The Works of Robert G. Ingersoll
Dresden Memorial Edition (II, 429-491)
HTML, Editing by Cliff Walker
Myth and Miracle.
HAPPINESS is the true end and aim of life. It is the task of intelligence to ascertain the conditions of happiness, and when found the truly wise will live in accordance with them. By happiness is meant not simply the joy of eating and drinking -- the gratification of the appetite -- but good, well-being, in the highest and noblest form. The joy that springs from obligation discharged, from duty done, from generous acts, from being true to the ideal, from a perception of the beautiful in nature, art and conduct. The happiness that is born of and gives birth to poetry and music, that follows the gratification of the highest wants.
Happiness is the result of all that is really right and sane.
But there are many people who regard the desire to he happy as a very low and degrading ambition. These people call themselves spiritual. They pretend to care nothing for the pleasures of "sense." They hold this world, this life, in contempt. They do not want happiness in this world -- but in another. Here, happiness degrades -- there, it purifies and ennobles.
These spiritual people have been known as prophets, apostles, augurs, hermits, monks, priests, popes, bishops and parsons. They are devout and useless. They do not cultivate the soil. They produce nothing. They live on the labor of others. They are pious and parasitic. They pray for others, if the others will work for then. They claim to have been selected by the Infinite to instruct and govern mankind. They are "meek" and arrogant, "long-suffering" and revengeful.
They ever have been, now are, and always will be the enemies of liberty, of investigation and science. They are believers in the supernatural, the miraculous and the absurd. They have filled the world with hatred, bigotry and fear. In defence of their creeds they have committed every crime and practiced every cruelty.
They denounce as worldly and sensual, those who are gross enough to love wives and children, to build homes, to fell the forests, to navigate the seas, to cultivate the earth, to chisel statues, to paint pictures and fill the world with love and art.
They have denounced and maligned the thinkers, the poets, the dramatists, the composers, the actors, the orators, the workers -- those who have conquered the world for man.
According to them this world is only the vestibule of the next, a kind of school, an ordeal, a place of Probation. They have always insisted that this life should be spent in preparing for the next; that those who supported and obeyed the "spiritual guides" -- the shepherds, would be rewarded with an eternity of joy, and that all others would suffer eternal pain.
These spiritual people have always hated labor. They have added nothing to the wealth of the world. They have always lived on alms -- on the labor of others. They have always been the enemies of innocent pleasure, and of human love.
These spiritual people have produced a literature. The books they have written are called sacred. Our sacred books are called the Bible. The Hindoos have the Vedas and many others, the Persians the Zend Avesta -- the Egyptians had the Book of the Dead -- the Aztecs the Popol Vuh, and the Mohammedans have the Koran.
These books, for the most part, treat of the unknowable. They describe gods and winged phantoms of the air. They give accounts of the origin of the universe, the creation of man and the worlds beyond this. They contain nothing of value. Millions and millions of people have wasted their lives studying these absurd and ignorant books.
The "spiritual people" in each country claimed that their books had been written by inspired men -- that God was the real author, and that all men and women who denied this would be, after death, tormented forever.
And yet, the worldly people, the uninspired, the wicked, have produced a far greater literature than the spiritual and the inspired.
Not all the sacred books of the world equal Shakespeare's "volume of the brain." A purer philosophy, grander, nobler, fell from the lips of Shakespeare's clowns than the Old Testament or the New, contains.
The Declaration of Independence is nobler far than all the utterances from Sinai's cloud and flame. "A Man's a Man for a' That," by Robert Burns, is better than anything the sacred books contain. For my part, I would rather hear Beethoven's Sixth Symphony than to read the five books of Moses. Give me the Sixth Symphony -- this sound-wrought picture of the fields and woods, of flowering hedge and happy home, where thrushes build and swallows fly, and mothers sing to babes; this echo of the babbled lullaby of brooks that, dallying, wind and fall where meadows bare their daisied bosoms to the sun; this joyous mimicry of summer rain, the laugh of children, and the rhythmic rustle of the whispering leaves; this strophe of peasant life; this perfect poem of content and love.
I would rather listen to Tristan and Isolde -- that Mississippi of melody -- where the great notes, winged like eagles, lift the soul above the cares and griefs of this weary world -- than to all the orthodox sermons ever preached. I would rather look at the Venus de Milo than to read the Presbyterian creed.
The spiritual have endeavored to civilize the world through fear and faith -- by the promise of reward and the threat of pain in other worlds. They taught men to hate and persecute their fellow-men. In all ages they have appealed to force. During all the years they have practiced fraud. They have pretended to have influence with the gods -- that their prayers gave rain, sunshine and harvest -- that their curses brought pestilence and famine, and that their blessings filled the world with plenty. They have subsisted on the fears their falsehoods created. Like poisonous vines, they have lived on the oak of labor. They have praised charity, but they never gave. They have denounced revenge, but they never forgave.
Whenever the spiritual have had power, art has died, learning has languished, science has been despised, liberty destroyed, the thinkers have been imprisoned, the intelligent and honest have been outcasts, and the brave have been murdered.
The "spiritual" have been, are, and always will be the enemies of the human race.
For all the blessings that we now enjoy -- for progress in every form, for science and art -- for all that has lengthened life, that has conquered disease, that has lessened pain, for raiment, roof and food, for music in its highest forms -- for the poetry that has ennobled and enriched our lives -- for the marvellous machines now working for the world -- for all this we are indebted to the worldly -- to those who turned their attention to the affairs of this life. They have been the only benefactors of our race.
AND yet all of these religions -- these "sacred books," these priests, have been naturally produced. From the dens and caves of savagery to the palaces of civilization men have traveled by the necessary paths and roads. Back of every step has been the efficient cause. In the history of the world there has been no chance, no interference from without, nothing miraculous. Everything in accordance with and produced by the facts in nature.
We need not blame the hypocritical and cruel. They thought and acted as they were compelled to think and act.
In all ages man has tried to account for himself and his surroundings. He did the best he could. He wondered why the water ran, why the trees grew, why the clouds floated, why the stars shone, why the sun and moon journeyed through the heavens. He was troubled about life and death, about darkness and dreams. The seas, the volcanoes, the lightning and thunder, the earthquake and cyclone, filled him with fear. Behind all life and growth and motion, and even inanimate things, he placed a spirit -- an intelligent being -- a fetich, a person, something like himself -- a god, controlled by love and hate. To him causes and effects became gods -- supernatural beings. The Dawn was a maiden, wondrously fair, the Sun, a warrior and lover; the Night, a serpent, a wolf -- the Wind, a musician; Winter, a wild beast; Autumn, Proserpine gathering flowers.
