The Ten Commandments
A book by Joseph Lewis
The Eighth Commandment
Religion and Thievery
Ministers of religion do not consider the violation of this Commandment as serious as violations of the previous ones. Why? In speaking of this Commandment, the Rev. G. Campbell Morgan says: "At this point the Decalogue passes from the discussion of the essential facts of life to matters of lesser importance." [*76] Is honesty less important than making graven images? The Rev. Mr. Morgan will not find it "of lesser importance" to violate this Commandment than the Second Commandment. Our law provides no punishment for breaking the latter, but it does exact a severe penalty for committing a theft. This very difference supplies us with a notable example of the evolutionary aspects of ethical conduct in society. In Biblical times, superstitious people considered making a graven image a greater crime than stealing. Today the government encourages, by the expenditure of millions of dollars for schools and teachers, the development of the arts, one of which deals with "graven" images. On the other hand, the government spends millions of dollars for prisons and the prosecution of those who commit dishonest acts. Many clergymen are only too familiar with this phase of law enforcement. The Rev. Mr. Morgan confesses that "it would be interesting, but extremely painful, to pass through the homes of church members, instituting a rigid examination as to the ownership of all books to be found therein." [*77]
The following Biblical text has been used not only to license unrestricted lying but also to put the stamp of approval on dishonest acts -- Romans,, Chapter 3, verse 7:
"For if the truth of God has more abounded through my lie unto his glory, why yet am I also judged as a sinner?"
No matter how deeply we go into the question of stealing in analyzing this Commandment, we cannot discover thefts more glaring and defiant than those committed in the name of religion. No form of dishonesty equals the lucrative spoils purloined "in the name and for the glory of God." One of the most outrageous thefts committed in the name of religion is charging the poor, deluded and distressed for prayers. In the thousands of years it has been used, prayer has not been responsible for saving a single soul. "Purgatory," says Joseph McCabe, a Roman Catholic priest for twelve years, "is the most lucrative doctrine ever 'revealed' to the Church." [*78] The doctrine of purgatory has filled the coffers of the Church with gold. Millions of dollars have been taken for prayers for the release of loved ones from purgatory -- a mythical hell. Prayer for the so-called repose of the souls of the dead should be condemned by law as a protection for ignorant and credulous people, and suitable punishments provided for the fraudulent taking of money for such a purpose.
How succinct does Thomas Paine express this thought in these words: "No man ought to make a living by religion. It is dishonest so to do. Religion is not an act that can be performed by proxy."
Lecky says of this nefarious trade: "A system which deputed its ministers to go to the unhappy widow in the first dark hour of her anguish and desolation to tell her that he who was dearer to her than all the world beside was now burning in a fire, and that he could only be relieved by a gift of money to the priest, was assuredly of its own kind not without extraordinary merit." [*79]
Congressman Loring M. Black of New York, in speaking in behalf of a bill to legalize horse racing in the District of Columbia, was opposed by a church delegation. Irritated by this opposition, he turned to the ministers and said: "I don't see how you have the nerve to oppose this bill when you run the biggest gambling business in the world -- gambling on the hereafter." [*80]
No less notorious than the doctrine of purgatory is the scheme of indulgences. For those outside the Catholic faith who may not know what an indulgence is, I shall quote an authority: "An indulgence is the remission of the debt of temporal punishment due to sin after its guilt has been forgiven." [*81] The scandals created by the sale of indulgences throughout the Middle Ages caused Martin Luther to break with the Catholic Church and condemn the practice in the most scathing terms. It would be impossible to determine the amount of money that this pious fraud brought to the Church.
