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Meditation 1094
Faith or Fact

With or Without Christianity

by: Henry M. Taber

Comment by JT: Taber is back on more solid ground in this chapter. Perhaps the most interesting position he takes is his relatively favourable view of Islam. It was a time when oil money had not yet funded the spread of wahhabism out of the Arabian Peninsula.

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I HAVE been asked the question: “Would the world be better off with or without Christianity.” My answer was “without,” and was made advisedly; after bestowing a great deal of thought upon, and many years of study of, the subject.

It is but historical truth that Christianity has discouraged learning, antagonized science and retarded civilization; that it has instigated fear, incited persecution and encouraged war; that it has stirred up jealousy, enmity and strife; that it has been the prop of thrones, the friend of despotism, the enemy of liberty ; that it substitutes faith for reason, legend for fact, tradition for history, fable for truth ; that it would punish honest thought with never ending torture, and reward dishonest belief with eternal bliss; that it has shown itself to be ignorant, credulous, superstitious, bigoted, arrogant, irrational, unjust, tyrannical, pharisaical, cruel and immoral; that it falsely assumes to possess the only true system by which uprightness of character and moral conduct are inculcated and attained; and that it erroneously claims to have established the only institutions of a beneficent character that have existed.

I propose to call as witnesses, in proof of what I say, those whose character, ability and truthfulness cannot be gainsaid.

There is no doubt of the fact that from the fourth century – when Christianity first became a power in the world, under the leadership of one of the most blood-thirsty monarchs who ever ruled in Rome, the great Christian Emperor Constantine – down to the fourteenth century, a period of a thousand years, known as the dark and the middle ages; the light of intelligence became almost extinct.

It is but historical truth that this “light of intelligence” was not revived except under the auspices of a rival religion.

Let Lecky be my first witness. He says: “Not till Mohammedan science and classical free thought and industrial independence broke the sceptre of the (Christian) Church did the intellectual revival of Europe begin… Decadence of theological influence has been one of the most invariable signs and measures of our progress… The Church has uniformly betrayed and trampled on the liberties of the people. She has invariably cast her lot into the scale of tyranny.”

Rev. James Freeman Clarke speaks of “that prodigious development of art, science and literature which followed the conquests of the Saracens.”

In Rees. Cyclopedia we read: “It was in a great measure owing to the light of learning and science which shone in Arabia that the whole earth was not at this time (about the year 1000) overwhelmed with intellectual darkness.”

Canon Isaac Taylor said recently that “Islamism has done more for civilization than Christianity has done or can do.”

Buckle says: “ In the sixth century the Christians succeeded in cutting off the last ray of knowledge and shutting up the schools of Greece. Then followed a long period of theology, ignorance and vice… To assert that Christianity communicated to man moral truths, previously unknown, argues gross ignorance or willful fraud.”

Prof. Draper says: “The history of science is the narrative of two contending powers; the expansive force of the human intellect on the one side and the compression arising from traditionary faith on the other… In 1,200 years when Christianity dominated the civilized world, the Church had not made a single discovery that advanced the cause of humanity or ameliorated the condition of mankind.”

Guizot says: “When any step was taken to establish a system of permanent institutions which might effectually protect liberty from the invasions of power in general, the Church always ranged herself on the side of despotism.”

Macauley says: “The Church of England continued for 150 years to be the servile handmaid of monarchy; the steady enemy of public liberty.”

M. Richard, M. P., said: “Almost always the voice of the Church has been for war.”

Rev. John W. Chadwick says: “War has been the favorite trade of Christians from the time of Jesus until now.”

“Priests, pale with vigils, in Christ’s name have blessed
The unsheathed sword.” — (Whittier.)

“I come not to bring peace, but a sword,” is the authority.

John Bright has said that “the bishops of the Church of England have seldom aided legislation in the interest of humanity.”

William Lloyd Garrison, Jr., says: “Human progress has always been advanced by the few laborers outside the Church, than by the many professors within it.”

Mrs. Besant says: “Christianity set itself against all popular advancement; all civil and social progress; all improvement in the condition of the masses. While it reigned supreme, Europe lay in chains; and even into the new world it carried the fetters of the old.”

Prof. Felix L. Oswald says: “The history of Christian dogmatism is the history of over 1,800 years of war against nature and truth.”

