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Meditation 1094
Faith or Fact

In Place of Christianity

by: Henry M. Taber

Comment by JT: What should we want in place of Christianity? Should we want anything?

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“And in its place
A mightier church shall come whose covenant word
Shall be the deeds of love.”

“There will be a new church, founded on moral science.” – Emerson.

“Religion is dying, but humanity is taking its place.” – Elizur Wright

“Theology is passing away and virtue is taking its place.” – M. M. Mangasarian.

THE ever recurring question, “What is religion?” is suggested in considering the subject before us. Religion may be defined as a system of belief in the supernatural. That, at least, is the commonly accepted signification of the term. And what is Christianity? There are various phases and classifications of the term, but it is generally conceded that by Christianity is meant, not the simple, gentle, kindly, fraternal, compassionate, sympathetic, tolerant, humane, loving religion of Christ, but a collection of doctrines enunciated by those who lived more than a century after Christ ; such doctrines having been remodeled from time to time by the “fathers of the church ” and reconstructed by its various councils.

This preface seems requisite in an analysis of the constantly repeated question which Christians ask of those who have become emancipated from the thraldom of the church. “What are you going.to give us in place of the religion of Christianity?” A question which implies that the answer should be that something better, or at least as good, should be put in its place.

Let us see what answers are the most appropriate, the most correct, the most consistent with the welfare and happiness of the human family.

When the question was asked of Voltaire, he answered: “If a surgeon is about to remove a cancer from the breast of some suffering being, do you ask what he will put in its place?”

When Colonel Ingersoll was asked this question, he answered : “If a counterfeit bill is presented at a bank and payment refused, is it asked what is to be given in its place, to the holder of the counterfeit?”

There is significance in both these answers, as they infer that Christianity, in the one case, is a cancer on the “body politic,” and, in the other, a false representation, or counterfeit, of true religion. And does not a contemplation and study of Christianity, its teachings and requirements sustain these inferences?

In a book of recent date by the late Dr. Edwin Hatch of Oxford University is indicated with fidelity every step of the process by which “ Christianity, from being a religion of life in its great founder’s faith, and of hope and love, became, in the course of three centuries, a religion of belief, consigning to eternal hell all who were not prepared to give unquestioning assent to theological propositions which no mortal man could understand.”

Rev. John W. Chadwick, of Brooklyn, says: “The Christianity of Jesus was divinely simple, in comparison with the stupendous system of ritual and dogma which has been foisted upon it, so burying it out of sight that many thousands have not known that such a thing once gladdened simple hearts. It was an easy system in comparison with that which finally corrupted it so grossly that there was left hardly a semblance of its original self.” Continuing, Rev. Mr. Chadwick speaks of the religion of Jesus and its simple requirements, viz., “to do justly and love mercy,” and adds: “Nothing (required) about any forms and ceremonies, nothing about baptism or the eucharist, nothing about penances or fasts, nothing about the Apostles’ or. the Nicene or the Athanasian creed, nothing about the confession of Augsburg or the thirty-nine articles of the Church of England or the thirty-three articles of the Westminster confession, nothing about the Trinity or the atonement, or total depravity or election or any of those things which have assumed so much importance in the history of the Christian Church.”

Rev. S. D. McConnell, D. D., of Philadelphia, said there was “not a single ‘confession of faith’ that was believed in, in its entirety, by even the most conservative members of the ministry of the church.”

Can we not, to advantage, put the simple religion of Christ in the place of the dogmatic, ceremonial religion of Christianity?

Is not the “ pure and undefiled religion ” announced by the Apostle James, viz., “to visit the fatherless and the widow in their affliction and to keep one’s self unspotted from the world,” a far better, more practical, and more reasonable religion and one that should properly take the place of a creed-bound Christianity ?

No word of censure or criticism will be found, in this article, of primitive Christianity, but only of that monstrous system of theology, which assumed to be Christian and which for many centuries has been and is now taught from every orthodox pulpit.

There is, also, a marked distinction between what Christ actually said and did and what is attributed to him by the (pious) interpolators and forgers of the Bible; so that when speaking of Christianity, we do not mean the religion of Christ, but something as widely different from it as is the base from the pure metal.

