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" Te Benefit of the Doubt."…



CHRISTIANITY AJJD PROGRESS. To the Editor. Sir,—Mr Baker has made another discovery, which is quite on a par with the other mare's nest he found anent Darwin. He has found that I have executed a complete volte face on this question, merely because I eulogised the Protestant reformers, their principles, and their work. He is either too obtuse to discern the poinnt raised, or he sophisticates to suit his pur pose. I thank your other correspondent for re- minding me of the Pauline doctrine, "Prove all things; hold fast to that which is true," because that is the fundamental principle of free thought But I need not thank him for any opportunities or access to material to form a judgment on the question; for he would rigidly exclude from our public libraries anything adversely criticising the Christian superstition. If he had his way, no doubt, he would veto the Editor in publishing my reflections on it. These Christians will glorify the Reformation with their lips, while they abandon the very principles they eulogise. They accept, as John Stuart Mill remarks, the ethics of Christ and his apostles up to the point of practising them. He is a good divine who follows his own instructions. "See how these Christians love one another" was the sarcastic remark of Pagans anent Early Christians, and it holds good to this very day. Wherever man- kind has set up the conception of a divinely revealed religion and its infallibility, there has always followed, as inevitably as night follows day, perversion of the intellect, ruthless sup- pression of freedom, oppression and cruelty of the most odious description. Take Turkey as an illustration. The Turk is the most devout religionist in Europe; its government is based on a pure theocracy. Behind the Sultan's throne standa the Sheik of Islam, the representative of Mahommet, who claims to have discovered the divinely revealed Word of God in the Koran. The consequences follow as unerringly as any other effect that results from its antecedent cause; persecutions, rapine, and wholesale mas- sacre—that exactly is the history of the Christ- ian church. Mr Baker remnds me that the Bible is not a scientfic book. It is a matter cf complete indifference what is Mr Baker's opin- ion. That is not the point; the real question is, What are the claims the church has set up on behalf of pseudo-Bible science, and what were the reasons that induced her to make these claims? The same claim is made for the Bible as is made for the Koran; it is infallible because it is the divinely revealed word of God and the same result follow in both cases. It was only at the beginning of the present cen- tury that the Romish Church expunged its de- cree against the belief in the heliocentric theory. No longer able to uphold and defend the Geo- centric theory of the Bible, it surrendered its untenable position. The same with regard to the conception of the. earth being a plane; it forced Buffon to make a recantation in regard to certain theories about the earth which con- flicted with the Bible conce -ions. Copernicus was on his deathbed when he received a printed copy of his work, which was destined to revolu- tionise men's ideas about the Cosmos. Draper, referring to this, remarks: "Full of misgivings as to what might be the result, he refrained from publishing it for thirty-six years." Gior- dano Bruno taught the unity of nature and the eternity and potentiality of matter; and the answer of the church to his arguments was to burn him over a slow fire for the presumption of contraverting the preconveived notions of this most holy church. Breastworks of Bibles has to be encountered and overcome before social re- formers can go onwards on the path of human progress. Mr Hammond writes about free thought per- version. This is exquisite. Does he know no- thing about Christianity and its perversions, Robert Moffat, the missionary, tells us that when he first preached the doctrines of Christianity to the Bechuanas, they listened in utter amaze- ment and incredulity. And well thev might; the intellect must be perverted indeed that can receive without question the fundamental doc- trines of this supernatural religion. I was asked for a definition of progress. I gave it; further, I pointed to some anti-progressive notions re- ceived from Palestine, such as slavery, demonolo- gy, witchcraft, faith cure, and miracles. But there is a discreet silence on these questions, except one, viz., slavery. Before I deal with that I want to answer Mr Hammond about hospitals and some other questions he gave. First question: Do I maintain that the twenty millions voted as compensation to the slave- owners was the property of infidels ? I presume that infidels are taxpayers, and had to pay their quota. All wealth comes from labour. It was an idle, rich class that benefited by this heinous system of slavery; but it was the worker, who leaped no benefit whatever, who had to pay to get rid of it. I will here quote Whittier, and 1 hope your correspondent will read, ponder, and inwardly digest: -Pay ransom to the o.wner. Fill the bag to. the brim. Who is owner ?The slave is owner, and ever was Pay him." Mr Hammond ought to know that none are ex- empted from paying taxes. What the number of Freethinkers was at the time this act passed I know not; but Whittaker's almanack a few years ago stated there were between six and seven millions of sceptics in this country. I have no doubt that this awful news will upset Mr Hammond's nervous equilibrium. Still, I hope he will survive the shock, so that he may aid in propping up the tottering fabric of Chris- tianity. Have we any schools and institutions for benevolent purposes? Yes, both of them. It is only Mr Hammond's crass