Sermon on the Mount
Millions assert that the philosophy of Christ is perfect – that he was the wisest that ever uttered speech.
Let us see:
Resist not evil. If smitten on one cheek turn the other.
Is there any philosophy, any wisdom in this? Christ takes from goodness, from virtue, from the truth, the right of self-defense. Vice becomes the master of the world, and the good become the victims of the infamous.
No man has the right to protect himself, his property, his wife and children. Government becomes impossible, and the world is at the mercy of criminals. Is there any absurdity beyond this?
Love your enemies.
Is this possible? Did any human being ever love his enemies? Did Christ love his, when he denounced them as whited sepulchers, hypocrites and vipers? We cannot love those who hate us. Hatred in the hearts of others does not breed love in ours. Not to resist evil is absurd; to love your enemies is impossible.
Take no thought for the morrow.
The idea that God would take care of us as he did of sparrows and lilies. Is there the least sense in that belief? Does God take care of anybody? Can we live without taking thought for the morrow?
To plow, to sow, to cultivate, to harvest, is to take thought for the morrow. We plan and work for the future, for our children, for the unborn generations to come. Without this forethought there could be no progress, no civilization. The world would go back to the caves and dens of savagery.
If they right eye offend thee, pluck it out. If thy right hand offend thee, cut it off.
Why? Because it is better that one of our members should perish than the whole body should be cast into hell.
Is there any wisdom in putting out your eyes or cutting off your hands? Is it possible to extract from these extravagant sayings the smallest grain of common sense?
No Christian when smitten on one cheek turns the other. Most Christians do take a little thought for the morrow. They do not depend entirely upon the providence of God. Most Christians now have greater confidence in the average life insurance company than in God – feel easier when dying to know that they have a policy, through which they expect the widow will receive ten thousand dollars, than when thinking of all the Scripture promises.
Even church members do not trust in God to protect their own property. They insult heaven by putting lightning rods on their temples. They insure the churches against the act of God. The experience of man has shown the wisdom of relying on something that we know something about, instead of upon the shadowy supernatural.
Swear not at all, neither by Heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the Earth, for it is his footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is his holy city.*
Here we find the astronomy and geology of Christ. Heaven is the throne of God, the monarch; the earth is his footstool. A footstool that turns over at the rate of a thousand miles an hour, and sweeps through space at the rate of over a thousand miles a minute.
Where did Christ think heaven was? Why was Jerusalem a holy city? Was it because the inhabitants were ignorant, cruel and superstitious?
If any man will sue thee at the law and take away thy coat let him have thy cloak also.
Is there any philosophy, any good sense, in that commandment? Would it not be just as sensible to say: “If a man obtains a judgment against you for one hundred dollars, give him two hundred.” Only the insane could give or follow this advice.
Think not that I am come to send peace on earth. I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother.
If this is true, how much better it would have been had he remained away.
Is it possible that he who said, “Resist not evil,” came to bring a sword? That he who said, “Love your enemies,” came to destroy the peace of the world?
To set father against son, and daughter against father – what a glorious mission!
That is the trouble with this Christian religion. Leave your father, leave your mother, leave your wife, leave your children, leave everything and follow Jesus Christ. I will not. I will stay with my people. I will not sacrifice on the altar of selfish fear all the grandest and noblest promptings of my heart.
The saints have poisoned life with piety. They have soured the mother’s milk. They have insisted that joy is crime – that beauty is a bait with which the Devil captures the soul of men – that laughter leads to sin – that pleasure, in its every form, degrades, and that love itself is but the loathsome serpent of unclean desire. They have tried to compel men to love shadows rather than women – phantoms rather than people.
The saints have been the assassins of sunshine, – the skeletons at feast. They have been the enemies of happiness. They have hated the singing birds, the blossoming plants. They have loved the barren and the desolate – the croaking raven and the hooting owl – tombstones, rather than statues.
And yet, with a strange inconsistency, happiness was to be enjoyed forever in another world. There, pleasure, with all its corrupting influences, was to be eternal. No one pretended that heaven was to be filled with self-denial, with fastings, and scourgings, with weepings and regrets, with solemn and emaciated angels, with sad-eyed seraphim, with lonely parsons, with mumbling monks, with shriveled nuns, with days of penance and with night of prayer.