Poets were the makers of these myths. They were the first to account for what they saw and felt. The great multitude mistook these fancies for facts. Myths strangely alike, were produced by most nations, and gradually took possession of the world.
The Sleeping Beauty, a myth of the year, has been found among most peoples. In this myth, the Earth was a maiden -- the Sun was her lover. She had fallen asleep in winter. Her blood was still and her breath had gone. In the Spring the lover came, clasped her in his arms, covered her lips and cheeks with kisses. She was thrilled, her heart began to beat, she breathed, her blood flowed, and she awoke to love and joy. This myth has made the circuit of the globe.
So, Red Riding-Hood is the history of a day. Little Red Riding-Hood -- the morning, touched with red, goes to visit her kindred, a day that is past. She is attacked by the wolf of night and is rescued by the hunter, Apollo, who pierces the heart of the beast with an arrow of light.
The beautiful myth of Orpheus and Eurydice is the story of the year. Eurydice has been captured and carried to the infernal world. Orpheus, playing upon his harp, goes after her. Such is the effect of his music when he reaches the realm of Pluto, the laughterless, that Tantalus ceases his efforts to slake his thirst. He listens and forgets his withered lips, the daughters of the Danaides cease their vain efforts to fill the sieve with water, Sisyphus sits down on the stone that he so often had heaved against the mountain's misty side, Ixion pauses upon his wheel of fire, even Pluto smiles, and for the first time in the history of hell the cheeks of the Furies are wet with tears.
"Give me back Eurydice," cried Orpheus, and Pluto said: "Take her, but look not back." Orpheus led the way and Eurydice followed. Just as he reached the upper world, he missed her footsteps, turned, looked, and she vanished.
And thus the summer comes, is lost, and comes again through all the years.
So, our ancestors believed in the Garden of Eden, in the Golden Age, in the blessed time when all were good and pure -- when nature satisfied the wants of all. The race, like the old man, has golden dreams of youth. The morning was filled with light and life and joy, and the evening is always sad. When the old man was young, girls were beautiful and men were honest. He remembers his Eden. And so the whole world has had its age of gold.
Our fathers were believers in the Elysian Fields. They were in the far, far West. They saw them at the setting of the sun. They saw the floating isles of gold in sapphire seas; the templed mist with spires and domes of emerald and amethyst: the magic caverns of the clouds, resplendent with the rays of every gem. And as they looked, they thought the curtain had been drawn aside and that their eyes had for a moment feasted on the glories of another world.
The myth of the Flood has also been universal. Finding shells of the seas on plain and mountain, and everywhere some traces of the waves, they thought the world had been submerged -- that God in wrath had drowned the race, except a few his mercy saved.
The Hindus say that Menu, a holy man, dipped from the Ganges some water, and in the basin saw a little fish. The fish begged him to throw him back into the river, and Menu, having pity, cast him back. The fish then told Menu that there was to be a flood -- told him to build an ark, to take on board, people, animals and food, and that when the flood came, he, the fish, would save him. The saint did as he was told, the flood came, the fish returned. By that time he had grown to be a whale with a horn in his head. About this horn Menu fastened a rope, attached the other end to the ark, and the fish towed the boat across the raging waves to a mountain's top, where it rested until the waters subsided. The name of this wonderful fish was Matsaya.
Many other nations told similar stories of floods and arks and the sending forth of doves.
In all these myths and legends of the past we find philosophies and dreams and efforts, stained with tears, of great and tender souls who tried to pierce the mysteries of life and death, to answer the questions of the whence and whither, and who vainly sought with bits of shattered glass to make a mirror that would in very truth reflect the face and form of Nature's perfect self. These myths were born of hopes and fears, of tears and smiles, and they were touched and colored by all there is of joy and grief between the rosy dawn of birth and deaths sad night. They clothed even the stars with passion, and gave to gods the faults and frailties of the sons of men. In them the winds and waves were music, and all the springs, the mountains, woods and perfumed dells were haunted by a thousand fairy forms. They thrilled the veins of Spring with tremulous desire, made tawny Summer's billowy breast the throne and home of love, filled Autumn's arms with sun-kissed grapes and gathered sheaves, and pictured Winter as a weak old king, who felt, like Lear, upon his withered face, Cordelia's tears.
These myths, though false in fact, are beautiful and true in thought, and have for many ages and in countless ways enriched the heart and kindled thought.
IN all probability the first religion was Sun-worship. Nothing could have been more natural. Light was life and warmth and love. The sun was the fireside of the world. The sun was the "all-seeing" -- the "Sky Father." Darkness was grief and death, and in the shadows crawled the serpents of despair and fear.
The sun was a great warrior, fighting the hosts of Night. Apollo was the sun, and he fought and conquered the serpent of Night. Agni, the generous, who loved the lowliest and visited the humblest, was the sun. He was the god of fire, and the crossed sticks that by friction leaped into flame were his emblem. It was said that, in spite of his goodness, he devoured his father and mother, the two pieces of wood being his parents. Baldur was the sun. He was in love with the Dawn -- a maiden -- he deserted her and traveled through the heavens alone. At the twilight they met, were reconciled, and the drops of dew were the tears of joy they shed.
Chrishna was the sun. At his birth the Ganges thrilled from its source to the sea. All the trees, the dead as well as the living, burst into leaf and bud and flower.
Hercules was a sun-god.
Jonah the same, rescued from the fiends of Night and carried by the fish through the under world. Samson was a sun-god. His strength was in his hair -- in his beams. He was shorn of his strength by Delilah, the shadow -- the darkness. So, Osiris, Bacchus, Mithra, Hermes, Buddha, Quelzalcoatle, Prometheus, Zoroaster, Perseus, Codom Lao-tsze Fo-hi, Horus and Rameses were all sun-gods.
All these gods had gods for fathers and all their mothers were virgins.
The births of nearly all were announced by stars.
When they were born there was celestial music -- voices declared that a blessing had come upon the earth.
When Buddha was born, the celestial choir sang: "This day is born for the good of men Buddha, and to dispel the darkness of their ignorance -- to give joy and peace to the world."
Chrishna was born in a cave, and protected by shepherds. Bacchus, Apollo, Mithra and Hermes were all born in caves. Buddha was born in an inn -- according to some, under a tree.
