IT is one of the glittering fictions of the Church that to her civilization is due,* and that it is to her benign influence and direction alone that woman has been advanced to her present position in the social scale; that without the Bible and the Church the status of woman in Christian countries would be lower and her lot harder.
* See Appendix T,
1st. To prove this claim she directs attention to the status of woman in several non-Christian countries, and compares the degradation and hardship she there endures to the position of woman today in America, England, and France.
2d. The Church claims the credit of originating and sustaining the various steps of progress by which woman has been elevated. She claims to have originated and to sustain the idea that woman is man’s equal, and to recognize her as such in the Church.
3d. She points with pride to the superior education and intelligence of the women of Christian countries, and contrasts this intellectual altitude with that of women elsewhere. She says that women owe their superior opportunities of education and advancement to their religion.
4th. But above all the clergy attempt to silence those who ask questions, by calling attention to the superior legal status of woman in Christian countries, and asserting that the Church secured this, and that it made marriage honorable and home a possibility.
5th. The clergy claim that the Bible is woman’s best friend and staunchest defender, and that it is the originator of morality.
“The moment there is fixation, petrification and death ensue.” “Profound sincerity is the only basis of character.” — Emerson.
We are told that our superior civilization and high moral tone are due to Christianity. I think that this is not true. The whole, or at least much the larger and foundation part of the question of civilization — where it shall grow and where only live, where it shall drag and where scarcely exist — seems to me to be decided primarily by environment, the basis of which is climate and soil.
Where the climate and soil are most favorable to the highest development; where the environment is neither too hard nor too indulgent; where man is neither enervated by heat and the absence of necessity to labor, nor stunted by cold and hardship and the ever-present necessity to search or labor for food and warmth; there will be the highest types and forms of civilization.*
* See Appendix A
If the Buddhist religion had chanced to be the one that in the process of events took root in the climate and soil where the Hebrew Bible and the Christian belief hold sway; and if, on the other hand, the Hebrew and Christian religions had been the ones developed in India or China, the civilization of the various countries would still, in the main, be what they are today.
If our superior civilization were the result of our religion, then the most civilized countries would be the most intensely Christian countries. We all know that this is not the case. Compare the intense Christianity of Spain or Russia, and their backward civilization, with the easy-going religious or irreligious condition of France or America, and their recognition of Liberty and Humanity, equalled nowhere else on earth.
I admit unreservedly that a religion; by its inelasticity, may do much to retard progress, or by its greater elasticity may permit a more rapid development than a more nearly petrified or incoherent system would allow; but what I hold is this, that the primary and controlling causes of the various stages of civilization are climate and soil.
There are, of course, many other things which modify the social development or civilization in any country, as its religion, its laws, and what we may call “accidents of international or civil contest,” such as the religious or other wars — our own war in which the blacks were freed, arbitration, and immigration. All of these, and many others, are modifying influences; but no one of them can claim the primary place.
Soil, climate, and location determine the occupation of a nation, as whether it shall be militant, commercial, or agricultural. In turn occupation determines what the character of a people and their laws shall be, whether they shall be warlike or peaceful, inventive or receptive, stationary or roving; and these, in turn, are the matters which determine the civil scale to which a people shall rise.
True, the religion of a people will make itself felt strongly; but whenever a nation has found it expedient or desirable to accomplish a feat which was in opposition to its religion, it has invariably modified the religion to fit the case, or waived it in favor of that particular movement.*
* “The popular religion in this, as in other cases, was made to bend to the new vice.”— Lecky’s History of European Morals, vol. il, page 311.
In keeping with this fact it is found that in those countries where the greatest changes and modifications of government and occupation have occurred, there have the religions undergone the greatest modification to fit the new order of things. If it were the religion that determined the matter, civilization and morals would be immovable, and legislation would revolve around, the guidance of the Church.