The kindly, humane, altruistic teachings of Gautama, of Confucius and of Christ, may – perhaps – be called religion. But the Christianity which arose a century or more after the death of Christ, is more properly denominated theology.

In Treasury of Thought, by M. M. Ballou, we read:

“Religion is universal; theology is exclusive.
“Religion is humanitarian; theology is sectarian.
“Religion united mankind; theology divided it.
“Religion is love; theology preaches love and practices bigotry.
“Religion looks to the mood worth of man; theology to his creed.
“Religion is peace; theology is the apple of discord.”

The question really asked (though the orthodox Christian is SO lamentably ignorant of what his religion teaches, that he is unwilling to admit it) is : What shall be put in the place of error, of the contradictions and indecencies in the Bible, of its pseudo-astronomy, geology and biology, of the untruthful stories of Eden, of Enoch, of Samson, of Jonah, of Job, of Daniel, of the standing still of the sun, of the feeding of Elijah by ravens and of his ride to heaven in a chariot of fire, of Elisha and the bears and the forty-two children, of the utterance of human speech by Balaam’s beast of burden, of the confusion of tongues, of Solomon’s temple; of the longevity of Methuselah, and of the many other preposterous records in the Old Testament, and of the miracles in the New Testament, the divinity, virgin birth, resurrection and ascension of Jesus? There is but one answer to all these questions, and that is, Truth; put truth in the place of all these unreasonable, unbelievable chronicles which are found in Christianity’s untruthful and immoral textbook (the Holy [!I Bible). Why it is that virtuous men and modest women do not insist upon an expurgation of the obscene passages in the Bible, is incomprehensible. By way of contrast thereto, Rev. James Legge, D.D., a missionary to China, says: “You might read all the Confucian books, from beginning to end, in the presence of the most refined lady, without needing to omit a word.” And so far as the untruthfulness of the Bible is concerned, if it is asked what is to be put in the place of such untruthfulness, it might with equal propriety be asked, What is to be put in place of Æsop’s fables or of Munchausen’s exaggerations?

Prof. Felix Adler says : “The world is determined to hold fast to the old belief, not because it is believed to be true, but because it thinks it best to do so, until it finds something to ‘take its place.’ The God – Christ will be rejected, but the man – Jesus is to be the leader and the regenerative social movement of our own day.”

Colonel Ingersoll says in answer to the question, “What are we to give in place of our religion?” – “For the vagaries of the clouds, the infidels propose to substitute the realities of earth; for superstitions, the splendid demonstrations and achievements of science; and for theological tyranny, the chainless liberty of thought.”

Rev. J. W. Chadwick says: “No maxim has been more injurious than that which formulates the absurdity that we should destroy nothing till we had something as good to put in its place.”

Rev. Charles Strong of Melbourne says: “We no more destroy the religion of Jesus by pulling an old theological house to pieces, than we destroy the stars by exploding old world theories about the earth being a plane and the stars rising above and setting below it.”

Leslie Stephen says: “If you would wait to speak the truth until you can replace the old decaying formula by a completely elaborated system, you must wait forever. Reconstruct, it is said, before you destroy. But you must destroy in order to  reconstruct. The old husk of dead faith is pushed off by the growth of living beliefs below.”

In place of the crude Bible notion that “in the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” – the sun and moon – and “made the stars also” (!) – with all the limitations which this puerile “account of creation” suggests – we recognize the infinite grandeur and boundless immensity of the universe, with its incalculably multitudinous orbs of light, the inconceivable illimitableness of space and the incomprehensible vastness of the eternity of time.

In place of worshiping an imperfect, capricious, inconsistent God, which is “revealed” to us in the Bible, is it not far more reasonable to worship the beauties, the perfections, the sublimities, the unvarying laws, and the wonder-inspiring order of nature?

Instead of belief in miracles, or in their possibility, let us rather contemplate the far greater marvels of life, growth, decay and death, and the continuing process by which new life and growth are wrought by a natural and endless chain of cause and effect.

“I venerate great Nature’s plan,
And worship at her shrine;
While goodness, truth and love in man,
I hold to be divine.”

