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Meditation 1094
Faith or Fact


by: Henry M. Taber

Comment by JT: Taber provides  numerous examples of the intolerance of Christians towards each others denominations, towards followers of other religions, towards non-believers, and towards knowledge. Some of the sentiments may not be expressed so publicly today, but they are still out there.

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“There is no religious person who, according to his temperament, does not hate, despise, or pity, the adherents of a sect different from his own.”

“There does not yet exist upon the earth a true tolerance.”

“The dominant religion always makes its superiority felt in a very cruel and injurious manner towards the weaker sects.”

“Everywhere a jealous God is worshipped.”

“Each nation believes itself his friend, to the exclusion of all others.”

“The founders of religions, and the priests who maintain them, have persuaded their votaries that the religions of others were ungodly and abominable.”

“This is the way religion succeeded in closing the heart.” – Jean Meslier.

THERE is nothing more true of religion in general, than is stated in the above lines, but more especially is it true of the Christian religion. Christians assume a superiority of intelligence, which displays itself either in pitying, or in disdaining, or in hating, any one who does not think as they do; while the fact is that there cannot be found, the world over, a class of persons who are so utterly ignorant as to why they believe as they do, as are Christians. They never pretend to inquire for themselves into the truth of the remarkable doctrines which they cherish; on the contrary, pride themselves that their belief is not in accordance with the teachings of reason, but that they believe byfaith. This “belief by faith” is carried to the extent that the more ignorant a Christian is, the more “faith” he has in his Christianity. Ignorance is said to be the mother of devotion; so it is of intolerance. Moncure D. Conway says of intolerance, that it is “the least pardonable form of ignorance.” So it need not be wondered that, of all intolerant people, Christians are the most intolerant; as is evidenced by the fact that their persecutions have been more bitter than have been those of the adherents of any other religion. Christianity is responsible for the shedding of more blood than any other religion that ever existed. To the honor of the Buddhist religion, it may be said that it has never persecuted for opinions’ sake, or shed one drop of human blood. The inhuman persecutions for witchcraft, which have so disgraced the name of Christianity, are utterly unknown in the religions of Brahma, or Zoroaster.

‘”All the heathen persecutions of Christians put together, are nothing in comparison with the horrors of the crusade against witches, set on foot by members of the Christian Church.”  – (J. H. Long, in Popular Science Monthly for July, 1893)

The Moors in the middle ages gave protection to the Jews from Christian persecution.

It is an historical fact that, after Christianity became ascendant in the fourth century, for more than a thousand years the light of literature became almost extinct. Its intolerance of new thought, of scientific discoveries, seriously retarded the progress of intelligence. Had it not been for the Christian bigots of those times, the great truths recently developed might have been known many centuries earlier. Europe is indebted to a rival religion (the Mohammedan) for the rescue of what intelligence Christianity permitted to remain.

And so through the history of the Christian Church, from the days of Constantine till even now, may be found a record of greater intolerance, more bitterness of feeling, more extensive and cruel persecutions, than can be found in the history of any other system that ever existed.

“The domestic unhappiness arising from difference of belief, was probably almost, or altogether, unknown in the world before the introduction of Christianity.” – (Lecky.)

Protestants denounce the exhibition of intolerance displayed by the Catholic Church, but precisely the same spirit is manifested by the Protestant Church. There is little to choose between them.

“We mock at the Catholic bigots at Rome,
Who strive with their dogmas, man’s reason to fetter;
We then turn to the Protestant bigots at home,
To find that their dogmas are scarce a whit better.”

The Emperor Julian said: “The savage beasts are not more formidable to men than the Christians are to each other, when they are divided by creed and opinion.”

“Alike Papist and Protestant vote death and attainder to their conquered foes. The Churchman persecutes the Puritan; the Puritan imprisons the Quaker; and to-day, had he the power, the bigot would muzzle every voice and printing press that utters tenets different from his own.” – (F. Blanchard.)

Torquemada, in his bigotry and cruelty, in bringing so many to the rack and the stake, was not a whit worse than John Calvin in his fiendish treatment of Servetus, Castellio, Philipp, Ameautt, Dubois, Gruet, Rolser, and hundreds of others, whose sole crime was that of differing in opinion from Calvin.

Brooke Adams, in his Emancipation of Massachusetts, gives a record of intolerance, of bigotry, of persecution, of cruelty and of death inflicted on innocent persons in the seventeenth century by the Puritans, only equalled by similar records in the days of the Inquisition.

Cardinal Newman speaks of the “corrosive influence of reason.”

