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Meditation 1094
Faith or Fact

Religion not Morality

by: Henry M. Taber

Comment by JT: An attack on the idea that religion, particularly the Christian religion, is the source of morality. Taber quotes approvingly from the Britannica Encyclopedia of the day “... It is notorious that fraud, violence, drunkenness and debaucheries are more numerous in Christian countries than in any other.”

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“Morality may exist independently of religious ideas.” — Guizot.
“Religion never yet has purified morality.” — Rev. J. W. Chadwick.

THE Christian Church has assumed to regard moraIity as that which has not existed and cannot exist outside of Christendom. It ignores the fact that long before the Christian era the principle of morality was held in as high esteem as it ever has been during the past nineteen centuries. It is needless to mention the illustrious names of philanthropists, philosophers, poets, and others of ancient times, whose standard of morality was as high as that of any later date. Call Homer, Lycurgus, Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Seneca, immoral? What an insult to intelligence!

It (the Christian Church) impudently prates of “Christian morality” — as though the adherents of other religions (or of no religion) were utterly devoid of moral ideas and unused to moral practices.

The same code of morals exist among the people of every religion, and of those who repudiate what goes by the name of religion, as that which exists among Christians; and as to practice, the Christian Church can justly claim no advantage if, indeed, it cannot be shown that Christianity lags behind those who differ from it in that regard.

With reference to the code of morals of other religions, in substantiation of what I have asserted, I quote from orthodox, Christian authority. Rev. E. F. Burr, D. D., of Lyme, Ct., in his Universal Belief, says: “We find statements or implications of all the main elements of common morality in the Indian religion… The Avesta of the Persians has like testimonies to the common principles of humanity… The early Egyptian ethics strongly resembled the higher requirements of the Christian religion… Confucius taught the ‘golden rule,’ which is really the whole scheme of Christian morals in short hand… There is scarcely a thing forbidden or commanded in the Bible which is not also forbidden or commanded in the Tripitaka… We find substantially the same moral ideas prevailing among the Greeks and Romans… In the Koran we find ourselves able to piece out a very large code of correct morals, one that follows very closely in the steps of Christianity itself.”

Rev. Minot J. Savage says: “There are moral men in all religions and in no religion.”

Rev. N. A. Staples says: “The great mass of the Christian precepts and principles had already been embodied in other writings.”

“Ye’ll get the best of moral books
‘Mang black Gentoos and Pagan Turks,
Or hunters wild on Ponotaxi,
Wha never heard of orthodoxy.” — Burns.

Mrs. Annie Besant, Canon Taylor, Joseph Thompson (the African explorer,) DeHolde, Rev. Mr. Nevins (missionary to China,) Rev. Mr. Macolm (in his Travels,) all have shown that the morality existing among the Buddhists, the Mohammedans, the Chinese, the Burmese, and many others whose religions differ from that of Christianity, is fully equal, and in many respects, superior to that of Christianity.

In Mosheim’s Church History of the Fourth Century, he speaks of the gross immoralities existing in the Christian Church, and adds that “to deceive and lie, when religion can be promoted by it, was a virtue.”

Only a few years ago a Presbyterian minister, recently chancellor of the University of New York City, said: “I believe in deceit; I believe in deceit whenever you have a rightful enemy to destroy.”

Lecky says of the Byzantine Empire, in which, for nearly eleven centuries, faith in Christianity abounded, that “the universal verdict of history is that it constitutes, without exception, the most thoroughly base and despicable form that civilization has yet assumed.”

In Samuel Johnson’s Oriental Religions we read: “The gross immoralities of Europeans in India led to. the use of the term Christian as a by-word.”

The Pall Mall Gazette says: “The heathen are right to test Christianity, not by the words of English missionaries, but by the lives of English merchants.”

Mrs. S. L. Baldwin (missionary of the Methodist Board to China,) petitioned Congress for permission to import a heathen to this country on the ground that “the private virtues of the heathen showed far stronger signs of thrift than our own.”

Rev. E. D. Jones (for many years a missionary in China) says: “The moral condition of the Chinese is better at home than here.”

Rev. Dr. Happer, for nearly forty years a missionary in China, while dining at my home, said that “in Canton (with about the same population as that of New York City) it is not usual to bar doors or fasten windows ; and as to murders, more are committed in one week in New York than in one year in Canton.”

Helen H. Gardener says: “In five years’ experience with those gentle and faithful heathen from Japan, ‘I have never been compelled to turn a key upon either food, jewels or money.”

Canon Farrar says: “While the English have converted one Hindoo to Christianity they have made one hundred drunkards.”

The Christian at Work says: “Where the English have converted one Chinaman to Christianity they have made two hundred addicted to the opium habit.”

In Williams’ Middle Kingdom, we read that the Pagan Emperor of China destroyed more than twenty thousand chests of opium rather than injure his subjects and fill his own pockets with its sale, while Christian England instituted the cruel wars of 1840 and 1857, which resulted in the theft of Hong Kong and the forcing of ten million pounds of opium annually upon Heathen China.

