We should pity Mr. Hughes. In my address I said that I did not know, neither would I undertake to say, what were his motives in writing the first article; that if it were because some bitterness had come into his heart, as Christian people we should pity him, and if his attack were due to ignorance we should be ready to pray, “Father forgive him, for he knows not what he does.”
I am interested in Mr. Hughes. My sincere desire and prayer is that his entire life may be transformed by the power of the spirit of Christ. And every Christian should earnestly desire this, for it is one of the glories and wonders of our Lord that he can turn lips of blasphemy and hearts of stone into instruments of love and praise. Mr. Hughes need not wonder that his utterances have caused a feeling of resentment in the hearts of Christian people. Our religion is dear to our hearts. It is and should be a sacred thing. In all ages of the Christian era men and women have given their very lives in the service of Christ, and when vandal hands seek to despoil the very holy of holies, it is not to be wondered that Christian people should cry out in protest.
I have received many letters from people who felt deeply grieved because of Mr. Hughes’ attack. Young and old alike have told me of their concern that an article of this kind should appear in any paper or magazine in this country. It is but another evidence of the fact that unabashed Infidelity is abroad in the land.
To Dr. Frazer’s reply I made a final reply published in the Macon News for November 9th.
If it is infamy to use what reasoning power one has concerning the essentials of the religion that is more or less forced upon me; if it is infamy to inquire if certain documents are genuinely the word of God or if they are unworthy of God and suspicious in their sources; if it is infamous to question the statements of men in pulpits; if it is infamous to discuss one’s religion; if it is infamous to publish one’s disagreement with religious authority — then I am indeed infamous.
But so is Dr. Frazer. And so is the Presbyterian Church. As he well knows, and doubtless boasts, the Presbyterian faith was illegal. and contrary to religious authority in its origins. The Presbyterian Church is proud of its martyrs who suffered even unto death. for their faith — being put to death by men who called the Presbyterians even harsher names than Dr; Frazer applies to me.
Some Presbyterians, when they got into power, began persecutions of others and one of my chief reasons for disbelief in the so much advertised virtue of Christianity is the fact that the Christians turn and rend each other at every opportunity.
In everything that Dr. Frazer finds fault with in me, the Christian missionaries have been at fault in attacking the sanctities of other religious beliefs.
It is both pitiful and hideous that the Christian religion should at the same time make such loud avowals of mercy and sweetness and love, and choose the lamb for its emblem, while drenching its history in blood, torment, lies, and slander.
When Dr. Frazer says that my honest and serious article belongs in the category of infamy, I could easily retort that his own belongs in the category of idiocy. But why is it that the Infidels and Agnostics must monopolize the gentle and questioning methods of inquiry and honest doubt, and the ministers of the numberless sects must all scream and hurl hateful epithets? Why does the history of their own churches not teach them the sacredness of doubt and the holiness of inquiry?
I have had many letters from Macon, Ga., and the vicinity, praising me in the highest terms for my article and announcing that Dr. Frazer made a fool of himself. Whatever he may think of me or my reasons, he has written himself down as a cheap and dishonest arguer when he reaches for the word “jazz” as a missile. I know all too well what a fool I am, and how ignorant and misguided. But surely Dr. Frazer is a poor shepherd when he goes after a stray sheep with rocks and shrieks. When Christian ministers announce how beautiful a life Christ led and how beautiful a soul he had, I wonder that there was so little contagion in his sweetness and gentleness.
Let this Presbyterian minister read over again the history of the martyrs of his church and the horrible accusations leveled at the men whom he most admires; then read over his response to my statement, and see if he is as proud of himself and as satisfied with himself as he announced himself to be.
Dr. Frazer says: “I have not the slightest fear that thoughtful, earnest people will give his charges one moment of serious consideration.” What silly shifty argument! I have been fairly deluged with letters of the utmost enthusiasm from people whose language and manner show them thoughtful and earnest, giving my article superlative praise. I have been deluged by other letters from religious people whose feelings I have shocked and who have argued with me with earnestness and thoughtfulness, though all too many of them have resorted to cheap abuse and that intolerance which one would like to call unchristian if it were not so characteristic of Christians.
ANDES, NEW YORK
Your article in the October issue of the Cosmopolitan on “Why I Quit Going to Church” just came to my attention. It would be a matter for silent amusement on the part of anybody who really knew God were it not for its far-reaching effect in influencing minds and hearts who follow your leadership and because it reveals the pitiful dearth of your own spiritual life.
There are two suggestions one might make unasked. In the first place it is always a good idea to write about something with which you are cognizant and leave the unknown things alone. In the second place, two or three trips to Sara Wray’s mission in New York city might enlighten you concerning the Word of God. I mention Miss Wray not at all because I know her personally but because she is at least sincere. Your indictment of the professing Church is none too strong but you have never met the possessing Church. And you have never met Jesus Christ. If you seek Christ you will find Him. Cordially,
T. LeRoy Muir, Evangelist.
REPLY TO EVANGELIST MUIR
I suppose I should consider it an honor to hear from one who not only knows God but has met Jesus. I should receive your communication with more awe if I were more assured of your credentials.
Having gone through religious experiences, I know how sincerely your emotions are aroused; but exactly the same claims have been made by the priests and worshipers of all the gods. Enthusiasts have been equally possessed by Apollo, and the devotees of all the gods have gone to the stake or to other tortures with just as much assurance of eternal reward as the followers of Christ.
Personally it is extremely distasteful to me to read these cant expressions of sheer enthusiasm. I know what they are, and I get them, as you probably get them, from a trombone as well as from religious thought. But they are not arguments; and I defy you to show from the Bible any definite uncontradicted and uncontradictory statement of just what this Jesus that you know really was and meant.
You refer to the pitiful dearth of my spiritual life. You say also: “If you seek Christ you will find him.” These are mere forms of evangelical speech, rubber stamps of enthusiasm which are disproved in experience incessantly and infinitely.
I should like to know what difference there is between your spiritual consolation in knowing Jesus and the comfortable ecstasies of a child who knows Santa Claus. The documents in favor of Santa Claus are really much more authentic because they are much more material; they appear every Christmas and they have the immediate authority of one’s own revered parents.
OPEN LETTER TO RUPERT HUGHES
(From a Clergyman in Michigan, N.D.)
My DEAR RUPERT: A friend of mine has just called my attention to your recent article in The Cosmopolitan under the head “Why I Quit Going To Church.” This friend undoubtedly thought he was doing me a favor, but sincerely I regret ever having seen the article or anything in similar strain from your pen.
Never having read any of your stories, I am not in a position to say that I enjoyed them, but I am very free to say that I have greatly enjoyed some of your scenarios; and was more than casually interested, I assure you, in those finely phrased paragraphs, in honor of your parents, in recent numbers of the American Magazine. How I wish that I might have been permitted to go on to the end of life’s chapter thinking of you only in connection with “The Old Nest,” or your more recent contributions to the American to which I have just alluded. But alas, alas! I am fated to be disillusioned almost to the point of doubting your sincerity as a writer of any sort.
I must say, and frankly so, however, that I am not only shocked but saddened beyond words to express, to know that one who was capable of penning so beautiful a tribute to one’s mother as you are credited with doing, should turn around and stab to the heart hundreds of thousands of other mothers, just as worthy as your own, and just as dear to their sons, by holding up to ridicule those ideals which they have cherished so long and so fondly, however much of merit or justice you might have thought there was in such a stab. I do not question a man’s right to be a pagan in belief if he is sincere, neither would I question his right to pose as one, but I do challenge any man the right to outrage decency, almost if not quite to the point of criminality.
Moreover, I am surprised beyond surprise that any man of sane mind who has been a pensioner on the bounties of the Christian faith for so many years as so many of your readers well know you to have been, should at this late period in your life, essay so blatant and blasphemous a literary role. If, at this time, you sincerely take the attitude toward the Bible and the Christian church which you assume in the article in question, why, in the name of all the gods at once, do you not take the next boat for Soviet Russia, since that is very evidently where you belong?
No doubt there are those to whom it seems that your attack (if such hodgepodge of false statement, innuendo, and blasphemy is worthy to be called an attack) was not only blatant and blasphemous in the extreme, but brutal even to the extent of cruelty — cruelty to Christian belief in general, I mean. Not so, however, whatever may have been your motive. Unsuspectingly, but none the less truly, you have turned the weapon in upon yourself. And the coming years are bound to reveal how deadly the thrust you have dealt, not to the Bible, not to the Christian church (it is to laugh), but to Rupert Hughes. History has a very quiet but effective way of consigning such iconoclastic upstarts to oblivion.
Surely, friend Rupert, you must have been joking. But if not then permit me to say further that as a psychopathic study your case strikes me as one of more than passing interest. Presumably you are aware how important is this matter of motive in all psychopathic analysis. I fancy that if you were turned over to some institution where examinations are in order that the reaction of the examiner as to this matter of motive would be something after the following:
(1) Mercenary — lure of lucre.
(2) Itch for further notoriety, regardless of the kind or expense incurred.
(3) A possibility that some representative or representatives of the Church have been treading on his “corns” of late, and this is an attempt on his part to get back at them, so to speak.
(4) It is quite likely that some of his story or scenario successes have gone to his head and that he imagines himself to be a second Bob Ingersoll; or there is a further possibility that the patient takes himself seriously enough to imagine that he is going to be classed with Voltaire.