Yet all this self-denial on the part of the saints was founded in the purest selfishness. They were to be paid for all their sufferings in another world. They were “laying up treasures in heaven.” They had made a bargain with God. He had offered eternal joy to those who would make themselves miserable here. The saints gladly and cheerfully accepted the terms. They expected pay for every pang of hunger, for every groan, for every tear, for every temptation resisted; and this pay was to be an eternity of joy. The selfishness of the saints was equaled only by the stupidity of the saints.
If Christ, in fact, said “l came not to bring peace but a sword,” it is the only prophecy in the New Testament that has been literally fulfilled.
He did bring a sword, and the sword was wet for a thousand years with innocent blood. In millions of hearts he sowed the seeds of hatred and revenge. He divided nations and families, put out the light of reason, and petrified the hearts of men.
And everyone that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.
According to the writer of Matthew, Christ, the compassionate, the merciful, uttered these terrible words. Is it possible that Christ offered the bribe of eternal joy to those who would desert their fathers, their mothers, their wives and children? Are we to win the happiness of heaven by deserting the ones we love? Is a home to be ruined here for the sake of a mansion there?
And yet it is said that Christ is an example for all the world. Did he desert his father and mother? He said, speaking to his mother: “Woman, what have I to do with thee?”
The Pharisees said unto Christ: “Is it lawful to pay tribute unto Cæsar?”
Christ said: “Show me the tribute money.” They brought him a penny. And he saith unto them: “Whose is the image and the superscription?” They said: “Cæsar’s.” And Christ said: “Render unto Cæsar the things that are Cæsar’s.”
Did Christ think that the money belonged to Cæsar because his image and superscription were stamped on it? Did the penny belong to Cæsar or to the man who earned it? Had Cæsar the right to demand it because it was adorned with his image? Does it appear from this conversation that Christ understood the real nature and use of money?
Can we now say that Christ was the greatest of philosophers?
Would it not have been better if Christ told his disciples that they must not persecute; that they had no right to destroy their fellow-men; that they must not put heretics in dungeons, or destroy them with flames; that they must not invent and use instruments of torture; that they must not appeal to brutality, nor endeavor to sow with bloody hands the seeds of peace?
Would it not have been far better had he said: “I come not to bring a sword, but peace”? Would not this have saved countless cruelties and countless lives?
Over the wild waves of battle rose and fell the banner of Jesus Christ. For sixteen hundred years the robes of the church were red with innocent blood. The ingenuity of Christians was exhausted in devising punishment severe enough to be inflicted upon other Christians who honestly and sincerely differed with them upon any point whatever.
If Christ performed the miracles recorded in the New Testament, why would the Jews put to death a man able to raise their dead? Why should they attempt to kill the Master of Death? How did it happen that a man who had done so many miracles was so obscure, so unknown, that one of his disciples had to be bribed to point him out? Is it not strange that the ones he had cured were not his disciples?
Can we believe, upon the testimony of those about whose character we know nothing, that Lazarus was raised from the dead? What became of Lazarus? We never hear of him again. It seems to me that he would have been an object of great interest. People would have said: “He is the man who was once dead.” Thousands would have inquired of him about the other world; would have asked him where he was when he received the information that he was wanted on earth.
His experience would have been vastly more interesting than everything else in the New Testament. A returned traveler from the shores of Eternity – one who had walked twice through the valley of the shadow – would have been the most interesting of human beings.
When he came to die again, people would have said: “He is not afraid; he has had experience; he knows what death is.” But, strangely enough, this Lazarus fades into obscurity with “the wise men of the East,” and with the dead who came out of their graves on the night of the crucifixion. How is it known that it was claimed, during the life of Christ, that he had wrought a miracle? And if the claim was made, how is it known that it was not denied?
Did the Jews believe that Christ was clothed with miraculous power? Would they have dared to crucify a man who had the power to clothe the dead with life? Is it not wonderful that no one at the trial of Christ said one word about the miracles he had wrought? Nothing about the sick he had healed, nor the dead he had raised?
What possible good did it do the world for Christ to go without food for forty days? Why should we follow such an example? As a rule, hungry people are cross, contrary, obstinate, peevish and unpleasant. A good dinner puts a man at peace with all the world – makes him generous, good-natured and happy. He feels like kissing his wife and children. The future looks bright. He wants to help the needy. The good in him predominates, and he wonders that any man was ever stingy or cruel.
To allow a crime to be committed, even against yourself, when you can prevent it, is next to committing the crime yourself. The church has preached the doctrine of nonresistance, and under that banner has shed the blood of millions. In the folds of her sacred vestments have gleamed for centuries the daggers of assassination.