Captain Adams of the Golden Fleece remarks: “I saw less wickedness on the Heathen shores of China, India, Java and Sumatra than on the Christian wharves of New York, Boston, London and Liverpool.”

Mosheim has said that less morality existed among Christian than among other nations.

The Britannica Encyclopedia (article on Missions) says: “The Mohammedans are more upright and moral than the Christians… It is notorious that fraud, violence, drunkenness and debaucheries are more numerous in Christian
countries than in any other.”

Bishop Payne (of the African Methodist Episcopal Church) writes: “Not more than one-third of the ministers — Baptist and Methodist — in the South are morally and intellectually qualified.”

Rev John-W, Chadwick says: “As for crimes of business dishonesty and defalcation, has it not been a theme of almost universal comment that the wrong-doer has been, in the great majority of cases, men of influence and importance in the churches of the popular religion?”

Mr. Gladstone recently wrote: “To my great pain and disappointment I have found, during the last three years, that thousands of churchmen supplied the great mass of those who have gone lamentably wrong upon questions involving the interests of truth, justice and humanity.”

Scarcely a day passes in which is not found a record of some immoral act committed by some clergyman or Sunday-school superintendent, or other professor of religion, thus conclusively proving that religion does not necessarily restrain immorality.

District Attorney Stanton, of Connecticut, four years ago, said: “ Within the past ten years five millions of dollars have been lost in Connecticut by dishonest bank and other management; in nearly every instance by those who were prominent in church matters.”

“Try every art of legal thieving;
No matter — stick to sound believing.” — Burns.

No more outrageous violation of the eighth commandment can be found in the annals of history than the act of Christianity in stealing Girard College and appropriating an immense legacy to the uses of a religion of which the munificent benefactor of learning expressed, in unmistakable terms, his utter abhorrence. The frivolous, absurd and false excuse that as the will had provided for instilling in the minds of the students “the purest principles of morality,” and that these principles are nowhere to be found but in the Christian religion, is worthy only of a religion that has exemplified its dishonesty, its immorality, its cruelty, more than that of any other religion. As well might Mohammedanism appropriate to its own use, and for the same reason, the funds with which Mr. Christopher R. Robert and other Christians have endowed “Robert College” at Constantinople.

The coarseness, indecency and immorality of the book which is the Christian’s authority and guide is enough to condemn it in the eyes of every virtuous, unprejudiced, person.

The Freeman’s Journal of June 20th, 1891, gives a startling account of the immoral influence of the Bible in our public schools, especially in such as are attended by the youth of both sexes.

In the New York Evangelist of May 29th, 1890, is a letter from Rev. Dr. C. H. Parkhurst (minister of the Presbyterian Church on Madison Square, New York City), in which he says: “Noah built an ark and got into a beastly condition of intoxication... Abraham had more wives than meets the requirements of modern law and polite society, saying nothing of his having lied so mischievously that the Egyptian government drove him out of the country… Jacob was an archaeological Brigham Young on an amateurish scale… . . . Joseph engineered a grain corner in Egypt of proportions so colossal as to put ‘old Hutch’ altogether in the shade. . . . David was a murderer and adulterer… Solomon maintained a harem so magnificently supplied that, in contrast with him, any modern Turk sinks into the purist monogamist.”

Are not our humane instincts outraged, and does not the cheek of innocence blush at the recital of how the troops of Moses were commanded by God (!) to make war upon their unoffending neighbors, and to slay all the men: and married women, but to take captive all the virgins!

The reader’s patience would be wearied with a record of all the injustice, obscenity and immorality which is contained in what is termed the “Holy Bible.”

The Mormons defend the practice of polygamy by, Bible quotations. The intemperate find Bible texts to encourage their intemperance. The effect of Bible teachings in sustaining slavery is shown in what Frederick Douglas has said: “We have men-stealers for ministers, women-whippers for missionaries, and cradle-plunderers for members.”

It is presumed that it was the teachings of the “Word of God ” which induced the Rev. Mr. Martin to become a Romish priest, to be converted to Protestantism, to marry, to be reconverted to Romanism, and then to abandon his wife and children.

The Coreans have such respect for decency and virtue as to prohibit the landing of the Bible as an immoral book.

A writer in the Arena, October, 1890, says: “If the Bible was a translation of a sacred book of India, China or Egypt the whole Christian world would cry out against the publication of some of its passages.”

Rev. George W. Buckley (author of “Politics and Morals”) says, in allusion to certain questionable practices sanctioned by the Bible, “must not such a doctrine be pernicious to the morals of both old and young? Let us be rational enough and honest enough to condemn, without reservation, that which wounds the moral sentiment, however plainly declared by any book to be the word of God.”