According to the very theory of Divine revelation a religion would be most perfect at its beginning. It would be without flaw when born. It would be incapable of improvement or growth. In a word it would be immovable. It would possess the fixation of which Emerson speaks. It would not have to readjust itself to the changed and improved conditions of man, and its word would be always a higher light on every movement of progress. It would be to the Church and not to the State that the great principles of progress, of liberty, and of justice would look for the highest guidance and the last light. How far this is from the real state of things in any country or in any religion all readers of history know.*
* See Appendix B.
It is the State or Science which has proposed and made the steps of progress, and the Church has (often after the most bitter fight and denunciation) readjusted her creed to the new code, and then claimed that she had that light and knew that principle before, although neither she nor any one else had ever suspected it.
This has been the case with almost every important discovery that Science has ever made. The Church has retarded the acceptance of the new light, and has set her seal of “divine disapproval and damnation” on the brow of the thinkers who strove to bless mankind. It has been the rule in State reforms as well. It was so in the struggle to separate Church and State. It is so in the effort to sustain the belief in the “divine right of kings.” The Church fought individual liberty and representative government, and she still contests the questions of individual conscience and universal equality and independence.*
* See reports of the last General Conference of the Methodist Church held in Philadelphia, where, during a heated debate, one member said that he was in favor of using common-sense and the principle of justice in deciding questions of right and wrong and of liberty of conscience; whereupon a large majority voted him a dangerous man, and decided that common-sense and justice had nothing to do with religion. One member naively remarked that the whole career and life of a good preacher fully disproved that any such heretical doctrines obtained in the Church as that the use of common-sense was admissible; and since the majority voted with him it does not seem to be my place to question that fact.
In these matters the Church has invariably been on the side that ultimately had to go to the wall, and she has become a party to the progress only after the principle has become an established fact.
Now it is the efforts of Science and Law towards the elevation of man and the bettering of his condition in this world — the procuring for him of greater personal advantages, dignity, and liberty — that have marked the progress of civilization.
The climate and soil decided man’s occupation; his occupation determined what his higher needs should be; and his higher needs and the gained results of his occupations enabled him to strive for the bettering of his condition and surroundings. The man who lived in a climate favorable to mental and physical activity, and in a country with a rich and varied soil, was enabled to accomplish his ends as his less fortunate brother-lacking such support and stimulus and motive — has been unable to do.
If such a thing had been possible, thirty years ago, as that all knowledge of our religion had been utterly wiped out of America, and a thorough knowledge of Buddhism or Mohammedanism instilled into every Yankee brain in its stead, the Yankee brain would have simply adjusted its religion to its surroundings and not its surroundings to its religion; and America would have gone right on in the front rank of liberty and toleration and progress. There would have been social and political and religious contests over “caste” or “harems” or “Tripitaka,” instead of over slavery as a divine institution, the right of a mother to her own offspring, or the inspiration of the Bible. The wheels of progress would have been blocked some days by devotees who preached damnation for those who believed in the “Trinity” instead of for those who did not. Hell would have been as freely promised to the man who suggested that Newton knew more than Mohammed, as it is today to any one who makes the same odious comparison between Darwin and Moses. The timid would have been terrified by sermons to prove the lost condition of a man who touched one of lower rank, in place of the edification our clergy offer in the shape of eternal damnation for unbaptized infants. And there would have been so little difference between the arguments for the divinity of the Tripitaka and the Bible, and for the miracles of each, that if any devout Presbyterian had by accident left his barrel of sermons on the latter subject behind him, his Buddhist brother could have utilized them without the change of an argument. But the wheel would turn and the devotee would either go down or change his creed, and it would depend chiefly upon his age and consequent flexibility which course he would adopt.
No known religion could transfer the conditions of civilization in China to America or England or France, and no amount of christianizing (if such a thing were possible) could transform China into a like condition with us, so long as her climate, her soil, and her population remain what they are today. You may make the Arab or the Jap digest the whole Westminster catechism, but he will, he must, be an Arab or a Jap still — if he lives through it all. If his constitution is good, and he gets over it, his condition and grade of civilization will continue to conform to his environment; and the trifling difference involved between turning-off prayers on a wheel and counting them off on beads will be simply the difference between tweedledee and tweedledum.
