Ingersoll the Magnificent
by Joseph Lewis
Marriage, Home and Family
I believe in the fireside. I believe in the democracy of home. I believe in the republicanism of the family. I believe in liberty, equality and love.
The meanest hut with love in it is a palace fit for the gods, and a palace without love is a den only fit for wild beasts. That is my doctrine! You cannot be so poor that you cannot help somebody. Good nature is the cheapest commodity in the world; and love is the only thing that will pay ten percent to borrower and lender both.
The grandest ambition that any man can possibly have, is to so live, and so improve himself in heart and brain, as to be worthy of the love of some splendid woman; and the grandest ambition of any girl is to make herself worthy of the love and adoration of some magnificent man. There is no success in life without love and marriage. You had better be the emperor of one loving and tender heart, and she the empress of yours, than to be king of the world. The man who has really won the love of one good woman in this world, I do not care if he dies in the ditch a beggar, his life has been a success.
But nearly every religion has accounted for all the devilment in this world by the crime of woman. What a gallant thing that is! And if it is true, I had rather live with the woman I love in a world full of trouble, than to live in heaven with nobody but men.
It takes a hundred men to make an encampment, but one woman can make a home. I not only admire woman as the most beautiful object ever created, but I reverence her as the redeeming glory of humanity, the sanctuary of all the virtues, the pledge of all perfect qualities of heart and head. It is not just or right to lay the sins of men at the feet of women. It is because women are so much better than men that their faults are considered greater.
The one thing in this world that is constant, the one peak that rises above all clouds, the one window in which the light forever burns, the one star that darkness cannot quench, is woman's love. It rises to the greatest heights, it sinks to the lowest depths, it forgives the most cruel injuries. It is perennial of life, and grows in every climate. Neither coldness nor neglect, harshness nor cruelty, can extinguish it. A woman's love is the perfume of the heart.
Men are oaks, women are vines, children are flowers.
I think it is better to love your children than to love God, a thousand times better, because you can help them, and I am inclined to think that God can get along without you. Certainly we cannot help a being without body, parts, or passions!
I believe in the religion of the family. I believe that the roof-tree is sacred, from the smallest fibre that feels the soft cool clasp of earth, to the topmost flower that spreads its bosom to the sun, and like a spendthrift gives its perfume to the air.
The home where virtue dwells with love is like a lily with a heart of fire -- the fairest flower in all the world. And I tell you God cannot afford to damn a man in the next world who has made a happy family in this. God cannot afford to cast over the battlements of heaven the man who has a happy home upon this earth. God cannot afford to be unpitying to a human heart capable of pity. God cannot clothe with fire the man who has clothed the naked here; and God cannot send to eternal pain a man who has done something toward improving the condition of his fellow-men.
That is my objection to this Christian religion; and if the love of earth is not the love of heaven, if those we love here are to be separated from us there, then I want eternal sleep. Give me a good cool grave rather than the furnace of Jehovah's wrath. I pray the angel of the resurrection to let me sleep. Gabriel, do not blow! Let me alone! If, when the grave bursts, I am not to meet the faces that have been my sunshine in this life, let me sleep. Rather than that this doctrine of endless punishment should be true, I would gladly see the fabric of our civilization crumbling fall to unmeaning chaos and to formless dust, where oblivion broods and even memory forgets. I would rather that the blind Samson of some imprisoned force, released by chance, should so wreck and strand the mighty world that man in stress and strain of want and fear should shudderingly crawl back to savage and barbaric night. I would rather that every planet should in its orbit wheel a barren star!
If there is a God who will damn his children forever, I would rather go to hell than to go to heaven and keep the society of such an infamous tyrant. I make my choice now. I despise that doctrine. It has covered the cheeks of this world with tears. It has polluted the hearts of children, and poisoned the imaginations of men. It has been a constant pain, a perpetual terror to every good man and woman and child. It has filled the good with horror and with fear; but it has had no effect upon the infamous and base. It has wrung the hearts of the tender, it has furrowed the cheeks of the good. This doctrine never should be preached again. What right have you, sir, Mr. clergyman, you, minister of the gospel to stand at the portals of the tomb, at the vestibule of eternity, and fill the future with horror and with fear? I do not believe this doctrine, neither do you. If you did, you could not sleep one moment. Any man who believes it, and has within his breast a decent, throbbing heart, will go insane. A man who believes that doctrine and does not go insane has the heart of a snake and the conscience of a hyena.
I will never desert the one I love for the promise of any god.
It is far more important to love your wife than to love God, and I will tell you why. You cannot help him, but you can help her. You can fill her life with the perfume of perpetual joy. It is far more important that you love your children than that you love Jesus Christ. And why? If he is God you cannot help him, but you can plant a little flower of happiness in every footstep of the child, from the cradle until you die in that child's arms. Let me tell you to-day it is far more important to build a home than to erect a church. The holiest temple beneath the stars is a home that love has built. And the holiest altar in all the wide world is the fireside around which gather father and mother and the sweet babes.
There was a time when it was believed that the sin of an individual was visited upon the tribe, the community, or the nation to which he belonged. It was then thought that if a man or woman had made a vow to God, and had failed to keep the vow, God might punish the entire community; therefore it was the business of the community to see to it that the vow was kept. That idea has been abandoned. As we progress, the rights of the individual are perceived, and we are now beginning dimly to discern that there are no rights higher than the rights of the individual. There was a time when nearly all believed in the reforming power of punishment -- in the beneficence of brute force. But the world is changing. It was at one time thought that the Inquisition was the savior of society; that the persecution of the philosopher was requisite to the preservation of the state, and that, no matter what happened, the state should be preserved. We have now more light.