(5) The more charitable view of the case is that a sudden lesion has taken place in the patient’s brain (?) and that spiritually considered his condition is not unlike one afflicted with locomotor ataxia. His recent wobbly movements in connection with the article in question would indicate that.
And we should expect that any psychopath would follow up a diagnosis of this character with some advice as to the disposition of the patient. I should expect that at least he would express the hope that one so seriously afflicted ought to be consigned to the tender mercies of a special lunacy commission under appointment of the governor and that ultimately you would be placed in confinement but supplied with reams upon reams of white paper on which to give free rein to your iconoclastic mania. Always fraternally,
Oscar F. Davis.
When you say I “stabbed hundreds of thousands of mothers to the heart,” you talk nonsense. To say that I “outraged decency to the point of criminality” is to outrage sanity to the point of idiocy. I have had far more letters of gratitude and approval than of blame. And numbers of mothers have thanked me for assailing your hell-fire faith.
I have never been “a pensioner on the bounties of the Christian faith.” As a youth I was taught certain things that investigation proved to me to be false, contradictory, unsubstantiated, and horribly evil in their influence. I said so frankly and earnestly and was neither blatant nor blasphemous, for I blasphemed no real god but only denied the existence of the cruel, inept monster that Jews and Christians concocted from other superstitions.
To advise me to go to Russia is silly, for Russia is in the grip of tyranny, and. I do not believe in tyranny, though I must say that the outrages inflicted on humanity by the present regime in Russia are the results of the greater outrages inflicted on the Russian people by their Christian czars and priests.
When you speak as a prophet and say that I am destined for oblivion, you may be correct, though neither of us will know the answer. I can assure you that I did not write to revenge any “corns” that anybody stepped on. I have no corns.
REPLY TO A CLERGYMAN
DEAR DR. GRAFTON: Thank you for sending me your very interesting sermon.
You call me a fool frequently; I admit it. I am a worse fool than you know me to be. But when you say that I want to be a fool, you say what is not true. My doubts are due to my efforts to apply such reasoning faculties as I have to the Bible and Christianity in exactly the same spirit that I should apply them to anything else.
What you say about Puritan history and my taking my information from a book by some bigot is also untrue. I made my references to the Puritans from very elaborate research in the best histories of the Puritans and in their own laws and records, many, of which I have in my very large library on early American institutions. If you will read the Rev. Cotton Mather’s “Magnalia Christi” you will find far more than I have been upbraided for quoting. Or, if you will read James Truelove Adams’ recent history on the “Founding of New England,” which is accepted as a work of the greatest scholarship, you will find what a stupid and wicked thing the Puritan church was.
You say I have not knocked over the church, any more than “Bob” Ingersoll did. I had no such hope or intention. It is impossible to conquer my own ignorance and frailty, to say nothing of overwhelming the vast stupidity and illiteracy of the world.
The opinion you ridicule, as to the Virgin Mary. being the mother of God, is held by all good Catholics, and they constitute the enormous majority of Christians.
Your personal references to me and my stinkpots and slush are entirely aside from the question. They may or may not be true, but they have nothing to do with the truth of the Word of God.
I am quite well acquainted with the enormous efforts to harmonize the contradictions of the Bible. They strike me as among the most dishonest efforts in human history.
A LETTER FROM A PRIEST
WASHINGTON, D.C., Oct. 26, 1924.
I am a Catholic priest and I teach Scripture in the College whose name appears on this letter-head; it is one of the institutions situated at and affiliated with the Catholic University of America in Washington. I menton these uninteresting details simply for purposes of identification.
to take a few of your criticisms, then, in the order in which you write them: Your friend who reported his conversation about the Virgin Mary referred glibly enough to Matthew xii, 46, and xiii, 55-56, but apparently he did not know that in Matthew xxvii, 56, another Mary is called the mother of James and Joses; he did not know that in Luke vi, 16, Judas (or Jude) is called “the brother of James” (a different James); that in his own Epistle, this Jude calls himself “the servant of Jesus Christ and the brother of James” (Jude i, 1). A little fact that you, Mr. Hughes, and most other people who criticize the Bible, seem to forget, is that it was written a long time ago, in a language and in an environment totally different from ours. The texts about the “brethren of Christ” constitute a case in point. In the best Hebrew-English lexicon we have, by Gesenius, the Hebrew word that is translated in our English versions (Catholic and Protestant), by “brother” has at least eight different meanings; eg., “kinsmen,” “one of the same tribe,” even “fellowman” — and the Author gives Scripture references for all these different uses of the same word. You cannot seriously imagine, Mr. Hughes, that for all these centuries, Scripture scholars who call Mary the Virgin Mary have been so naive as to dodge reading Matthew xii, and xiii, like your lady in the story! We have very excellent historical and critical grounds for believing that the “brethren” of Christ were his cousins. Perhaps I bore you with these linguistic technicalities. Let us pass on.
If you had taken the pains to consult any kind of a commentary on the Epistle to the Romans — there are a dozen of them, popular and scholarly — you would have been saved from the error of accusing St. Paul of lying. Nothing was further from the mind of the Apostle. If you take five minutes in which to read the context in which the verse is set you ought to be able to see that he did not mean to accuse himself of lying and then defend the lie. But if you can’t see it yourself look up the Anglican Bishop Elliott’s “Bible Commentary for English Readers,” or if you want something more scholarly, Dr. Sanday’s in “The International Critical Commentary” series.
I find it difficult to be patient with your absurd statement that Christianity “includes five major gods.” When you wrote the objectionable paragraph in which that gem of wisdom occurs you evidently had in mind the Catholic Church for that is practically the only church that even permits veneration of the Mother of Christ and the invocation of saints. It manifests quite an abysmal ignorance of the fundamental teaching of all Christianity, including Catholic Christianity, namely that there is but one God. Every book from the smallest child’s catechism to the most elaborate theology reiterates that truth. Of course, the doctrine of the Holy Trinity does offer intellectual difficulties, but that is no excuse for misstating it. And nothing can excuse linking the Mother of Christ and Satan with the Persons of the Trinity; the most ardent devotee of Mary knows that she is infinitely beneath God. As for Satan —
Again you have quite missed the point of the tempting of Christ by Satan. You say, “This means that two gods had a duel of wits, or it means nothing.” You have forgot your logic, Mr. Hughes; those two alternatives by no means exhaust all the possibilities of the case.
The anthropomorphism in the Old Testament cannot be denied, but it can easily be explained. It is not God who is “astounding and inconsistent,” it is Moses who is forced by the character of the people for whom he wrote to represent God as speaking and acting as man does. The Hebrews were a primitive people; you must not judge them or their ideas by our twentieth century standards. I might write a great deal more on these two paragraphs in your article, but I must be brief, or you will stop reading — perhaps you have already stopped.
“In every detail,” you say, “concerning the birth and death of the Messiah, the four Gospels are in complete contradiction. I can’t find anything in the Bible where two authorities agree. Who can?”
Why, you can, Mr. Hughes. Someone has said, “All general- izations are false including this one.” It is not false, however, to say that most generalizations are dangerous. Yours is absolutely wild. The Bible on my desk has 1383 pages; according to the Theory of Probabilities it is almost inconceivable that no two authorities in all those pages should agree sometimes; even by accident they would have to hit on the same facts occasionally. But fortunately we have more to depend upon than a Theory of Probabilities: we have the Bible. And even you, Mr. Hughes should have known before you undertook to write a criticism of the Bible, that there are scores upon scores of incidents not only concerning the birth and death of the Messiah, but concerning the rest of his life — I confine my remarks to the gospels — where two, sometimes three, and even all four Gospels, are in complete and almost verbal agreement. The fact of the matter is, of course, that the contradictions” are in a hopeless minutity, and can be explained readily by anyone who will take a little time to study the question at issue.
This letter begins to assume undue proportions — and I am still on the first page of your article! Even so, I cannot pass over, without a brief word, two or three other observations on this same first page. Then I shall hurry to a conclusion with a hasty comment on a few other points picked here and there. (a) It is hardly fair to blame the Gospels for our lack of knowledge as to whether Christ was born 3 B.C. or 6 A.D.; it is a little too much to expect the Evangelists to foresee that several centuries after their death someone was going to draw up a calendar — and make a mistake in it. (b) If Christ was not at the Last Supper in the Gospel of St. John in your Bible, you must have an abridged edition — Van Loon’s perhaps. Certainly in all the Bibles I ever saw, Catholic and Protestant — I have both — Christ was at his own Last Supper. Sounds like a ridiculous insistence on the obvious, doesn’t it? (c) The names of the Apostles certainly are given differently in Matthew x and Luke vi. But the same Twelve Apostles are meant by both writers. Can’t an Apostle have more than one name, even as you and I? Peter is sometimes called simply Peter, other times Simon (John xxi, 15) and by St. Paul, Cephas (Gal. ii, 9). St. Paul himself was called Saul before his conversion. In the texts you have picked out for comment, “Judas the brother of James” in Luke is identical with “Lebbeus, whose sumame was Thaddeus” in Matthew.