Professor Adler says: “Resurrection is a fact. On every hand we see Nature rising, and the glory of flowers and the song of birds, from the long (wintry) slumber into which she has been plunged.”

Instead of having veneration for a cruel, malevolent, relentless, unjust Being, which the Christian religion exacts of its votaries, let us rejoice that such a Being is unknowable, unthinkable, improbable, nay impossible; and that there is vastly greater reasonableness and consistency in bestowing our heart’s admiration and affection on our own educated and sympathetic humanity.

Religion, as usually interpreted, does not-primarily – seek to control the moral being. It does not urge – except perhaps secondarily– to the leading of an upright life, to the performance of those duties which are essential to the best interest of society, to the inculcation of those traits of character which tend to ennoble the human race, to the acquisition of that knowledge which, through unbiased investigation, leads to truth. But it demands unquestioning faith in its unproved and  unprovable dogmas ; and as a reward for such faith – without a single other requisite – it promises an eternity of bliss. Is it  possible to put in the place of such a religion anything more reasonless or demoralizing?

Rev. J. W. Chadwick says: “The Nicene creed (the basis of Christianity) is all theology, without a syllable of ethics.”

Indeed, so far from the Christian religion encouraging morality, there are many and notable instances of its having discouraged it. Rev. A. H. Lewis, D.D., informs us that “immoral houses were licensed in London, in the twelfth century; the Bishop of Westminster receiving the proceeds of such licenses.”

Do we not want to exchange for something better, a religion, the base career of whose sacred (!) officials is a matter of history and which baseness extended to nearly all members of the Christian church?

Hallam says: “All writers concur in stigmatizing the dissoluteness which prevailed among the clergy.”

Do we not want a better religion than that which makes possible the immoralities of the confessional?

Do we not want a religion of a higher moral tone than that regarding which Luther said that a man might commit the grossest immorality, “if he only believed enough on the Lord Jesus Christ?”

Lecky says: “The fathers laid it down as a distinct proposition that pious frauds are justifiable, and even laudable.”  Guizot says: “The church sank into barbarism. All remains of Roman civilization disappeared. All became buried in complete barbarism. On one side the rude barbarians, entering into the church, became bishops and priests; on the other, the bishops, adopting the barbarian life became, without quitting their bishoprics, chiefs of bands of marauders and wandered over the country, pillaging and destroying, like so many companions of Clovis.”

Do we not want a more honest and more civilized religion than that which Christianity has proved itself to be?

In place of the teachings of Christianity regarding woman; that maternity is a reproach; that the wife shall be stoned to death, by her husband, if she should dare to hold any theological views different from his; that woman is not the equal, but the inferior of man; that she must hold herself in subjection to him; that she must observe “silence” – not being “permitted to speak” in his august (!) presence; that man shall “rule over” her; that she shall be “under obedience” to him; that she shall “ submit” and “be subject” to him “in everything;” that if she be curious enough to want to know anything she must “ask her husband,” even though she may be vastly his intellectual superior.

There is nothing more disgusting and vulgar than the teachings of the “church fathers” with regard to women; as a specimen thereof, St. John Chrysostom says that “of all wild beasts, the most dangerous is woman.” The influence of these teachings has caused the degeneracy of woman, as is clearly set forth by the late Professor Boyesen of Columbia University, New York City, who says: “It is beyond dispute that Christianity has been the strongest of a number of cooperating factors to accomplish such degeneracy.”

The Christian church antagonized the efforts of paganism in the earlier centuries – to grant more liberal laws to women. Frederick May Holland says: “The subjection of women to men, of citizens to sovereigns, of laity to clergy, of reason to faith, was insured by the organization of the Christian hierarchy.”

In place of the bigotry of Christianity, let us have the comparatively tolerant religions of Brahmanism, of Buddhism, of Islamism, of Parseeism, of Confucianism and, above all, of Paganism.

In place of those educational institutions, under control of the Christian church, which cling to theology and which so largely exclude the teachings of modern thought and the most advanced sciences, we would have taught the latest discoveries in the field of research.