Marriage is the most important, the most sacred, contract that human beings can make. No matter whether we call it a contract, or a sacrament, or both, it remains precisely the same. And no matter whether this contract is entered into in the presence of magistrate or priest, it is exactly the same. A true marriage is a natural concord and agreement of souls, a harmony in which discord is not even imagined; it is a mingling so perfect that only one seems to exist; all other considerations are lost; the present seems to be eternal. In this supreme moment there is no shadow -- or the shadow is as luminous as light. And when two beings thus love, thus unite, this is the true marriage of soul and soul. That which is said before the altar, or minister, or magistrate, or in the presence of witnesses, is only the outward evidence of that which has already happened within; it simply testifies to a union that has already taken place -- to the uniting of two mornings of hope to reach the night together. Each has found the ideal; the man has found the one woman of all the world -- the impersonation of affection, purity, passion, love, beauty, and grace; and the woman has found the one man of all the world, her ideal, and all that she knows of romance, of art, courage, heroism, honesty, is realized in him. The idea of contract is lost. Duty and obligation are instantly changed into desire and joy, and two lives, like uniting streams, flow on as one. Nothing can add to the sacredness of this marriage, to the obligation and duty of each to each. There is nothing in the ceremony except the desire on the part of the man and woman that the whole world should know that they are really married and that their souls have been united.
A marriage without love is bad enough, and a marriage for wealth or position is low enough; but what shall we say of a marriage where the parties actually abhor each other? Is there any morality in this? any virtue in this? Is there virtue in retaining the name of wife, or husband, without the real and true relation? Will any good man say, will any good woman declare, that a true, loving woman should be compelled to be the mother of children whose father she detests? Is there a good woman in the world who would not shrink from this herself; and is there a woman so heartless and so immoral that she would force another to bear that from which she would shudderingly and shriekingly shrink?
Marriages are made by men and women; not by society; not by the state; not by the church; not by supernatural beings.
The real marriage is based on mutual affection -- the ceremony is but the outward evidence of the inward flame. To this contract there are but two parties. The church is an impudent intruder.
Few people have an adequate idea of the sufferings of women and children, of the number of wives who tremble when they hear the footsteps of a returning husband, of the number of children who hide when they hear the voice of a father. Few people know the number of blows that fall on the flesh of the helpless every day, and few know the nights of terror passed by mothers who hold babes to their breasts. Compared with these, all the hardships of poverty borne by those who love each other are as nothing. Men and women truly married bear the sufferings and misfortunes of poverty together. They console each other. In the darkest night they see the radiance of a star, and their affection gives to the heart of each perpetual sunshine.
The good home is the unit of the good government. The hearthstone is the cornerstone of civilization. Society is not interested in the preservation of hateful homes, of homes where husbands and wives are selfish, cold, and cruel. It is not to the interest of society that good women should be enslaved, that they should live in fear, or that they should become mothers by husbands whom they hate. Homes should be filled with kind and generous fathers, with true and loving mothers; and when they are so filled, the world will be civilized. Intelligence will rock the cradle; justice will sit in the courts; wisdom in the legislative halls; and above all and over all, like the dome of heaven, will be the spirit of liberty.
Men and women are not virtuous by law. Law does not of itself create virtue, nor is it the foundation or fountain of love. Law should protect virtue, and law should protect the wife, if she has kept her contract, and the husband, if he has fulfilled his. But the death of love is the end of marriage. Love is natural. Back of all ceremony burns and will forever burn the sacred flame. There has been no time in the world's history when that torch was extinguished. In all ages, in all climes, among all people, there has been true, pure, and unselfish love. Long before a ceremony was thought of, long before a priest existed, there were true and perfect marriages. Back of public opinion is natural modesty, the affections of the heart; and in spite of all law, there is and forever will be the realm of choice. Wherever love is, it is pure; and everywhere, and at all times, the ceremony of marriage testifies to that which has happened within the temple of the human heart.
Is it possible to conceive of anything more immoral than for a husband to insist on living with a wife who has no love for him? Is not this a perpetual crime? Is the wife to lose her personality? Has she no right of choice? Is her modesty the property of another? Is the man she hates the lord of her desire? Has she no right to guard the jewels of her soul? Is there a depth below this? And is this the foundation of morality? this the cornerstone of society? this the arch that supports the dome of civilization? Is this pathetic sacrifice on the one hand, this sacrilege on the other, pleasing in the sight of heaven?
To me, the tenderest word in our language, the most pathetic fact within our knowledge, is maternity. Around this sacred word cluster the joys and sorrows, the agonies and ecstasies, of the human race. The mother walks in the shadow of death that she may give another life. Upon the altar of love she puts her own life in pawn. When the world is civilized, no wife will become a mother against her will. Man will then know that to enslave another is to imprison himself.
No one, in my judgment, should marry for the sake of God, and no one should be divorced for the sake of God, and no man and woman should live together as husband and wife, for the sake of God. God being an infinite being, cannot be rendered unhappy by any action of man, neither can his well-being be increased; consequently, the will of God has nothing whatever to do with this matter.
In what way does a Christian marriage involve a vow before God? Is God a party to the contract? If yes, he ought to see to it that the contract is carried out. If there are three parties -- the man, the woman, and God -- each one should be bound to do something, and what is God bound to do? Is he to hold the man to his contract, when the woman has violated hers? Is it his business to hold the woman to the contract, when the man has violated his? And what right has he to have anything to say on the subject, unless he has agreed to do something by reason of this vow?
Marriage is a civil contract, and God is not one of the contracting parties. It is a contract with which the church has no business to interfere. Marriage with us is regulated by law. The real marriage -- the uniting of hearts, the lighting of the sacred flame in each -- is the work of Nature, and it is the best work that nature does. The ceremony of marriage gives notice to the world that the real marriage has taken place.
Ministers have no real interest in marriages outside of the fees.
Certainly marriages by Justices of the Peace cannot cause the mental, moral and financial decay of a State.
The idea that marriage is something more than a contract is at the bottom of all the legal and judicial absurdities that surround this subject. The moment that it is regarded from a purely secular standpoint the infamous laws will disappear. We shall then take into consideration the real rights and obligations of the parties to the contract of marriage. We shall have some respect for the sacred feelings of mothers -- for the purity of woman -- the freedom of the fireside -- the real democracy of the hearthstone and, above all, for love, the purest, the profoundest and the holiest of all passions.
We shall no longer listen to priests who regard celibacy as a higher state than marriage, nor to those statesmen who look upon a barbarous code as the foundation of all law.
Force has no place in the world of love. It is impossible to control likes and dislikes by law. No one ever did and no one ever can love on compulsion. Courts can not obtain jurisdiction of the heart.
It is not true that the indissolubility of marriage preserves the virtue of mankind. The fact is exactly the opposite.