To skip to the bottom of page 146. Did you chuckle silently when you wrote the question: “Why is it that Christ himself was not a Christian, and that St. Paul had to invent Christianity?” That brilliant witticism is worthy of George Bernard Shaw. Christ could not possibly be a Christian, for the completely satisfactory reason that “Christian” means, as you will find in any dictionary, Mr. Hughes, a follower of Christ. I belong to an association of priests named at the head of this page: the Paulist Fathers or, more formally, the Missionary Society of St. Paul the Apostle. We consider St. Paul our model and patron. In our estimation he holds a high place among the heroes of Christianity. But to say that St. Paul “invented” Christianity is simply to read the history of the first century with your eyes closed and your mind hopelessly biased. St. Paul would be the last one in the world to claim any such honor. But of course, you do not intend to give him any honor; in your opinion Christianity is such an abomination that you ought to invent a special hell for the “inventor” of it.
I hold no brief for Mr. Bryan or his anti-evolution campaign. But I am interested in the Book of Genesis. It may astonish you, Mr. Hughes, to be told that your “glorious and impregnable theory of evolution” (I love that!) contradicts nothing in the Book of Genesis. Mr. Bryan certainly must know, as you credit him with knowing, “that the moon is not a light.” But we call it a light, don’t we? At least most people do. I venture to say that even you have done so, or called it something equivalent to a light. Genesis is not a text book of Astronomy. It uses a terminology that is familiar. You label the account of the creation of light four days before the two great lights, “an amazing fairy story.” Permit me to point out to you, Mr. Hughes, that it is your ignorance that is amazing. Incredible as it may seem to you, Genesis is perfectly right in putting the creation of light before the creation of our sun and moon. The evolutionary theory of creation, whether you call it the nebular-hypothesis, or anything else you choose, demands the existence of luminous gases surrounding the more solid masses, as the process of evolution works itself out. That means “light,” Mr. Hughes, and if you want the thing in terms of your “glorious and impregnable theory,” it means there was light in this cosmos aeons before the final evolution of the center of our solar system.
Just one other of your difficulties with Genesis: it is so trite and oft-repeated that I wish I had some way of broadcasting the information — that anyone can read for himself in Genesis v, 4, viz., that Adam had a number of sons — and daughters. Cain and Seth married their own sisters; there wasn’t anyone else for them to marry. Terribly mysterious, isn’t it?
Surely I have written more than enough. Oh, there are plenty more errors and misstatements in your classic article. But if you are really eager “only for the truth” I hope, I have been able to point out the truth to you on just a few points on which you must admit you were at least slightly mistaken. It is nobody’s business but your own, Mr. Hughes, whether you go to church, and I do not know how many people were so intensely interested in why you quit going that they wanted the reasons thereof — in The Cosmopolitan of all places. But when you rush into print with those reasons, and in doing so make dozens of serious errors as to facts, you must expect to be called to account for those errors. You may have a perfectly well-deserved reputation as a novelist and a playwright; I don’t know; I never read any of your novels or plays – my loss. If you have such a reputation, it does not give you the right to set forth your ideas in a popular magazine on a subject about which you know little or nothing, and think that you can “get away with it” because of your reputation. It was Josh Billings, who said: “It is not people’s ignorance that makes them ridiculous; it’s the knowing so many things that ain’t so.” Mr. Rupert Hughes, you know a powerful lot about Christianity and about the Sacred Books of Christianity, “that ain’t so.”
I am sending a copy of this letter to The Cosmopolitan and enclosing to you a copy of my note to the magazine.
THE PRIEST’S LETTER TO THE EDITOR
I would like this letter to reach the man who is responsible for the publications in The Cosmopolitan. No hint is given, so far as I can find, on the title page of the magazine as to the identity of that person. I am not a subscriber to Cosmopolitan, but recently the October issue was sent to me, and I was surprised to find there such an article as Mr. Rupert Hughes has written on “Why, I Quit Going to Church.” I have embodied some few criticisms of that Article in a letter to Mr. Hughes of which I am enclosing a copy to you. Needless to say it is not for publication.
I have been trying to puzzle out since reading the article a few days ago, why Cosmopolitan published it. There is a vague hint of an apology contained in the heading, put there, evidently, by the person who does the work of an editor in your staff; but surely that man was not simple enough as to think that anyone reading the article and unequipped to answer the specious arguments there, would be irritated into going back to church.
Do you think it is a wise policy to destroy the religious faith of the people of this country? We have a vivid example of what that means in Russia at the present time. Perhaps The Cosmopolitan would like to see that situation duplicated in these United States? Mr. Hughes is ready to “break down and sob with pity when he thinks of those poor dear people who were caught in those traps of theology” — whatever they were — “and tormented slowly into their graves” (page 147). I have studied, and even been so base as to teach theology, for a number of years and I do not know anything in it that could possibly torment people slowly into their graves. But I do know, and Mr. Hughes knows, and you know, what is done by people who hold the same views about Christianity and its theology as Mr. Hughes does, who have thrown off all the moral restraints that religion supplies, — What these people have done and are doing in Russia. I wonder how many sobs Mr. Hughes gave the innocent victims there?
Do you think you were justified in publishing Mr. Hughes’ attack on Christianity when everyone who thinks in the country today is convinced that the greatest need for our children, the greatest need for all men and women in all walks of life, is religious training? Only a week ago our Chief Executive here in Washington in a public speech, insisted upon the “necessity of our reliance upon religion rather than upon laws.” If you do not altogether disagree with that sane opinion, then you owe some explanation to your readers for the unscholarly and unfair attack on Christianity in your October number. That attack was utterly destructive in its purpose; the author did not even make a suggestion in the way of a constructive criticism. There ought to be an article in The Cosmopolitan in the very near future by a representative layman who does go to church, and who will set forth a constructive and true estimate of what Christianity really stands for, what it has meant to the civilization of the past, and what it means to the individual and to society in the present.
I am enclosing a copy of this letter to, Mr. Hughes.
Not so fast, dear Father: Don’t you prove a little too much when you prove that the Hebrew word translated “brother” means also seven other things, including even “fellow-tribesman”? Doesn’t this render all translations too uncertain for acceptance as divine? Wouldn’t the God who gave his Word to the small nation, the Jews, give some help to the translators into other languages?
Of course Jesus said, or the English translators make him say that he came only to the lost sheep of Israel, but that saying had to be ignored or Paul would never have been able to spread his remarkable versions among the Gentiles.
Furthermore, why do you refer to Hebrew anyway, in dealing with Christ’s brothers? It is generally believed that the earliest New Testament manuscripts, such as they are, are all Greek. Do you deny this? The words for “brother of Jesus” in the Bible are adelphos tou Kuriou.
As for Christ having no brothers, why did the neighbors say he had; also sisters? What is the Hebrew for “sisters” in this case? Why does Luke in ii, 7, refer to Mary’s first-born son and in ii, 27, to Christ’s parents, and in 33 to his “father” and mother? Why was Mary herself astonished at Christ’s wisdom and why did she refer to Joseph as “thy father” in Luke ii, 48?
Two impossible and contradictory genealogies try to prove that Christ was of the line of David, both tracing through Joseph, though some assert (what others deny) that one leads to Mary. Luke ii, 4, says that Joseph was of the house of David. Paul himself says, Romans i, 3, that Christ was of the seed of David.
You ask if I think “that for all these centuries Scripture scholars who call Mary the Virgin Mary have been so naive as to dodge reading Matthew xii and xiii.”
In the first place, I think nobody on earth has ever been so naive, has dodged so nimbly, or been so indifferent to fact, logic, and contradiction, as “Scripture scholars.”
That is one reason why Christianity has been so drenched in blood. That is why your church defined a heretic as one who doubts the church’s teaching and why your church tried to curb heretics by fiendish exterminations.
Do you know the horrible and bloodthirsty decree Ad Abolendam, of A.D. 1184? In 1108 Archbishop Arundal decreed that “all are heretics who misinterpret or question things determined by the Church, namely in Decrees, Decretals, or our own Provincial Constitutions.”
When Luther declared that it was against the will of the Holy Ghost to burn heretics, Pope Leo X in 1520 proclaimed this a damnable error. Do you know how many people the Catholic Church put to death slowly for heresy? Do you consider burning at the stake “slow torture”? Do you know the history of the Inquisition in Louisiana and Spanish America? Do you know that it was only in 1917 that the Catholic Church in its new Codex quietly abrogated its obligation to punish heresy by force? Yet in 1921 Cardinal L. Billot, S.J., states that “material force is rightly employed to protect religion; nay, force can have no more noble use than this.”
In your letter to The Cosmopolitan protesting against the publication in this free country of an attack on the church (which attacks everything else voluminously) you ridicule my reference to people who were caught in the traps of theology and tormented slowly into their graves. You twist it to make me say that theology tormented them to death and shiftily ridicule that. But you blithely ignore the hideous record of persecutions, crusades, and inquisitions based on points of dogma. I need not refer you to the thousands of volumes on the subject. I wonder how much of that part of Scripture history you teach your trusting pupils, and how frankly and honestly. Do you teach them Americanism or Romanism?
My statement that Christianity contains five major gods is not “absurd” but exact. Did you ever hear Mary called the Mother of God? Did you ever hear of the legends giving her miraculous power over air, earth, fire, water, hell, and the grave?
Did you ever read “The Book of 110 Miracles by Our Lady Mary” edited by Wallis Budge, translating from the Coptic the infamous legends which in Oriental communities were read on Mary’s Day? There were thirty-two festivals a year, none of them on Sunday but all of them as sacred as the Sabbath, and it meant excommunication to slight them.