In Spain, indulgences could be purchased as easily as postal money orders. A repentant thief who did not know the name and address of the man whose property he had stolen could buy an indulgence for a small sum to wipe out the sin. The claim was made, and undoubtedly correctly so, that by this method of indulgence the Church became a partner with every pickpocket. [*82]
Nor must we fail to mention how the Church fattened on the pious fraud of "holy" relics. "In the Fifth Century," says Joseph McCabe, "Rome began, on a large scale, the forgery of lives of martyrs. Relics of martyrs were now being 'discovered' in great numbers to meet the pious demand of ignorant Christendom, and legends were fabricated by the thousands to authenticate the spurious bits of bone." [*83] Best known perhaps are pieces of the original Cross. There are phials containing the milk of the Virgin Mary, sold to cure disease. Almost equally lucrative was the prepuce of Jesus Christ, which was carried in a glass case at the head of processions. Its value as a money getter never diminished. No one will ever know how much has been paid to see the two skeletons of Jesus Christ -- one when he was a boy and one when he was a man! The bones of saints are still producing revenue. Not to mention "Veronica's Veil" would be to omit one of the choicest bits of fakery. Veronica's Veil is supposed to be a linen cloth with which Jesus wiped his face while carrying the Cross. Through miraculous qualities his image was impressed on it. However, these miraculous powers are unable to account for the existence of at least three such veils, differing in textures and impressions. And then there was the finger of the Holy Ghost, "as whole and as sound as ever." On special occasions a few rays of the star which appeared to the "wise" men were put on display, as well as a phial containing Saint Michael's sweat when he fought with the Devil, an arm of the Apostle James and part of the skeleton of John the Baptist. [*84] Martin Luther tells of a bishop who possessed the flames of the Burning Bush which Moses beheld in its fiery glow. Nor must we forget the tear shed by Jesus over the grave of Lazarus, or the legs of the ass on which Jesus rode into Jerusalem -- there are no less than five "authentic" sets. There are the rods with which Aaron and Moses performed their miracles before Pharaoh, and a pair of slippers worn by Enoch before the Flood took place.
Joseph McCabe, in commenting on some of these fakeries, said:
"At Lyons the chief treasures shown to the public were some milk and hair of the Virgin Mary. This was Lyons' set-off to the rival attraction at Soissons, a neighboring town, which had secured one of the milk-teeth shed by the infant Jesus. There seems to have been enough of the milk of the Virgin -- some of it was still exhibited in Spanish churches in the nineteenth century -- preserved in Europe to feed a few calves. There was hair enough to make a mattress. There were sufficient pieces of the 'true Cross' to make a boat. There were teeth of Christ enough to outfit a dentist (one monastery at Charroux had a complete set). There were so many sets of baby linen of the infant Jesus in Italy, France and Spain, that one could have opened a shop with them. One of the greatest churches had Christ's manger-cradle. Seven churches had his authentic umbilical cord, and a number of churches had his foreskin (removed at circumcision and kept as a souvenir by Mary). One church had the miraculous imprint of his little bottom on a stone on which he sat. Mary herself had left enough wedding rings, shoes, stockings, shirts, girdles, etc., to fill a museum; one of her shirts is still in the Chartres cathedral. One church had Aaron's rod. Six churches had the six heads cut off John the Baptist. Every one of these things was, remember, in its origin, a cynical blasphemous swindle. Each of these objects was at first launched upon the world with deliberate mendacity. One is almost disposed to ask for an application to the clergy of the law about obtaining money under false pretenses." [*85]
Lecky, one of the most authentic and scrupulous of historians, reviewing the history of the frauds and forgeries of the Church, said: "Making every allowance for the errors of the most extreme fallibility, the history of Catholicism would on this hypothesis represent an amount of imposture probably unequaled in the annals of the human race." [*86] He also tells us that "the immense majority of the acts of the martyrs are transparent forgeries of lying monks." [*87]
Joseph Wheless, in his carefully documented book, has collected a veritable encyclopedia of outrageous frauds perpetrated by the Church. He charges that "the Bible, in its every book, and in the strictest legal and moral sense, is a huge forgery." [*88] The relic business has not ended, and the dishonest trade still flourishes.
Recently it was reported that "Christ's seamless coat, one of the most precious relics of Catholicism, was exhibited today with solemn exercises for veneration in the ancient cathedral here for the first time since 1891." [*89]
No better example can be given of the connection between religion and thievery than the ministers and expounders of religion in general who are notoriously among the flagrantly dishonest. How can we expect one knowingly engaged in a dishonest enterprise to exhibit a fidelity of principle greater than that of the profession which he practices? Or, for a more charitable deduction, shall we say that religion was unable to eradicate their atavistic propensity to steal?
Although there are numerous books dealing with the crimes of preachers, a few current instances should be sufficient to prove the relationship of religion and crime.
