Is it necessary to understand Hebrew in order to know that cruelty is not a virtue, that murder is inconsistent with infinite goodness, and that eternal punishment can be inflicted upon man only by an eternal fiend? Is it really essential to conjugate the Greek verbs before you can make up your mind as to the probability of dead people getting out of their graves? Must one be versed in Latin before he is entitled to express his opinion as to the genuineness of a pretended revelation from God?
Common sense belongs exclusively to no tongue. Logic is not confined to, nor has it been buried with, the dead languages.
If learning had not been lost, if the people had been educated, if they had known the literature of Greece and Rome, if they had been familiar with the tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, with the philosophy of Zeno and Epicurus, with the orations of Demosthenes; if they had known the works of art, the miracles of genius, the passions in marble, the dreams in stone; if they had known the history of Rome; if they had understood Lucretius, Cicero and Cæsar; if they had studied the laws, the decisions of the Prætors; if they had known the thoughts of all the mighty dead, there would have been no soil on which the seeds of Christian superstition could have taken root and grown.
In the decline of the Roman power, in the times when prosperity died, when commerce almost ceased, when the sceptre of authority fell from the weak and nerveless hands, when arts were lost and the achievements of the past forgotten or unknown, then Christians came, and holding in contempt all earthly things, told their fellows of another world – of joy eternal beyond the clouds.
Rome was far better when Pagan than when Catholic. It was better to allow gladiators and criminals to fight than to burn honest men. The greatest of the Romans denounced the cruelties of the arena. Seneca condemned the combats even of wild beasts. He was tender enough to say that “we should have a bond of sympathy for all sentient beings, knowing that only the depraved and base take pleasure in the sight of blood and suffering.” Aurelius compelled the gladiators to fight with blunted swords. Roman lawyers declared that all men are by nature free and equal. Woman, under Pagan rule in Rome, became as free as man.
Zeno, long before the birth of Christ, taught that virtue alone establishes a difference between men. We know that the Civil Law is the foundation of our codes. We know that fragments of Greek and Roman art – a few manuscripts saved from Christian destruction, some inventions and discoveries of the Moors – were the seeds of modern civilization. Christianity, for a thousand years, taught memory to forget and reason to believe. Not one step was taken in advance. Over the manuscripts of philosophers and poets, priests with their ignorant tongues thrust out, devoutly scrawled the forgeries of faith.
In the New Testament, death is not the end, but the beginning of punishment that has no end. In the New Testament the malice of God is infinite and hunger of his revenge eternal.
The orthodox God, when clothed in human flesh, told his disciples not to resist evil, to love their enemies, and when smitten on one cheek to turn the other, and yet we are told that this same God, with the same loving lips, uttered these heartless. these fiendish words: “Depart ye cursed into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.”
These are the words of “eternal love.”
The doctrine of eternal punishment is the infamy of infamies. And yet we are told that the author of hell is a being of infinite mercy. No Devil, no Christ, no hell. No hell, no atonement. No atonement, no preaching, no gospel.
No human being has imagination enough to conceive of this infinite horror.
All that the human race has suffered in war and want, in pestilence and famine, in fire and flood – all the pangs and pains of every disease and every death – all of this is nothing compared with the agonies to be endured by one lost soul.
This is the consolation of the Christian religion. This is the justice of God – the mercy of Christ.
This frightful dogma, this infinite lie, made me the implacable enemy of Christianity. The truth is that this belief in eternal pain has been the real persecutor. It founded the Inquisition, forged the chains, and furnished the fagots. It has darkened the lives of many millions. It made the cradle as terrible as the coffin. It enslaved nations and shed the blood of countless thousands. It sacrificed the wisest, the bravest and the best. It subverted the idea of justice, drove mercy from the heart, changed men to fiends and banished reason from the brain.
Like a venomous serpent it crawls and coils and hisses in every orthodox creed.
It makes man an eternal victim and God an eternal fiend. It is the one infinite horror. Every church in which it is taught is a public curse. Every preacher who teaches it is an enemy of mankind. Below this Christian dogma, savagery cannot go. It is the infinite of malice, hatred, and revenge.
Nothing could add to the horror of hell, except the presence of its creator, God.
While I have life, as long as I draw breath, I shall deny with all my strength, and hate with every drop of my blood, this infinite lie.
For centuries Christendom was a madhouse. Popes, cardinals, bishops, priests, monks and heretics were all insane.