In one of them Mary protects a woman having incestuous relations with her young son for ten years, because the woman was constantly praising Mary. In another Mary tells an angry wife that she cannot punish the harlot living with the husband because the harlot was always praising Mary. In another Mary takes a man out of hell. Surely this is god-like power. And it was offered for centuries to Christians as their religion.
If it is fair to say that the Greek gods were gods though Jupiter was supreme; if it is fair to say that Mars and Apollo were gods, it is only decent honesty to admit that when Satan carried Christ about and tempted him, it was one god offering bribes to another. What are your saints but gods, whose very bones and clothes perform miracles?
So it is not “abysmal ignorance of the fundamental teaching of all Christianity” to say that Christianity has more than one god. The Trinity, which was developed after and outside the Bible, is sheer nonsense except to one inside the faith who twists three into one and has one part accept crucifixion of another part as atonement, and all without losing the common sense significance of the word “one.”
When I call Mary a god and the devil a god, I mean just that; for a god is a superhuman being with superhuman powers. And Christianity is polytheistic and idolatrous, or no religion ever was either. The idolater believes that his idol is only an image of the god, and images of Mary weep, speak, shed blood and even milk.
It would do neither of us any good to argue earnestly about the Virgin Birth (which your founder Paul himself did not suspect), since what is ridiculous to me is sacred to you.
To me the Virgin Birth is a silly fable and Mary’s claim is no better than that of numberless other virgins who bore gods. The Egyptians had a virgin-born redeemer before the legendary Moses left Egypt. You have perhaps read the book “Sixteen Crucified Saviors before Christ” by Kersey Graves.
As for Mariolatry, I cannot even be polite about it, so I had better say nothing. Like you, “I find it difficult to be patient.”
You object, as other clergymen have done, to my query, “Who can find two authorities in the Bible agreeing on anything?” You call this absolutely wild. But, like the others, you fail to quote an instance.
The four gospels disagree as to the thieves on the cross, as you know. Christ, in one gospel, says to one of them, “Today thou shalt be with me in Paradise” — then calmly goes to hell for three days to fulfill his previous statement in Matthew xii, 39, that he would be in the heart of the earth three days just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and nights. Do you believe that Jonah was actually in the belly of a fish that long? and do you believe that Christ was in the heart of the earth at all?
Your evasive comment concerning the birth-date of Christ is unworthy of you. It is no question of changes of calendar; it is a matter of one gospel saying that Christ was born in one place under one ruler, and another saying that he was born in another place under another ruler.
Some of the early Church fathers thought that Christ was fifty when he died. A book on recent archeological discoveries places his birth at 9 B.C. To me it seems important when the Savior of the world was born and began his ministry and ended it, promising to come back shortly, and never returning.
As for Christ being at the Last Supper, you dismiss my point more airily than did the early Church fathers, since John is in vital disagreement with the other three gospels as to the date of that feast.
My statement that Christ was not a Christian and that Paul invented Christianity is not original with me. It is simply a brief way of emphasizing the tremendous alterations Paul made in Christ’s ideas (as we receive them in the garbled gospels). The Bible itself describes the fierce battles between Peter and Paul.
Your defense of Genesis simply won’t do, for Genesis constantly contradicts itself within itself, and it is silly to speak of the “author” as being aware of luminous gases. Do you believe that Moses wrote it or that there ever was a man named Moses who led three million through the Red Sea, with all their cattle?
You are again far too clever when you explain Cain’s reference to other people by saying that Cain and Seth married their own sisters. This is a pretty thought but unavailable. Genesis tells us that it was after Cain killed Abel that Eve bore Seth; and after that, that Adam lived eight hundred years and begat sons and daughters. Surely Cain would have had to wait several years after the murder to get a sister: born and grown up to marry, and still longer to populate the earth. Yet he was afraid immediately after Abel’s death that every man who met him would slay him,
Oh, father, dear father, why will, you waste, your life and skill trying to justify that shuffled pack of contradictory idiocies, ignorances, obscenities, and savageries called Genesis? Of that truly I can say what you say of Cain’s marriage, with his sister: “Terribly mysterious, isn’t it?”
Admitting that my article has “plenty more errors and misstatements,” it can never equal your Holy Writ, which was writ by the unholiest of men and the most ignorant; and which has been used ever since to keep men as ignorant, as cruel, and as false as they were.
You are a teacher of the young. You have a solemn responsibility to them to give them both sides. Otherwise you are not a teacher, not an instructor, but a deluder and an enemy of truth — let us say, of God’s truth, because if God ever reveals himself, facts must be his most indubitable manifestations actual history must be his scriptures.
Like Josh Billings’s man, I undoubtedly “know” many things that “ain’t so,” but I dismiss my ignorance as fast as I can. I try to keep my mind open and to change my beliefs as new facts appear to alter them.
Can you say as much for yourself? Did you not put your young soul in the keeping of an organization to fill with its own dogmas? Are you not solemnly pledged to retain Such beliefs as were pumped into you when you were young and ignorant and to consider as sinful all further investigation of them? Have you not chained yourself to a rock and are you not trying to chain other young souls to that same rock while the procession passes by? To “question” the Church’s dogmas is heresy and worthy of destruction here and hereafter, Do you dare either to think or to speak?
Greatly as I abhor the crimes Christianity has committed against humanity, and the obstacles it has put and is putting in the way of progress and of liberty, I would not in the slightest limit anybody’s liberty of belief and of proclamation of belief. Can you or any Catholic say as much?
It was not enough for you to answer my criticisms. You had to write to the editor and abuse him for allowing me the use of his pages. How very Christian, how peculiarly Catholic! but how un-American!
I thank — not your god, but the Infidels who helped found this country, that they gave us the constitutional right to our own thoughts and that you have the power only to scold me, not to scald me to death or toast me as once you would have done on earth and as you boast of doing hereafter.
Yours for freedom of soul and body.
FROM A CONGREGATIONAL MINISTER
(The Rev. Allen A. Stockdale of Toledo, Ohio, in a sermon had the following to say:)
Mr. Hughes does not know what he is talking about when he says that “countless ministers are driven by all sorts of pressure from within and without to continue preaching what they no longer believe.”
That may apply to the weak man in the pulpit just as subserviency applies to a weak man anywhere in all professions, trades, and walks of life, but the real truth is that the pulpit was never freer than it is today and preachers never more willing and able to speak the whole truth to intelligent congregations who understand and appreciate. Rupert Hughes ought to remember that spiritual things are spiritually discerned, and it is the part of modesty to refrain from claiming authority where lack of ability makes it impossible for him to understand.
He speaks frankly of how things seem to his perverted brain.
The trouble with Rupert Hughes seems to be that he does not know anything about the historical method of Bible interpretations. He proceeds to call all people fools who believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible, and then gives the results of the literal interpretation as his reason for lack of faith in the Bible and in church.
Rupert Hughes closes his article with a clear revelation of the complete selfishness of his soul when he claims that his happiness consists in letting the universe run itself. The worth of the world has been made by the souls who were willing to work, suffer, and sacrifice for others, not by those who could escape all responsibility.
Rupert Hughes is a disgusting social sponge, absorbing all the benefits of a Christian civilization, but being unwilling to give the Consecrated efforts that are needed to maintain it. He ought to live where there is no church and have all his dealings with people as selfish and unchristian as himself
To A MAN FROM FALL RIVER, MASS.
Dear Mr. —-: I had a good laugh over your calling me an old Iowa sod-buster; but you were wrong in that, as in everything else. It was the Missouri sod I busted.
I am sorry to see that a man of such wit can believe the ridiculous lies about the death-bed weakening of Thomas Paine, Robert Ingersoll, and other “Atheists.” These fables are as false as the stories that George Washington prayed at the battle of Valley Forge, and that the “Infidel” Abraham Lincoln was a man of prayer.
I never said that the remarks I made were new, and I never expected to stop the sale of the Bible, though I imagine its sale would be materially lessened if it were not bought in vast quantities to be given away by zealots of wealth. The fact that the Bible still circulates proves no more than the fact that wise hotel-keepers still omit numbering the thirteenth floor 13. Homer’s “Iliad” is still being printed in large quantities, and the heathen gods are still very much referred to in literature. Furthermore the Christian religion is still celebrating a number of heathen holidays such as the 25th of December, and the days of the week are still immortalizing the names of heathen gods.
But all this proves nothing. It would prove nothing if I should get softening of the brain and howl for mercy on my death bed. This would simply prove that I was howling for mercy. Dr. Osler, who had perhaps the largest practice of his day, said that he had never known a single patient of his to be worried about the future life on his death bed. Cling to your religion, if you will, but do not disgrace it and yourself by stale slanders and lies about Atheists — who are, after all, simply honest men frankly stating their bewilderments instead of pretending to know what they could not possibly know.
To MRS. —- QUEBEC, CANADA
I am in hearty agreement with you as to the self-sacrifice of many of the missionaries and many of the clergy. In fact, my short story “When Cross-roads Cross Again” has been distributed by a church in tens of thousands of copies, and even dramatized for a campaign to provide homes for superannuated and penniless ministers. I wrote of their hardships with intense sympathy and cheerfully gave all rights to the story to the churches making the campaign. I have been told that the results have been so extraordinary that when I cross to the other side I shall be met by a huge band of grateful old ministers!
As for cruelty and my omission to mention that non-religious. wars were carried on with equal cruelty” your use of the word “equal” is the heart of my whole argument. Why should religion claim so much and carry itself on at such vast expense of treasure, persecution, and pretense, when the result is that it simply wages its wars with no more cruelty than the savage?