Women are far more intelligent -- some of them are no longer the slaves either of husbands, or priests. They are beginning to think for themselves. They can see no good reason why they should sacrifice their lives to please Popes or Gods. They are no longer deceived by theological prophecies. They are not willing to suffer here, with the hope of being happy beyond the clouds -- they want their happiness now.
Love is not a crime ... men and women should be proudly natural; they need not grovel on the earth and cover their faces for shame.
Maternity, tender and pure as the tear of pity, holy as suffering -- the crown, the flower, the ecstasy of love!
How poor everything in this world is compared with happy love.
To me, the most obscene word in the language is celibacy.
Celibacy is the essence of vulgarity.
It tries to put a stain upon motherhood, upon marriage, upon love -- that is to say, upon all that is holiest in the human heart. Take love from the world, and there is nothing left worth living for. The church has treated this great, this sublime, this unspeakably holy passion, as though it polluted the heart. They have placed the love of God above the love of woman, above the love of man. Human love is generous and noble. The love of God is selfish, because man does not love God for God's sake, but for his own.
Why should we desire the destruction of human passions? Take passions from human beings and what is left? The great object should be not to destroy passions, but to make them obedient to the intellect. To indulge passion to the utmost is one form of intemperance -- to destroy passion is another. The reasonable gratification of passion under the domination of the intellect is true wisdom and perfect virtue.
The goodness, the sympathy, the self-denial of the nun, of the monk, all come from the mother-instinct, the father-instinct -- all were produced by human affection, by the love of man for woman, of woman for man. Love is a transfiguration. It ennobles, purifies and glorifies. In true marriage two hearts burst into flower. Two lives unite. They melt in music. Every moment is a melody. Love is a revelation, a creation. From love the world borrows its beauty and the heavens their glory. Justice, self-denial, charity and pity are the children of love. Lover, wife, mother, husband, father, child, home -- these words shed light -- they are the gems of human speech. Without love all glory fades, the noble falls from life, art dies, music loses meaning and becomes mere motions of air, and virtue ceases to exist.
The law of the church has created neither the purity nor the peace of domestic life. Back of all churches is human affection. Back of all theologies is the love of the human heart. Back of all your priests and creeds is the adoration of the one woman by the one man, and of the one man by the one woman. Back of your faith is the fireside; back of your folly is the family; and back of all your holy mistakes and your sacred absurdities is the love of husband and wife, of parent and child.
The tides and currents of the soul care nothing for the creeds. People who make rules for the conduct of others generally break them themselves. It is so easy to bear with fortitude the misfortunes of others.
Every child should be well-born -- well fathered and mothered. Society has as great an interest in children as in parents. The innocent should not be compelled by law to suffer for the crimes of the guilty. Wretched and weeping wives are not essential to the welfare of States and nations.
The church cries now "whom God hath joined together let not man put asunder;" but when the people are really civilized the state will say: "whom Nature hath put asunder let not man bind and manacle together."
I hate above all things a cross man. What right has he to murder the sunshine of a day? What right has he to assassinate the joy of life?
Do you know another thing? I despise a stingy man. I do not see how it is possible for a man to die worth fifty million of dollars, or ten million of dollars, in a city full of want, when he meets almost every day the withered hand of beggary and the white lips of famine. How a man can withstand all that, and hold in the clutch of his greed twenty or thirty million of dollars, is past my comprehension. I do not see how he can do it. I should not think he could do it any more than he could keep a pile of lumber on the beach, where hundreds and thousands of men were drowning in the sea.
Oh, I tell you if you have but a dollar in the world, and you have got to spend it, spend it like a king; spend it as though it were a dry leaf and you the owner of unbounded forests! That's the way to spend it! I had rather be a beggar and spend my last dollar like a king, than be a king and spend my money like a beggar! If it has got to go, let it go!
... What shall I say of children; of the little children in alleys and sub-cellars; the little children who turn pale when they hear their fathers' footsteps; little children who run away when they only hear their names called by the lips of a mother; little children -- the children of poverty, the children of crime, the children of brutality, wherever they are -- flotsam and jetsam upon the wild, mad sea of life -- my heart goes out to them, one and all.
I tell you the children have the same rights that we have, and we ought to treat them as though they were human beings. They should be reared with love, with kindness, with tenderness, and not with brutality. That is my idea of children.
When your little child tells a lie, do not rush at him as though the world were about to go into bankruptcy. Be honest with him. A tyrant father will have liars for his children; do you know that? A lie is born of tyranny upon the one hand and weakness upon the other, and when you rush at a poor little boy with a club in your hand, of course he lies.
I thank thee, Mother Nature, that thou hast put ingenuity enough in the brain of a child, when attacked by a brutal parent, to throw up a little breastwork in the shape of a lie.
When one of your children tells a lie, be honest with him; tell him that you have told hundreds of them yourself. Tell him it is not the best way; that you have tried it. Tell him as the man did in Maine when his boy left home: "John, honesty is the best policy; I have tried both." Be honest with him. Suppose a man as much larger than you as you are larger than a child five years old, should come at you with a liberty pole in his hand, and in a voice of thunder shout, "Who broke that plate?" There is not a solitary one of you who would not swear you never saw it, or that it was cracked when you got it. Why not be honest with these children? Just imagine a man who deals in stocks whipping his boy for putting false rumors afloat! Think of a lawyer beating his own flesh and blood for evading the truth when he makes half of his own living that way! Think of a minister punishing his child for not telling all he thinks! Just think of it!
When your child commits a wrong, take it in your arms; let it feel your heart beat against its heart; let the child know that you really and truly and sincerely love it. Yet some Christians, good Christians, when a child commits a fault, drive it from the door and say: "Never do you darken this house again." Think of that! And then these same people will get down on their knees and ask God to take care of the child they have driven from home. I will never ask God to take care of my children unless I am doing my level best in that same direction.
But I will tell you what I say to my children: "Go where you will; commit what crime you may; fall to what depth of degradation you may; you can never commit any crime that will shut my door, my arms, or my heart to you. As long as I live you shall have one sincere friend."
People justify all kinds of tyranny toward children upon the ground that they are totally depraved. At the bottom of ages of cruelty lies this infamous doctrine of total depravity. Religion contemplates a child as a living crime -- heir to an infinite curse -- doomed to eternal fire.