With her cunning hands she wove the purple for hypocrisy and placed the crown upon the brow of crime. For more than a thousand years larceny held the scales of justice, hypocrisy wore the mitre and tiara, while beggars scorned the royal sons of toil, and ignorant fear denounced the liberty of thought.
Forgiveness cannot form a breastwork between act and consequence.
Has the promise and hope of forgiveness ever prevented the commission of a sin? Can men be made better by being taught that sin gives happiness here; that to live a virtuous life is to bear a cross; that men can repent between the last sin and the last breath; and that repentance washes every stain of the soul away? Is it good to teach that the serpent of regret will not hiss in the ear of memory; that the saved will not even pity the victims of their crimes; and that sins forgiven cease to affect the unhappy wretches sinned against?
You believe that Christ was God, that he was infinite in power.
While in Jerusalem he cured the sick, raised a few from the dead, and opened the eyes of the blind. Did he do these things because he loved mankind, or did he do these miracles simply to establish the fact that he was the very Christ? If he was actuated by love, is he not as powerful now as he was then? Why does he not open the eyes of the blind now? Why does he not with a touch make the leper clean? If you had the power to give sight to the blind, to cleanse the leper, and would not exercise it, what would be thought of you? What is the difference between one who can and will not cure, and one who causes disease?
Only the other day I saw a beautiful girl – a paralytic, and yet her brave and cheerful spirit shone over the wreck and ruin of her body like morning on the desert. What would I think of myself, had I the power by a word to send the blood through all her withered limbs freighted again with life, should I refuse?
If Christianity were only stupid and unscientific, if its God was ignorant and kind, if it promised eternal joy to believers and if the believers practiced the forgiveness they teach, for one I should let the faith alone.
But there is another side to Christianity. It is not only stupid, but malicious. It is not only unscientific, but it is heartless. Its god is not only ignorant, but infinitely cruel. It not only promises the faithful an eternal reward, but declares that nearly all of the children of men, imprisoned in the dungeons of God will suffer eternal pain. This is the savagery of Christianity. This is why I hate its unthinkable God, its impossible Christ, its inspired lies, and its selfish, heartless heaven.
Christians believe in infinite torture, in eternal pain. Eternal Pain!
All the meanness of which the heart of man is capable is in that one word – Hell.
That word is a den, a cave, in which crawl the slimy reptiles of revenge. That word certifies to the savagery of primitive man.
That word is the depth, the dungeon, the abyss, from which civilized man has emerged.
That word is the disgrace, the shame, the infamy, of our revealed religion.
That word fills all the future with the shrieks of the damned.
That word brutalizes the New Testament, changes the Sermon on the Mount to hypocrisy and cant, and pollutes and hardens the very heart of Christ.
That word adds an infinite horror to death, and makes the cradle as terrible as the coffin.
That word is the assassin of joy, the mocking murderer of hope. That word extinguishes the light of life and wraps the world in gloom. That word drives reason from his throne, and gives the crown to madness.
That word drove pity from the hearts of men, stained countless swords with blood, lighted fagots, forged chains, built dungeons, erected scaffolds, and filled the world with poverty and pain.
That word is a coiled serpent in the mother’s breast, that lifts its fanged head and hisses in her ear: – “Your child will be the fuel of eternal fire.”
That word blots from the firmament the star of hope and leaves the heavens black.
That word makes the Christian’s God an eternal torturer, an everlasting inquisitor – an infinite wild beast.
This is the Christian prophecy of the eternal future:
No hope in hell.
No pity in heaven.
No mercy in the heart of God.
The doctrine that future happiness depends upon belief is monstrous. It is the infamy of infamies. The notion that faith in Christ is to be rewarded by an eternity of bliss, while a dependence upon reason, observation, and experience merits everlasting pain, is too absurd for refutation, and can be relieved only by that unhappy mixture of insanity and ignorance called “faith.”
What man, who ever thinks, can believe that blood can appease God? And yet, our entire system of religion is based upon that belief. The Jews pacified Jehovah with the blood of animals, and according to the Christian system, the blood of Jesus softened the heart of God a little, and rendered possible the salvation of a fortunate few. It is hard to conceive how the human mind can give assent to such terrible ideas, or how any sane man can read the Bible and still believe in the doctrine of inspiration.