Robert C. Adams says: “Almost every scientific advance or social reform has been opposed by Christians.”

The author of Supernatural Religion says: “It is an undoubted fact that wherever… dogmatic theology has been dominant, civilization has declined.”

In the sixteenth century the Bishop of London said: “We must in some way destroy this infernal art (printing) or it will some day destroy us!”

John Stewart Mill says: “Who can estimate what the world loses in the bright intellects who cower before popular prejudice.”

Condercet says: “The triumph of Christianity was the first signal of the decline of sciences and of philosophy.”

Fuerbach says: “The decline of culture was identical with the victory of Christianity.”

Lange says: “Education and enlightenment, as a rule, go hand in hand with the decrease of the clergy.”

Winwood Reade (nephew of Charles Reade and author of the Martyrdom of Man) says: “I am firmly persuaded that whatever is injurious to the intellect is also injurious to moral life ; and on this conviction I base my conduct with respect to Christianity; that religion is pernicious to the intellect… The destruction of Christianity is essential to the interests of civilization.”

The murder of Hypatia is a specimen estimate of how both women and learning were held in the eyes of Christians in the fifth century.

The leaders of the Reformation likewise displayed great animosity to philosophy and science. And even to-day in both Roman Catholic and Protestant churches science is treated as heretical.

Rev. Dr. Rylance (Protestant Episcopal) is frank enough to admit that “the attitude of our Church authorities toward modern science is far from friendly.”

Protestants are usually apt to speak as though it is the Romish Church alone which has been and is a hindrance to scientific study. Lyell, in his Principle of Geology, says that “the theological war upon the true scientific method in geology was waged more fiercely in Protestant than in Catholic countries.”

Hon. Andrew D. White says: “The warfare of religion against science is to be guarded against in Protestant countries not less than in Catholic.” He tells us that while it is true that the Copernican theory was not permitted to be taught by the authorities at Rome until the early part of this century, and that while the Church universities of every great Catholic country of Europe concealed the discovery of spots on the sun, and excluded the Newtonian demonstrations, it is also true that “the two great universities of Protestant England, and nearly all her intermediate colleges, under clerical supervision, have excluded the natural and physical sciences as far as possible… From probably nine-tenths of the universities and colleges of the United States, the students are graduated with either no knowledge, or with clerically emasculated knowledge, of the most careful modern thought on the most important problems in the various sciences, in history and in criticism.”

The Church has successively taught that the earth was flat; that it was the center of our solar system; that it was but a few thousand years old; that the astronomy, geology and biology of to-day were unscriptural and therefore untrue. But scientific truth is forcing its penetrating light into the dark and cheerless abodes of theology and commanding the respect of, at least, some of the clergy.

In the Popular Science Monthly for October, 1880, we read: “Archbishop Whateley used to say that the attitude of the clergy to new scientific doctrines was marked by three definite stages. At first they say it is ‘ridiculous,’ then that it is contradicted by the Bible, lastly, “we always believed it.’”

The Truth Seeker of Sept. 13, 1890, says: “The Church has been the greatest drag upon the world, keeping it back as long as she was able and then when anything has been accomplished in spite of her, she has claimed the credit.”

Rev. John W. Chadwick says: “The sun of truth was well up towards its meridan splendor ere theology gathered her courtiers about her, and in her most impressive manner said: ‘Now rise.’”

The persecutions and murders for opinion’s sake have no parallel in the history of any other than the Christian religion. Think of just this single fact: that the Calvinistic Church is founded upon the tenets of one who instigated the torture and death of the Martyr Servetus for the crime (!) of transposing two words, viz., that the victim of this barbarism had spoken of Christ as the “son of the living God,” instead of “the living son of God.” Truly has Archdeacon Farrar characterized Calvinism as having “exhibited an intolerance which has doomed its dogmas to the abhorrence of mankind.”

Did the flames which wrapt the tortured bodies of the victims of Christian cruelty at Rome, at Seville, at Smithfield, at Geneva and at Salem, exemplify the religion of kindness, of compassion and of love?”

A recent writer says: “History shows that religion has been more relentless under the auspices of the Christian theology than under those of all the other theologies of the world combined… It is the only fiend in the universe cruel enough to burn a man to death, by slow fire, for merely holding an opinion.”