In the olden time, they thought some days were too good for a child to enjoy himself. When I was a boy Sunday was considered altogether too holy to be happy in. Sunday used to commence then when the sun went down on Saturday night. We commenced at that time for the purpose of getting a good ready, and when the sun fell below the horizon on Saturday evening, there was a darkness fell upon the house ten thousand times deeper than that of night. Nobody said a pleasant word; nobody laughed; nobody smiled; the child that looked the sickest was regarded as the most pious. That night you could not even crack hickory nuts. If you were caught chewing gum it was only another evidence of the total depravity of the human heart. It was an exceedingly solemn night. Dyspepsia was in the very air you breathed. Everybody looked sad and mournful. I have noticed all my life that many people think they have religion when they are troubled with dyspepsia. If there could be found an absolute specific for that disease, it would be the hardest blow the church has ever received.
On Sunday morning the solemnity had simply increased. Then we went to church. The minister was in a pulpit about twenty feet high, with a little sounding-board above him, and he commenced at "firstly" and went on and on to about "twenty-thirdly." Then he made a few remarks by way of application; and then took a general view of the subject, and in about two hours reached the last chapter in Revelation.
In those days, no matter how cold the weather was, there was no fire in the church. It was thought to be a kind of sin to be comfortable while you were thanking God. The first church that ever had a stove in it in New England, divided on that account. So the first church in which they sang by note, was torn in fragments.
After the sermon we had an intermission. Then came the catechism with the chief end of man. We went through with that. We sat in a row with our feet coming in about six inches of the floor. The minister asked us if we knew that we all deserved to go to hell, and we all answered "Yes." Then we were asked if we would be willing to go to hell if it was God's will, and every little liar shouted "Yes." Then the same sermon was preached once more, commencing at the other end and going back. After that, we started for home, sad and solemn -- overpowered with the wisdom displayed in the scheme of the atonement. When we got home, if we had been good boys, and the weather was warm, sometimes they would take us out to the graveyard to cheer us up a little. It did cheer me. When I looked at the sunken tombs and the leaning stones, and read the half-effaced inscriptions through the moss of silence and forgetfulness, it was a great comfort. The reflection came to my mind that the observance of the Sabbath could not last always. Sometimes they would sing that beautiful hymn in which occurs these cheerful lines:
|"Where congregations ne'er break up,
And Sabbaths never end."
These lines, I think, prejudiced me a little against even heaven. Then we had good books that we read on Sundays by way of keeping us happy and contented. There were Milners' "History of the Waldenses," Baxter's "Call to the Unconverted," Yahn's "Archæology of the Jews," and Jenkyns' "On the Atonement." I used to read Jenkyns' "On the Atonement." I have often thought that an atonement would have to be exceedingly broad in its provisions to cover the case of a man who would write a book like that for a boy.
But at last the Sunday wore away, and the moment the sun went down we were free. Between three and four o'clock we would go out to see how the sun was coming on. Sometimes it seemed to me that it was stopping from pure meanness. But finally it went down. It had to. And when the last rim of light sank below the horizon, off would go our caps, and we would give three cheers for liberty once more.
Sabbaths used to be prisons. Every Sunday was a Bastille. Every Christian was a kind of turnkey, and every child was a prisoner, -- a convict. In that dungeon, a smile was a crime.
Kindness is the sunshine in which the virtues grow.
Think of being fed and clothed by children you had whipped -- whose flesh you had scarred! Think of feeling in the hour of death upon your withered lips, your withered cheeks, the kisses and the tears of one whom you had beaten -- upon whose flesh were still the marks of your lash!
The whip degrades; fear is the father of lies.
Do not, I pray you, pluck from the heart the sweet flower of pity and trample it in the bloody dust of superstition.
I do not believe in the government of the lash. If any one of you ever expects to whip your children again, I want you to have a photograph taken of yourself when you are in the act, with your face red with vulgar anger, and the face of the little child, with eyes swimming in tears and the little chin dimpled with fear, like a piece of water struck by a sudden cold wind. Have the picture taken. If that little child should die, I cannot think of a sweeter way to spend an autumn afternoon than to go out to the cemetery, when the maples are clad in tender gold, and little scarlet runners are coming, like poems of regret, from the sad heart of the earth -- and sit down upon the grave and look at your photograph, and think of the flesh now dust that you beat. I tell you it is wrong; it is no way to raise children!
Call me infidel, call me atheist, call me what you will, I intend so to treat my children, that they can come to my grave and truthfully say: "He who sleeps here never gave us a moment of pain. From his lips, now dust, never came to us an unkind word."
It is a thousand times better to have common sense without education, than education without the sense. Boys and girls should be educated to help themselves. They should be taught that it is disgraceful to be idle, and dishonorable to be useless.
Every child should be taught to doubt, to inquire, to demand reasons. Every soul should defend itself -- should be on its guard against falsehood, deceit, and mistake, and should beware of all kinds of confidence men, including those of the pulpit.
Temptations are as thick as the leaves of the forest, and no one can be out of the reach of temptation unless he is dead. The great thing is to make people intelligent enough and strong enough, not to keep away from temptation, but to resist it.
All the forces of civilization are in favor of morality and temperance. Little can be accomplished by law, because law, for the most part, about such things, is a destruction of personal liberty. Liberty cannot be sacrificed for the sake of temperance, for the sake of morality, or for the sake of anything. It is of more value than everything else. Yet some people would destroy the sun to prevent the growth of weeds. Liberty sustains the same relation to all the virtues that the sun does to life. The world had better go back to barbarism, to the dens, the caves and lairs of savagery; better lose all art, all inventions, than to lose liberty. Liberty is the breath of progress; it is the seed and soil, the heat and rain of love and joy.
Give your sons and daughters every advantage within your power. In the air of kindness they will grow about you like flowers. They will fill your homes with sunshine and all your years with joy. Do not try to rule by force. A blow from a parent leaves a scar on the soul.