Do we want a religion which demands silence of the “higher (or any other) criticism,” and which prefers the stagnant and dangerous pool of mental sloth, rather than the agitated and healthful and truth-inciting contact with intelligent thought? Do we not want a religion which teaches truth in place of the false statements of zealous churchmen, in regard to the progress of civilization, which was checked by Christianity, especially -when that system of religion became dominant in the fourth century, and which for over one thousand years was the most bitter enemy to social, industrial and educational advancement?

And do we not want a more reliable religion than that of Christianity, which insists on denying the existence of charitable and remedial institutions long before the time when Christ appeared on the earth? That hospitals, insane asylums and other humanitarian establishments were known more than two thousand years ago is as truly history as any other historical event which is recorded with reference to India, Egypt or any other ancient country.

Do we not want a more truthful religion, “in place of” Christianity, which persists in repeating falsehoods regarding supposed fearful death-bed scenes of those who have refused to believe in the horrible doctrine of damnation for unbelief in unbelievable dogmas? Abundant evidence-from physicians, truth-telling clergymen and others-has proved the falsity of such death-bed “writhings.”

What should be put in the place of Christianity which “changeth not,” which adheres to creeds which were formulated centuries ago and which the changed circumstances and advanced thought of the day show to be obsolete? Take, for example, the “Westminster Confession of Faith,” which was the offspring of the unreasoning thought of 250 years ago, and which is largely repudiated by thinking Presbyterians.

W. M. Salter says: “The objection to the old creeds is simply to their being made obligatory on the present.”

This fact, in connection with the one that there is a constantly increasing independence of thought in the church, accounts for the more numerous heresy trials of later years.

Let us get back to the views of Epiphanius – one of the church fathers-who held that “wickedness was the only heresy.” Let us look with the hopeful eyes of Rev. Norman McLeod, the Scottish divine, whose vision of what was to take the place of the Christianity of to-day, revealed that “neither Calvanism, nor Presbyterianism, nor Thirty-nine Articles, nor High-Churchism, nor Low-Churchism, nor any existing organization, can be the church of the future.”

It is asked what shall be given in place of a religion which sanctioned the infamous slave trade. It being shamelessly contended that, in exculpation of such infamy these ignorant, wretches were benefited by being brought out of the darkness of barbarianism into the light of Christianity!

Don’t we want something better in place of a Christianity nine-tenths of the pulpits of which religion sided with slavery or were wanting in courage to range themselves on the side of liberty in our four years’ war, which finally resulted in the emancipation of the slaves, but without the aid (except of a very few) of the “preachers of righteousness?”

Is the question asked, what shall be given in place of a religion, which, by reason of there being found within the lids of its sacred (!) writings, the words “Thou shalt not permit a witch to live,” has cost the human race many millions of lives; which religion by its irrational zeal, its insane infatuation, prosecuted crusade after crusade against an unoffending people till additional millions of lives were sacrificed ; and which religion, for full fifteen centuries, has been the principal cause of war, with all its attendant horrors?

Professor Felix L. Oswald says: “From the tenth to the end of the sixteenth century not less than three million ‘heretics’ – i.e., scholars and free enquirers – had to expiate their love of truth in the flames of the stake.”

The same author says; “The extermination of the Moriscos reduced the population of Spain by seven millions;” and adds; “The dogma of exclusive salvation by faith made forcible conversion an act of mercy and stimulated those wars of aggression that have cost the lives of more than thirty millions of our fellow men.”

Add hereto the estimate of Las Casas of the murder in Cuba of twelve millions of men, all – as Schopenhauer says – “for the sake of spreading the gospel; and because all those who were not Christians were not regarded as human beings.”

“O Liberty! what crimes are committed in thy name!” cried Madame Roland.

But more truthful still is the utterance: “O Christianity! what greater crimes have been committed in thy name!”

The same warlike spirit has manifested itself in the last half of this century, more especially by the most Christian nation, Great Britain.

In the unrighteous Anglo-Chinese wars of 1857-60 eighteen out of twenty-three of the Christian bishops in the House of Lords voted for war, against the earnest protests of Lord Derby, Lord Russell, Disraeli, Cobden, Bright, Gladstone and other humane and justice-loving English statesmen.

But should it not be asked: Are not these bishops merely illustrating the spirit of their Master, who, the Bible tells us, “came not to bring peace but a sword?”