You say that the Indian has never been excelled in cruelty. I disagree with this. Indian tortures were horrible; but they were never so prolonged nor so intellectually contrived as the tortures practiced in Christian Europe at the same time, and practiced upon the Indians themselves by the Christians.
The works of Las Casas describe the treatment by which the Catholics absolutely annihilated whole populations of Indians, and are about the most heart-breaking pages to be read. You will find that the Puritans paid a bounty for the scalps of Indian women and children, and Parkman tells of one white man who killed and scalped his Indian wife and their five children, in order to sell their scalps for the bounty. There was one sturdy Christian woman, whose name escapes me at the moment, as I am dictating at some distance from my library, who killed and scalped and made a fortune out of the scalps of a dozen or more Indians who had taken her captive.
My argument is simply this: wherever Christians fail to show themselves vastly superior to non-Christian mankind, they destroy their claims to superiority.
I cannot think that belief is a voluntary matter for which one should be punished or rewarded. Belief, in me, is automatic and self-adjusting. The reason my beliefs have changed is that I have encountered vastly more facts than I knew when I thought I believed.
As a last word you say, ironically: “You were speaking of Christian cities — presumably in the great United States. Find me one!” I was using the word “Christian” in the usual Christian sense: those who believe that everything good is Christian, and who insist that the United States is a Christian nation. If in the year 1924 you are convinced that there is no such thing as a Christian city in the United States, are yon not dealing your sacred cause a much harder blow than you realize? Are you not admitting that God’s only son died to so little purpose that 1900 years after his death a nation of 112 millions does not contain one Christian city?
To MISS —–, WINCHESTER, KY.
Your letter makes me less willing than ever to backslide into Christianity. I thank you for your pity; but I do not believe that I am pitiful, for exactly the reasons you give.
You say that I lack close companionship with God. I might say that you probably also lack the same thing. You say that the human mind is too small to even understand the very first problem in the first book in his school. Then why do you attempt to say exactly what it means, and feel sorry for people who admit that they cannot understand it?
You explain the Trinity very easily by saying that “a man may speak of his wife as Helen, her given name, as Mrs. Johnson or as simply my wife.” But that is no explanation of the Trinity. The Trinity consists of God the Father, Christ the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Of course the doctrine of the Trinity arose long after Christ died, and is not found in the Bible. But the Trinity does not imply three names of one God, since one part of the Trinity begot another part of the Trinity on an earth-born woman. Therefore if your Mrs. Johnson spoke of herself as being both the mother and father of her own daughter, and the father and the daughter, all as one and the same, you might arrive at the absolutely idiotic nonsense of the theory of the Trinity. Nobody ever did explain the Trinity in words that anybody could understand. Your definition cancels itself at every step.
You say that Jesus Christ is the lamb that was slain for your sins and mine, and that by simply trusting on him we shall be saved from destruction. I cannot see why God should kill a lamb in order to atone for my sins, nor why, however much I sin, if I believe that the lamb was killed for me, I am saved.
Thank you for your admission that church members are often just as wicked as others.
To MR. —–, PITTSBURGH, PA.
Our point of departure in thought seems to lie somewhere about here: you think there must be a God who created this wonderful universe. All right. Suppose there is. I say: what then? You say, I must reverence him and believe in his kindliness and wisdom.
I can cheerfully believe anything I see; but how can I believe in his kindness and wisdom when I see so much cruelty and folly in the management of the world? The fact that everything exists in a state of sublime order, even if it were true, and due to the activity of a watchful Engineer, seems to me no more reason for kneeling in reverence than there is for bowing down and worshiping Mr. Henry Ford every time I see one of his interesting contraptions clatter by.
You say that Einstein’s science is too much for the general public to understand, so “What would we do with the science that God knows?” My answer is, God knows. I cannot see what that has to do with the case.
You say that you want to reverence him and believe in him so that you can “enable him to give us something better in the future.” Why must we help God help us? If he is infinite and wants us to understand, the power is in his hands, not ours.
Nothing dazes me more than the attempt to prove that God is lovable because he is big or because he built the Universe. I do not expect my child to kneel and revere me simply because I was instrumental in his existence. My right to his affection and reverence depends upon my daily activity in earning them.
You compare me to Judas selling Christ for thirty pieces of silver. I admit that I got considerably more than that for my article. But it is not selling a friend when I merely examine certain historical pretensions. And will you kindly explain to me why you dislike Judas so much, since if it had not been for Judas Christ could not have been betrayed and put to death to fulfil alleged prophecies? Was not Judas as essential to your salvation as Christ himself?
You are very severe on Catholics, but inasmuch as they vastly outnumber any other sect and insist that they are the only true Christians, how can you refuse to accept the responsibility for their doings, if Christianity has really a good influence on character?
It is news to me that the Baptists gave America religious freedom. It would have doubtless surprised such disbelievers as Benjamin Franklin, Patrick Henry, and various others.
Finally you say that “men of your Atheism never give a dime toward unfortunates — do you?” The answer is, I do. I have given many dimes, and many thousands of dollars. That is one of the reasons why I cannot send you a hundred dollars for your shop for the blind. But surely the moment you announce to your religious friends the fact that the blind people are in need, they will deluge you with money. Or more simply still, you have only to pray with faith and the blindness will be instantly cured.
To MR. —–, DE RIDDU, LA.
You say that prayer will cure my irreligion. But I do not believe in prayer. I do not see how a man who believes in an all- wise and all-loving God, does anything else but insult him when he attempts to plead with him from the standpoint of his own pitiful ignorance and weakness. It has been well argued that he who believes in the power of prayer, makes his God his servant. So I am afraid I am beyond cure by that method.
To MRS. —– DENVER, COL.
Your letter is beautifully and entirely false.: When you say that Christ was the one teacher who reverenced woman and that woman’s elevation in the world is due to Christianity, you are gorgeously untrue to history, Many of the great prelates of the Christian Church are at this moment in utter opposition to the freedom of woman, and St. Paul was bitterly against giving them any liberty whatsoever. What women owe to Christ I cannot see from any reported statement of his.
As to revering one’s mother, that is characteristic of every country I ever heard of, and most beautiful examples of it are recorded long before Christ came to earth. It is done in the most savage regions.
You refer to the Turkish massacres of the Armenians, but you do not mention the Christian massacres of the Turks during the recent war, and the general admission by impartial observers that the Christians were far more brutal to the Turks than the Turks to the Christians. During the Crusades, also, even the Christian historians admit that the Christians were far more merciless than the Mohammedans.
You accuse me of “egotistical ridicule of God and his word.” If you can prove to me that the Bible is God’s word and that I have ridiculed an actual God, I shall feel very differently in the matter. But are you not quite as egotistical as I in insisting that your God and the word you are convinced that he wrote are as actual as you say they are, in spite of the fact that I say they are not?
Similarly you refer to my “heartless lack of appreciation for the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus.” In the first place, I do not believe that Jesus was or is our Lord or that he made the sacrifice. And if he did, I cannot think that my lack of appreciation can be anywhere near as heartless as the cruelty of God who permitted him to make the sacrifice, especially as the sacrifice does not seem to have accomplished much.
You say further: “We all know what is right.” Again I take issue with you. I do not think you have the faintest idea of just what is right. As far as sympathy to human kind” goes I am not at all lacking in that.
You say that I “would not care to live in a country without a Christian religion.” Again you get everything wrong. Nothing would delight me more than to have the Christian religion banished from this and every other country. I cannot believe that we should be any the worse off for its loss.
You assure me finally that “Jesus’ blood washes white as snow.” How do you know this? How can blood whiten anything? What is it that the blood washes? If I sin it is not from any desire or evil intention of my own. If I am washed — but I am so greatly at a loss to understand what you mean by washed in blood” that I cannot go any further. You use words that mean nothing, or in any known sense mean nonsense.
To MRS. —–, NEWARK, N.J.
I agree with you that the Bible contains extraordinary bits of thought and characterization, much wisdom and much virtue. But it would seem to me rather difficult to collect as vast an amount of literature from any other nation, without letting a good deal of these qualities slip in.
Furthermore, if the Bible had been destroyed, all of these apothegms and sweetness would be found in other and older works of all nations. You quote “A soft answer turneth away wrath.” I am not quite sure that this is true; but it has evidently been believed by many of the animals — I have had dogs that understood it — and can be found among the proverbs of other nations, civilized or savage, as the Golden Rule has been found in at least fifty places before Christ, and numberless places that never heard of him. So it is with practically all of the truths of the Bible.
The early Christian father’s used to answer the argument that the Christian religion resembled many of the Greek rites and beliefs by saying that the devil, foreseeing Christ’s arrival on earth, inspired the Greeks to steal his thoughts and deeds in advance.
Then why should Jesus Christ, or those who wrote about him long after his contradictorily-described death, be given the credit for what they merely restated and often misstated? As for Jesus Christ “going about doing good,” we should not forget that he also went about doing evil, casting out alleged devils into suicidal swine, spitting on clay and putting it on eyes and claiming other miraculous cures which can be duplicated in the statements of all the savage medicine-men and all the modern patent medicines.
I cannot see how we are to find an ideal religion in a Bible describing a God so cruel, so helpless, so vicious, so ignorant, and so blood-thirsty. I have made a life-long study of the uses of Christianity and have come to the conclusion that they are among the most horribly over-advertised and dishonestly advertised nostrums in human history.