The man who cannot raise children without whipping them ought not to have them. The man who would mar the flesh of a boy or girl is unfit to have the control of a human being. The father who keeps a rod in his house keeps a relic of barbarism in his heart. There is nothing reformatory in punishment; nothing reformatory in fear. Kindness, guided by intelligence, is the only reforming force. An appeal to brute force is an abandonment of love and reason, and puts father and child upon a savage equality; the savageness in the heart of the father prompting the use of the rod or club, produces a like savageness in the victim. The old idea that a child's spirit must be broken is infamous. All this is passing away, however, with orthodox Christianity. That children are treated better than formerly shows conclusively the increase of what is called infidelity. Infidelity has always been a protest against tyranny in the state, against intolerance in the church, against barbarism in the family. It has always been an appeal for light, for justice, for universal kindness and tenderness.
None but the noblest should inflict punishment, even on the basest.
It is not necessary to be great to be happy; it is not necessary to be rich to be just and generous and to have a heart filled with divine affection. No matter whether you are rich or poor, treat your wife as though she were a splendid flower, and she will fill your life with perfume and with joy.
And do you know, it is a splendid thing to think that the woman you really love will never grow old to you. Through the wrinkles of time, through the mask of years, if you really love her, you will always see the face you loved and won. And a woman who really loves a man does not see that he grows old; he is not decrepit to her; he does not tremble; he is not old; she always sees the same gallant gentleman who won her hand and heart. I like to think of it in that way; I like to think that love is eternal. And to love in that way and then go down the hill of life together, and as you go down, hear, perhaps, the laughter of grandchildren, while the birds of joy and love sing once more in the leafless branches of the tree of age.
Homes make patriots. He who has sat by his own fireside with wife and children will defend it. When he hears the word country pronounced, he thinks of his home.
Humanity is the grand religion, and no God can put a man in hell in another world, who has made a little heaven in this. God cannot make a man miserable if that man has made somebody else happy. God cannot hate anybody who is capable of loving anybody. Humanity -- that word embraces all there is.
I would rather have forty acres of land, with a log cabin on it and the woman I love in the cabin -- with a little grassy winding path leading down to the spring where the water gurgles from the lips of earth whispering day and night to the white pebbles a perpetual poem -- with holly-hocks growing at the corner of the house, and morning-glories blooming over the low latched door -- with lattice work over the window so that the sunlight would fall checkered on the dimpled babe in the cradle, and birds -- like songs with wings hovering in the summer air -- than be the clerk of any government on earth.
Gems Concerning Liberty of Thought
Liberty sustains the same relation to mind that space does to matter.
There is no slavery but ignorance. Liberty is the child of intelligence.
The history of man is simply the history of slavery, of injustice and brutality, together with the means by which he has, through the dead and desolate years, slowly and painfully advanced. He has been the sport and prey of priest and king, the food of superstition and cruel might. Crowned force has governed ignorance through fear. Hypocrisy and tyranny -- two vultures -- have fed upon the liberties of man. From all these there has been, and is, but one means of escape -- intellectual development. Upon the back industry has been the whip. Upon the brain have been the fetters of superstition. Nothing has been left undone by the enemies of freedom. Every art and artifice, every cruelty and outrage has been practiced and perpetrated to destroy the rights of man. In this great struggle every crime has been rewarded and every virtue has been punished. Reading, writing, thinking and investigating have all been crimes.
Every science has been an outcast.
All the altars and all the thrones united to arrest the forward march of the human race. The king said that mankind must not work for themselves. The priest said that mankind must not think for themselves. One forged chains for the hands, the other for the soul. Under this infamous regime the eagle of the human intellect was for ages a slimy serpent of hypocrisy.
The human race was imprisoned. Through some of the prison bars came a few struggling rays of light. Against these bars Science pressed its pale and thoughtful face, wooed by the holy dawn of human advancement. Bar after bar was broken away. A few grand men escaped and devoted their lives to the liberation of their fellows.
Only a few years ago there was a great awakening of the human mind. Men began to inquire by what right a crowned robber made them work for him? The man who asked this question was called a traitor. Others asked by what right does a robed hypocrite rule my thought? Such men were called infidels. The priest said, and the king said, where is this spirit of investigation to stop? They said then and they say now, that it is dangerous for man to be free. I deny it. Out on the intellectual sea there is room enough for every sail. In the intellectual air there is space enough for every wing.
The man who does not do his own thinking is a slave, and is a traitor to himself and to his fellowmen.
Every man should stand under the blue and stars, under the infinite flag of nature, the peer of every other man.
Standing in the presence of the Unknown, all have the same right to think, and all are equally interested in the great question of origin and destiny. All I claim, all I plead for, is liberty of thought and expression. That is all.
I do not claim that I have floated level with the heights of thought, or that I have descended to the very depths of things. I simply claim that what ideas I have, I have a right to express; and that any man who denies that right to me is an intellectual thief and robber. That is all.
Take those chains from the human soul. Break those fetters. If I have no right to think, why have I a brain? If I have no such right, have three or four men, or any number, who may get together, and sign a creed, and build a house, and put a steeple upon it, and a bell in it -- have they the right to think? The good men, the good women are tired of the whip and lash in the realm of thought. They remember the chain and fagot with a shudder. They are free and they give liberty to others. Whoever claims any right that he is unwilling to accord to his fellow-men is dishonest and infamous.
Each is entitled to the honest opinion of all.
I have the same right to express my thought to the whole world, that the whole world has to express its thought to me.
I believe that this realm of thought is not democracy, where the majority rule; it is not a republic. It is a country with one inhabitant. This brain is the world in which my mind lives, and my mind is the sovereign of that realm. We are all kings, and one man balances the rest of the world as one drop of water balances the sea. Each soul is crowned. Each soul wears the purple and the tiara; and only those are good citizens of the intellectual world who give to every other human being every right that they claim for themselves, and only those are traitors in the great realm of thought who abandon reason and appeal to force.
I have the same right to give you my opinion that you have to give me yours. I have no right to compel you to hear, if you do not want to. I have no right to compel you to speak if you do not want to. If you do not wish to know my thought, I have no right to force it upon you.
The next thing is, that this liberty of thought, this liberty of expression, is of more value than any other thing beneath the stars. Of more value than any religion, of more value than any government, of more value than all the constitutions that man has written and all the laws that he has passed, is this liberty -- the absolute liberty of the human mind. Take away that word from language, and all other words become meaningless sounds, and there is then no reason for a man being and living upon the earth.