ignorance and animus to our movement that could prompt such a question. There are ethical schools in the country whose function is to educate the young without contaminating their minds with the perversion of a debasing supernaturalism. Has he never heard of the Girard College for orphans in Philadelphia, endowed by a Free- or thinker, one of the noblest institutions in the world ? Hospitals? What about them? Does Mr Hammond maintain that they originated with Christianity? Let him essay to prove it in the "Free Press,' and I will undertake to prove its incorrectness. I want to set one matter right; it refers to the Netherlands. I committed a lapsus scri- bendi in describing three millions being slaug- tered. I ought to have stated that they were ordered to be slaughtered by the Pope; but, for- tunately, it mis-carried. Mr Hammond is wrong in stating that the Pope never ordered this slaughter; the mandate for it first came from him and was confirmed by King Phillip of Spain ten days after. The object os it was to despoil the people of the Netherlands of their wealth, to enricji the church. (See Moltey's "Rise of the Dutch Republic." Now, I must set Mr Hammond right in regard to Darwin and slavery. If any man ever hated slavery from the core of his being ,it was this eminent scientist. I will here quote his own words on quitting the shores of Brazil: "I thank God I shall never again visit a slave country. To this day, if I hear a distant scream it re- calls with painfid vividness my feelings when passing a house near Peramb.co. I heard the most pitiable moans, and could not but suspect that some poor slave was being tortured, yet knew that I was as powerless as a child even to remonstrate.' After describing some revolting details connected with this odious system, and condemning those people who speak of it as a tolerable evil, and commenting on the agony of mind endured at enforced separation between husband and wife, parents and children, he adds: "And these deeds are done and nalliated by men who profess to love their neighbours as themselves, who believe in God and prav that His will be done on earth. Such were the sen- timents of this truly great man towards slavery. "A young slave girl, endowed with a poetic na- ture, wailed forth thus from an anguished heart: "And this was in a Christian land, Where men oft kneel and prav. The vaunted home of liberty Where lash and chain ho id sway." Such is the system which has divine sanction, and Mr Hammond defends, or, at least, ex- tenuates. But I am told that Semitic slavery was nothing like I try to make it out. Slavery iq indefensible in any form whatever, because it destroys the principle of equality, it de- grades, embrutes, and humiliates man. If the moral sense of man repudiates it, how could it ever have received divine sanction? Yet that is what the Bible teaches. I may remind Mi Hammond that emancipation at the year of Jubilee did not apply to the whole class of slaves. Foreign slaves might be obtained by capture, purchase, or by bein born in the house, and over these the masters had entire authority to sell, exchange, judge, punish, or even to put them to death. Let the readers of the "Free Press" read over the very chapter quoted 1-y your correspondent, viz.. Lev. xxv., and particu- larlv the 44 and 46 verses. Here is a beautiful ethic Quoted from Exodus xxi: "If his master have given him a wife and she have borne him sons or daughters, the wife Ilnd her children shall be his master, and he (the husband) shall eo out hv himself." Now if the affection of this slave for his family should be stronger than his aspiration for freedom, and should he elect to remain with his familv, what was his fate then? The sixth verse in Exodus will inform us: "Then the mast3r shall brin him to the iudrres: he shall also bring him to the door or into the door-post, and his master shall bore his eir through with an awl. and he shall serve him for ever." I have given my critics some Bible tmths, perhaps more than they bargained for. V- tv if orr» It vmor vre+eh wl>et Jh" uevii and the blue sea, it WIUI this SeuiUc slave. If he chose to remain with his wife and child- ren, he had life-long servitude and personal mutilation to boot; if he decided for freedom he would have to cut his heartstrings asunder and go forth alone on life's weary journey- that and nothing more. It is quite futile to preach the Fatherhood of God and the brother- hood of man, and, at the same time, to essay to vindicate a divine sanction to such a vile in- stitution as chattel slavery. One would have to stultify himself to believe such a farrago of go nonsense as that, and free thought is needed to purge the human intellect of such perversions. I am, etc. Maerdy. J. LEWIS. To the Editor. Sir,—In your last issue the correspondent who signs his name Joseph Hammond makes several statements which go to prove that he fears the result of the circulation of Freethought literature, or, that he is too narrowminded to accept a negative, and thus with the affirmative (which no doubt he has) to weigh the evidences for and against that which he holds, and arrive at a conclusion which I would term positive. There are several, in fact, his letter is formed up of inconsistent and untruthful quibbles. I would challenge Mr Hammond to prove his assertion. "Infidels do not require the right o hold property for there is little reason to think that they would back their opinions with their purses." I can prove, Sir, that the honest in- fidel or sceptic will and does back, and has backed his opinion with his purse. Is he a Christian? But there-I won't be personal; I will not blame the man for what a religion has made him. He thinks infidels should be pitied. Mr Hammond, an ounce of evidence is worth a ton of pity. Yes, prove all things