To MR. —–, BETHLEHEM, PA.
You ask if we possess souls. That of course depends very largely on how you define soul. We certainly have personalities and a strong sense of individuality. Where that comes from or where it goes, is more than I can understand. It is so difficult to understand how one soul enters one body and departs from it — if indeed it is not merely a part of it — that I find reincarnation only a multiplying of difficulties. That implies somebody, who not only stands over us and gives us our souls, but afterwards takes our souls and judges them and passes them on to another body. As a serial writer, this strikes me as getting pretty complicated, especially as I cannot explain anything at all — not even how I say “explain.”
Naturally, then, I cannot understand Christian Science. I have known many Christian Scientists who have suffered and died of diseases of which they claimed to have been cured. Though Christian Science is alleged to be a religion of peculiar joy and satisfaction, I have known a striking number who were eventually reduced to acute melancholia and even to suicide.
As for the cures of Christian Science, many of them are remarkable if true; but every patent medicine that is advertised has claimed equal miracles and every savage medicine-man has demonstrated his own miraculous powers. The trouble is with human testimony. I do not believe that a man can tell very much truth even if he wants to. If a man imagines he has a disease and you can convince him that he has not, you will have performed a miraculous cure, in his opinion. But my answer is that, in the first place, 80 per cent. of the people who get well would have got well anyway; in the second place, even Christian Scientists do not often claim the ability to cure broken bones. Mother Eddy died miserably, as other people die, in spite of her elaborate statements that she was going to conquer death.
I utterly distrust human testimony wherever it is not supported by the most reliable documents; and these documents must satisfy the skeptic as well as the believer.
The only reason I disbelieve in telepathy is that nobody can work it twice, and it is not taught in the schools or sold in the shops. It is no more wonderful than wireless telegraphy. Wireless telegraphy only became a fact when it became a fact. When it did become a fact it was taken up by commerce, and even schoolboys can study and practice it.
I have read with interest your article in The Cosmopolitan Magazine, and can fairly well perceive the road you have been traveling. Excuse me for my presumption, but I am not a minister nor the son of a minister but have lived sufficiently long to have bucked up against the eternal verity of things.
As a test of your sincerity with yourself concerning spiritual matters I would suggest that you do without all meats in your diet, live to the highest within you for ninety days, and on the approach of the new moon or the approach of the full moon I or some of your living friends will appear to you in your sleep.
I cannot believe that my trouble is due to consumption of meat, and your combination of meatlessness and fullmoonfullness strains my credulity.
Pardon this seeming discourtesy, but I really have no desire that either you or any of your living friends should appear to me in my sleep.
Further, I do not know, and I do not think you know, what you mean by “living to the highest within you.” Honestly, the words are nonsense; or at least they seem so to me.
My mother, unlike yours, cannot read Spanish novels in the original, but she can make the best apple pies in the forty-eight states and the five dependencies. My father, being a newspaper man, did not have any $50,000 fees, and his only heritage to me was a sense of humor and a sense of fairness. The American Magazine has always been a welcomed visitor in our home and my mother read “My Mother” and “My Father” with a great deal of interest and appreciation. The Cosmopolitan was, until the last issue, also welcomed, but since reading “Why I Quit Going to Church,” my mother has banned it from the reading table. Here then is a premise — Dr. Robert Wilson, a native of Indiana and professor of Old Testament Exegesis in Princeton Theological Seminary for the past thirty-six years, recently made the statement that after those years of intensive study of the Bible, during which he examined and digested every known authority and commentary, he came to the conclusion that, despite Percy Stickney Grant, Harry Emerson Fosdick (and in this instance Rupert Hughes) there are no contradictions in the Bible.
Making an appeal to my mother for the restoration of The Cosmopolitan to general circulation in the Smith home, I asked her what could be done. She naively replied:
“You might write to Mr. Hughes and ask him to reread and carefully digest My Mother and My Father and then write a new article, entitled, ‘My God.'”
Do I keep on reading The Cosmopolitan in my home, or do I peruse that periodical in the club room?
If Dr. Robert Wilson studied the Bible for three million years and came to the conclusion that there are no contradictions in it, I should simply come to the conclusion that Dr. Wilson had not yet arrived at the faintest idea of what a contradiction is.
Please tell your mother that I wrote my articles on my mother and father as the result of a long and close acquaintance with them. I promise her that when I know God as well and as definitely I will write an article entitled “My God” — if I am in a position to write it and if the ink does not boil faster than I can put it on the asbestos.
You have told the readers of The Cosmopolitan Magazine what you do not believe. Will you please tell me what you do believe.
Why cannot you lie? What is moral fibre? What principles do you rely on to make your moral fibre, and where did they come from?
I wonder if you are like my ancestor — Thomas Paine — who told the world what he did not believe; and every day living a good life founded on the principles of the philosophy of Christ.
I believe a distinguished writer like yourself, Mr. Hughes, owes it to the public to give something tangible to work on.
Believe me, an interested admirer.
In reply to your letter, I beg to say that it would take a long while, to state what I do believe. It is my intention to write further on this subject. But I believe millions of things, such as that water is wet and that sugar dissolves in it and that the force of gravity is exerted in a certain definite degree, etc., etc., etc. I do not know where my moral principles come from, but I find the same principles in savages just as in Christians and to an extent in animals. They are known to be far older than the Christian or the Jewish religion and exist quite as completely in places never reached by these religions.
I am afraid that, like most other Christians, you are devoted to slandering poor Thomas Paine. You say, he “told the world what he did not believe — and every day living a good life founded on the principles of the philosophy of Christ.” Thomas Paine was a very great man as well as a very small man. He suffered intense persecution for telling what he did believe and his beliefs were hideously misrepresented by Christians. But if he lived according to the principles of the philosophy of Christ it was only because the good principles of Christ’s philosophy far antedated Christ and have been largely contradicted both by him and by the Christians.
I do not at all feel under an obligation to present the world with a new religion because I find this one bad, any more than I feel called upon to offer a substitute for every patent medicine that I find fraudulently advertised. I should like to be able to cure consumption and cancer, but I do not feel that I must wait until I can, before I denounce any of the nostrums.
Were I in your place I would not attempt to write on a subject about which I knew nothing.
One who is spiritually dead certainly is not in a position to speak on spiritual things. One who is not born of the Spirit cannot understand spiritual things. Try reading the seventh chapter of John’s gospel. It was not intended that your finite mind should comprehend the things of God. Wiser men than you have accepted Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, as their personal savior, and the Bible as the inspired Word of God.
I am much afraid that your study of history has benefitted you little if it has left you under the impression that the Bible contradicts itself. Scholars who have spent their lives in the study of the Bible have found no contradiction in it, and were you to spend as much time in actual study of the Book as you do in trying to defend your opinion of it and helping to destroy the faith of the youth of this land you might have your valued opinion changed.
I am well aware that the ultimate recipient of this letter will be the waste basket.
May God forgive you, for “you know not what you do.”
You calmly advise me not to write about subjects on which I “know nothing.” You call me “spiritually dead” and not “born of the Spirit.” You inform me that it was not intended that my “finite mind should comprehend the things of God.”
How do you know all these things?
You say that wiser men than I have accepted Jesus Christ. While I am quite willing to admit this and have frequently stated it, may I ask how you know who is wiser than I? Who told you just who is the wisest person?
You should ask your God to forgive you, for you know not what you are doing and talking, And that is probably why you are so positive about it.
In connection with the general subject of religious misbeliefs, I thought you might be interested in an anecdote of Robert Toombs, a Georgia orator and statesman and an enemy of organized religion. He tells of a dream of his in which he applied for admission to Heaven. God asked him if he had forgiven those who had sinned against him. He replied that he had not. Admission being denied him, he asked God if he had forgiven those who had sinned against him. God replied affirmatively, whereupon Toombs asked why, then, God had sent so many people to hell.
I hope that your article will be an inspiration to a little more honesty and tolerance in religious views.
My husband was a minister for more than thirty years, but he became more and more dissatisfied with the creeds and tenets of the different religious denominations and finally withdrew from the ministry. He was always a close student of all religious beliefs and a few years ago wrote a book. Thinking you might be interested in reading it I am sending you a copy of it. I think that after you read the prelude you will be interested to read the book. We lived together lacking just one day of fifty-three years. I wish that you and he might have become acquainted. He would have loved to talk with you.
I thought you might be interested in a little experience I had last night, in connection with your glorious paper in Cosmopolitan for October.
There were twelve gentlemen at a dinner table in the home of a Baptist minister, among them myself. The guests were mostly Baptists and Methodists, and at least half of them were Babbitts. There was one T. Marmaduke Hicks (see Sam Blythe’s novel). The conversation at my end of the table soon turned to your paper. I was interested to note how horrified some of the speakers were.
The smug banker: “Did you see that dreadful thing of Rupert Hughes’s? It was the most horrible example of blasphemy I ever saw. It was defiant. Blah! It was — ah-blasphemous. I am astounded that a magazine should have printed it. I shall never again read one of Hughes’s novels.”
The pompous jurist, sometimes regarded a splutterfuss: “Hughes was bred in a Christian home, to Christian ideals. He had a good start in life. I explain this horrible thing he has done on the theory that as he prospered as a writer he migrated to New York. Now in New York one drifts into a society where he cannot possibly hope to retain his youthful ideals. The influence of his social environment made Hughes an Atheist (sic). it is a ruinous thing, this society of the New York crowd that Hughes runs with.”