Tyrants sought to kill all of these gods when they were babes.
When Chrishna was born, a tyrant killed the babes of the neighborhood.
Buddha was the child of Maya, a virgin, in the kingdom of Madura. The king arrested Maya before the child was born; imprisoned her in a tower. During the night when the child was born, a great wind wrecked the tower, and carried mother and child to a place of safety. The next morning the king sent his soldiers to kill the babes, and when they came to Buddha and his mother, the babe appeared to be about twelve years of age, and the soldiers passed on.
So Typhon sought in many ways to destroy the babe Horus. The king pursued the infant Zoroaster. Cadmus tried to kill the infant Bacchus.
All of these gods were born on the 25th of December.
Nearly all were worshiped by "wise men."
All of them fasted for forty days.
All met with a violent death.
All rose from the dead.
The history of these gods is the history of our Christ. He had a god for a father, a virgin for a mother. He was born in a manger, or a cave -- on the 25th of December. His birth was announced by angels. He was worshiped by wise men, guided by a star. Herod, seeking his life, caused the death of many babes. Christ fasted for forty days. So, it rained for forty days before the flood -- Moses was on Mt. Sinai for forty days. The temple had forty pillars and the Jews wandered in the wilderness for forty years. Christ met with a violent death, and rose from the dead.
These things are not accidents -- not coincidences. Christ was a sun-god. All religions have been born of sun-worship. To-day, when priests pray, they shut their eyes. This is a survival of sun-worship. When men worshiped the sun, they had to shut their eyes. Afterwards, to flatter idols, they pretended that the glory of their faces was more than the eyes could bear.
In the religion of our day there is nothing original. All of its doctrines, its symbols and ceremonies are but the survivals of creeds that perished long ago. Baptism is far older than Christianity -- than Judaism. The Hindus, the Egyptians, the Greeks and Romans had holy water. The eucharist was borrowed from the Pagans. Ceres was the goddess of the fields, Bacchus the god of the vine. At the harvest festival they made cakes of wheat and said: "These are the flesh of the goddess." They drank wine and cried: "This is the blood of our god."
The cross has been a symbol for many thousands of years. It was a symbol of immortality -- of life, of the god Agni, the form of the grave of a man. An ancient people of Italy, who lived long before the Romans, long before the Etruscans, so long that not one word of their language is known, used the cross, and beneath that emblem, carved on stone, their dead still rest. In the forests of Central America, ruined temples have been found, and on the walls the cross with the bleeding victim. On Babylonian cylinders is the impression of the cross. The Trinity came from Egypt. Osiris, Isis and Horus were worshiped thousands of years before our Father, Son and Holy Ghost were thought of. So the Tree of Life grew in India, China and among the Aztecs long before the Garden of Eden was planted. Long before our Bible was known, other nations had their sacred books, temples and altars, sacrifices, ceremonies and priests. The "Fall of Man" is far older than our religion, and so are the "Atonement" and the Scheme of Redemption.
In our blessed religion there is nothing new, nothing original.
Among the Egyptians the cross was a symbol of the life to come. And yet the first religion was, and all religions growing out of that, were naturally produced. Every brain was a field in which Nature sowed the seeds of thought. The rise and set of sun, the birth and death of day, the dawns of silver and the dusks of gold, the wonders of the rain and snow, the shroud of Winter and the many colored robe of Spring, the lonely moon with nightly loss or gain, the serpent lightning and the thunder's voice, the tempest's fury and the zephyr's sigh, the threat of storm and promise of the bow, cathedral clouds with dome and spire, earthquake and strange eclipse, frost and fire, the snow-crowned mountains with their tongues of flame, the fields of space sown thick with stars, the wandering comets hurrying past the fixed and sleepless sentinels of night, the marvels of the earth and air, the perfumed flower, the painted wing, the waveless pool that held within its magic breast the image of the startled face, the mimic echo that made a record in the viewless air, the pathless forests and the boundless seas, the ebb and flow of tides -- the slow, deep breathing of some vague and monstrous life -- the miracle of birth, the mystery of dream and death, and over all the silent and immeasurable dome. These were the warp and woof, and at the loom sat Love and Fancy, Hope and Fear, and wove the wondrous tapestries whereon we find pictures of gods and fairy lands and all the legends that were told when Nature rocked the cradle of the infant world.
WE must remember that there is a great difference between a myth and a miracle. A myth is the idealization of a fact. A miracle is the counterfeit of a fact. There is the same difference between a myth and a miracle that there is between fiction and falsehood -- between poetry and perjury. Miracles belong to the far past and the far future. The little line of sand, called the present, between the seas, belongs to common sense, to the natural.
If you should tell a man that the dead were raised two thousand years ago, he would probably say: "Yes, I know that." If you should say that a hundred thousand years from now all the dead will be raised, he might say: "Probably they will." But if you should tell him that you saw a dead man raised and given life that day, he would likely ask the name of the insane asylum from which you had escaped.
Our Bible is filled with accounts of miracles and yet they always fail to convince.
Jehovah, according to the Scriptures, wrought hundreds of miracles for the benefit of the Jews. With many miracles he rescued them from slavery, guided them on their journey with a miraculous cloud by day and a miraculous pillar of fire by night -- divided the sea that they might escape from the Egyptians, fed them with miraculous manna and supernatural quails, raised up hornets to attack their enemies, caused water to follow them wherever they wandered and in countless ways manifested his power, and yet the Jews cared nothing for these wonders. Not one of them seems to have been convinced that Jehovah had done anything for the people.
In spite of all these miracles, the Jews had more confidence in a golden calf, made by themselves, than in Jehovah. The reason of this is, that the miracles were never performed, and never invented until hundreds of years after those, who had wandered over the desert of Sinai, were dust.
The miracles attributed to Christ had no effect. No human being seems to have been convinced by them. Those whom he raised front the dead, cured of leprosy, or blindness, failed to become his followers. Not one of them appeared at his trial. Not one offered to bear witness of his miraculous power.
To this there is but one explanation: The miracles were never performed. These stories were the growth of centuries. The casting out of devils, the changing of water into wine, feeding the multitude with a few loaves and fishes, resisting the devil, using a fish for a pocketbook, curing the blind with clay and saliva, stilling the tempest, walking on the water, the resurrection and ascension, happened and only happened, in the imaginations of men, who were not born until several generations after Christ was dead.