So then, I am simply in favor of intellectual hospitality -- that is all. You come to me with a new idea. I invite you into the house. Let us see what you have. Let us talk it over. If I do not like your thought, I will bid it a polite "good day." If I do like it, I will say: "Sit down; stay with me, and become a part of the intellectual wealth of my world." That is all.
And how any human being ever has had the impudence to speak against the right to speak, is beyond the power of my imagination. Here is a man who speaks -- who exercises a right that he, by his speech, denies. Can liberty go further than that? Is there any toleration possible beyond the liberty to speak against liberty -- the real believer in free speech allowing others to speak against the right to speak? Is there any limitation beyond that?
So, whoever has spoken against the right to speak has admitted that he violated his own doctrine.
No man can open his mouth against the freedom of speech without denying every argument he may put forward. Why? He is exercising the right that he denies. How did he get it? Suppose there is one man on an island. You will all admit now that he would have the right to do his own thinking. You will all admit that he has the right to express his thought. Now, will somebody tell me how many men would have to emigrate to that island before the original settler would lose his right to think and his right to express himself?
The combined wisdom and genius of all mankind cannot possibly conceive of an argument against liberty of thought.
Think how long we clung to the institution of human slavery, how long lashes upon the naked back were a legal tender for labor performed. Think of it. The pulpit of this country deliberately and willingly, for a hundred years, turned the cross of Christ into a whipping post.
Slavery has been upheld by law and religion in every country. The word Liberty is not in any creed in the world.
He who puts chains upon the body of another shackles his own soul.
Victory makes forgiveness easy.
With every drop of my blood I hate and execrate every form of tyranny, every form of slavery. I hate dictation. I love liberty.
What do I mean by liberty? By physical liberty I mean the right to do anything which does not interfere with the happiness of another. By intellectual liberty I mean the right to think right and the right to think wrong. Thought is the means by which we endeavor to arrive at truth. If we know the truth already, we need not think. All that can be required is honesty of purpose. You ask my opinion about anything; I examine it honestly, and when my mind is made up, what should I tell you? Should I tell you my real thought? What should I do? There is a book put in my hands. I am told this is the Koran; it was written by inspiration. I read it, and when I get through, suppose that I think in my heart and in my brain, that it is utterly untrue, and you then ask me, what do you think? Now, admitting that I live in Turkey, and have no chance to get any office unless I am on the side of the Koran, what should I say? Should I make a clean breast and say, that upon my honor I do not believe it? What would you think then of my fellow citizens if they said: "That man is dangerous, he is dishonest."
Suppose I read the book called the Bible, and when I get through I make up my mind that it was written by men. A minister asks me, "Did you read the Bible?" I answer, that I did. "Do you think it divinely inspired?" What should I reply? Should I say to myself, "If I deny the inspiration of the Scriptures, the people will never clothe me with power." What ought I to answer? Ought I not to say like a man: "I have read it; I do not believe it." Should I not give the real transcript of my mind? Or should I turn hypocrite and pretend what I do not feel, and hate myself forever after for being a cringing coward. For my part I would rather a man would tell me what he honestly thinks. I would rather he would preserve his manhood. I had a thousand times rather be a manly unbeliever than an unmanly believer. And if there is a judgment day, a time when all will stand before some supreme being, I believe I will stand higher, and stand a better chance of getting my case decided in my favor, than any man sneaking through life pretending to believe what he does not.
Does belief depend upon evidence? I think it does somewhat in some cases. How is it when a jury is sworn to try a case, hearing all the evidence, hearing both sides, hearing the charge of the judge, hearing the law, are upon their oaths equally divided, six for the plaintiff and six for the defendant? Evidence does not have the same effect upon all people. Why? Our brains are not alike. They are not the same shape. We have not the same intelligence, or the same experience, the same sense. And yet I am held accountable for my belief. I must believe in the Trinity -- three times one is one, once one is three, and my soul is to be eternally damned for failing to guess an arithmetical conundrum. That is the poison part of Christianity -- that salvation depends upon belief. That is the accursed part, and until that dogma is discarded Christianity will be nothing but superstition.
No man can control his belief. If I hear certain evidence I will believe a certain thing. If I fail to hear it I may never believe it. If it is adapted to my mind I may accept it; if it is not, I reject it. And what am I to go by? My brain. That is the only light I have from Nature, and if there be a God it is the only torch that this God has given me to find my way through the darkness and night called life. I do not depend upon hearsay for that. I do not have to take the word of any other man nor get upon my knees before a book. Here in the temple of the mind I consult the God, that is to say my reason, and the oracle speaks to me and I obey the oracle. What should I obey? Another man's oracle? Shall I take another man's word -- not what he thinks but what he says some God has said to him?
I would not know a god if I should see one.
I have said before, and I say again, the brain thinks in spite of me, and I am not responsible for my thoughts. I cannot control the beating of my heart. I cannot stop the blood that flows through the rivers of my veins. And yet I am held responsible for my belief. Then why does not God give me the evidence? They say he has. In what? In an inspired book. But I do not understand it as they do. Must I be false to my understanding? They say: "When you come to die you will be sorry if you do not." Will I be sorry when I come to die that I did not live a hypocrite? Will I be sorry that I did not say I was a Christian when I was not? Will the fact that I was honest put a thorn in the pillow of death? Cannot God forgive me for being honest? They say that when he was in Jerusalem he forgave his murderers, but now he will not forgive an honest man for differing from him on the subject of the Trinity.
They say that God says to me, "Forgive your enemies." I say, "I do"; but he says, "I will damn mine." God should be consistent. If he wants me to forgive my enemies he should forgive his. I am asked to forgive enemies who can hurt me. God is only asked to forgive enemies who cannot hurt him. He certainly ought to be as generous as he asks us to be. And I want no God to forgive me unless I am willing to forgive others, and unless I do forgive others. All I ask, if that be true, is that this God should act according to his own doctrine. If I am to forgive my enemies, I ask him to forgive his. I do not believe in the religion of faith, but of kindness, of good deeds. The idea that man is responsible for his belief is at the bottom of religious intolerance and persecution.