Notwithstanding this as a primary fact, the religion of a country has a modifying influence on the rapidity of its progress, and the more fixed a religion — the more certainly it claims perfection, the greater claim it lays to holding the final word; and the more fully this claim is accepted by the people, the greater influence will it have, the greater check will it be to the development of any new thought, discovery, invention, or principle that arises in the process of evolution toward a freer atmosphere and a broader understanding of individual liberty and dignity and life. William Kingdon Clifford, F. R. S., in his delightful book on the “Scientific Basis of Morals,” says:
“It is sometimes said that moral questions have been authoritatively settled by other methods; that we ought to accept this decision, and not to question it by any method of scientific inquiry; and that reason should give way to revelation on such matters.
“I hope before I have done to show just cause why we should pronounce on such teaching as this no light sentence of moral condemnation: first, because it is our duty to form those beliefs which are to guide our actions by the two scientific modes of inference, and by these alone; and, secondly, because the proposed mode of settling ethical questions by authority is contrary to the very nature of right and wrong.
“The worship of a deity who is represented as unfair or unfriendly to any portion of the community is a wrong thing, however great may be the threats and promises by which it is commended. And still worse, the reference of right and wrong to his arbitrary will as a standard, the diversion of the allegiance of the moral sense from the community to him, is the most insidious and fatal of social diseases.
“The first principle of natural ethics is the sole and supreme allegiance of conscience to the community.
“Secondly, veracity to the community depends upon faith in man. Surely I ought to be talking platitudes when I say that it is not English to tell a man a lie, or to suggest a lie by your silence or your actions, because you are afraid that he is not prepared for the truth, because you don’t quite know what he will do when he knows it, because perhaps after all this lie is a better thing for him than the truth would be, this same man being all the time an honest fellow-citizen whom you have every reason to trust. Surely I have heard that this craven crookedness is the object of our national detestation. And yet it is constantly whispered that it would be dangerous to divulge certain truths to the masses. ‘I know the whole thing is untrue: but then it is so useful for the people; you don’t know what harm you might do by shaking their faith in it.’ Crooked ways are none the less crooked because they are meant to deceive great masses of people instead of individuals. If a thing is true, let us all believe it, rich and poor, men, women, and children. If a thing is untrue, let us all disbelieve it, rich and poor, men, women, and children. Truth is a thing to be shouted from the housetops, not to be whispered over rose-water after dinner when the ladies are gone away.
“Even in those whom I would most reverence, who would shrink with horror from such actual deception as I have just mentioned, I find traces of a want of faith in man. Even that noble thinker, to whom we of this generation owe more than I can tell, seemed to say in one of his posthumous essays that in regard to questions of great public importance we might encourage a hope in excess of the evidence (which would infallibly grow into a belief and defy evidence) if we found that life was made easier by it. As if we should not lose infinitely more by nourishing a tendency to falsehood than we could gain by the delusion of a pleasing fancy. Life must first of all be made straight and true; it may get easier through the help this brings to the commonwealth. And Lange, the great historian of materialism, says that the amount of false belief necessary to morality in a given society is a matter of taste. I cannot believe that any falsehood whatever is necessary to morality. It cannot be true of my race and yours that to keep ourselves from becoming scoundrels we must needs believe a lie. The sense of right grew up among healthy men and was fixed by the practice of comradeship. It has never had help from phantoms and falsehoods, and it never can want any. By faith in man and piety toward men we have taught each other the right hitherto; with faith in man and piety toward men we shall never more depart from it.”