and hold fast to that which is good." The proof first, then hold fast. The proof has not come yet. His question re "Was the money granted to slave owners l46 property of infidels.' I don't mean to say that it did. But neither did it rightfully belong to the Parliament that gave it. Will Mr Hammond kindly look up the official returns of various Mission Societies at home and abroad, and furnish the truth concerning their work? Let Professor Huxley say what he will about the Bible being a moral guide, I ask the question respectfully: Why is there so much controversy about placing the Bible in the hands of all children at our Board Schools ? Again, I am surprised a. the little knowledge the correspondent has displayed when he asks such questions as to the existence of societies, infirmaries, and so on. No doubt, some of the "Anti-Infidel' 'absurdities! Do they ever visit the sick, clothe the poor, etc.? Why, that is our duty. That is our religion, the religion of humanity. Yes, Mr Hammond, we do it, and more. His question, "Can Mr Lewis tell us of a. single individual regretting having been a Christian? I, for one, can. I could refer you tQ a case only recently—just a few weeks ago. I could give particulars now, but I don't wish to hurt. any- one's feelings by bringing it before the public without permission. I should like to ask your correspondent many questions; for I am entitled to answers, being another of the many searchers for truth. Two will suffice this time. 1, Is faith above or against reason? 2, If they tell us that thev have the infallible word of God, with, of course, its in- finite inspiration, ana all the evidences of ancient and modern researches, which go to prove its aceurateness, why do they take so much pains to protect it? Are they afraid it will become pol- luted, or that the stock of inspiration will run out? I doubt but what some of them think it part fraud and wholly folly.—I am, etc., T. L. MARTIN. To the Editor. Sir,—I have been watching this discussion for some time, and if it were not for the name being above each letter, a casual reader would take it to be a discussion on the meaning of certain words in the English language. I have not no- ticed in any of the letters one fact to prove that Christianity has helped on civilisation. Instead of that, Christianity has exercised a baleful in- fluence upon society by its assumptions of infalli- bility, by its exclusiveness and its insane pre- tension that finality has been reached, that it is placed upon such an immovable basis of truth that all science and all philosophy must take their cue from its crude and untenable creation story and its revolting and immoral redemption myth. It came upon the world when the world was comparatively a baby, and set itself to the task not only of seeing that the baby should not be allowed to grow any bigger, but that it should, if possible, be dwarfed and pinched into something meaner and smaller. It enjoined upon its votaries that the wisdom of man is folly in the sight of God, and that heaven it not filled with philosopher., bat with "hates and suck- lings. It pronounced an appalling curse upon him who should alter by one jot or one tittle anything in the jumbled incoherences of its Scriptures. All knowledge was crystallised, all wisdom put into its eternal shape, eighteen hundred years ago. No secular book was of any use. If it taught what was not in the Bible, it taught what was unnecessary; if it taught any- thing opposed to the Bible, it was blasphemous. It is too true that the world "grew grey at the breath" of Christianity, and that, as Professor Tyndall remarked at Belfast, the victorious ad- vance of science was arrested, and the scientific intellect was compelled, like the exhausted soil, to lie fallow for two milleniums before it could regather the elements necessary to its fertility and strength. If this char<Te be true, and it is, alas! too true, what a record of unutterable guilt this monstrous and bloodstained creed has to answer for! And what have we got in return from it all-the darkness and blood and misery through which it has dragged us ? Nothing! C speak deliberately and advisedly when I repeat we have got literally nothing. Now we have had eighteen centuries of the baleful thing. It has done its best to stand in the way of humani- ty's onward march, and to break the chariot wheels of human progress. It is not Clirist- ianity, but the progressive principle in humanity, that has given us a better state of things in the world now than obtained in that "starless mid- night of our race" known as the Dark Apes. It is not the plastic influence of priestcraft that has made us what we are, but the principle of evolution inherent in our race, and which has raised us from the pristine rudeness of the stone period to the position we occupy to-day. The "summum bonum" of existence is the attainment of individual and collective happiness. Was our race two thousand years ago. not as happy as to-day? What arc there in London and Paris of the elements of rational happiness that were not to be found in Athens and Rome? Were there more wretches who died of hunger in Rome than now die annually in London? Were there more men and women and children in ignorance and squalor and rags? Was there more shame- less and flaunting prostitution in the Forum at Rome than there is in Belgravia? True, Rome had a Tarquin. but his name is held in odium and execration; while London has a thousand Tar- Quins, and their names are not held in odium. They occupy the high plases of the earth: they sit beside God's own Bishops in the Upper House, and in the name of God and the King e-qay to arrest the car of human progress. you in anticiratioll, I am, etc- Abercynon. JAMFG WYPER.


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