It is estimated that nine millions of people suffered martyrdom because of the one verse in the Bible, “Thou shalt not permit a witch to live.”

The Christians put to death nearly twenty millions of their fellow-beings in the fanatical days of the Crusades, and probably, from that day to this, not less than fifty millions more have been sacrificed in answer to the requirements of another Bible text: “Those mine enemies who will not that I shall rule over them, bring hither and slay before me.” (Luke xix., 27.)

How encouraging to the patriots of our revolution, and to those in other lands who have struggled against oppression, to read that “the powers that be are ordained of God; whoever resisteth the power shall receive to themselves damnation.”

The Church was almost a unit in sustaining slavery. The return of the fugitive Onesimus by Paul to Philomon was regarded as sufficient authority among Christians for the enactment of the “Fugitive Slave Law.”

Is it conducive to the spread of truth that in every Sunday school, Bible class and church it is taught that to Christianity we are indebted for the spread of civilization, learning, science and ethics; when impartial history is most emphatic in proclaiming the falsity of such teachings?

Is the incentive to do right more noble when stimulated by hope of reward and fear of punishment, as taught by Christianity; or by the principle of doing right because it is right to do right?

Mr. Chauncey M. Depew has said: “The religion of my mother is good enough for me.”

Think of so brilliant an intellect positively refusing to entertain a thought on theology beyond that he learned ‘on his mother’s knee. Is such a forced condition of mental inertia conducive to intellectual progress? Had Luther said that the religion of his (Roman Catholic) mother was good enough for him, where would have been the Reformation? Had Christ contented himself with the religion of his (Jewish) mother, there would have been no Christianity!

How cheering to the home circle, the admonition, “Woe unto you that laugh.”

Various texts from the Bible have ever been the justification of the Christian Church for the inculcation of its lessons of woman’s inferiority, for demanding her uncomplaining subjection to man. “He shall rule over thee,” is the lesson to every wife from all Orthodox pulpits.

Think of the severing of family ties in the name of the Christian religion, for voluntary incarceration in nunneries and monasteries; for some idea of the immoralities practiced in which, see Robertson’s Charles V.

How encouraging to morality the saying of Luther, that “men can commit adultery and murder a thousand times a day without imperiling their salvation, if they only believe enough on Christ.”

Have the morals of the people been improved by Bible reading?

Rev. T. C. Williams says: “I need not remind you of the moral enormities which have been defended by the supposed authority of the Bible.”

Rev. John W. Chadwick says: “What shall I say of the morals of the Penteteuch; of its God who bids men steal and kill; of Deborah’s thrilling song, exulting over falsehood and treachery; of the gross lasciviousness of the Song of Songs?”

Rev. J. S. Richardson (a Church of England Bishop,) alluding to the Old Testament, says: “It is no longer honest to deny that it was somewhat mistaken in its science, inaccurate in its history, and accommodating in its morality.”

Frederick May Holland says: “Voltaire was much less shocked by the absurdities in the Bible than by the immoralities.”

Is it elevating to character to listen to pulpit instructions about the God of the Bible, who is there represented as a being capricious and unstable; as now hating and again loving; as now chastening and again indulging; as now permitting ill and again punishing it; as foreseeing guilt and acquiescing in it ; as issuing edicts and reversing them; as giving favors and revoking them, and as being appeased by servility? (See Volney’s Ruins, p. 84.)

Beecher said: “The God of the Bible is a moral monstrosity.”

“The God men make for men —
A God impossible to common sense.”

Is the world made better for belief in the Bible with its incredible stories ; its teachings with regard to polygamy, slavery, intemperance and deception; its obscene recitals; its records of wars on unoffending neighbors; of the destruction of the lives of men, married women and children, and of the capture (for the soldiery) of the maidens?

What shall be thought of a religion which invades the sanctity of home, and says that it has “come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother;” that demands that “the brother shall betray the brother to death and the father the son ; ”that makes imperative the hating of father, mother, brother and sister?

How many thousands of emotional beings have become demented in their anxiety about their “soul’s salvation,” by reason of the fearful pictures of unending torment which the clergy present in such glowing colors?