In those days the world was filled with ignorance and fear. Miracles happened every day. The supernatural was expected. Gods were continually interfering with the affairs of this world. Everything was told except the truth, everything believed except the facts. History was a circumstantial account of occurrences that never occurred. Devils and goblins and ghosts were as plentiful as saints. The bones of the dead were used to cure the living. Cemeteries were hospitals and corpses were physicians. The saints practiced magic, the pious communed with God in dreams, and the course of events was changed by prayer. The credulous demanded the marvelous, the miraculous, and the priests supplied the demand. The sky was full of signs, omens of death and disaster, and the darkness thick with devils endeavoring to mislead and enslave the souls of men.
Our fathers thought that everything had been made for man, and that demons and gods gave their entire attention to this world. The people believed that they were the sport and prey, the favorites or victims, of these phantoms. And they also believed that the Creator, the God, could be influenced by sacrifice, by prayers and ceremonies.
This has been the mistake of the world. All the temples have been reared, all the altars erected, all the sacrifices offered, all the prayers uttered in vain. No god has interfered, no prayer has been answered, no help received from heaven. Nothing was created, nothing has happened for, or with reference to man. If not a human being lived, -- if all were in their graves, the sun would continue to shine, the wheeling world would still pursue its flight, violets would spread their velvet bosoms to the day, the spendthrift roses give their perfume to the air, the climbing vines would hide with leaf and flower the fallen and the dead, the changing seasons would come and go, time would repeat the poem of the year, storms would wreck and whispering rains repair, Spring with deft and unseen hands would weave her robes of green, life with countless lips would seek fair Summer's swelling breasts, Autumn would reap the wealth of leaf and fruit and seed, Winter, the artist, would etch in frost the pines and ferns, while Wind and Wave and Fire, old architects, with ceaseless toil would still destroy and build, still wreck and change, and from the dust of death produce again the throb and breath of life.
A FEW years ago a few men began to think, to investigate, to reason. They began to doubt the legends of the church, the miracles of the past. They began to notice what happened. They found that eclipses came at certain intervals and that their coming could be foretold. They became satisfied that the conduct of men had nothing to do with eclipses -- and that the stars moved in their orbits unconscious of the sons of men. Galileo, Copernicus, and Kepler destroyed the astronomy of the Bible, and demonstrated that the "inspired" story of creation could not be true, and that the church was as ignorant as the priests were dishonest.
They found that the myth-makers were mistaken, that the sun and stars did not revolve about the earth, that the firmament was not solid, that the earth was not flat, and that the so-called philosophy of the theologians was absurd and idiotic.
The stars became witnesses against the creeds of superstition.
With the telescope the heavens were explored. The New Jerusalem could not be found.
It had faded away.
The church persecuted the astronomers and denied the facts. In February, in the year of grace sixteen hundred, the Catholic Church, the "Triumphant Beast," having in her hands, her paws, the keys of heaven and hell, accused Giordano Bruno of having declared that there were other worlds than this. He was tried, convicted, imprisoned in a dungeon for seven years. He was offered his liberty if he would recant. Bruno, the atheist, the philosopher, refused to stain his soul by denying what he believed to be true. He was taken from his cell by the priests, by those who loved their enemies, led to the place of execution. He was clad in a robe on which representations of devils had been painted -- the devils that were soon to claim his soul. He was chained to a stake and about his body the wood was piled. Then priests, followers of Christ, lighted the fagots and flames consumed the greatest, the most perfect martyr, that ever suffered death.
And yet the Italian agent of God, the infallible Leo XIII., only a few years ago, denounced Bruno, the "bravest of the brave," as a coward.
The church murdered him, and the pope maligned his memory. Fagot and falsehood -- two weapons of the church.
A little while ago a few men began to examine rocks and soils, mountains, islands, reefs and seas. They noticed the valleys and deltas that had been formed by rivers, the many strata of lava that had been changed to soil, the vast deposits of metals and coal, the immense reefs that the coral had formed, the work of glaciers in the far past, the production of soil by the disintegration of rock, by the growth and decay of vegetation and the countless evidences of the countless ages through which the Earth has passed. The geologists read the history of the world written by wave and flame, attested by fossils, by the formation of rocks, by mountain ranges, by volcanoes, by rivers, islands, continents and seas.
The geology of the Bible -- of the "divinely inspired" church, of the "infallible" pope, was found to be utterly false and foolish.
The Earth became a witness against the creeds of superstition.
Then came Watt and Galvani with the miracles of steam and electricity, while countless inventors created the wonderful machines that do the work of the world. Investigation took the place of credulity. Men became dissatisfied with huts and rags, with crusts and creeds. They longed for the comforts, the luxuries of life. The intellectual horizon enlarged, new truths were discovered, old ideas were thrown aside, the brain was developed, the heart civilized and science was born. Humboldt, Laplace and hundreds of others explained the phenomena of nature, called attention to the ancient and venerable mistakes of sanctified ignorance and added to the sum of knowledge. Darwin and Haeckel gave their conclusions to the world. Men began to really think, the myths began to fade, the miracles to grow mean and small, and the great structure, known as theology, fell with a crash.
Science denies the truth of myth and miracle, denies that human testimony can substantiate the miraculous, denies the existence of the supernatural. Science asserts the absolute, the unvarying uniformity of nature. Science insists that the present is the child of all the past, -- that no power can change the past, and that nature is forever the same.
The chemist has found that just so many atoms of one kind unite with just so many of another -- no more, no less, always the same. No caprice in chemistry; no interference from without.
The astronomers know that the planets remain in their orbits -- that their forces are constant. They know that light is forever the same, always obeying the angle of incidence, traveling with the same rapidity, -- casting the same shadow, under the same circumstances in all worlds. They know that the eclipses will occur at the times foretold -- neither hastening nor delaying. They know that the attraction of gravitation is always the same, always in perfect proportion to mass and distance, neither weaker nor stronger, unvarying forever. They know that the facts in nature cannot be changed or be destroyed, and that the qualities of all things are eternal.
The men of science know that the atomic integrity of the metals is always the same, that each metal is true to its nature and that the particles cling to each other with the same tenacity, -- the same force. They have demonstrated the persistence of force, that it is forever active, forever the same, and that it cannot be destroyed.
These great truths have revolutionized the thought of the world.
Every art, every employment, all study, all experiment, the value of experience, of judgment, of hope, all rest on a belief in the uniformity of nature, on the eternal persistence and indestructibility of force.