Another jurist, a good-hearted man, but given to the use of double negatives: “oh, Hughes is just a thrifty literary demagogue. He couldn’t have sold his article if he had written from the orthodox point of view.
I ventured to remark: “I haven’t read the article; but I do not think Mr. Hughes is insincere. No man is insincere who publicly declares a lack of faith, Men do not trifle with their immortal souls in that way. No literature is so sincerely written as confessions of unfaith.”
Chilling stares. Silence on my part.
T. Marmaduke Hicks, office holder, lawyer, and prospective candidate for governor of Alabama: “It was a shocking article. Now, I believe in men taking liberal views of religious questions; but it is dangerous, unpardonable, to veer too far away from the landmarks.”
The minister-host, who had an American Mercury on his reading table (to my surprise), said nothing. I said nothing more. There was a third jurist to my right who said nothing. A big lawyer said nothing. I wanted to get up and cuss a little; but it wasn’t the time or place, so I held in. I wanted to say “Dang it! You’re all fools, Pharisees, and hypocrites,” but I didn’t. I ate some more salted peanuts and wished they’d hurry up with the coffee and cigars.
Your paper in the October Cosmopolitan is great. I thank The Cosmopolitan so much for publishing it. I am seventy-seven years old, and my religious experiences and beliefs are exactly the same as yours. I was born and reared a strict Presbyterian, was “converted” when very young, was active in prayer meeting, church and Sunday school and all that, but about fifteen years ago I commenced to unload the bunk, and to-day I am happy to say I am a free-thinking man. I cannot account for the many otherwise sensible and wise men who swallow the Bible, but the fact is, the older I grow the more overwhelmed I am with the irrationality of the human race, especially as to religion. I feel like framing your picture for the walls of my library. I envy you for your courage and ability for expression.
“A fellow feeling makes us wondrous kind.” I have just read your article in the October Cosmopolitan, and it reached my heart. I had a similar experience to yours — born and educated in orthodox environment.
It was the thirty-first chapter of Numbers that finally broke the backbone of my religion and made me despise the Jehovah of the Jews and repudiate the whole superstition of “Faith.” I enclose you some of my sentiments, which I presume you will appreciate. I was expelled from the Masonic Order because I openly said and wrote that the God of Moses (who instigated the thirty-first chapter of Numbers) was an infinite Demon.
KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI.
In cogency, forcefulness, comprehensiveness, and attractiveness of presentation, it is the best thing I believe I have ever seen. I have studied this subject seriously ever since I was a boy and, like thousands and millions of others, have been greatly disappointed and impatient that the people generally did not realize the menace to our civilization through hanging on to all these old worn-out, discredited myths and dogmas of the dark ages.
You have expressed in a splendid way the thoughts of millions of your fellow citizens and I know your ideas will have a tremendous influence in placing this question in the proper light before our citizens.
The Cosmopolitan is entitled to the gratitude of all fair- minded citizens for lending its great circulation and powerful prestige in placing this subject before our people.
I hope this article may be published in pamphlet form so that it may have the widest possible circulation.
I am a man, 45 years old. I joined the church last Spring. I did so because my wife wanted it. There was no insistence and no nagging on her part, but I could see that she was taking the matter very much to heart, and to please her I became a church member. In addition to this, I steadily attended a revival held here by a nationally known evangelist. Therefore, my attention to things religious has been greater for the past six months than for the past twenty years of my life. I read your article in The Cosmopolitan today. Its fearlessness would make it one of the outstanding masterpieces of modem literature if it had no other attribute. Some of the things you write of had occurred to me and some of the questions you ask had been asked by me, but most of the article brought on new thoughts from a new angle. All Christian propaganda leads up invariably to “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son,” etc. Why was such a gift necessary? If it was necessary then why did the Christian God allow the world to get in a predicament of that kind? Waive that and admit that it was necessary to save the world, that Jesus Christ came here, and for the sake of argument admit the immaculate conception and the virgin birth, then where is the sacrifice that the Christian God made for this mundane sphere? It was nothing but a thirty year separation from his son, and any grammar school graduate will tell you that in its relationship to eternity, thirty years is less than infinite. “Jesus Christ died that sinners might live.” Let us suppose there was a reason for his doing it; a need for his doing it, what sacrifice has he made for the human race? What did he give up by living in misery for thirty years on this earth, as compared with infinite and perfect happiness forever on the right hand side of his Father in Heaven? John D. Rockefeller would be making a far greater sacrifice than either by dropping a penny in the hat of an undeserving beggar.
The most genuinely religious people down here are the negroes. The most universally superstitious people down here are the negroes.
In the last six months I have been absolutely convinced of something that I have believed for a long time, and that is the more genuine faith the average man has in the Christian religion the less that man has actually studied; the more that man really believes the less that man actually knows.
You are without doubt receiving a volley of abuse from the people who differ with you. It may help you some to know that the great majority agree with you.
I fully agree with all you said in your article, and am of the opinion that your disbelief, like mine, goes much farther than you have indicated in your article. I believe and think you are inclined to do the same, that Jesus of the New Testament is purely a mythological character and that nearly all the other characters surrounding him are as mythical as himself. This belief of mine has been strengthened by confirmation from some of the men I know who are specialists on history and say the same thing.
Churches are a horrible curse to a country and if they are not curbed in their damnable work, it is only a question of time when they involve the world in a conflict which will make the last one look tame.
You explained the reason why you dropped all this bunk when you said you had read the Bible from one end to the other. If all people would do that, there would not be enough believers in it to justify the printing of another edition of that popular but unread work.
You have burned your bridges and I hope you will keep up the good work. If I could write as you can I would give them hell all the time, but unfortunately where the intentions are the best the ability is lacking.
I have read nearly every work you have written in the last ten years, but shall take more pleasure in reading your works now that I know that your religious ideas are sound.
Notwithstanding I was born and raised a Quaker, a study of the human problem has been a hobby of mine for more than forty years, and the older I grow and the more I study, the farther I get away from the Bible as of any value in solving life’s problems.
For the past ten years it has been our privilege to reach men and women in prisons, getting results that are not only amazing, but “will stand the acid test.”
We discovered early in our existence that if we were to reach all nationalities, colors, tongues, and creeds, we must not quote the Bible nor permit the discussion of religious subjects from any theological point of view; and church authorities are so jealous over the results we are getting that they have fought us all the way.
For the past three years, in spite of their protests, we have been operating in the public schools with even greater results, as you will see by copies of letters attached.
If this letter reaches you and you are interested we would like to send you more detailed information, as to what can be done in moral training of children, without the Bible or Church. More power to you.
You will be delighted to learn that one person agrees with you in every word of your article, “Why I Quit Going to Church.”
It saves me the trouble of writing exactly the same thing before I die. I would like to be rich enough to mail a copy of your article to sixty or seventy million people.
Within the year about five million readers will know about your message, and I hope the seed will drop fast and spread until America as a whole is awakened.
Should every reader of this article call attention to a non- reader, the message will reach more people than your publishers can guess. We non-Christians have no boycotting, black-balling, blackmailing organizations behind us, nor do we ever threaten the Christians with death nor torments, but we are watchdogs just the same.
The Cosmopolitan Magazine will undoubtedly receive countless cowardly back-stabs during the next few years as a result of your daring to tell the truth.
Religious persecution today is more refined than it was when Fox dared to print the Book of Martyrs, but we have all had the opportunity of tracing the Church sluggers to their lair. I am not afraid of the Church, nor should the rest of the world fear its power.
Christians who never read a line of your literary achievements will now painfully write you that hereafter not a copy of your books shall ever enter their home again.
The Cosmopolitan Magazine will be warned that no more copies of the magazine shall be bought — especially persons not guilty of spending 35 cents for any magazine will take the trouble to scare the publishers. Tell them for me that the financial boycotting of Church people is a myth.
I have been a bookseller for 33 years and have been boycotted, black-balled, and all but blackmailed by the Church, but the truth remains I am unafraid of being destroyed by loss of income from this class of spenders.
Thanks sincerely to yourself and publishers for the great thrill received.
I wish to express my gratification for your splendid article, and to congratulate you for your courage in writing it. I am glad to know that you are definitely in the ranks of those who are making war on the most abominable superstition and bold and oppressive graft that have ever cursed humanity. We need pens like yours, that know how to write words that burn.
For a few days after the delivery of The Cosmopolitan it appeared openly on all newsstands in this city, then it became known that there was “some thing in it,” when instantly every copy disappeared. Some of the holy brethren had evidently given warning to the dealers, and they no longer dared display the magazine to the public; but anyone could get it by asking for it. The dealer would bring it out from some hidden place, but only one copy at a time as it is asked for. How shameful it is that such conditions should exist in a so-called free country! The publishers of The Cosmopolitan deserve the greatest possible credit for their courage in printing your article, and I hope the liberal-minded public will back them in it.
I am writing this to extend to you my modest encouragement in the great work that lies before you, and hope that no amount of abuse or intolerance will induce you to turn back.
LOS ANGELES, CAL.
You certainly cleaned up on General Hypocrisy and his aides, Censure, Cant, and Humbug, in your article in October Cosmopolitan. It has been many moons since I read anything that gave me such a cheering up.