Rev. Dr. D. J. Burrill (Protestant) says: “The false beacon of these days is progress.”

Bishop Spottswood (R. C.) says: “I would that half the people of this nation should be brought to the stake and burnt, than that one man should read the Bible and form his own judgment from its contents.”

Spurgeon (Protestant) says: “Could ye roll into one mass all sins; could ye take murder, and everything that is vile, and unite them into one vast globe of black corruption, they would not equal the sin of unbelief. This is the monarch sin; the quintessence of all guilt; the mixture of the venom of all crimes.”

The Roman Catholic Archbishop of St. Louis says: “Heresy and unbelief are crimes, and are punished like other crimes in Catholic countries.”

Rev. Dr. Dowling (Protestant) in the Christian Intelligencer of May 8, 1889, broadly intimates that he who differs in opinion from him is an “intellectual and moral monstrosity.”

The Catholic Banner says: “What a day of pleasure will that be for us, when we see anti-clericals writhing in the flames of the Inquisition.”

The St. Andrew’s Cross says: “You must not blame some of us if we sometimes think that a cool cell in a comfortable jail, with a very abstemious diet, would be a well-earned reward for some of this loud-mouthed antichristian writing and teaching.”

The Catholic Mirror says: “Impudent sects of heretics, infidels, atheists, claim to be treated by States on an equal footing with the one true Church ! How shall we view this deplorable and perplexing problem?”

Rev. Dr. Alfred Niven, of Philadelphia, says: “People are led to believe that the doctrines of Christianity are open questions, which admit of discussion.”

“That pest of all others, most to be avoided, in a State, unbridled liberty of opinion.” – (Pius IX.)

“I have an absolute hatred of advanced thought.” – (Spurgeon.)
Father Ignatius says: “Virtue is safe only when it rests on religion; religion is safe only when it rests on dogma; dogma is safe only when it rests on the authority of the Church.”

The Chicago Evening Journal says: “An immoral and lawless man, even a criminal, if he has a theoretical belief in God, is a good man and a valuable member of society, as compared with the Infidel, however pure his life.”

The Western Watchman (R. C.) says: “Protestantism! we would draw and quarter it ;we would impale it and hang it up for crow’s nests; we would tear it with pincers and fire it with hot irons; we would fill it with molten lead, and sink it in hell-fire a hundred fathoms deep.”

The Methodist Recorder says: “Agnosticism! it is as ignominious as the atheism of Democritus; more harmful than the idolatry of the Israelites, and more self-deteriorating than the profane impulses of the loathed profligate.”
Cardinal Baronius says: “God has made political government subject to the dominion of the spiritual Roman Catholic Church.”

At one time, in Vermont and in some other of the New England States, under Protestant control, no person was allowed to vote unless a member of the Protestant Church.

In 1700 a law was passed in this State condemning any popish priest to perpetual imprisonment, if found in the province; while, if he escaped from jail, he was to be put to death.

“We ought to hold as a fixed principle, that what I see white, I believe to be black, if the superior authorities define it to be so.” – (Ignatius de Loyola.)

“It is lawful to punish to the death such as labor to subvert the true religion.“ – (John Knox.)

Romanists and Protestants equally insist upon religious teachings in the public schools, notwithstanding that the majority of the parents of school-children are opposed to such teachings. President Seelye, of Amherst college, voices the sentiments of both sects, in saying that “the State must teach religion – if its subjects approve, well; if not, the State must not falter.”

The intolerant spirit which has shown itself in our Sunday laws, has resulted in denying to those who do not believe in Sunday observance the rights which every citizen should participate in. In Tennessee, in Maryland, and in other States, estimable people have been imprisoned, some of them for weeks, for simply attending to their own necessary duties on Sunday.

There is a (comparative) consistency in the utterances of the Romish Church, which boldly denies the right of private judgment, and we need not, therefore, be surprised when we read such sayings as the following:

“The Church is certainly not tolerant in matters of doctrine. True, and we glory in it… The freedom of thinking is simply nonsense.” – (Mgr. Segur.)

“We are not advocates of religious freedom, and we repeat we are not.” – (The Shepherd of the Valley.)

“Religious liberty is merely endured until the opposite can be carried into effect without peril to the Roman Catholic Church.” – (Bishop O’Connor.)

“The Protestant is bound to be liberal to Catholics; but Catholics cannot be liberal to any party that rejects the Church.” – (Tablet.)

But a Church which came into being with the declaration of the right of private judgment, but which equally with the Romish Church denies it, is certainly inconsistent.