Break one link in the infinite chain of cause and effect, and the Master of Nature appears. The broken link would become the throne of a god.
The uniformity of Nature denies the supernatural and demonstrates that there is no interference from without. There is no place, no office left for gods. Ghosts fade from the brain and the shrivelled deities fall palsied from their thrones.
The uniformity of Nature renders a belief in "special providence" impossible. Prayer becomes a useless agitation of the air, and religious ceremonies are but motions, pantomimes, mindless and meaningless.
The naked savage, worshiping a wooden god, is the religious equal of the robed pope kneeling before an image of the Virgin. The poor African who carries roots and bark to protect himself from evil spirits is on the same intellectual plane of one who sprinkles his body with "holy water."
All the creeds of Christendom, all the religions of the heathen world are equally absurd. The cathedral, the mosque and the joss house have the same foundation. Their builders do not believe in the uniformity of Nature, and the business of all priests is to induce a so-called infinite being to change the order of events, to make causes barren of effects and to produce effects without, and in spite of, natural causes. They all believe in the unthinkable and pray for the impossible.
Science teaches us that there was no creation and that there can be no destruction. The infinite denies creation and defies destruction. An infinite person, an "infinite being" is an infinite impossibility. To conceive of such a being is beyond the power of the mind. Yet all religions rest upon the supposed existence of the unthinkable, the inconceivable. And the priests of these religions pretend to be perfectly familiar with the designs, will, and wishes of this unthinkable, this inconceivable.
Science teaches that that which really is has always been, that behind every effect is the efficient and necessary cause, that there is in the universe neither chance nor interference, and that energy is eternal. Day by day the authority of the theologian grows weaker and weaker. As the people become intelligent they care less for preachers and more for teachers. Their confidence in knowledge, in thought and investigation increases. They are eager to know the discoveries, the useful truths, the important facts made, ascertained and demonstrated by the explorers in the domain of the natural. They are no longer satisfied with the platitudes of the pulpit, and the assertions of theologians. They are losing confidence in the "sacred Scriptures" and in the protecting power and goodness of the supernatural. They are satisfied that credulity is not a virtue and that investigation is not a crime.
Science is the providence of man, the worker of true miracles, of real wonders. Science has "read a little in Nature's infinite book of secrecy." Science knows the circuits of the winds, the courses of the stars. Fire is his servant, and lightning his messenger. Science freed the slaves and gave liberty to their masters. Science taught man to enchain, not his fellows, but the forces of nature, forces that have no backs to be scarred, no limbs for chains to chill and eat, forces that have no hearts to break, forces that never know fatigue, forces that shed no tears. Science is the great physician. His touch has given sight. He has made the lame to leap, the deaf to hear, the dumb to speak, and in the pallid face his hand has set the rose of health. Science has given his beloved sleep and wrapped in happy dreams the throbbing nerves of pain. Science is the destroyer of disease, builder of happy homes, the preserver of life and love. Science is the teacher of every virtue, the enemy of every vice. Science has given the true basis of morals, the origin and office of conscience, revealed the nature of obligation, of duty, of virtue in its highest, noblest forms, and has demonstrated that true happiness is the only possible good. Science has slain the monsters of superstition, and destroyed the authority of inspired books. Science has read the records of the rocks, records that priestcraft cannot change. and on his wondrous scales has weighed the atom and the star.
Science has founded the only true religion. Science is the only Savior of this world.
FOR many ages religion has been tried. For countless centuries man has sought for help from heaven. To soften the heart of God, mothers sacrificed their babes! but the God did not hear, did not see, and did not help. Naked savages were devoured by beasts, bitten by serpents, killed by flood and frost. They prayed for help, but their God was deaf. They built temples and altars, employed priests and gave of their substance, but the volcano destroyed and the famine came. For the sake of God millions murdered their fellow-men, but the God was silent. Millions of martyrs died for the honor of God, but the God was blind. He did not see the flames, the scaffolds. He did not hear the prayers, the groans. Thousands of priests in the name of God, tortured their fellow-men, stretched them on racks, crushed their feet in iron boots, tore out their tongues, extinguished their eyes. The victims implored the protection of God, but their god did not hear, did not see. He was deaf and blind. He was willing that his enemies should torture his friends.
Nations tried to destroy each other for the sake of God, and the banner of the cross dripping with blood floated over a thousand fields -- but the god was silent. He neither knew nor cared. Pestilence covered the earth with dead, the priests prayed, the altars were heaped with sacrifices, but the god did not see, did not hear. The miseries of the world did not lessen the joys of heaven. The clouds gave no rain, the famine came, withered babes with pallid lips sought the breasts of dead mothers, while starving fathers knelt and prayed, but the god did not hear. Through many centuries millions were enslaved, babes were sold from mothers, husbands from wives, backs were scarred with the lash. The poor wretches lifted their clasped hands toward heaven and prayed for justice, for liberty -- but their god did not hear. He cared nothing for the sufferings of slaves, nothing for the tears of wives and mothers, nothing for the agony of men. He answered no prayers. He broke no chains. He freed no slaves.
The miserable wretches appealed to the priests of God, but they were on the other side. They defended the masters. The slaves had nothing to give.
During all these years it was claimed by the theologians that their God was governing the world, that he was infinitely powerful, wise and good -- and that the "powers" of the earth were "ordained" by him. During all these years the church was the enemy of progress. It hated all physicians and told the people to rely on prayer, amulets and relics. It persecuted the astronomers and geologists, denounced them as infidels and atheists, as enemies of the human race. It poisoned the fountains of learning and insisted that teachers should distort the facts in nature to the end that they might harmonize with the "inspired" book. During all these years the church misdirected the energies of man, and when it reached the zenith of its power, darkness fell upon the world.
In all nations and in all ages, religion has failed. The gods have never interfered. Nature has produced and destroyed without mercy and without hatred. She has cared no more for man than for the leaves of the forest, no more for nations than for hills of ants, cared nothing for right or wrong, for life or death, for pain or joy.
Man through his intelligence must protect himself. He gets no help from any other world. The church has always claimed and still claims that it is the only reforming power, that it makes men honest, virtuous and merciful, that it prevents violence and war, and that without its influence the race would return to barbarism.