Only a few – four or five in a century – were sound in heart and brain. Only a few, in spite of the roar and din, in spite of the savage cries, heard reason’s voice. Only a few in the wild rage of ignorance, fear and zeal preserved the perfect calm that wisdom gives.
And yet we are told that we must believe such a doctrine or we are to be eternally damned! It will not do.
We are not accountable for the sins of “Adam.”
Why should the suffering innocent atone for the crimes of the guilty?
Who can estimate the misery that has been caused by this most infamous doctrine of eternal punishment? Think of the lives it has blighted – of the tears it has caused – of the agony it has produced. Think of the millions who have been driven to insanity by this most terrible of dogmas. This doctrine renders God the basest and most cruel being in the universe. Compared with him, the most frightful deities of the most barbarous and degraded tribes are miracles of goodness and mercy.
There is nothing more degrading than to worship such a god. Lower than this the soul can never sink. If the doctrine of eternal damnation is true, let me share the fate of the unconverted; let me have my portion in hell, rather than in heaven with a god infamous enough to inflict eternal misery upon any of the sons of men.
Christianity has made more lunatics than it ever provided asylums for.
My heart bleeds when I contemplate the sufferings endured by the millions now dead; of those who lived when the world appeared to be insane; when the heavens were filled with an infinite Horror who snatched babes with dimpled hands and rosy cheeks from the white breasts of mothers, and dashed them into an abyss of eternal flame.
Slowly, beautifully, like the coming of the dawn, came the grand truth, that the universe is governed by law; that disease fastens itself upon the good and upon the bad; that the tornado cannot be stopped by counting beads; that the rushing lava pauses not for bended knees, the lightning for clasped and uplifted hands, nor the cruel waves of the sea for prayer; that paying tithes causes, rather than prevents, famine; that pleasure is not sin; that happiness is the only good; that demons and gods exist only in the imagination; that faith is a lullaby sung to put the soul to sleep; that devotion is a bribe that fear offers to supposed power; that offering rewards in another world for obedience in this is simply buying a soul on credit; that knowledge consists in ascertaining the laws of nature, and that wisdom is the science of happiness. Slowly, grandly, beautifully, these truths are dawning upon mankind.
From Copernicus we learned that this earth is only a grain of sand on the infinite shore of the universe; that everywhere we are surrounded by shining worlds vastly greater than our own, all moving and existing in accordance with law. True, the earth began to grow small, but man began to grow great.
If we cannot have heaven without hell, I am in favor of abolishing heaven. I do not want to go to heaven if one soul is doomed to agony. I would rather be annihilated.
It is a great pleasure to drive the fiend of fear out of the hearts of men, women and children. It is a positive joy to put out the fires of hell.
I beg of you not to pollute the soul of childhood, not to furrow the cheeks of mothers, by preaching a creed that should be shrieked in a madhouse. Do not make the cradle as terrible as the coffin. Preach, I pray you, the gospel of Intellectual Hospitality – the liberty of thought and speech. Take from loving hearts the awful fear. Have mercy on your fellow-men. Do not drive to madness the mothers whose tears are falling on the pallid faces of those who died in unbelief. Pity the erring, wayward, suffering, weeping world. Do not proclaim as “tidings of great joy” that an Infinite Spider is weaving webs to catch the souls of men.
I beg, I implore, I beseech you, never to give another dollar to build a church in which that lie is preached. Never give another cent to send a missionary with his mouth stuffed with that falsehood to a foreign land.
Christianity has held all other creeds and forms in infinite contempt, divided the world into enemies and friends, and verified the awful declaration of its founder – a declaration that wet with blood the sword he came to bring, and made the horizon of a thousand years lurid with the fagots’ flames.
The religion of Jesus Christ, as preached by his church, causes war, bloodshed, hatred, and all uncharitableness; and why? Because, they say, a certain belief is necessary to salvation. They do not say, if you behave yourself you will get there; they do not say, if you pay your debts and love your wife and love your children, and are good to your friends, and your neighbors, and your country, you will get there; that will do you no good; you have got to believe a certain thing. No matter how bad you are, you can instantly be forgiven; and no matter how good you are, if you fail to believe that which you cannot understand, the moment you get to the day of judgment nothing is left but to damn you, and all the angels will shout “hallelujah.”
Nearly every murderer goes directly from the gallows to God. There is only one step from the gallows to God, only one jerk between the halter and heaven. That is taught by this church.