If religion decided and produced the civilization of a people, what sort of civilization would exist today among the Jews? All Jews would be bigamists, and murder would be their pastime. No people would be free from their rapine, no woman safe from their lust. But fortunately they have followed their scientific and political leaders instead of their Prophets, and the consequence is that they are so far above and superior to their religion and their Bible, that only in its trivial and immaterial dictates is it their guide and law today.
And we, building upon the same foundation, with an added story to our edifice, modify, to suit legislation and a higher public sentiment and a broader conception of justice, both the foundation and the roof whenever a new principle is born or some great soul floods the world with light.
And so the world moves on, those nations in advance that possess the climate to stimulate and the soil to support to the best advantage their citizens — philosophers and scientists who grope towards perfection and stumble on the way over real and imaginary obstacles, but still bring each generation nearer the goal, and freer to brush aside the cobwebs of superstition and ignorance, and to look fairly out on the light that breaks in the East.
There is another feature of the subject that will bear looking at. Christians are the last to give credit to other religions for the development and advance of civilization in the countries possessing them. What Christian will admit that it is the religion of the Chinese that makes them the most orderly, law-abiding, mob-avoiding people on the globe? Will any Christian admit that it is the inferior moral tone of Christ and his teachings which enables the followers of Confucius and Buddha to offer this superior showing? Is he prepared to say that Mohammedanism is superior to Christianity because its followers outdo the Christians in honesty?* Is it owing to the superior blessings of the Mormon faith that its followers are more thrifty, and that paupers are few or unknown among them?
* Travelers tell us that a native can leave an order together with a bag of uncounted gold at the shop of a dealer, and upon the return of the buyer his order will be exactly filled, his gold properly and honestly divided, and all where he had left them, even though the shop be open to the street and unattended and unguarded.
Is it because their religion is superior to ours that the Lapp women are better treated; that their comparative status is higher, and their family life purer than with ourselves?*
* “Though Norway with Ladies.” By W. Mattieu Williams. F.R.A.S., F.C.S.
The claim that superiority of civilization is due to Christianity, and that to it we owe the good things of the nations where it is the prevailing religion, proves too much. It will work just as well for any other religion as for our own. Its reach is too extended, its conclusion too comprehensive for its purpose. Christianity could not be made its sole terminus. It reminds one of the story of the brakeman who was persuaded to go to church. When he came out his friend asked him how he liked the preacher. He said, “Very well, on the main line. He had good wheels, his track was straight and level, and he carried a good head of steam, but he seemed to lack terminal facilities.”
Horace Seaver recently wrote the following:
“It is a very common argument with Christians, that only those nations which have had the Bible were refined, civilized, and learned. A Christian paper, now before us, exultingly says:
“‘Take the map of the world, draw a line around those countries that have enjoyed the highest degree of refinement, and you will encircle just those nations that have received the Bible as their authority in religion.’
“From this language the plain inference is, that those nations have been indebted to the influence of the Bible for the positions to which they have attained. Let us follow out a little this line of argument and see where it will lead.
“The ancient Egyptians stood as far in advance of their contemporaries as do the nations of Christendom at the present day, as the remains of Egyptian cities and temples fully attest. And if the argument is good, they were indebted for that superiority to their worship of cats, crocodiles, and onions!
“The ancient Greek might have exclaimed, as he beheld the proud position to which Greece had attained —‘See what we owe to a belief in our glorious mythology; we have reached the highest point of enlightenment the world has ever witnessed; we stand unequalled in power, wealth, the cultivation of the arts, and all that makes a nation refined, polished, and great!’”
It is a fact that in some Christian countries the actual status of woman is higher than it is today in any other country; but it is also true that her comparative status is often lower.*
* See Appendix C, 1–6.
If we compare the actual status of woman in Russia or Spain (the two most intensely Christian countries today) with that of the Chinese or Hindoo woman, the showing may be somewhat in favor of the former; but on the other hand, her comparative position (when taken with that of the men of her country) does not gain but loses by the contrast.