I have written some five hundred stories, and have been trimmed up by editors until there was no guts left. Constantly have I been admonished, “Don’t say anything about religion.”
I was beginning to think the average American editor was a pussy-footing coward, afraid of his own shadow, until The Cosmopolitan published your smashing article, The editor of that magazine must be a real editor.
Of course I was not surprised at the article coming from you, as I had read many of your stories, and noted between the lines rebellion against the Methodist control or any control by a set of fanatics and soft-headed morons. What astounded me was that there was any publisher who had the courage to print it. My friend —–, of —-, for whom I have written many stories, will not let me peep about religion, race, sex, or any subject that really means anything. He won’t even let me put in an honest cuss-word — runs it in blanks. He says he is doing what his readers want. But why shouldn’t a writer discuss anything under the sun? What is so damned sacred it can’t stand the light of day?
The Christian religion has made the white man a blood-thirsty, cowardly, low-minded hypocrite, justifying all his foul acts with a Cross. Nothing but a club will keep the Christian fanatic out of government, out of the schools, out of control of press, theater, and police. Your article was a smashing blow at the curse of the world.
I greet you and extend you my hand. You have done mankind a service. And the service you have just rendered is not of the mediocre, perishable kind. It will strike home and do good. Too many of our writers seem satisfied with their own disbelief of the popular superstition but make no effort to help those who are floundering in the mire to reach solid ground. But you have surpassed them all in that you have written for popular consumption an irrefutable article — irrefutable because of its analytical basis.
From the dawn of history priestcraft has been a necessary evil. Goethe said: “He who has science and art has religion; he who has not these two had better have religion.” I need no priestly interpretation of this to understand his meaning. Man’s mind is about where it can grasp science and art — if it is not first poisoned with superstition. You have materially helped deal with the latter.
For your trouble you will receive great vilification from the pulpit and all true believers. Many will feel the desire to put you to death however much your last paragraph ought to dispel that feeling.
I see a new day dawning when these things shall be gone and man will be free in the arts and sciences. Then the fulfillment of Nietzsche’s dream of the superman (intellectual over-man) will be on the way. This one article has done the masses more good than the priests of all time. Come again.
A photo-portrait of me seated at my desk would reveal only two buttons on my coat sleeve, a cigarette clamped in my fingers, white stockings, too — and we certainly think alike.
Not having a public that can be held at arm’s length, so to speak — in other words having to address any remarks whatsoever to my immediate family — I have long since ceased to discuss the futilities of religious creeds except with my own inner self while out walking on sunny afternoons.
I was a somewhat more than ordinarily emotional boy and, like yourself, went long on church and Sunday school. I taught a Sunday school class fervently.
But heavens! what could I do when required to say today that God is merciful and just and tomorrow that (in furtherance of what seems a selfish end) God destroyed a whole country full of people whose only offense was an earnest effort to do what they believed was the right thing at the moment. (A number of instances in the Bible.)
Like yon, I cannot tolerate a religion that includes both Heaven and Hell. The God who conceives and perpetuates one of these institutions cannot possibly conduct the other, and do it justice.
Early in my pursuit of religion I became a convert to the Roman Catholic church. Since it is the oldest Christian organization, why not? Because it is a sham; an idolatrous, incense-burning, miracle-preaching sham.
Catholics go to church and to confession avowedly to dump off some of their load of scheduled sin so they can take on more. They enter their churches on Sundays, slump to their knees in attitude of devotion, and while thus disguised bandy words and scandals with others apparently equally devout. A religions form 1600 years old has not the authority to receive ten minutes really serious attention from its communicants. Meanwhile several plaster gods specifically prayed to before God is prayed to gloom from their niches in spite of the well-known fact that God will not tolerate idolatry.
Protestant churches are frankly three-ringed circuses designed to support the preacher and extend the real estate holdings of the parish, and hot-beds of jealousy and clique-claque.
Consider the fact that none of the Bible was other than a tribal saga, transmitted by word of mouth from father to son for years after the events described took place, and consider the many, many differing translations of the original texts. As well believe Mother Goose tales!
And yet, what causes the sprout of a seed to turn upward no matter how it falls in the earth; what has enabled men to fly better than birds and travel in the ocean’s depths better than the fish who live there? To what do we owe every good thing we have ever known? Perhaps we should worship the sun.
I believe that a good and conscientious headhunter, or gambler, or what you will, reaps the same reward as the good Christian. It’s all a question of doing what you believe in to the top of your game. If it’s inconvenient for others they restrain you — after a while.
Men strive continually because they are egotistical — or is it the urging of an immortal soul?
I firmly believe that the man who declares himself a lost sinner is a fat-head fishing for applesauce.
I want to thank you for your fine article in Cosmopolitan for the current month. Like yourself, I was brought up in an old- fashioned home, and for many years led the kind of a life you have described, but little by little I became better acquainted with the great facts of science and of life, and little by little I discovered that they did not “jibe” with things as set down in Genesis.
This must not be a long letter, so I will not exhaust your patience with the story of my “discoveries” except to say that they correspond with those you have made. What I want to suggest in this letter is, that you write another article on “Evidences of Priestcraft in the Bible.” You have referred to one “Yet plagues await any who change the book.”
Scattered all through the New Testament are sayings of that sort, in connection with things laid down as fundamental to salvation. A study of these statements will reveal the hand of priestcraft. Somebody, in the long ago, was not content with quoting Christ, but added words of his own. “Whoso believeth not shall be damned,” for instance. As though it were a sin for a man to think for himself; a sin for him to use his brains, his intellect, God-given, but must needs “believe” something his mind rejects, just because this somebody in the long ago said he must. It is safe to contend that some of the teachings of Paul have also been twisted to suit some priestly mind, or else Paul himself was a narrow-minded bigot. (Not necessary here to go into this.) Once started along this line, you will note very many decidedly human things woven into the scriptures, strongly suggesting the hand of the early church.
It is high time that men like yourself, and others like- minded, give thought to these things, to the end that a newer and more sensible religion that can fully satisfy thinking men and women, be given to the world. Religion is needed by humanity. There seems to be no doubt about that. Must it be forever a lying, deceitful religion? Are the people boobs” that they love that sort of thing? Sometimes I think they are. Still I do believe there are thousands of thinking people, who might be gotten together in some way, to the end that discussion might be had, and a start made, toward a more rational religion for a world sadly in need of it just now.
I was quite amazed that a writer of your standing actually had the “guts” to tell the world what he thought of the Bible and the Christian religion.
May I congratulate you on your courage, Mr. Hughes?
It is indeed a pleasure to find out that my favorite writer is not a hypocrite.
We are three traveling men, of different denominations, who happen to entertain the liberal views which you so ably expressed, and want to commend you on your courageous stand on a matter which so vitally affects the millions of this world.
We find you giving expression to ideas which, we discovered in our discussion, have been harbored by each of us in various forms. We have been brought up in strict orthodox religious teaching, in our different creeds, thoroughly imbued with the idea that our religion, and ourselves, was infallible. Would that this world contained more “sinners” such as you, and if it were possible to convert some of the religious fanatics of all beliefs to your creed, this would indeed be a better world to live in.
I have read your reply to the Rev. —– and I like the way you handled him. I am satisfied that you won’t hear from him any more and I want to say to you that you have made thousands of friends and admirers all over Georgia and your friends are all of the better class. They rank among the judges of our courts, and the best women of the State are praising Rupert Hughes for having nerve enough to say what you think and think what you please, regardless of the opposition of the army of sky-pilots.
CAPE MAY, N.J.
Why take the trouble to knock those dear ridiculous old Bible tales that used to give us so much delight in youth — and still do? You’ll be coming out pretty soon and saying you don’t believe that the adventures of Puss in Boots are strictly true.
You remind me of the Lord Chancellor in “Iolanthe.” When they told him that the lady was 18 and the lad 23 he remarked with ponderous judicial gravity. “I don’t believe she is his mother!”
Have a heart.
I like you and I like your books.
ST. LOUIS, Mo.
It is certainly cheering to come across such an article as you have been permitted to give to the world. In these days when the hypocrite and liar is over-running the land, especially in these United States, it is heartening to see recorded, and on the pages of a non-concurring journal, the honest conviction of a searcher for the truth.
To me the Christians’ creed is a hideous jangle of fables, filthy legends, and lies, a creed that should put to shame even such a god as the Christians pretend to worship. Church membership is now merely a commercial asset.
The Christians have never lifted themselves up even to that god in whom they pretend to believe, but have consistently dragged down even him to their (the Christians’) level. Destroying, in their brazen effrontery, the idols of other peoples, they have erected in their stead thousands much more vicious, malignant, and hideous.
The Christians’ god is to me non-existent. He is an idol fabricated in a brain enmeshed in the cobwebs of religious superstition. If he were the ideal spirit which they pretend to believe him, if he were all-wise, all-good, then every prayer uttered by a Christian is a blasphemy. If he were omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, he should need no guidance or control in the management of the little sphere on which we crawl from those who crawl. Does not the life of the pretender to a religious belief in almost every instance belie this pretended belief? If he were honest would he not shrink in horror at the fate which, according to his pretended belief, awaits the hypocrite and liar?
The Christian creed is tottering. It is tottering because it is built on a foundation of falsehood and degrading fable — tottering because the walls of its super-structure are soaked in the blood of the victims of its fanaticism — tottering because it has fostered Superstition and Selfishness, the cardinal vices of the human race.
More power to your pen.