James P. Jones, member of the House of Delegates and formerly treasurer of the Virginia Methodist Orphanage, was arrested on a warrant charging him with the larceny of $38,000 of the orphanage's funds. [*90] William F. Groves, Superintendent of the St. James Methodist Episcopal Sunday School, was arrested for embezzling $17,000 in a year from a building and loan association for which he worked as solicitor. [*91] "The admiring congregation of Reverend Frolkey's church in Le Mars, Iowa, was stunned by the discovery that their beloved minister maintained a gambling den and love nest in a neighboring city and kept his pockets filled with money for his wicked indulgences by a series of bank robberies with mask and pistol." [*92] "The 500 citizens of the little town of Mooreland, Indiana, were shocked recently when their beloved young pastor was arrested on a charge of stealing automobiles. But even more astonishing was his defense. He said that his meagre salary of $40 a month was not enough to enable him to buy a car in which to visit his parishioners. So he stole three cars at different times 'because the Lord's work had to go on.'" [*93]
"After exhorting his brethren to lead virtuous lives, Morris Johnson, a lay preacher, would climb from the pulpit, replace the Bible in his hand with a revolver, and take up the more lucrative calling of robbery, according to police yesterday who said that Johnson led a gang of four in more than twenty hold-ups in Brooklyn. Johnson, police say, would rob and preach on the same nights. 'Are you a minister or thief?' police asked Johnson. 'Both,' he is said to have replied, explaining that money was slow in arriving to a clergyman." [*94]
The case of Frederick Grant White, a church worker, should prove a lesson to those zealots who are constantly boasting of the saving grace of religion. He was sentenced to Folsom Prison for from twelve to fifteen years after conviction on thirteen fraud charges against women members of his congregation. White was sent to prison thirteen years ago on similar fraud charges when associated with a Los Angeles church. [*95] No doubt, while Mr. White was serving his first term for fraud, he was "born again" by the religious instruction of the prison chaplain, and undoubtedly he was pointed out as a shining example of the redeeming power of religion.
We do not know what the words of this Commandment meant to Austin Drysdale, Bible class teacher and formerly an official of the First National Bank of Philadelphia, but he was sentenced to six months in prison on charges of embezzling $2,000 of the bank's funds. [*96]
Herbert R. Foshay, fifty-four-year-old vestryman of Saint Thomas' Protestant Episcopal Church, Mamaroneck, New York, who resigned as postmaster of that city in 1926 after a shortage of about $1,200 in the post-office funds had been discovered, was sentenced to a year and a day in Atlanta Penitentiary for robbing the mails of $35 while he was still in the employ of the post office as a clerk. [*97]
T. Edward Jarrell, twenty-six-year-old Methodist Sunday school teacher and cashier of the Plaza National Bank of White Plains, New York, was arrested, arraigned and held for the grand jury on charges preferred by President Edwin P. Day of the bank that his accounts were some $31,000 short. [*98]
Frank A. Scott, fifty-five years old, treasurer of the First Congregational Church of Madison, Connecticut, was sentenced to six months in the county jail on a charge of embezzling $1,800 of church funds. [*99]
Nor must we fail to mention the case of John T. Manton, Senior Judge of the Circuit Court of Appeals of the Southern District of New York, the highest-ranking judge in the United States ever to be convicted of the crime of accepting a bribe. His decisions were notorious instances of "bought justice," yet Judge Manton boasted of his strong religious convictions. Such a system of religion is an evil to society. How can his mere reliance on forgiveness for confessing his sins make amends to those who suffered for his dishonest conduct in selling judicial opinions? His acts cost others their fortunes and their lives, and any religious creed that can soothe the feeling of one who has prostituted his high office should be condemned as a contributing cause of dishonesty. It certainly cannot be commended as making for honesty.