This spirit of murder is showing itself to-day in the attitude of all the Christian nations of Europe, where standing armies of many millions of men are ready, and on comparatively slight provocation, to clutch the throats of their brother Christians.

Christianity has also carried this war spirit into the next world, for we read there was once “war in heaven,” according to the record of “St. John the Divine.”

What shall be given in place of Christianity which selects and proclaims such a tyrannical and cruel utterance as was attributed to Christ, viz.: “They who will not that I shall rule over them, bring hither and slay them before me;” or, “He that believeth not shall be damned;” or, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels?”

What shall be given in place of a religion, the founder of which announced that he came to engender bitterness in the home, to stir up strife in the household, to cause contention in the family, “ to set a man at variance against his father and the daughter against her mother, the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law?” Can any member of a loving family say that we do not want something very much better than such a religion? “An hundred-fold” is the premium and “everlasting life” the reward Christ offers to those who can be induced to forsake brothers, sisters, father, mother, wife or children – for “His name’s sake!!” Surely is not any other religion, or no religion, far better than such unnatural and heartless teachings?

Do we not want a kindlier and more cheerful religion in place of that which requires us to “mourn and weep” and which proclaims, “Woe unto you that laugh?”

Buckle says: “All social pleasures are denounced (by believers in the Bible.) … Whatever was natural was wrong.”

Surely, we can find some teachings that can be put to advantage, in place of a religion which tells us that if an eye offend it must be plucked out; that if a hand offend it must be cut off; that we must not resist evil; that if assaulted on one cheek the other must be turned; that if a thief makes way with your coat, you must give up your cloak also; that no thought should be taken for the morrow; that you must not refuse to give to any beggar or to lend to any borrower.

The teachings of such lawlessness, such encouragement to oppression, to theft, to improvidence, to pauperism, to vagrancy, to idleness and consequently to other vices, would produce a state of society infinitely worse than anarchism, resulting in social chaos. Is there a single reputable Christian who desires such a condition of society “ in place of” that which is governed by principle, by justice, by right, by industry, by frugality, by the experience of enlightened practices and the promptings of enlightened thought and action?

What should be given in place of a religion that resorted to the thumb-screw, the rack, the iron boot? Colonel Ingersoll says: “I did not appreciate the infamies that have been committed in the name of religion, until I saw the iron arguments which Christians used.”

It will not do to say that such cruelties were practiced in an intolerant age. The spirit of Christianity towards those who have the courage to reject its unseemly theologies is precisely the same (not differing even in degree) as it was in the sixteenth century. Proofs of which may be found in the unjust and tyrannical enactment of laws exempting churches from taxation; which require religious teachings in our public schools; which take the property of unreligious tax-payers to pay the salaries of chaplains in our halls of legislation, in our army and navy and in our prisons; and which may also be found in the attempt now being made to force a recognition of the Christian religion by an amendment to the Constitution of the United States. And when that is done it is not too much to predict that every act in conflict with the (amended) Constitution will be punishable by the same acts of bigotry which have disgraced, not alone Christianity, but humanity itself. It is easy to foretell their argument. They would say, ”Is not this (heretical) act in violation of our Constitution?” and if so, “Why should not such violations, such treasonable acts, be (severely) punished?” So that Free Thinkers may prepare themselves for extreme measures when Christians get control of the government ; such measures, indeed, as will have their parallel, it may be, in the bigotry, persecution and torture of the Inquisition.

In place of Christianity which teaches that it is right to do right for fear of punishment or for hope of reward, we would substitute that it is right to do right, because it is right so to do ; a principle infinitely superior to any religion that ever existed.

The same question was asked of Luther, by Roman Catholics – “What are you going to give us in place of our religion ? ” It was then said that “Luther knew how to destroy, but not how to construct.” These same questions are being asked to-day of those who are merely endeavoring to eliminate from the religion of Christianity the errors, the cruelties, the obscenities, which are numerously found in the book which is the basis of that religion, and to fill their places with truth, compassion, refinement, to induce belief in reasonable creeds, to abandon obsolete dogmas, to have done with the superstitious belief in supernaturalism.