Nothing can exceed the absurdity of these claims. If we wish to improve the condition of mankind -- if we wish for nobler men and women we must develop the brain, we must encourage thought and investigation. We must convince the world that credulity is a vice, -- that there is no virtue in believing without, or against evidence, and that the really honest man is true to himself. We must fill the world with intellectual light. We must applaud mental courage. We must educate the children, rescue them from ignorance and crime. School-houses are the real temples, and teachers are the true priests. We must supply the wants of the mind, satisfy the hunger of the brain. The people should be familiar with the great poets, with the tragedies of Æschylus, the dramas of Shakespeare, with the poetry of Homer and Virgil. Shakespeare should be taught in every school, found in every house.
Through photography the whole world may become acquainted with the great statues, the great paintings, the victories of art. In this way the mind is enlarged, the sympathies quickened, the appreciation of the beautiful intensified, the taste refined and the character ennobled.
The great novels should be read by all. All should be acquainted with the men and women of fiction, with the ideal world. The imagination should be developed, trained and strengthened. Superstition has degraded art and literature. It gave us winged monsters, scenes from heaven and hell, representations of gods and devils, sculptured the absurd and painted the impossible in the name of Art. It gave us the dreams of the insane, the lives of fanatical saints, accounts of miracles and wonders, of cures wrought by the bones of the dead, descriptions of Paradise, purgatory and the eternal dungeon, discourses on baptism, on changing wine and wafers into the blood and flesh of God, on the forgiveness of sins by priests, on fore-ordination and accountability, predestination and free will, on devils, ghosts and goblins, the ministrations of guardian angels, the virtue of belief and the wickedness of doubt. And this was called "sacred literature."
The church taught that those who believed, counted beads, mumbled prayers, and gave their time or property for the support of the gospel were the good and that all others were traveling the "broad road" to eternal pain. According to the theologians, the best people, the saints, were dead, and real beauty was to be found only in heaven. They denounced the joys of life as husks and filthy rags, declared that the world had been cursed, and that it brought forth thistles and thorns because of the sins of man. They regarded the earth as a kind of dock, running out into the sea of eternity, -- on which the pious waited for the ship on which they were to be transported to another world.
But the real poets and the real artists clung to this world, to this life. They described and represented things that exist. They expressed thoughts of the brain, emotions of the heart, the griefs and joys, the hope and despair of men and women. They found strength and beauty on every hand. They found their angels here. They were true to human experience and they touched the brain and heart of the world. In the tragedies and comedies of life, in the smiles and tears, in the ecstasies of love, in the darkness of death, in the dawn of hope, they found their materials for statue and song, for poem and painting. Poetry and art are the children of this world, born and nourished here. They are human. They have left the winged monsters of heaven, the malicious deformities of hell, and have turned their attention to men and women, to the things of this life.
There is a poem called "The Skylark," by Shelley, graceful as the motions of flames. Another by Robert Burns, called "The Daisy," exquisite, perfect as the pearl of virtue in the beautiful breast of a loving girl. Between this lark and this daisy, neither above nor below, you will find all the poetry of the world. Eloquence, sublimity, poetry and art must have the foundation of fact, of reality. Imaginary worlds and beings are nothing to us.
At last the old creeds are becoming cruel and vulgar. We now have imagination enough to put ourselves in the place of others. Believers in hell, in eternal pain, like murderers, lack imagination. The murderer has not imagination enough to see his victim dead. He does not see the sightless and pathetic eyes. He does not see the widow's arms about the corpse, her lips upon the dead. He does not hear the sobs of children. He does not see the funeral. He does not hear the clods as they fall on the coffin. He does not feel the hand of arrest, the scene of the trial is not before him. He does not hear the awful verdict, the sentence of the court, the last words. He does not see the scaffold, nor feel about his throat the deadly noose.
Let us develop the brain, civilize the heart, and give wings to the imagination.
IF we abandon myth and miracle, if we discard the supernatural and the scheme of redemption, how are we to civilize the world?
Is falsehood a reforming power? Is credulity the mother of virtue? Is there any saving grace in the impossible and absurd? Did wisdom perish with the dead? Must the civilized accept the religion of savages?
If we wish to reform the world we must rely on truth, on fact, on reason. We must teach men that they are good or bad for themselves, that others cannot be good or bad for them, that they cannot be charged with the crimes, or credited with the virtues of others. We must discard the doctrine of the atonement, because it is absurd and immoral. We are not accountable for the sins of "Adam" and the virtues of Christ cannot be transferred to us. There can be no vicarious virtue, no vicarious vice. Why should the sufferings of the innocent atone for the crimes of the guilty. According to the doctrine of the atonement right and wrong do not exist in the nature of things, but in the arbitrary will of the Infinite. This is a subversion of all ideas of justice and mercy.
An act is good, bad, or indifferent, according to its consequences. No power can step between an act and its natural consequences. A governor may pardon the criminal, but the natural consequences of the crime remain untouched. A god may forgive, but the consequences of the act forgiven, are still the same. We must teach the world that the consequences of a bad action cannot be avoided, that they are the invisible police, the unseen avengers, that accept no gifts, that hear no prayers, that no cunning can deceive.
We do not need the forgiveness of gods, but of ourselves and the ones we injure. Restitution without repentance is far better than repentance without restitution.
We know nothing of any god who rewards, punishes or forgives.
We must teach our fellow-men that honor comes from within, not from without, that honor must be earned, that it is not alms, that even an infinite God could not enrich the beggar's palm with the gem of honor.
Teach them also that happiness is the bud, the blossom and the fruit of good and noble actions, that it is not the gift of any god; that it must be earned by man -- must be deserved.
In this world of ours there is no magic, no sleight-of-hand, by which consequences can be made to punish the good and reward the bad.
Teach men not to sacrifice this world for some other, but to turn their attention to the natural, to the affairs of this life. Teach them that theology has no known foundation, that it was born of ignorance and fear, that it has hardened the heart, polluted the imagination and made fiends of men.
Theology is not for this world. It is no part of real religion. It has nothing to do with goodness or virtue. Religion does not consist in worshiping gods, but in adding to the well-being, the happiness of man. No human being knows whether any god exists or not, and all that has been said and written about "our god," or the gods of other people, has no known fact for a foundation. Words without thoughts, clouds without rain.
Let us put theology out of religion.
Church and state should be absolutely divorced. Priests pretend that they have been selected by, and that they get their power from God. Kings occupy their thrones in accordance with the will of God. The pope declares that he is the agent, the deputy of God and that by right he should rule the world. All these pretensions and assertions are perfectly absurd and yet they are acknowledged and believed by millions. Get theology out of government and kings will descend from their thrones. All will admit that governments get their powers from the consent of the governed, and that all persons in office are the servants of the people. Get theology out of government and chaplains will be dismissed from Legislatures, from Congress, from the army and navy. Get theology out of government and people will be allowed to express their honest thoughts about "inspired books" and superstitious creeds. Get theology out of government and priests will no longer steal a seventh of our time. Get theology out of government and the clergy will soon take their places with augurs and soothsayers, with necromancers and medicine-men.