Rabbi Zeide M. Schmellner, fifty-nine years old, and Miss Mary Berd, his secretary, were convicted of the theft of $20,000 from Bernard Rudolf, an electrical-supply dealer, who had testified that he gave the defendants $60,000 in 1932 and 1933 to invest in a mysterious concern that had contracts with equally mysterious customers to furnish them with explosives. [*100]
In view of the widespread dishonesty and embezzlements by church workers, treasurers and ministers, the boards of trustees of churches are going to bond their employees in the future, putting more reliance in a bonding company than in "God-fearing men." This information comes from Mr. Harry T. Huff of New York, vice-president of the National Surety Company, who in an address said: "One of the largest religious institutions in the country bonded three thousand of its financial secretaries and treasurers last year," while "indications are that all church officials who have the responsibility of handling sums of money for church organizations will be bonded in the near future." [*101]
Fake cures in the name of religion are effective ways of "getting the money" as well as any other dishonest schemes. The Rev. Joseph H. Stokes, who claimed the power to raise fallen arches by "truth and treatment," was fined $1,000, given a six-month suspended jail sentence, and placed on probation for a year in connection with his spiritual finance scheme. His son, Cecil A. W. Stokes, was sentenced to a year in jail. [*102]
Mrs. Annabel Lee Gatlin, lady evangelist of Texas, had saved the souls of 2,000 hardened sinners, but she and her husband were accused of stealing about 200 sinless and soulless cattle, among them some fine horses. She was convicted and served a year in prison. [*103]
It is an established fact that religious leaders have been some of the most flagrant perpetrators of deception, fraud and downright thievery. If it is contended that it was not their religious teachings that caused them to become dishonest, then it must be admitted that their religious training did not prevent their becoming thieves.
The Rev. Leo Kalmer, Catholic chaplain of the Joliet, Illinois, penitentiary, in an article entitled, "Does Religion Breed Crime?" makes the startling admission that "it would seem so from statistics of penitentiary reports." District Attorney Stanton of Connecticut said: "Within the past ten years five million dollars have been lost in Connecticut by dishonest and other management; in nearly every instance by those who were prominent in church matters." The Rt. Hon. W. E. Gladstone, the great English Christian statesman, wrote: "To my great pain and disappointment, I have found that thousands of churchmen supplied the great mass of those who have gone lamentably wrong upon questions involving the interest of truth, justice and humanity." [*104]
The Supreme Court of North Carolina ruled that "the profession of preacher does not necessarily invest a man with that purity of morals which renders him more scrupulous in declaring the truth than another man." [*105] And the Court of Appeals of the State of New York said: "Those who for years have given the highest evidence that they would receive the reward of the true Christian, are guilty of grave offenses, moral and legal." [*106]
In view of all this evidence, imagine a thief being sentenced to attend church as a means of making him honest! This was the sentence John Francis Connaghan received when he pleaded guilty to a theft. [*107]
The Negation of Ethics
If this Commandment read "Thou shalt be honest," the positive expression might not only act as a deterrent, but it would lack the negative suggestion of committing a wrong. Psychologists tell us that instructions which contain suggestions of things to be avoided often do far more harm than if no suggestion whatever had been given. They often induce a person to do the very thing that the words used were designed to prevent.
Because of the terrific struggle for existence under present economic conditions, particularly when one takes into account man's frailty and the pressure of circumstances, it is almost impossible at times to determine what actually constitutes stealing. Life is not fashioned on a plan where the demarcation between honest and dishonest conduct can always be accurately determined. The pattern of a perfect society was not ordained for us. Environment in a world antagonistic to one's physical and emotional nature is not without influence on conduct. We find ourselves buffeted by countless conflicting interests. The most scrupulous are often faced with perplexities, and the man or woman who always rises above strong personal interests and desires and does the intrinsically right thing is a rare phenomenon.
We cannot produce a high degree of morality by warning a child that he will be punished for violating a religious precept, when all about him he sees the prohibited act being committed with impunity. Such a doctrine is the very negation of ethics.
To pound into the ears of our children the negative suggestion "Thou shalt not steal" does not strengthen their resistance when the opportunity to steal presents itself. In fact, it often has the opposite effect. It is easier for a boy to obey when he is told to come directly home after school than if he is told not to go to the ball game to watch his schoolmates play. To tell a girl that she may not go to a dance, which she was unaware was to take place, only creates the desire to attend. Once curiosity has been aroused and the urge to participate manifested, the strongest moral strength is necessary to overcome it. Fortifying a child with precepts of a positive good makes that child's resistance to wrong less difficult. The advice to eat foods that are healthful will more likely be followed than the admonition to abstain from eating the tempting ones that are not. "In moral education," says Westermarck, "example plays a more important part than precept. But even in this respect, Christianity has unfortunately little reason to boast of its achievements." [*108]
The normal infant is neither a moral nor an immoral being, but rather new material from which either can be made. If anything, his inherited primitive traits impel him toward being an antisocial member of our bewildering, artificial and complicated society. It is for education to make of that child a social-minded being. The primary instinct of the newborn child is to satisfy its hunger, to sustain itself. The manner in which this is accomplished does not concern him in the slightest degree. He knows no laws, rules, restrictions or restraints. When these are imposed upon him, the natural tendency is rebellion, and his struggles and tantrums often prove to be effective weapons against these restrictions.