In place of the Roman Catholic religion, Protestants adopted as a principle a religion which recognized the right of private judgment ; and now that Protestantism has proved false to that principle, why should we not re-assert that which exalts mental liberty above creeds, which puts justice and reason and truth above theological domination?

Heresy trials in the Protestant church show that there is little difference between the Romish and the Protestant church in the matter of tolerant thought and honest opinion.

Both churches are exacting and bigoted and both are (more or less) in alliance, in the great conflict which for centuries has been waging between theology and unhampered thought.

It is asked, can there be a religion of more gentleness and kindness than that of Christianity? Listen to the answer of one well versed in ecclesiastical lore: “History shows that, religion has been more relentless under the auspices of Christian theology than under those of all other theologies 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.”

Can it be seriously asked “what is to be put in the place of” a religion which, as Colonel Ingersoll has expressed it, “sends infants to perdition to increase God’s glory and murderers to heaven to show the riches of his grace?”

Is the human mind capable of inventing aught that is more atrocious? And yet every orthodox Christian subscribes to this infamous doctrine.

Is it asked, what textbook can be given in place of the Bible, which according to Professor Ladd of Yale University, “contains probably a hundred thousand errors,” and according to John E. Remsberg has “outraged decency by its obscene recitals?”

Do we ask what can be given in place of the God of the Bible ? Let the late Rev. Theodore Parker of Boston answer: “Vishnu, with a necklace of skulls, is a figure of love and mercy, compared to the God of the old Testament.”

“The God of the Bible is a moral monstrosity.” – (Beecher.)

In place of the Christian dogmas – of the fall of man and of redemption – let us adopt the scientific fact of the rise of man, from a lower order of being ; which fact entirely dispenses with the doctrine of the atonement and all that follows in its train.

Is it not desirable to have an investigating, progressive religion, in place of Christianity, which ignores reason, retards discovery and antagonizes science; as is clearly and amply demonstrated by Gibbon, Hume, Lecky, Buckle, Draper, Andrew D. White and other students and teachers of the truths of history?

In place of the Christian religion, which has discouraged the spread of intelligence and which applied the torch to libraries in Tripoli, Alexandria, Mexico and Grenada, let us have a religion that seeks to diffuse knowledge, that fears not collections of facts, that encourages investigation, that is stimulated by a desire for truth, that believes in progressive thought, that gives the hospitality of the brain to every new idea or honest thought.

In place of the Apostles,’ or any other unreasonable and unsympathetic, creed, let us recite: I believe in the divine influence of natural affection; in the Catholic church of humanity; in the communion of heart and of brain; in forgiveness, charitableness and tolerance; in the exaltation and cultivation of the nobler and finer attributes of our nature; in the immortality of good deeds, great thoughts and grand achievements. To which may be added the creed of Ingersoll: “I believe in the fireside; in the democracy of home; in the republicanism of the family; in liberty, equality and love.”

In one of Colonel Ingersoll’s lectures he says, “We got Shakespeare in the place of Calvin,” the latter having died in the same year that the former was born; and the Colonel has expressed the opinion that the world profited by the exchange; and in which opinion, all who are not heartless or barbarous will readily acquiesce.

The exchange of the “church fathers” and all the other theologians who ever lived, for the few scientists of the closing years of this century, has been of incalculable benefit to the world. How greatly has intelligent thought been stimulated by the heroic attacks on the superstitions of the church by Voltaire, to whom (as the late James Russell Lowell has said) “we owe it –more than to any one man – that we can think and speak as we choose!”

How well we could spare all the sermons of all the priests and ministers who ever existed for one leaf of the common sense and unanswerable logic of Thomas Paine’s Age of Reason! How supremely absurd appear all the dogmas which the pulpits of to-day are inculcating in credulous minds, by the side of those grand truths, brilliant thoughts and eloquent utterances which come from the lips of the most fascinating speaker of the English language, of whom the generous minded Rev. H.N. Thomas, D.D., of Chicago, says, “There is perhaps a place and a need for Colonel Ingersoll’s work, and more people look to him as a religious teacher and guide than any other teacher.”

Is it seriously believed that no better religion can be put in the place of one, the textbook of which religion unequivocally advocates polygamy, slavery and intemperance?