A man looks at the sea, and the sea says something to him. It makes an impression on his mind. It awakens his memory, and this impression depends upon his experience -- upon his intellectual capacity. Another looks upon the same sea. He has a different brain; he has a different experience. The sea may speak to him of joy, to the other of grief and tears. The sea cannot tell the same thing to any two human beings, because no two human beings have had the same experience. One may think of wreck and ruin, and another, while listening to the "multitudinous laughter of the sea," may say: Every drop has visited all the shores of the earth; every one has been frozen in the vast and icy North, has fallen in the snow, has whirled in storms around the mountain peaks, been kissed to vapor by the sun, worn the seven-hued robe of light, fallen in pleasant rain, gurgled from springs, and laughed in brooks while lovers wooed upon the banks. Everything in nature tells a different story to all eyes that see and to all ears that hear. So, when we look upon a flower, a painting, a statue, a star, or a violet, the more we know, the more we have experienced, the more we have thought, the more we remember, the more the statue, the star, the painting, the violet has to tell. Nature says to me all that I am capable of understanding -- gives all that I can receive. As with star, or flower, or sea, so with a book. A thoughtful man reads Shakespeare. What does he get? All that he has the mind to understand. Let another read him, who knows nothing of the drama, nothing of the impersonations of passion, and what does he get? Almost nothing. Shakespeare has a different story for each reader. He is a world in which each recognizes his acquaintances. The impression that nature makes upon the mind, the stories told by sea and star and flower, must be the natural food of thought. Leaving out for the moment the impressions gained from ancestors, the hereditary fears and drifts and trends -- the natural food of thought must be the impressions made upon the brain by coming in contact through the medium of the senses with what we call the outward world. The brain is natural; its food is natural; the result, thought, must be natural. Of the supernatural we have no conception. Thought may be deformed, and the thought of one may be strange to, and denominated unnatural by, another; but it cannot be supernatural. It may be weak, it may be insane, but it is not supernatural. Above the natural, man cannot rise. There can be deformed ideas; as there are deformed persons. There may be religions monstrous and misshapen, but they were naturally produced. The world is to each man according to each man. It takes the world as it really is and that man to make that man's world.
The truth is, that no one can justly be held responsible for his thoughts. The brain thinks without asking our consent. We believe, or we disbelieve, without an effort of the will. Belief is a result. It is the effect of evidence upon the mind. The scales turn in spite of him who watches. There is no opportunity of being honest or dishonest in the formation of an opinion. The conclusion is entirely independent of desire. We must believe, or we must doubt, in spite of what we wish.
That which must be, has the right to be.
We think in spite of ourselves. The brain thinks as the heart beats, as the eyes see, as the blood pursues its course in the old accustomed ways.
If we are responsible for our thoughts, we ought not only to know how they are formed, but we ought to form them. If we are the masters of our own minds, we ought to be able to tell what we are going to think at any future time. Evidently, the food of thought -- its very warp and woof -- is furnished through the medium of the senses. If we open our eyes, we cannot help seeing. If we do not stop our ears, we cannot help hearing. If anything touches us, we feel it. The heart beats in spite of us. The lungs supply themselves with air without our knowledge. The blood pursues its old accustomed rounds, and all our senses act without our leave. As the heart beats, so the brain thinks. The will is not its king. As the blood flows, as the lungs expand, as the eyes see, as the ears hear, as the flesh is sensitive to touch, so the brain thinks.
I had a dream, in which I debated a question with a friend. I thought to myself: "This is a dream, and yet I cannot tell what my opponent is going to say. Yet, if it is a dream, I am doing the thinking for both sides, and therefore ought to know in advance what my friend will urge." But, in a dream, there is someone who seems to talk to us. Our own brain tells us news, and presents an unexpected thought. Is it not possible that each brain is a field where all the senses sow the seeds of thought? Some of these fields are mostly barren, poor, and hard, producing only worthless weeds; and some grow sturdy oaks and stately palms; and some are like the tropic world, where plants and trees and vines seem royal children of the soil and sun.
What I claim is that we have now advanced far enough not only to think, but to know, that the conduct of man has nothing to do with the phenomena of nature. We are now advanced far enough to absolutely know that no man can be bad enough and no nation infamous enough to cause an earthquake. I think we have got to that point that we absolutely know that no man can be wicked enough to entice one of the bolts from heaven -- that no man can be cruel enough to cause a drought -- and that you could not have infidels enough on the earth to cause another flood. I think we have advanced far enough not only to say that, but to absolutely know it -- I mean people who have thought, and in whose minds there is something like reasoning.
We know, if we know anything, that the lightning is just as apt to hit a good man as a bad man. We know it. We know that the earthquake is just as liable to swallow virtue as to swallow vice. And you know just as well as I do that a ship loaded with pirates is just as apt to outride the storm as one crowded with missionaries. You know it.
I am now speaking of the phenomena of nature. I believe, as much as I believe that I live, that the reason a thing is right is because it tends to the happiness of mankind. I believe, as much as I believe that I live, that on the average the good man is not only the happier man, but that no man is happy who is not good.
If then we have gotten over that frightful, that awful superstition -- we are ready to enjoy hearing the thoughts of each other.
Every brain is a field where Nature sows the seeds of thought, and the crop depends upon the soil.
Above all creeds, above all religions, after all, is that divine thing, -- Humanity; and now and then in shipwreck on the wide, wild sea, or 'mid the rocks and breakers of some cruel shore, or where the serpents of flame writhe and hiss, some glorious heart, some chivalric soul does a deed that glitters like a star, and gives the lie to all the dogmas of superstition. All these frightful doctrines have been used to degrade and to enslave mankind.
Away, forever away with the creeds and books and forms and laws and religions that take from the soul liberty and reason. Down with the idea that thought is dangerous! Perish the infamous doctrine that man can have property in man. Let us resent with indignation every effort to put a chain upon our minds. If there is no God, certainly we should not bow and cringe and crawl. If there is a God, there should be no slaves.
Every man should be mentally honest. He should preserve as his most precious jewel the perfect veracity of his soul.
He should examine all questions presented to his mind, without prejudice, -- unbiased by hatred or love -- by desire or fear. His object and his only object should be to find the truth. He knows, if he listens to reason, that truth is not dangerous and that error is. He should weigh the evidence, the arguments, in honest scales -- scales that passion or interest cannot change. He should care nothing for authority -- nothing for names, customs or creeds -- nothing for anything that his reason does not say is true.
Of his world he should be the sovereign, and his soul should wear the purple.