A well-known educator and authority on child psychology states this truth pertinently when he says: "For some time after birth, the child is little more than an incarnation of appetite which knows no restraint, and only yields to the undermining force of satiety. The child's entrance into social life through a growing consciousness of the existence of others is marked by much fierce opposition to their wishes." [*109] Dr. M. V. O'Shea, eminent in the field of child education, makes this significant statement: "The factors which may lead a child to take what does not belong to him are often subtle and complex. Unless this fact is appreciated, it will be impossible to protect children from developing the habit of stealing, or cure them when they have entered upon a criminal career.'" [*110]
The child is not born with the instincts of honesty implanted in its mind. Honesty as we want it practiced is a principle that must be taught very much like anything else in the field of human endeavor. We must early inculcate the principles of honesty in the mind of the child if we expect the desired results to follow. How well this is substantiated is furnished by the proofs of an exhaustive study in the field of ethics by Professors Hugh Hartshorne and Mark A. May. The study was sponsored by Teachers College, Columbia University, and was an "inquiry into character education with particular reference to religious education." After their scientific investigation, they were forced to the following conclusion with reference to honesty in children: "It [honesty] is supposed to be present in the child in the form of a ready-made force or mode of behavior requiring only to be evoked by precept, threat or reward. The method is prolific of wise sayings and moral caution, but as a means of producing universal honor among men we certainly cannot boast of its success." [*111]
Another eminent authority states: "If morality and intellect are finally demonstrated to be correlated throughout the whole range of individual differences, it is probably the most profoundly significant fact with which society has to deal." [*112]
Just as the child is taught how to spell, just as he learns the principles of grammar and arithmetic, so he must be taught a code of ethics and the principles of morality. A precept learned without understanding is as useless as a blueprint without explanation would be to an untrained mind. The rules of grammar and the principles of arithmetic are not based upon a supernatural conception but upon a purely scientific foundation; so must the concepts and principles of the moral order be based upon a natural and utilitarian basis.
As it is difficult for some people to understand the mechanism of the solar system, so there are people who will find it difficult to comprehend the complicated principles of higher ethics. They are not to be held responsible for their mental deficiency. Our whole system of criminal jurisprudence will undergo a change when morality is regarded not as a divine plan, but as a purely human institution. Religion's greatest failure is in the field of ethics, because it considers ritual performances the equivalent of moral acts. McHugh and Cullam found that, "It was never the function of religion to make men virtuous -- and it was considered that the greatest sins a person could commit were acts against the faith. These acts were condemned as worse than sins against the moral virtues." That is why religionists are so often embarrassed when confronted with criminal statistics. Bishop Gallagher of Detroit, Michigan, when shown the prison statistics of his community, was forced to admit:
"It is a matter of serious reproach to the Church that more Catholic boys, in proportion to the total number, get into trouble than those of any other denomination. One-fifth [20%] of the people of Michigan are Catholics, but fifty per cent of the boys in the Industrial School for Boys at Lansing are Catholics." [*113]
Ethical principles, when mixed with religion, are like good food adulterated with preservatives; and just as the adulterated food is robbed of its nutritional values, so ethics are contaminated with superstition and the morality of the act is lost in the confusion of religious ceremonies.
In a paper read before the Ninth International Congress of Psychology, held at Yale University on September 6, 1929, Professor Pleasant R. Hightower of Butler University made this startling and significant report:
Students of Bible Found Less Honest
"People have been saying for years that if you give children a knowledge of the Bible, they will walk the straight and narrow way. The result shows that they won't walk the straight and narrow way. It does indicate very definitely that mere knowledge of the Bible of itself is not sufficient to insure the proper character attitudes." [*114]
Professor Hightower's experiment was the result of a test given to more than 3,300 children, and proves beyond the possibility of a doubt that unless a child is taught and educated, he will not know.