Get theology out of education. Nothing should be taught in a school that somebody does not know. There are plenty of things to be learned about this world, about this life. Every child should be taught to think, and that it is dangerous not to think. Children should not be taught the absurdities, the cruelties and imbecilities of superstition. No church should be allowed to control the common school, and public money should not be divided between the hateful and warring sects. The public school should be secular, and only the useful should be taught. Many of our colleges are under the control of churches. Presidents and professors are mostly ministers of the gospel and the result is that all facts inconsistent with the creeds are either suppressed or denied. Only those professors who are naturally stupid or mentally dishonest can retain their places. Those who tell the truth, who teach the facts, are discharged.
In every college truth should be a welcome guest. Every professor should be a finder, and every student a learner, of facts. Theology and intellectual dishonesty go together. The teacher of children should be intelligent and perfectly sincere.
Let us get theology out of education.
The pious denounce the secular schools as godless. They should be. The sciences are all secular, all godless. Theology bears the same relation to science that the black art does to chemistry, that magic does to mathematics. It is something that cannot be taught, because it cannot be known. It has no foundation in fact. It neither produces, nor accords with, any image in the mind. It is not only unknowable but unthinkable. Through hundreds and thousands of generations men have been discussing, wrangling and fighting about theology. No advance has been made. The robed priest has only reached the point from which the savage tried to start.
We know that theology always has and always will make enemies. It sows the seeds of hatred in families and nations. It is selfish, cruel, revengeful and malicious. It has heaven for the few and perdition for the many. We now know that credulity is not a virtue and that intellectual courage is. We must stop rewarding hypocrisy and bigotry. We must stop persecuting the thinkers, the investigators, the creators of light, the civilizers of the world.
WILL the unknown, the mysteries of life and death, the world that lies beyond the limitations of the mind, forever furnish food for superstition? Will the gods and ghosts perish or simply retreat before the advancing hosts of science, and continue to crouch and lurk just beyond the horizon of the known? Will darkness forever be the womb and mother of the supernatural?
A little while ago priests told peasants that the New Jerusalem, the celestial city was just above the clouds. They said that its walls and domes and spires were just beyond the reach of human sight. The telescope was invented and those who looked at the wilderness of stars, saw no city, no throne. They said to the priests: "Where is your New Jerusalem?" The priests cheerfully and confidently replied. "It is just beyond where you see."
At one time it was believed that a race of men existed "with their heads beneath their shoulders." Returning travelers from distant lands were asked about these wonderful people and all replied that they had not seen them. "Oh," said the believers in the monsters, "the men with heads beneath their shoulders live in a country that you did not visit." And so the monsters lived and flourished until all the world was known. We cannot know the universe. We cannot travel infinite distances, and so, somewhere in shoreless space there will always be room for gods and ghosts, for heavens and hells. And so it may be that superstition will live and linger until the world becomes intelligent enough to build upon the foundation of the known, to keep the imagination within the domain of the probable, and to believe in the natural -- until the supernatural shall have been demonstrated.
Savages knew all about gods, about heavens and hells before they knew anything about the world in which they lived. They were perfectly familiar with evil spirits, with the invisible phantoms of the air, long before they had any true conception of themselves. So, they knew all about the origin and destiny of the human race. They were absolutely certain about the problems, the solution of which, philosophers know, is beyond the limitations of the mind. They understood astrology, but not astronomy, knew something of magic, but nothing about chemistry. They were wise only as to those things about which nothing can be known.
The poor Indian believed in the "Great Spirit" and saw "design" on every hand. -- Trees were made that he might have bows and arrows, wood for his fire and bark for his wigwam -- rivers and lakes to give him fish, wild beasts and corn that he might have food, and the animals had skins that he might have clothes.
Primitive peoples all reasoned in the same way, and modern Christians follow their example. They knew but little of the world and thought that it had been made expressly for the use of man. They did not know that it was mostly water, that vast regions were locked in eternal ice and that in most countries the conditions were unfavorable to human life. They knew nothing of the countless enemies of man that live unseen in water, food and air. Back of the little good they knew they put gods and back of the evil, devils. They thought it of the greatest importance to gain the good will of the gods, who alone could protect them from the devils. Those who worshiped these gods, offered sacrifices, and obeyed priests, were considered loyal members of the tribe or community, and those who refused to worship were regarded as enemies and traitors. The believers, in order to protect themselves from the anger of the gods, exiled or destroyed the infidels.
Believing as they did, the course they pursued was natural. They not only wished to protect themselves from disease and death, from pestilence and famine in this world but the souls of their children from eternal pain in the next. Their gods were savages who demanded flattery and worship not only, but the acceptance of a certain creed. As long as Christians believe in eternal punishment they will be the enemies of those who investigate and contend for the authority of reason, of those who demand evidence, who care nothing for the unsupported assertions of the dead or the illogical inferences of the living.
Science always has been, is, and always will be modest, thoughtful, truthful. It has but one object: The ascertainment of truth. It has no prejudice, no hatred. It is in the realm of the intellect and cannot be swayed or changed by passion. It does not try to please God, to gain heaven or avoid hell. It is for this world, for the use of man. It is perfectly candid. It does not try to conceal, but to reveal. It is the enemy of mystery, of pretence and cant. It does not ask people to be solemn, but sensible. It calls for and insists on the use of all the senses, of all the faculties of the mind. It does not pretend to be "holy" or "inspired." It courts investigation, criticism and even denial. It asks for the application of every test, for trial by every standard. It knows nothing of blasphemy and does not ask for the imprisonment of those who ignorantly or knowingly deny the truth. The good that springs from a knowledge of the truth is the only reward it offers, and the evil resulting from ignorance is the only punishment it threatens. Its effort is to reform, the world through intelligence.
On the other hand theology is, always has been, and always will be, ignorant, arrogant, puerile and cruel. When the church had power, hypocrisy was crowned and honesty imprisoned. Fraud wore the tiara and truth was a convict. Liberty was in chains, Theology has always sent the worst to heaven, the best to hell.