Prejudice, egotism, hatred, contempt, disdain, are the enemies of truth and progress.
The real searcher after truth will not receive the old because it is old, or reject the new because it is new. He will not believe men because they are dead, or contradict them because they are alive. With him an utterance is worth the truth, the reason it contains, without the slightest regard to the author. He may have been a king or serf -- a philosopher or servant, -- but the utterance neither gains nor loses in truth or reason. Its value is absolutely independent of the fame or station of the man who gave it to the world.
Nothing but falsehood needs the assistance of fame and place, of robes and mitres, of tiaras and crowns.
There is a view quite prevalent, that in some way you can prove whether the theories defended or advanced by a man are right or not, by showing whet kind of man he was, what kind of life he lived, end whet manner of death he died.
A man entertains certain opinions; he is persecuted. He refuses to change his mind; he is burned, and in the midst of flames cries out that he dies without change. Hundreds then say that he has sealed his testimony with his blood, and his doctrines must be true.
All the martyrs in the history of the world are not sufficient to establish the correctness of an opinion. Martyrdom, as a rule, establishes the sincerity of the martyr, -- never the correctness of his thought. Things are true or false in themselves. Truth cannot be affected by opinions; it cannot be changed, established, or affected by martyrdom. An error cannot be believed sincerely enough to make it a truth.
The great question is not, who died right, but who lived right? There is infinitely more responsibility in living than in dying. The moment of death is the most unimportant moment of life. Nothing can be done then. It is a moment when life ceases to be of value. While living, while you have health and strength, you can augment the happiness of your fellow-men; and the man who has made others happy need not be afraid to die. Yet these believers, as they call themselves, these believers who hope for immortality -- thousands of them, will rob their neighbors, thousands of them will do numberless acts of injustice, when, according to their belief, the witnesses of their infamy will live forever; and the men whom they have injured and outraged, will meet them in every glittering star through all the ages yet to be.
Personally, I care nothing about names. It makes no difference to me what the supposed great men of the past have said, except as what they have said contains an argument; and that argument is worth to me the force it naturally has upon my mind. Christians forget that in the realm of reason there are no serfs and no monarchs. When you submit an argument, you do not submit to the man who made it. Christianity demands a certain obedience, a certain blind, unreasoning faith, and parades before the eyes of the ignorant, with great pomp and pride, the names of kings, soldiers, and statesmen who have admitted the truth of the Bible.
A pebble surrounded by diamonds remains a common stone, and a diamond surrounded by pebbles is still a gem.
Facts need no pedigree; logic has no heraldry, and the living should not be awed by the mistakes of the dead.
The testimony of the dying concerning some other world, or in regard to the supernatural, cannot be any better, to say the least, than that of the living.
Right here, it may be well enough to remark, that all the monuments and festivals in the world are not sufficient to establish an impossible event. No amount of monumental testimony, no amount of living evidence, can substantiate a miracle. The monument only proves the belief of the builders.
The church, knowing that there are no facts beyond the coffin, relies upon opinions, assertions and theories. For this reason it is always asking alms of distinguished people. Some president wishes to be re-elected, and thereupon speaks about the Bible as "the corner-stone of American Liberty." This sentence is a mouth large enough to swallow any church, and from that time forward the religious people will be citing that remark of the politician to substantiate the inspiration of the Scriptures.
The man who accepts opinions because they have been entertained by distinguished people, is a mental snob.
They endeavor to introduce the idea of aristocracy into the world of thought, believing, and honestly believing, that a falsehood long believed is far superior to a truth that is generally denied.
It is impossible for a man to be respectable enough to make a mistake respectable.
So far as I am concerned, I think more of reasons than of reputations, more of principles than of persons, more of nature than of names, more of facts, than of faiths.
There is no authority in churches or priests -- no authority in numbers or majorities. The only authority is Nature -- the facts we know. Facts are the masters, the enemies of the ignorant, the servants and friends of the intelligent.
The so-called "great men" of the world have been mistaken in many things. Lord Bacon denied the Copernican system of astronomy and believed to the day of his death that the sun and stars journeyed about this little earth. Matthew Hale was a firm believer in the existence of witches and wizards. John Wesley believed that earthquakes were caused by sin and that they could be prevented by believing in the lord Jesus Christ. John Calvin regarded murder as one of the means to preserve the purity of the gospel. Martin Luther denounced Galileo as a fool because he was opposed to the astronomy of Moses. Webster was in favor of the Fugitive Slave Law and held the book of Job in high esteem. He wanted votes and he knelt to the South. He wanted votes and he flattered the church.
Now and then somebody examines, and in spite of all keeps his manhood, and has the courage to follow where his reason leads. Then the pious get together and repeat wise saws, and exchange knowing nods and most prophetic winks. The stupidly wise sit owl-like on the dead limbs of the tree of knowledge, and solemnly hoot. Wealth sneers, and fashion laughs, and respectability passes by on the other side, and scorn points with all her skinny fingers, and all the snakes of superstition writhe and hiss, and slander lends her tongue, and infamy her brand, and perjury her oath, and the law its power, and bigotry tortures, and the church kills.
The more false we destroy the more room there will be for the true.
To worship another is to degrade yourself.
We should all remember that the intellect has no knees, and that whatever the attitude of the body may be, the brave soul is always found erect.
We are not endeavoring to chain the future, but to free the present. We are not forging fetters for our children, but we are breaking those our fathers made for us.
Man has found that he must give liberty to others in order to have it himself.
Mental slavery is mental death, and every man who has given up his intellectual freedom is the living coffin of his dead soul.
I despise any man who does not own himself. I despise any man who does not possess his own spirit. I would rather die a beggar, covered with rags, with my soul erect, fearless and free, than to live a king in a palace of gold, clothed with the purple of power, with my soul slimy with hypocrisy, crawling in the dust of fear.
No man in the hour of death ever regretted having been honest. No man when the shadows of the last day were gathering about the pillow of death, ever regretted that he had given to his fellow-man his honest thought. No man, in the presence of eternity, ever wished that he had been a hypocrite. No man ever then regretted that he did not throw away his reason. It certainly cannot be necessary to throw away your reason to save your soul, because after that, your soul is not worth saving. The soul has a right to defend itself. My brain is my castle; and when I waive the right to defend it, I become an intellectual serf and slave.