“How immeasurably would his faith in the elevating tendency of his religion have been increased, could he have looked with prophetic eye into the distant ages of the future, and beheld the enlightened and Christianized nations of the nineteenth century adopting the remains of Grecian architecture, sculpture, painting, oratory, music, and literature as their models!
“Pagan Rome, too, once mistress of the world and arbitress of nations — the home of philosophers and sages — the land in which the title, ‘I am a Roman citizen,’ was the proudest that a mortal could wear — Rome, by the above Christian argument, should have ascribed all her honor, praise, and glory to her mythology.
“The Turk and the Saracen, likewise, have had their day of power and renown. Bagdad was the seat of science and learning at a time when the nations of Europe were sunk in darkness and superstition. The Turk and Saracen should have pointed to the Koran as the source of their refinement.
“Thus we see that the Christian argument we are noticing, if it proves anything, proves too much. If the nations of Christendom are indebted to the Bible for their enlightenment, likewise were the Egyptians indebted to their cat and crocodile and onion worship, the Greeks and Romans to their mythology, and the Turks and Saracens to their Koran.”
It is a significant fact that of all the Christian countries, in those where the Church stands highest and has most power women rank lowest and have fewest rights accorded them, whether of personal liberty or proprietary interest. In the countries named above, and in other countries where the Church still has a strong grip upon the throat of the State, woman’s position is degraded indeed; while in the three so-called Christian countries where the Church has least power, where law is not wholly or in so large part canonical, woman’s position is more free, more independent, and less degraded, when compared with the position of the men of those countries.
That tells the whole story. If it were to the Church or to her religion that she owed her advancement, it would be in the most strictly Christian countries that her elevation and advantages would be greatest. Under the canon law her status would be higher than under the common law. On the contrary, however, it is under the least religious, freest, and most purely secular forms of government that she has attained most full recognition and secured the greatest advancement.
Compare the position of woman in Christian Spain with her position in Infidel France. Compare her condition in Russia, with the flag of the Church and the seal of the Cross for her protection, with that of her sister under the stars and stripes of America, with a constitution written by the infidels Jefferson and Paine.
Compare them and decide whether it is to the Church and the Cross, with their wars and persecutions, or to Liberty and Scepticism that women owe their loyal love and their earnest support. Compare them and determine then whether it is to Christianity or to Science that she should fly for protection, and where it is that she will be most certain of justice. Compare them and answer whether it is to the Fathers of the Church or to the Founders of Republics that women should be most grateful. Compare them, and be thankful, oh women of America, that the Church never had her hand on the throat of the Constitution of the United States, and that she is losing her grip on the Supreme Bench! *
In our pride of race we forget that it is less than three hundred short years since Christianity by both legal and spiritual power enforced the most degrading and vile conditions upon woman, compelling her to live solely by the sale of her virtue.**
Only within the past three hundred years of growing scepticism and loss of power by the Church has either purity or dignity become possible for women; and it is well for us to remember that for over 1500 years of Christianity, when the Church had almost absolute power, it never dreamed of elevating woman, or recognizing her as other than an inferior being created solely to minister to the lowest nature of man, and possessing neither a right to her own person nor a voice in her own defence.
I wish that every woman who upholds the Church today might read the array of facts on this subject so ably presented by Matilda Joslyn Gage in her work on “Woman, Church, and State,” a digest of which is printed in the last chapter of vol. 1. of the “History of Woman Suffrage,” of which she is one of the editors. It is so ably written, and the facts collected are so damning, that I need add no word of mine to such passages as I can give from it, in the accompanying appendix to this work. ***
* On the status of women there is much of interest in Mr. Herbert Spencer’s “Principles of Sociology,” vol 1. Mr. Spencer deals with the subject, in the main, from a different point of view from the one taken in this article; but that his position (in regard to the causes of woman’s advancement being due to the Church) is not wholly unlike my own, will, I think, be readily seen. He places more stress on the results of war than I have done (and in this the corroborating evidence furnished by the Holy wars would sustain the position of both), I having included this phase of action under the term occupation, since I have dealt almost wholly with nations more advanced and freer from the fortunes of the Militant type than Mr. Spencer has done.