The Protestant President (Oakes) of Harvard College, in 1673, said: “I look upon toleration as the first-born of all abominations.”

The Episcopal Bishop (Seymour) of Illinois, says: “Men repudiate strict adherence to truth; they explain away their pledges and promises; evade their oaths by sophistry, and are thoroughly crafty and deceitful.” One might suppose this language addressed to what Christians call Infidels, but no, it is addressed to those of the same communion with the Bishop, but who happen to differ from him on some doctrinal point.

A Church of England clergyman, Rev. F. A. Grace, of Great Barling, Essex, has written a catechism in which is taught that “dissent is a great sin,” and that dissenters “worship God according to their own evil and corrupt imaginations, and therefore their worship is idolatrous.”

The Christian Advocate recently said: “It is impossible to teach morals properly, without accepting and recognizing the Christian religion as the only sufficient source and foundation of morality.”

This might be called a sufficiency of intolerant impudence.

But probably the most extreme exhibition of bigotry, the most sublime instance of unadulterated insolence, is to be found in the North American Review for January, 1893, is an article written by Rev. Leighton Colman, the Episcopal Bishop of Delaware. Two quotations may suffice, viz.: “He who denies the divinity of Christ, reduces Christianity to a system of willful deceit and shameless wickedness.” (How are Christians of the Unitarian belief pleased with this?) “A man who is not a Christian cannot be accounted a moral man.” (Listen to this, ye millions of upright, virtuous men and women of Hebrew, Agnostic, and other beliefs!)

Constantine suppressed the medical schools of the Saracens, because of the difference in religious belief.

Hon. Andrew D. White tells us that the Dominican Father Caccini insisted that “geometry is of the devil,” and that “mathematics should be banished as the author of all heresies.” The Church authorities gave Caccini promotion.

Father Inchofer declared that “argument against the immortality of the soul, the existence of God, the incarnation, should be tolerated, sooner than argument to prove that the earth moves.”

Men of learning and character, two or three centuries ago, were driven from educational institutions, because of the then existing intolerance towards the Copernican system of astronomy. Precisely the same spirit is abroad to-day. Eminent men are now being driven from our universities, because of intolerance of the theory of evolution (a fact as well established as is the Copernican theory,) and other scientific discoveries. The expulsion of Prof. Winchell from the Chair of Geology at the Vanderbilt University, because he believed that man existed on the earth before the period assigned to Adam; of Prof. Woodrow from the Chair of Natural Science in a theological seminary at Columbia, S. C., because he believed in evolution; of Prof. Alexander from the State University of South Carolina, because he was unable to comprehend how three persons made one person, or one God; of Prof. Tay, from a Kentucky college, for accepting as facts the latest demonstrations of science; of several professors at the College of Beyrout, for, also, believing in the latest scientific discoveries; are some of the recent instances of Protestant intolerance, which is worthy of the bigotry of the fifteenth century.

In the case of Prof. Woodrow, the persecution which he endured is a disgrace to the age in which we live. The Presbytery at Charleston adopted a resolution prohibiting any one in the Church from writing upon or criticising the decision of the General Assembly, which condemned Dr. Woodrow’s teachings. In addition to this, Dr. W., who had become a professor in the University of South Carolina, was boycotted by the faculty; the students being kept away from his lectures by being told that their support would be cut off if they attended the Professor’s lectures.

Recently six ministers were expelled from the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Petersburgh, Va., for insisting upon the exercise of their right to vote at state and national elections.

Three teachers in the Wilson Industrial School in New York City were recently discharged for holding what the managers regarded as heretical views on the question of Theosophy.

Two highly respectable and intelligent persons in Stockholm, Sweden, a short time since, were imprisoned, one for one month, and the other for three months, for expressing disbelief in the dogmas of orthodox Christianity.

In England, at the present time, legacies for diffusing Freethought ideas can be confiscated.

In this country it is doubtful if any will making bequests for similar purposes could stand, if the decision rests with a judge who is a church-member. In the Girard will case, Judge Story, while rendering no decision on the point, broadly intimates that funds could not be legally left for the dissemination of any opinion in opposition to those of Christianity. He says: “It is unnecessary to consider what would be the legal effect of a decision for the establishment of a school for the propagation of Judaism, or Deism, or any other form of Infidelity.”

The spirit of three centuries ago, which persecuted, tortured, and murdered that greatest scholar of his day, Bruno, still lives in the “Vicar of Christ” (!) at Rome, as appears in the allocution of the present Pope, defending that inhuman act.