Let me give you a scene from the day of judgment. Christ is upon his throne, his secretary by his side. A soul appears. This is what happens --
"What is your name?
"Were you a Christian?"
"Did you endeavor to convert your fellow-men?"
I did. I tried to convert them by persuasion, by preaching and praying and even by force.
"What did you do?"
I put the heretics in prison, in chains. I tore out their tongues, put out their eyes, crushed their bones, stretched them upon racks, roasted their feet, and if they remained obdurate I flayed them alive or burned them at the stake.
"And did you do all this for my glory?"
Yes, all for you. I wanted to save some, I wanted to protect the young and the weak minded.
"Did you believe the Bible, the miracles -- that I was God. that I was born of a virgin and kept money in the mouth of a fish?"
Yes, I believed it all. My reason was the slave of faith.
"Well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joys of thy Lord. I was hungry and you gave me meat, naked and you clothed me."
Another soul arises.
"What is your name?"
"Were you a Christian?"
At one time I was, but for many years I was a philosopher, a seeker after truth.
"Did you seek to convert your fellow-men?"
Not to Christianity, but to the religion of reason. I tried to develop their minds, to free them from the slavery of ignorance and superstition. In my day the church taught the holiness of credulity -- the virtue of unquestioning obedience, and in your name tortured and destroyed the intelligent and courageous. I did what I could to civilize the world, to make men tolerant and merciful, to soften the hearts of priests, and banish torture from the world. I expressed my honest thoughts and walked in the light of reason.
"Did you believe the Bible, the miracles? Did you believe that I was God, that I was born of a virgin and that I suffered myself to be killed by the Jews to appease the wrath of God -- that is, of myself -- so that God could save the souls of a few?"
No, I did not. I did not believe that God was ever born into my world, or that God learned the trade of a carpenter, or that he "increased in knowledge," or that he cast devils out of men, or that his garments could cure diseases, or that he allowed himself to be murdered, and in the hour of death "forsook" himself. These things I did not and could not believe. But I did all the good I could. I enlightened the ignorant, comforted the afflicted, defended the innocent, divided even my poverty with the poor, and did the best I could to increase the happiness of my fellow-men. I was a soldier in the army of progress. -- I was arrested, imprisoned, tried and convicted by the church -- by the "Triumphant Beast." I was burned at the stake by ignorant and heartless priests and my ashes given to the winds.
Then Christ, his face growing dark, his brows contracted with wrath, with uplifted hands, with half averted face, cries or rather shrieks: "Depart from me ye cursed into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels."
This is the justice of God -- the mercy of the compassionate Christ. This is the belief, the dream and hope of the orthodox theologian -- "the consummation devoutly to be wished."
Theology makes God a monster, a tyrant, a savage; makes man a servant, a serf, a slave; promises heaven to the obedient, the meek, the frightened, and threatens the self-reliant with the tortures of hell.
It denounces reason and appeals to the passions -- to hope and fear. It does not answer the arguments of those who attack, but resorts to sophistry, falsehood and slander. It is incapable of advancement. It keeps its back to the sunrise, lives on myth and miracle, and guards with a miser's care the "sacred" superstitions of the past.
In the great struggle between the supernatural and the natural, between gods and men, we have passed midnight. All the forces of civilization, all the facts that have been found, all the truths that have been discovered are the allies of science -- the enemies of the supernatural.
We need no myths, no miracles, no gods, no devils.
WOR thousands of generations the myths have been taught and the miracles believed. Every mother was a missionary and told with loving care the falsehoods of "faith" to her babe. The poison of superstition was in the mother's milk. She was honest and affectionate and her character, her goodness, her smiles and kisses, entered into, mingled with, and became a part of the superstition that she taught. Fathers, friends and priests united with the mothers, and the children thus taught, became the teachers of their children and so the creeds were kept alive.
Childhood loves the romantic, the mysterious, the monstrous. It lives in a world where cause has nothing to do with effect, where the fairy waves her hand and the prince appears. Where wish creates the thing desired and facts become the slaves of amulet and charm. The individual lives the life of the race, and the child is charmed with what the race in its infancy produced.
There seems to be the same difference between mistakes and facts that there is between weeds and corn. Mistakes seem to take care of themselves, while the facts have to be guarded with all possible care. Falsehoods like weeds flourish without care. Weeds care nothing for soil or rain. They not only ask no help but they almost defy destruction. In the minds of children, superstitions, legends, myths and miracles find a natural, and in most instances a lasting home. Thrown aside in manhood, forgotten or denied, in old age they oft return and linger to the end.
This in part accounts for the longevity of religious lies. Ministers with clasped hands and uplifted eyes ask the man who is thinking for himself how he can be wicked and heartless enough to attack the religion of his mother. This question is regarded by the clergy as unanswerable. Of course it is not to be asked by the missionaries, of the Hindus and the Chinese. The heathen are expected to desert the religion of their mothers as Christ and his apostles deserted the religion of their mothers. It is right for Jews and heathen, but not for thinkers and philosophers.
A cannibal was about to kill a missionary for food. The missionary objected and asked the cannibal how he could be so cruel and wicked.
The cannibal replied that he followed the example of his mother. "My mother," said he, "was good enough for me. Her religion is my religion. The last time I saw her she was sitting, propped up against a tree, eating cold missionary."
But now the mother argument has mostly lost its force, and men of mind are satisfied with nothing less than truth.
The phenomena of nature have been investigated and the supernatural has not been found. The myths have faded from the imagination, and of them nothing remains but the poetic. The miraculous has become the absurd, the impossible. Gods and phantoms have been driven from the earth and sky. We are living in a natural world.
Our fathers, some of them, demanded the freedom of religion. We have taken another step. We demand the Religion of Freedom.
O Liberty, thou art the god of my idolatry! Thou art the only deity that hateth bended knees. In thy vast and unwalled temple, beneath the roofless dome, star-gemmed and luminous with suns, thy worshipers stand erect! They do not cringe, or crawl, or bend their foreheads to the earth. The dust has never borne the impress of their lips. Upon thy altars mothers do not sacrifice their babes, nor men their rights. Thou askest naught from man except the things that good men hate -- the whip, the chain, the dungeon key. Thou hast no popes, no priests, who stand between their fellow men and thee. Thou carest not for foolish forms, or selfish prayers. At thy sacred shrine hypocrisy does not bow, virtue does not tremble, superstition's feeble tapers do not burn, but Reason holds aloft her inextinguishable torch whose holy light will one day flood the world.