Can any one whose heart beats responsive to those struggling against despotic rule, seriously ask what will you give us “in place of” a religion which upholds tyranny by proclaiming, “The powers that be are ordained of God;” thus stigmatizing the acts of the freedom-loving heroes of all ages, and in our own country of the noble and self-sacrificing patriots of the Revolution in striving for and securing the blessings of liberty, and creating a history, the grand achievements of which have no parallel in the annals of time? Christianity takes to task all who participated in our efforts at independence of the mother country, for daring to disobey the “ordinance of God” in converting the colonies of George III. into the “great Republic.” Shade of Washington! the Christian religion charges you with crime, the crime of loving liberty and of battling for the rights of man. Franklin, Jefferson, Paine and their compeers – all, likewise, criminals!

Do we not want a religion which discriminates between the acts of the humane and those of the brute murderer, in place of a religion which receives to its bosom a man who was guilty of a score of murders, as was the case of the wretch Holmes, recently executed, and who has become a sanctified saint, with all the benefits which the consolations of Christianity confer, including an eternity of bliss in the heavenly kingdom? This illustrates the beauty (!) of the Christian doctrine of eleventh-hour repentance. Holmes realized the forgiving, loving teaching of Christianity, that “though your sins be as scarlet they shall be made whiter than snow,” and while Holmes is escorted by myriads of angels to the gates of the new Jerusalem and furnished with a harp with which to accompany his song of praise for the enchantments which surround him, many of his poor victims are suffering the pangs of undying torment. So says Christianity.

Do we not want a more honorable religion in place of one which has deliberately appropriated a college to its own use, against the known desires and in violation of the expressed wishes of its founder? The history of Girard College, of Philadelphia, and its perversion from the grand intentions for it, of Stephen Girard, to the teaching of the unmeaning theology of Christianity, forms one of the most dastardly acts of treachery and robbery that any history can furnish.

Do we not want a more rational religion “in the place” of that which has furnished so many imitations of Abraham offering up Isaac; actually sacrificing their own innocent flesh and blood because those who are emotional have believed that the inspired (!) book teaches such insane and inhuman sacrifices?

What shall be given in place of a religion which repudiates reason and the supporters of which religion are (to quote from Benjamin Kidd’s Social Evolution) “engaged in a remorseless and relentless struggle in which the opponent proves to be none other than his own reason?” To quote further from Kidd’s book: “A rational religion is a scientific impossibility.”

Do we not want a better religion in place of that, which, by stimulating the emotional faculties of our nature, has resulted in deficient intellectual vigor, and which has filled our insane asylums as no other cause, than that of Christianity, has done?

What shall we give in place of a religion which encouraged an asceticism that could transform a noble human being into (as Lecky has said) ‘I a hideous, sordid and emaciated maniac, without knowledge, without patriotism, without natural affection; passing his life in a long routine of useless and atrocious self-torture and quailing before the ghostly phantoms of his delirious brain? ”

Surely there is something purer and more in accordance with nature than a religion which encourages (as does Christianity) women to break the ties of family, to render callous natural affection and immure themselves in voluntary prison houses.

During the trial of the late Professor Swing in Chicago for heresy, the articles of the Presbyterian faith then published  were so shocking to those members of his church who had never read them that they imagined them to be forgeries. These articles of faith are now kept as far as possible from the eyes of intelligent Christians, and yet these articles are sufficiently known and comprehended to be discredited by those who are in search of facts and who are no longer believers by simple “faith alone.”

Do we not want some more honest religion in place of that which insincerely and hypocritically recognizes creeds which were formulated centuries ago and which the ministers of such religion know are untrue and unbelievable, and which ministers tell their congregations what they know to be utterly indefensible? On this subject Dean Alford says: “There’s many a thing said in many a sermon that, should the preacher enter a room, with an intelligent parishioner, eye to eye, he dare not stick to.”

Do we not want some better religion than that which falsely insists that Jesus had no natural father; when the very book which Christians claim to be infallible says, as distinctly as it can, that Joseph was the father of Jesus, by giving – in Matthew and Luke – the genealogy of Jesus; both accounts bringing it down, through Joseph to Jesus? True, in another part of the sacred (!) record it says he was “conceived by the Holy  Ghost,” and in still another part, that he was the “only begotten Son of God.” Thus the Bible tells us that Joseph was the father of Jesus, that the Holy Ghost was his father and that God was his father. Does not such a “Trinity” of contradictions show the inconsistency of the Christian religion?