Dr. George Rex Mursall, chief psychologist of the Ohio Department of Welfare, examined comparable groups of boys in the Ohio Reform School at Lancaster and of supposedly law-abiding children outside. He found that the inmates of the reformatory had received fully as much religious training as those outside. He concluded that "it seems safe to state that there is no significant relation between religious training and delinquent or non-delinquent behavior." This same conclusion was reached in a similar study of conditions among school children in England. In Bradford, England, the City Council appointed Mrs. E. M. Henshaw to investigate and report on juvenile delinquency. She discovered and reported that the Church schools have a substantially higher rate of delinquents than State schools, the rates being in State schools 6.6 per thousand; in Church of England schools, 7.5 per thousand; and in Roman Catholic schools, 15.3 per thousand. She declared: "I think that children get fundamental ethical teaching in school, quite apart from religious teaching, in their contacts with real people as distinct from a superimposed dogma, religious or otherwise." The report includes this statement: "There has in the past been some confusion between the terms 'religious training' and 'character training.' These two are not synonymous." [*115]
When a child is born, it knows nothing about reading, 'riting and 'rithmetic. And if anyone thinks that by merely giving a rule in arithmetic or grammar the child will be able to grasp the subject, his knowledge of education is so utterly deficient that he himself is the best proof of the need for instruction. The complexities of life must be explained to a child before he is able to understand his place in society and the proper conduct he is expected to perform. Education is a slow process. We can learn only by doing. Mere words are meaningless. Unless the child has the capacity to understand, even teaching will prove valueless.
Not very long ago New York City was stirred by the exploits of a young desperado -- "two-gun" Crowley. When he was captured, he boldly confessed to the murder of an officer of the law. "Of course, I killed that cop," he said. "I don't like cops. No, I don't want any lawyer. Get it over with. Repent? Hell, no! My conscience was never so clear in my life. What I want is a square meal." The kindhearted district attorney suggested a beefsteak. "No, sir; no meat for me," said the young killer. "Don't you know this is Friday?" [*116]
What did Crowley's religion teach him? That it was a greater sin to eat meat on Friday than to murder a man?
Although he was in jail on charges of stealing scrolls from a synagogue at Long Beach, Mohrdehel Rashinsky, eighteen years old, insisted on observing the feast of the Passover. When his breakfast was brought to him, he declined to eat it, asking for special Passover food. This young man would rather take a chance on stealing and letting the law take its course than incur the wrath of the Bible God for eating tabooed food. [**117] Is not such a religious concept the very negation of ethics?
When Earle Peacox was apprehended after the frightful murder of his wife, he was found to be the proud possessor of a medal for six years of perfect attendance at Sunday school.
A desperate criminal, caught leaving a house after looting it and killing members of the household, was shot dead by a policeman. A search of his clothes revealed a number of religious articles on his person which caused the police to report that the bandit "had attended church just before committing his crimes." How much further removed in mental development was this criminal from the members of a certain African tribe who, when they are about to commit a crime, lay aside their fetish and cover up their deity that the latter may not be privy to the deed? [*118] And how could it be otherwise, since religion is not concerned with morality, but with ritual and ceremony?
This is confirmed by the statement made by the Rev. Charles J. Woodbridge of the First Presbyterian Church, Flushing, New York, who said: "Let me remind you that even the life of extreme self-sacrifice does not make the Christian. Nothing that man can do along the lines of virtue or righteousness will make him anything but an unprofitable servant. We simply cannot save ourselves by morality." [*119] How advanced is this present-day evaluation of religion and morality from that of a bishop of the seventh century, canonized by the Church of Rome, who described a good Christian as a man "who comes frequently to church; who presents the oblation which is offered to God upon the altar; who doth not taste of the fruits of his own industry until he has consecrated a part of them to God; who, when holy festivals approach, lives chastely with his wife for several days that with a safe conscience he may draw near the altar of God; and who, in the last place, can repeat the creed and the Lord's prayer." [*120] In this statement is crystallized the religious viewpoint which is concerned completely with ritual observance and does not require a single act of morality. It is predicated on the belief that man is a sinful being, and it is considered more important to cleanse himself of his sinful heritage than to live a life of moral perfection.
