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Meditation 1094
Faith or Fact

Can Christians be just?

by: Henry M. Taber

Comment by JT: The question dealt with here deals largely with Christians as a group, not individually. And the issues raised mostly remain the same.

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IN the February number of the North American Review is an article entitled Can Lawyers be Honest? That interrogatory has suggested the caption to this article, and it seems a pertinent inquiry in view of the fact that my observations have led me to believe that Christians are, as a class, more or less unjust (consciously or unconsciously) to those who differ from them in opinion.

Let me ask the question, can Christians be just who, while insisting that there should be no connection of the Church with the State, are opposed to laws which could make the separation of Church and State a fact as well as a theory?

How few Christians there are who favor equal taxation of church property, non-sectarian public schools, discontinuance of chaplains, repeal of laws making Sunday a religious day, cessation of the appointment of days for religious observance, no appropriation for sectarian purposes — every one of which are questions involving the principle of equal rights and exact justice to every citizen.

Is it just that those who do not believe in the religion of the Church are compelled, indirectly, to support such churches by reason of their exemption from the operation of the tax law, the effect being precisely the same as though non-churchgoers were compelled to contribute directly to such support?

Again. Is it just (as James Parton has expressed it) to tax a workingman’s house to its full value and let a million-dollar cathedral or church go untaxed?

Is it just that appropriations for religious institutions are annually made by our legislatures in the very face of a law positively prohibiting such appropriations?

Are such Christians just as encourage the taking of the government money to disseminate the dogmas of their respective churches among the Indians, when it is done in violation of a provision of the Constitution “respecting the (non) establishment of religion?”

To the honor of one Christian body (the Baptists) be it known that they recently refused to take the portion of the public money which was offered to them, regarding the acceptance of such money as wrong in principle.

Is it just that my children should be taught in the public schools a religion which I regard as the main obstacle to the advancement of knowledge? Did impartial justice suggest the utterance of President Seelye, of Amherst College, that the Christian religion should be taught in our public schools, “whether the consciences of the people approve it or not?”

Is it just that I should be prevented from pursuing my avocations and reasonable pleasures on any day of the week, because certain Christian fanatics have a senseless reverence for a particular day?

Is it just to the tens of thousands of workingmen who have but one day in the week in which to visit our museums of art and natural history, that they are denied this privilege because about a dozen Christian members of each board of trustees of these museums have certain views on the question of Sunday observance? Was the money contributed by the city to these institutions given for the purpose of promulgating certain religious ideas, or was it given for the benefit of, and to exert a moral and refining influence upon, the masses?

Can Christians be just who defend the action of those in control of Girard College in persistently influencing “the tender minds of the orphans” in matters of religion, in utter disregard of the expressed provisions of the great benefactor’s will ?

Were the Christian trustees of the Columbia, S.C., Seminary and of the Vanderbilt University just to Professors Woodrow and Winchell in expelling them — the one from the chair of geology, because he believed in the demonstrated fact that man existed on this globe more than six thousand years ago and the other from the chair of natural science because he believed in the generally accepted fact of evolution?

Can Christians place a just estimate upon the discoveries of Copernicus, Humboldt, Darwin, when influenced by the false assumptions of the Bible regarding Astronomy, Geology and Biology? Was Spurgeon’s estimate of these discoveries just when he said that he “positively hated advanced thought?”

Can Christians be just in their estimate of woman when governed by the teachings of the Bible, the writers of which held woman as far inferior to man, telling her “he shall rule over thee?”

Can Christians be just who class those who differ in opinion from them with the worst elements of society? Is it just to speak in the same sentence of “liars, thieves, murderers – and unbelievers?”

Are Christians just to those who are not Christians in claiming that there is no morality, or humanity or benevolence outside of Christianity? What impertinence as well as injustice to arrogate to themselves a monopoly of the ennobling qualities of our common nature.

Are Christians just in their estimate of other believers in superstition? The superstitions of the Christian Church do not differ essentially from other superstitions. Both inculcate a belief in ghosts — holy and unholy — in the personality of evil and good — in a capricious Providence and generally in the reign of supernaturalism instead of that of natural law. Christian missionaries are sent abroad at the expense of tens of millions of dollars annually to induce what are called “the Heathen” to make an exchange of their superstitions for those of Christianity. It is a mooted question as to whether one is any improvement on the other. Either are utterly repugnant to reflective, intelligent beings.

Have Christians been, and can they be, just to Voltaire and to his service to mankind in his efforts for mental emancipation? Says James Russell Lowell: “To Voltaire, more than to any one man, we owe it that we can now think and speak as we choose.”

“The pen is mightier than the sword” is an axiom the truth of which was never more truly illustrated than in the case of Thomas Paine. He accomplished far more by his pen toward the independence of these States than did the sword of Washington. Are Christians just to him in not owning their gratefulness for his incomparable services? Or, rather, was there ever greater injustice done — more ingratitude shown — than in the slanders of the church against him whose religion (“to do good”) was infinitely higher and purer than that of his traducers?

Was the Christian father of Charles Bradlaugh just when he turned him from his home because he expressed dissent from the (unreasonable) thirty-nine articles of the English Church? Was the Christian sentiment of England just which endeavored to keep Mr. Bradlaugh out of parliament because he had his own (honest) opinions on matters of religion, and because he bravely fought for the rights of those whom Christianity sought to enslave? Labouchere says of Bradlaugh that he was, “in private life, thoroughly true and amiable; in public life, ready to sacrifice popularity for his convictions of right; whose standard of duty was a very high one and who lived up to it; whose life was an example to Christians, for he abounded in every virtue.”

Have Christians been just to the brightest intellect of our century, the beauty and grandeur of whose utterances have been equalled by no mortal since the days of Shakespeare; whose heart has ever been in sympathy with the oppressed of all religions ; who has been the most valiant knight of any age in battling for the boon of mental liberty; whose sacrifices for honest thought are greater ‘than can be estimated; whose eloquent voice has been so often lifted against the greatest enemy of progress, viz.: the superstition of religion. There has not lived one endowed by nature with more kindliness, sympathy, rectitude, purity, pathos, vivacity, fertility, sublimity, nobility, originality, comprehensiveness, genius, than Col. Ingersoll. And this is the man who, for a generation, has been the victim of the grossest misrepresentation and vilification on the part of Christians; simply and only because (as he has himself expressed it) his “effort has been to make man superior to superstition.”

I could put the question, “Can Christians be Just?” in its almost every phrase, and the answer must, of necessity, be in the negative, for it is impossible that Christians can be just so long as they accept the (unjust) teachings of the Bible and believe in the (irrational) doctrine promulgated by such councils as that of Trent and such assemblies as that of Westminster.

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