** See Appendix D.
*** See Appendix E.
Blackstone enumerates three “absolute rights of persons.” First, “The right of personal security, in the legal enjoyment of life, limb, body, health, and reputation.” Second, “The right of personal liberty — free power of locomotion without legal restraint.” Third, “The right of private property — the free use and disposal of his own lawful acquisitions.”
None of these three primary and essential rights of persons were conceded to women, and Church law did not rank her as a person deprived of these rights, but held that she was not a person at all, but only a function; therefore she possessed no rights of person in this world and no hope of safety in the next.
As to the first of these “absolute rights of persons,” any one of her male relations, or her husband after she passed from one to the other, had absolute power over her, even to the extent of bodily injury,* bargain and sale of her person, and death. Nor did even this limit the number of her masters. By both Church and Common Law the Lords temporal (barons and other peers) and the Lords spiritual (Archbishops, Bishops, and Abbots) possessed and exercised the right to dispose of her purity, either for a money consideration or as a bribe or present as they saw fit.**
* “Although England was christianized in the fourth century, it was not until the tenth that a daughter had a right to reject a husband selected for her by her father; and it was not until the same century that a Christian wife of a Christian husband acquired the right of eating at the table with him. For many hundred years the law bound out to servile labor all unmarried women between the ages of eleven and forty.”— M. J. Gage.
“Wives in England were bought from the fifth to the eleventh century” [The dates are significant; let the Church respond.]— Herbert Spencer.
“In England, as late as the seventeenth century, husbands of decent station were not ashamed to beat their wives. Gentlemen arranged parties of pleasure for the purpose of seeing wretched women whipped at Bridewell. It was not until 1817 that the public whipping of women was abolished in England.”— Spencer.
** See Appendix E.
Thus was the forced degradation of woman made a source of revenue to the Church, and a means of crushing her self-respect and destroying her sense of personal responsibility as to her own acts in the matter of chastity, the legitimate outcome of which is to be found in the vast army of women who are named only to be reviled. In them the Church can look on her own work. The fruit is the natural outcome of the training woman received that taught and compelled her always to submit to the dictates of some man, no matter what her own judgment, modesty, or desires might be. She was not supposed to have an opinion or to know right from wrong; and from Paul’s injunction, “If you want to know anything ask your husband at home,” down to the decisions of the last General Conference of the Methodist Church, the teaching that woman must subordinate her own sense of right and her own judgment to the dictates of someone else — any one else of the opposite sex — from first to last has been as ingenious a method as could have been devised to fill the world with libertines and their victims.* It is time for the followers of St. Paul to nice the results of their own work.
* See Appendix F, 2.
Under the provisions of the law which held that all “persons” could recover damages for injury — have legal redress for a wrong inflicted upon them — woman again was held as not a ‘person.
If she were assaulted and beaten, or if she were subjected to the greatest indignity that it is possible to inflict upon her, she had no redress. She could not complain. The law gave her no protection whatever. Her father or husband could, if he saw fit, bring suit to recover damages for the loss of her services as a servant and wholly upon the ground that it was an injury to him and to his feelings. She was no more recognized as a “person” in the matter, nor was she more highly considered than if she were an inmate of a zoological garden to which some mischievous visitor had fed too many bonbons. The owner was damaged because the brute might die or be injured in the sight of the patrons, but aside from that view of the case no harm was done and no account taken of so trivial a matter.
No matter what the injury she sustained, whether it crippled her physically or blighted her mentally and made life to her the worst curse that could be inflicted, she had no appeal. The wounded feelings of one of her male relations received due consideration, and he could recover the money-value he might set upon the injury to his lacerated mind. This is still the letter and the practice of the law in many places, even in America.