Rev. John W. Chadwick says: “Ignorance and superstition are the principal ingredients of revivals of religion… The average revival of religion must reckon hundreds of thousands of shattered intellects.”

Day after day we read of the deaths of fanatics who refuse the customary methods of healing the sick because of the Christian injunction, “If any is sick among you let him call for the elders of the church, and the prayer of faith shall save the sick.”

What virtuous principle is encouraged by the text: “The Lord has put a lying spirit in ‘the mouth of these thy Servants?”

“Be not wise above that which is written,” is the advice which Christianity offered to Copernicus, to Columbus, to Newton, to Fulton, to Morse, and to Darwin.

Is it promotive of civilization, of humanity, of justice, or of truth, that is inculcated when nearly every murderer, under the sanctifying processes administered by their attending priests and ministers, goes direct from the scaffold to “Abraham’s bosom,” while the victim in nearly every instance goes equally direct to the embrace of the eternally damned?

The fanning mill, the census, life insurance, railways, telegraphy, biology, geography, agriculture, medicine, surgery, all have been denounced by the Christian Church as “ heralds of anti-Christ,” or as “shameful theories.” (See Truth Seeker, Sept. 13, ’90)

The Church has claimed superiority for what they call “Christian Ethics.” There is abundant testimony in refutation of such claim. I will content myself by referring the reader to but one and that to thoroughly Orthodox authority, viz.: to Rev. E. H. Burr, D.D., in his Universal Beliefs, pp. 243 and 249.

The Christian Church claims that it alone has made provision for those whose physical and mental infirmities have rendered them a care on the more favored.

Is this true?

M. Bosworth Smith, M. A., of Trinity College, Oxford, says: “Hospitals are the direct outcome of Buddhism and lunatic asylums are the result of Mohammedan influence.”

Emily Adams, in the New Ideal, informs us that dispensaries were in existence in the fourth century, B. C., in India, and in the fifth century, B. C., in Athens. That the Egyptians and Greeks — prior to the Christian era — provided for the insane. That the Mohammedans built insane asylums in seventh century; while the first Christian asylum for the insane was built in 1409.

Lecky says: “The Mohammedans preceded the Christians in the establishment of lunatic asylums.”

Judge Richard B. Westbrook, of Philadelphia, says: “Four hundred years B. C., an emperor of India established hospitals throughout his empire. Ancient Greece had many charitable institutions. Even hospitals for the lower animals existed among the pagans.”

Hon. Andrew D. White says: “In the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries the Arabs and Turks made a large and merciful provision for lunatics... The Muslim treatment of the insane has been infinitely more merciful than the system universal throughout Christendom.”

In view of the facts here presented, and of many more of a similar character which could be added, if space permitted, am I not justified in assuming that the world would have been better off without — than with — Christianity?

I have not a word to utter against the many truly estimable individuals, who are component parts of the Christian Church; but, as a system, I regard it as most pernicious.

When I speak of Christianity, it is not with any disrespect for the character of Christ ; for I yield to no one in admiration of the lofty purposes which were the guiding principle of his pure and gentle and altruistic life.

The Christianity of the Church is just what its priests and ministers have made it.

The religion of Augustine, of Thomas Aquinas, of Calvin, of Johnathan Edwards, of Spurgeon, and of T. Dewitt Talmage, is by no means the religion of Christ.

The former has no more resemblance to the latter than ostentation, arrogance, bigotry, hypocrisy, fear and hate have to simplicity, meekness, charitableness, ingenuousness, confidence and love.

Greg, in his Creed of Christendom, says: “Popular Christianity is not the religion of Jesus.”

In the Arena for July last, is an article by Rev. Carlos Martyn, D.D., called Church-ianity vs. Christ-ianity, in which he says of the former: “It is like counterfeit coin; current, but false… It puts the emphasis on belief, when it should put it on conduct… It builds cathedrals, not men… Religion is transformed from a principle into an institution. . . . We look for Christ and find a church… Phariseeism is resurrected and baptized with a Christian name… Churchianity has been the resolute opposer of every single forward step.”

The religion of Christ is that simple, “pure religion and undefiled” (described in the Epistle of James;) the only two characteristics or requirements of which are the doing of beneficent deeds and the living of an “unspotted” life.

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