I believe there ought to be a law to prevent the giving of the slightest religious consolation to any man who has been found guilty of murder.
Should a Christian pity an unbeliever – one who has rejected the Bible – when he knows that God will be pitiless forever?
Let a Catholic understand that if he imbrues his hands in his brother’s blood, he can have no extreme unction. Let it be understood that he can have no forgiveness through the church; and let the Protestant understand that when he has committed that crime the community will not pray him into heaven. Let him go with his victim. The victim, dying in his sins, goes to hell, and the murderer has the happiness of seeing him there. If heaven grows dull and monotonous, the murderer can again give life to the nerve of pleasure by watching the agony of his victim.
The truth is, Christianity has not made friends; it has made enemies. It is not, as taught, the religion of peace, it is the religion of war. Why should a Christian hesitate to kill a man that his God is waiting to damn? Why should a Christian not destroy an infidel who is trying to assassinate his soul? Why should a Christian pity an unbeliever – one who has rejected the Bible – when he knows that God will be pitiless forever?
When cunning collects tolls from fear, the church prospers. Religion got most of its power from the terror of death. The educated man is his own priest, his own pope, his own church.
Catholic priests are exhibiting a piece of one of the bones of Saint Anne, the supposed mother of the Virgin Mary. Some of these priests may be credulous imbeciles and some may be pious rogues. If they have any real intelligence they must know that there is no possible way of proving that the piece of bone ever belonged to Saint Anne. And if they have any real intelligence they must know that even the bones of Saint Anne were substantially like the bones of other people, made of substantially the same material, and that the medical and miraculous qualities of all human bones must be substantially the same. And yet these priests are obtaining from their credulous dupes thousands and thousands of dollars for the privilege of seeing this bone and kissing the box that contains the “sacred relic.”
Archbishop Corrigan knows that no one knows who the mother of the Virgin Mary was, that no one knows about any of the bones of this unknown mother, knows that the whole thing is a theological fraud, knows that his priests, or priests under his jurisdiction, are obtaining money under false pretenses. Cardinal Gibbons knows the same, but neither of these pious gentlemen has one word to say against this shameless crime. They are willing that priests for the benefit of the church should make merchandise of the hopes and fears of ignorant believers; willing that fraud that produces revenue should live and thrive.
This is the honesty of the theologian. If these gentlemen should be taken sick they would not touch the relic. They would send for a physician.
A loved one dies and we wish to meet again; and from the affection of the human heart grew the great oak of the hope of immortality. Around that oak has climbed the poisonous vines of superstition. Theologians, pretenders, soothsayers, parsons, priests, popes, bishops, have taken advantage of that. They have stood by graves and promised heaven. They have stood by graves and prophesied a future filled with pain. They have erected their tollgates on the highway of life and have collected money from fear.
What consolation has the orthodox religion for the widow of the unbeliever, the widow of a good, brave, kind man? What can the orthodox minister say to relieve the bursting heart of that woman? What can he say to relieve the aching hearts of the orphans as they kneel by the grave of that father, if that father did not happen to be an orthodox Christian? What consolation have they? When a Christian loses a friend the tears spring from his eyes as quickly as from the eyes of others. Their tears are as bitter as ours. Why? The echoes of the words spoken eighteen hundred years ago are so low, and the sounds of the clods upon the coffin are so loud the promises are so far away, and the dead are so near.
I find that people who believe in immortality – or at least those who say they do – are just as afraid of death as anybody else. I find that the most devout Christian weeps as bitterly above his dead, as the man who says that death ends all.
If Christ was in fact God, why did he not plainly say there is another life? Why did he not tell us something about it? Why did he not turn the tear-stained hope of immortality into the glad knowledge of another life?
Does it not seem to you infinitely absurd to call orthodox Christianity “a consolation?” Here in this world, where every human being is enshrouded in cloud and mist, – where all lives are filled with mistakes, – where no one claims to be perfect, is it “a consolation” to say that “the smallest sin deserves eternal pain?” Is it possible for the ingenuity of man to extract from the doctrine of hell one drop, one ray, of “consolation?” If that doctrine be true, is not your God an infinite criminal? Why should he have created uncounted billions destined to suffer forever? Why did he not leave them unconscious dust? Compared with this crime, any crime that man can by any possibility commit is a virtue.
If there could be no suffering, there could be no sin. To unjustly cause suffering is the only possible crime.