Do we not want some better religion in the place of that which practices the deception of teaching the sacredness of a certain day, when they who so teach know that there is no warrant for such teaching? Christians, without the slightest of recognized authority, are most strenuous in the religious observance of Sunday – giving (as Whittier has expressed it) “six days to mammon, one to cant.”

Is it asked what is to be given in place of faith in the Christian religion ? It may be answered, we would have faith in humanity, faith in immutable physical laws, faith in the unvarying conditions which control the moral nature of man, faith in an upright life, faith in the eternal principle of justice, of right and of truth. Do not these indicate a sublimer faith than can be realized through faith in a religion of unproved dogmas and improbable myths ?

“In place of” the astronomy, the geology and the biology of Moses, which Christianity insists is true, surely we have a more intelligent estimate of these sciences from the discoveries of Copernicus, of Humboldt and of Darwin.

Can we not find some religion that illustrates more sincerity among those who profess belief in it and more fidelity to its founder than is shown by the treatment of Christ by his disciples; that false friendship, by which he was doubted by one, denied by another, betrayed by still another and finally forsaken by all?

President Patton of Princeton University says, “Christianity is not a life, but a dogma.” This is an honest statement of the orthodox Christian religion. In place of such a doctrine; in place of all the dogmas that have been formulated by all the councils of the church; in place of all its creeds and confessions of faith; in place of all the professions of belief by all the zealots of Christendom; let us offer the simple teaching and striving for an upright life, let us build up character, let us encourage refinement, purity, good deeds, humane feelings, generous impulses, kindly thoughts, beneficent acts; in fine, let us reverse the position claimed for Christianity and declare that religion should be a life and not a dogma. What possible influence on the aims and aspirations of exalted character can be had by belief in the dogmas of predestination, sanctification, justification, effectual calling, baptism, the Trinity, the atonement, in the resurrection, the immaculate conception, or the “procession” of the Holy Ghost?

Does it make any one happier or better to believe in the Westminster “Confession of Faith” – Chapter X. – which reads : “Elect infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated and saved… others not elected cannot be saved”?

In the place) of theological religion we would substitute the religion of ethical culture; in place of superstition we would put rational thought ; in place of the supernatural, the natural; in place of fear for the future, we would content ourselves with the joys of the present, and hope for their continuance. In place of the “fear of God,” of the evil one, of endless torment, let us be attracted to a religion of confidence, of trust, of hope, of cheer and of love. For the futility of prayer, we would offer the labor of the hands and the exercise of the brain. In place of useless and senseless church creeds let us interest ourselves in whatever may tend to benefit mankind.

In place of the unlettered, ignorant, superstitious past, we would put the cultivated, intelligent, realistic present.

In place of admitting the possibility of the truth of miracles, let us scrutinize the character of the evidence by which miracles are imposed upon the credulous.

In place of recognizing authority as truth (as taught by Christianity,) let us rather regard truth as authority (as reason teaches.)

In place of the Christian church, hemmed in by its restricted, ignorant and cruel beliefs, denying admission to the noblest and most intelligent of the race and rejecting the most beautiful and gladsome and useful lessons of life; we would, with Colonel Ingersoll, join the “great church that holds the world within its star-lit aisles; that claims the great and good of every race and clime ; that finds with joy the grains of gold in every creed and floods with light and love the germs of good in every soul.”

In place of the Christian religion, with its pretentious sanctuaries, its arrogant and pharisaical officials, its warlike teachings, its injustice, its cant, its want of truthfulness and its lessons of hate, may we be able to realize in the not distant future the grand and rational “Dream of Akbar,” as portrayed by Tennyson –

“I dream’d
That stone by stone I rear’d a sacred fane,
A Temple, neither Pagod, Mosque, nor Church,
But loftier, simpler, always open-door’d
To every breath from heaven; and Truth and Peace
And Love and Justice came and dwelt therein.”

Next: The Republic in Danger >

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