The result of this viewpoint is shown in criminal statistics. Naples, which had the worst record of any European city for crimes against the person, was also the most religious city in Europe. [*121] In Italy and other Church-dominated countries, it was held more infamous to transgress the slightest ceremonial of the Church than to transgress any moral duty. [*122] However, Laing, the noted historian, stated that in no country in Europe did he find so much morality and so little religion as in Switzerland. [*123] Westermarck notes that "a high degree of religious devotion is frequently accompanied by great laxity of morals," and that, with one or two exceptions, "the practice of religion may be taken as a sure index of low morality in a tribe." [*124] For proof of how wicked religious people can be, we need but recall the tortures of the Inquisition, the horrors of the Massacre of St. Bartholomew's Eve, the frightful crimes of the Crusaders, the persecution by the Puritans, and the innumerable other crimes for which religion has been responsible. All these were prompted by the obligation imposed upon the devotees of nearly all religious systems to avenge offenses against their deity, which is not only utterly devoid of any moral qualities, but automatically negates moral conduct.
Professor Hudson Hoagland of Clark University found that "ethics may be something quite independent of religion" and that "there is no necessary connection between religion and the problems of good and evil. Good and evil refer to that which is good and bad for a particular organism at a particular time." [*125] In view of these facts, the conclusion is inevitable that a greater sense of honesty will be inculcated in the mind of a child who is taught morality without religion than in the child who is taught religion without morality.
It was the opinion of Robert Erskine Ely, Director Emeritus of the Town Hall, New York, that of the thousands of men who spoke at Town Hall -- including Presidents, preachers and other noted personages -- "the noblest man, the one really greatest of them all was Prince Peter Kropotkin, a self-professed atheist and a great man of science." [*126]
Governor Walter E. Edge, of New Jersey, our former Ambassador to France, in a letter to the New York Times, July 21, 1944, recalling the twelve Premiers who held that high office during his four official years in Paris said, that Edouard Herriot (an avowed Freethinker and Anticlerical) was beyond doubt the most dependable of them all.
The Rev. Harry Emerson Fosdick admits that many nonreligious people are "devoted philanthropists, loyal servants of a better day for mankind, and they will do for the salvation of society more than many of us will do. They are filled with the love of man...." [*127]
Not only in prison statistics, but in previous pages of this book, evidence has been submitted to show that religion has been a failure as a restraining force against committing crimes.
Stealing will continue in direct ratio to the struggle for existence. The rule governing the proportion of murders and suicides to the population rate operates likewise in the number of thefts that will be committed, provided always that conditions are the same. Acts today will be provocative of thefts in the future. By determining the prevalence of the dangers in relation to the child's age classification, the wise parent can assist it successfully across the danger zone. All the prayers in the world cannot save a child whose associations and tendencies do not make for honesty. Intelligent supervision and training are the only effective instruments.
Thievery, like disease, seems to be an ever-present problem, and just as disease was once treated by prayer and other superstitious religious practices without success, so dishonesty will continue to prevail as long as it is believed that it can be cured by religious precepts and taboos.
Just as the scientific study of disease has already eradicated many of the ills of mankind which religion thought had been sent as punishment for sin, so will the application of ethical principles to the problems of dishonesty eradicate this propensity in modern man. Only by educating one to meet the exigencies of changing conditions, and applying intelligent analysis of intent and purpose to the problem when it arises, will the evil of dishonesty be dispelled.
Not until man ceases to devote his energies to the love of God and to rely on the performance of his "religious duty," and instead dedicates himself to the eradication of his primitive antisocial instincts by a rationalistic analysis of his troubles, will he achieve any degree of success in solving the problems of society.
I am optimist enough to believe that just as there have been scientific achievements in preventing and curing diseases which formerly plagued the human race with misery and death, so will high moral principles, intelligently applied to ethical conduct, save mankind from the plague of thievery and make the world a community of honest men and women.
The e-text conversion and critical editing of this book is copyright ©1998 by Cliff Walker. The text is watermarked. If you intend to commercialize on this book in any way, please do your own e-text conversion work. This is a labor of love, honoring the role that the works of Joseph Lewis have played in my life and in the hope that the unique presentation of Joseph Lewis's works, available only on Positive Atheism, will bring the dignity to the Positive Atheism project that only this unique presentation of the writings of Joseph Lewis can bring. We hope that our readers, supporters, friends, and others can understand and appreciate the role that this -- privilege -- of being able to present the Joseph Lewis material brings to the people who have worked so hard and sacrificed so much to make Positive Atheism's online presentation possible.