There is to-day the same spirit among Christians which forced Roger Williams to seek the protection of the supposed savage, but humane, Massasoit, from the persecutions of a Christian sect; which lodged in jail in Culpepper County, Va., Baptist ministers for preaching immersion; which brought the charge of blasphemy against Chevalier de la Barre, in 1676, for not having removed his hat on the passing of a religious procession, resulting in the most inhuman and excruciating torture and death; which, in 1812, sent Daniel Isaac Eaton to prison for eighteen months for publishing the “Age of Reason;” which imprisoned the venerable Abner Kneeland in 1835, for differing from the orthodox on the question of Universalism.

Human nature has been very much the same in all ages of the world, and there is scarcely a doubt that the intolerance of a few hundred years ago would again be rampant in our midst, if only the religious zealots had the power they formerly had. Is it unlikely that such bigots as the President of Amherst College, as the Bishop of Delaware, as the editor of the Christian Advocate, would add to their intolerant utterances acts of persecution, of cruelty and of murder, similar to those which so long stained the pages of Christian history, if only they were sustained by the same public sentiment by which the atrocities of the Church in the centuries that are past were made possible? By no means. President Seelye and the rest are no more human, or humane, than were the bigots of former times.

It was public sentiment which sustained prominent and gifted men, like Sir Matthew Hale and Cotton Mather and John Wesley, in encouraging the torture and death of innocent women, because in the Christian’s Bible the command is given, “Thou shalt not permit a witch to live.”

“In the name of God every possible crime has been committed, every conceivable outrage perpetrated. Brave men, loving women, beautiful girls and prattling babes, have been exterminated in the name of Jesus Christ. For more than fifty generations the Church has carried the black flag. Her vengeance has been measured only by her power. With the heart of a fiend she has hated. With the clutch of avarice she has grasped. Pitiless as famine, merciless as fire. Such is the history of the Church of God.”

Fiendish as have been the acts which Col. Ingersoll, as above, has portrayed, they would be re-enacted to-day by the adherents of Christianity – Protestant and Catholic alike – under circumstances similar to those which hitherto existed; for religion not only enslaves the mind, but it makes captive the heart as well.

An instance in my own experience may illustrate – this. I recently met a lady, a Christian, a person of unusual natural graces of character; gentle, kindly, intelligent; whose acquaintance I first made about forty years ago. It gave me great pleasure to meet again this friend of former years. The conversation which followed was most agreeable, until it turned upon religion, and almost instantly she assumed an entirely new character; becoming harsh, bitter, censorious, uncharitable, intolerant, unreasoning, unjust; revealing a most complete change of nature.

Had I defended vice and denounced virtue, she could not have animadverted more severely on my opinions; had I been guilty of every known crime, she could scarcely have been more acrimonious. In vain I claimed what seemed to me the reasonable right to do my own thinking (and accorded, of course, the same right to her), and insisted that no good reason existed why I should accept the conclusions of others (who had no more knowledge on the subject of religion than I had, no matter how much they claimed to know). In vain I pleaded that I was actuated by as high and as pure motives as anyone could possibly be, and that as she acted on what she regarded as her conscientious duty, so I was but following the dictates of my own conscience in asserting and acting upon the views I had expressed, and that it was an utter impossibility for me – as an honest person, as true to conviction – to do otherwise. But all to no purpose. Her natural kindness of heart, her amiable qualities, as well as her good sense, were all sunk – deeply sunk – in her unyielding intolerance. How true, I thought then, were the lines quoted at the beginning of this article: “This is the way religion succeeded in closing the heart.”

There is no objection whatever to Christian people believing in a place of eternal punishment, in a blissful heaven, in a personal Devil, in a God (even of such imperfections as the Bible represents), in angels who have not fallen, as well as in those who have, in the story of creation, in miracles, in an infallible Church, a divinely ordained ministry, in an inspired book, or in aught else that is unprovable or improbable; these are mere matters of opinion, and any one who can so believe, is unquestionably entitled to such belief; but where the intolerance shows itself is in asserting that such belief is necessarily meritorious, and that those who do not so believe are necessarily immoral and criminal ; utterly ignoring the fact that belief is involuntary, that it is impossible for any one to believe unless convinced, by reason, of the truth of such belief.

But as orthodox Christianity is never likely to relinquish its dogmatic, pharisaical, unreasoning, unjust and intolerant position, every indication of the disintegration or decay of the Christian religion should be hailed with delight by all who believe in the fullest tolerance of opinion, by all lovers of mental liberty.

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