The dogmas of salvation, through belief by faith, without evidence; of the atonement, of eleventh-hour repentance, of rewards and punishments — not for right or wrong living, but for right or wrong believing — of predestination, of original sin, of total depravity, of infallible men and infallible books, of a God of partiality, of a devil with enormous power, are not only absurd but more or less immoral.

Judge Westbrook, of Philadelphia, says: “The assurance of eternal salvation, through simple faith in vicarious atonement (so called) must have an immoral tendency… What is called the scheme of redemption violates every principle of justice. . . . He is the greatest enemy of pure religion and public morality who would substitute blind faith for rational knowledge… In the Bible are maxims and examples which, if literally accepted and acted out as of divine authority, would spread moral mildew and red ruin in every direction.”

Helen H. Gardener says: “The precepts of Jehovah are taught every week from the pulpit and carefully legislated against every winter in congress.”

Rev. John W. Chadwick says: “Such theories as predestination and election have been, from first to last, fruitful sources of immorality… There never was a doctrine broached that seemed so sure to breed moral pestilence as the doctrine of salvation by faith alone.”

Says another: “Religion is impure and morality ignoble when recompense is the leading principle… The theory of vicarious atonement destroys personal responsibility, the most essential element of moral character.”

“It appears to me one of the most immoral dogmas ever advanced that a man must believe anything without evidence to prove it.” — (B. Russel.)

“Virtue is far purer when practiced for its own sake than for a reward.” — (Pompanatius.)

“The death of dogma is the birth of morality.” — (Kant.)

The orthodox Christian Church gives dogma the first and morality the second place in the order of its teachings.

“The callous indifference to essential morality is mainly attributable to the large place given to the exposition of theology.” — (Wilbur Larremore.)

“Religious morality has resolved itself almost entirely into a matter of rites and ceremonial observances.” — (Westminster Review.)

Religion has no necessary connection whatever with morality. A person may be moral without being religious, and the reverse is true that a person may he religious without being moral.

Henry the VIII was a religious, but not a moral, man.

Froude, speaking of Labat, the pirate, tells of his saying his prayers just prior to his capturing a vessel.

‘The cashier of a Louisville bank, who went to Canada with $70.000 of the bank’s money, in March, 1890 took with him of his personal effects only his Bible and prayer-book.

In the New York Tribune of Feb. 13th, 1892, is an account of the capture of a burglar from whose pocket had dropped a prayer-book, on which was the name of the burglar.

A servant of the writer, whose religion would not permit her sewing a button on a garment on Sunday, would steal brandy any week day.

“The Italian brigand rises from his knees before the Madonna to plunge his stiletto into the heart of the belated traveler.” (Rev. R. Heber Newton.)

Rev. Minot J. Savage says: “Through a large part of human history the intensely religious ages have not been distinguished for social purity, truth telling, honesty or justice.”

Rev. James Freeman Clarke says; “Marcus Aurelius was a better man than half the apostles.”

Büchner says: “The most religious times and countries have produced the greatest number of crimes and sins against the laws of morality, and, indeed, as daily experience teaches, still produce them.”

Warren G. Benton, in Popular Science Monthly, Nov., 1891, says: “The ages most noted for religious enthusiasm… were notoriously immoral.”

John Morley speaks of the absurdity of “building sound ethics on the shifting sands and rotting foundations of theology.”

The Religio-Philosophical Journal says: ”With increasing intelligence morals steadily tend toward a non-theological basis.”

D’Holbach says: “To discuss the true principles of morality, men have no need of theology, revelation, or of God.”

The Bishop of Hereford, in a Bampton lecture, remarked: “The principles of morality are founded in our nature, independently of any system of religious belief.”

Rev. William Haynes Ward, D. D., editor of the Independent, says: “.Morals and religion are two different things. Morals do not depend on God. Morals would exist if there were no God.”

There are many who believe not only that religion is not necessary to morality, but that it has been and is a positive hindrance to it.

It certainly must be admitted that incentive to right-doing is higher and nobler when not urged by the religious idea of hope of reward or fear of punishment.

George Eliot says: “I am influenced at the present time by far higher considerations and by a nobler idea of duty than I ever was when I held the Evangelical belief.”

“Duty is the whole of morality.” — (Rev. Mark Hopkins, D.D.)

“I never did a right thing or abstained from a wrong one from any consideration of reward or punishment.” — (Harriet Martineau.)

“I ought, or I ought not, constitutes the whole of morality.” — (Darwin.)

Christianity has of late years been more inclined to recognize the fact that people can be conscientious, upright, honorable, humane, loving and moral without accepting any of the creeds of the churches.

A few year since the Rev. Mr. Townsend, in a sermon at “All Angels Church,” New York City, said: “There are men leading careful, irreproachable lives; men who are refined and highly intellectual; good husbands, good fathers, good brothers, valued and trusted throughout the communities, who reject Christianity.”

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