The Christian Night
by: Robert G. Ingersoll
from Prose-Poems and Selections from the Writings and Sayings of Robert G. Ingersoll, published by C.P. Farrell, New York 1884
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DO we not know that when the Roman empire fell, darkness settled on the world ? Do we not know that this darkness lasted for a thousand years, and that during all that time the church of Christ held with bloody hands, the sword of power ? These years were the starless midnight of our race. Art died, law was forgotten, toleration ceased to exist, charity fled from the human breast, and justice was unknown, Kings were tyrants, priests were pitiless, and the poor multitude were slaves. In the name of Christ, men made instruments of torture, and the auto da fe took the place of the gladiatorial show. Liberty was in chains, honesty in dungeons, while Christian superstition ruled mankind. Christianity compromised with Paganism. The statues of Jupiter were used to represent Jehovah. Isis and her babe were changed to Mary and the infant Christ. The Trinity of Egypt became the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. The simplicity of the early Christians was lost in heathen rites and Pagan pomp. The believers in the blessedness of poverty became rich, avaricious, and grasping ; and those who had said, “ Sell all, and give to the poor,” became the ruthless gatherers of tithes and taxes. In a few years the teachings of Jesus were forgotten. The gospels were interpolated by the designing and ambitious. The church was infinitely corrupt. Crime was crowned, and virtue scourged.
The minds of men were saturated with superstition. Miracles, apparitions, angels, and devils had possession of the world. The nights were filled with incubi and succubi. Devils, clad in wondrous forms, and imps, in hideous shapes, sought to tempt or fright the soldiers of the cross. The maddened spirits of the air sent hail and storm. Sorcerers wrought sudden death, and witches worked with spell and charm against the common weal. In every town the stake arose. Faith carried fagots to the feet of philosophy. Priests fed and fanned the eager flames. The dungeon was the foundation of the cathedral. Priests sold charms and relics to their flocks to keep away the wolves of hell. Thousands of Christians, failing to find protection in the church, sold their poor souls to Satan for some magic wand. Suspicion sat in every house, families were divided, wives denounced husbands, husbands denounced wives, and children their parents.
Every calamity then, as now, increased the power of the church. Pestilence supported the pulpit, and famine was the right hand of faith. Christendom was insane.