If she had no male relations, the injury did not count, and no “person” being injured everything was lovely, and prayers went right on to the God who, being no respecter of persons (provided they were free, white, adult males), enjoyed the incense from altars whereon burning “witches” writhed in agony and helpless young girls plead for mercy under the loathed and loathsome touch of the “St.” Augustines and “St.” Pelayos,** whose praises are chanted and whose divine goodness is recounted by Christendom today.
* “To Augustine, whose early life was spent in company with the most degraded of womankind, is Christianity indebted for the full development of the doctrine of Original sin.” — Gage.
“All or at least the greater part of the fathers of the Greek Church before Augustine, denied any real original sin.”— Emerson. “The doctrine had a gradual growth, and was fully developed by Augustine.” — Waite.
** “The abbot elect of St. Augustine, at Canterbury, in 1171, was found on investigation to have seventeen illegitimate children in a single village. An abbot of St. Pelayo in Spain, in 1180, was proved to have kept no less than seventy mistresses. Henry III, Bishop of Liege, was deposed in 1274 for having sixty-five illegitimate children.” — Leeky, “Hist, of European Morals.”
“This same bishop boasted, at a public banquet, that in twenty-two months fourteen children had been born to him. A license to the clergy to keep concubines was during several centuries levied by princes.”— Ibid.
“It was openly attested that 100,000 women in England alone were made dissolute by the clergy.” — Draper, “Intellectual Development of Europe.”
Such was the “elevation” and civilization offered by the Church to woman. These are among her debts to the Church, and the men who fought and contended against the incorporation of such infamy into the common law were branded as infidels. It was said they denied their Lord. They were pronounced most dangerous, and the clergy held up their hands in holy horror and whispered that such men “as much as denied the Bible, blasphemed their God, and sold their souls to the Devil.” And the women, poor dupes, believed it.
One method the Church took to benefit woman and show its respect for her was this: any married man was prohibited from being a priest. Women were so unholy, so unclean, and so inferior, that to have one as a wife degraded a man to such an extent that he was unfit to be a minister or to touch holy things. The Catholic Church still prohibits either party who is so unholy as to marry from profaning its pulpit’; but the Protestant Churches divide up, giving women the disabilities and mon the offices. The unselfishness of such a course is quite touching. It says to women: “You support us and we will damn you; there is nothing mean or niggardly about us.”
As to Blackstone’s second count —“the right to personal liberty”— I can perhaps do no better than give a few bald facts.
Under Pagan rule the personal liberty of woman had become very considerable, as well as her proprietary liberty; but Christianity began her degradation at once.
Christianity was introduced into England in the fourth century, and the sale of women began in the fifth; and it was not until the eleventh that a girl could refuse to marry any suitor her father chose for her. In a word, she always had a guardian; she had no personal liberty whatever; she could neither buy nor own property as her brothers could; she could not marry when and whom she preferred, live where she wished, eat, drink, or wear what she liked, or refuse any of these provisions when they were offered by her male relatives. If they decided that she had too many back teeth they simply pulled them out, and she had nothing to say on the subject. She could be sold outright by her father, or leased or bound out as he preferred. She never got so old but that her earnings belonged to him, and a mother never arrived at an age sufficiently advanced to be entitled to the earnings of her children.
Sharswood says, “A father is entitled to the benefits of his children’s labor.” “An infant [any one not of age] owes reverence and respect to his mother; but she has no right to his services.”*
* Blackstone. Sharswood.
This is upon the theory, doubtless, that starvation is wholesome for a widowed mother, but that it does not agree with a father’s digestion at any time.
Sir Henry Maine in his “Ancient Law.” says, that from the Pagan laws all this inequality and oppressiveness of guardianship and restriction of the personal liberty of women had disappeared, and he adds: “The consequence was that the situation of the Roman female, whether married or unmarried, became one of great personal and proprietary independence. But Christianity tended somewhat from the very first to narrow this remarkable liberty. . . . The great jurisconsult himself [Gaius] scouts the popular Christian apology offered for it in the mental inferiority of the female sex. . . . Led by their theory of Natural Law, the Roman [Pagan] jurisconsults had evidently at this time assumed the equality of the sexes as a principle of their code of equity.”
Of the Christians, led by their theory of a revealed divine law which treated women as inferior beings and useful only as prey, Lecky says (“European Morals,” vol. 1, page 358): “But in the whole feudal [Christian and chiefly Canon] legislation women were placed in a much lower legal position than in the Pagan empire. The complete inferiority of the sex was continually maintained by the law; and that generous public opinion which in Pagan Rome had frequently revolted against the injustice done to girls, in depriving them of the greater part of the inheritance of their fathers, totally disappeared. Wherever the canon law has been the basis of legislation, we find laws of succession sacrificing the Merest of daughters and of wives, and a state of public opinion which has been formed and regulated by these laws; nor was any serious attempt made to abolish them till the close of the last century. The French revolutionists, though rejecting the proposal of Sieyes and Condorcet [both infidels] to accord political emancipation to women, established at least an equal succession of sons and daughters, and thus initiated a great reformation of both law and opinion which sooner or later must traverse the world.”
How soon or how late this will happen will depend very greatly upon the amount of power retained by the Church. Pagans, Infidels, and Scientists have fought for, and the Church has fought against, the dignity, honor, and welfare of women for centuries; and because fear, organization, wealth, selfishness, and power have been on the side of the Church, and she has kept women too ignorant to understand the situation, she has succeeded for many generations in retarding the progress and shutting out the light that slowly came in despite of her.
“No society which preserves any tincture of Christian institutions is ever likely to restore to married women the personal liberty conferred on them by the middle Roman law; but the proprietary disabilities of married females stand on quite a different basis from their personal incapacities, and it is by keeping alive and consolidating the former that the canon law has so deeply injured civilization. There are many vestiges of a struggle between the secular and ecclesiastical principles; but the canon law nearly everywhere prevailed.”*
* Maine’s “Ancient Law,” 158.
It has always been uphill work fighting the Church. So long as it had sword and fagot at its command, and the will to use them; so long as it pretended to have, and people believed that it had, power to mete out damnation to its opposers; just so long were science, justice, and thought fatally crippled.
But when Voltaire, Diderot, Condorcet and the great encyclopedist circle of France got their hands on the throat of the Church, and dipped their pens in the fire of eloquence, wit, ridicule, reason, and justice, then, and not till then, began to dawn a day of honor toward women, of humanity and justice and truth. They drew back the curtain, the world saw, the cloud lifted, and life began on a new plane. Under Pagan rule woman had begun, as we have seen, to receive recognition apart from sex. She was a human being. A general law of “persons” applied to and shielded her. But from the first the Christian Church refused to consider her apart from her capacity for reproduction; and this one ground of consideration it pronounced a curse, a crime, and a shame to her. Her only claim to recognition at all was a curse. She was not a person, she was only a function.*
* See Lea’s “Sacerdotal Celibacy.”
Man it pronounced a person first, with rights, privileges, and protection as such. Incidentally he might also be a husband, a father, or a son. His welfare, duties, and rights as a person, as a human being, were apart from and superior to those that were special and incidental. He received consideration always as a person. He might be dealt with as husband or father.
But ignoring all her mental life and denying that she had any, and ignoring all her physical possibilities, ambitions, desires, and capabilities as a person, the Church narrowed woman’s life and restricted her energies into a compass where its power over her became absolute and her subjection certain. Nor has the loss been wholly to woman, for any influence which cripples the mother’s capacity of endowment takes cruel revenge on the race.*
* “It is not impossible but that a more correct understanding of the laws of life and heredity may establish the fact that because of the subjection of woman, the entire race has been mentally dwarfed and physically weakened.” — Gamble.
From this outlook the debt of civilization to the Church is heavy indeed. Is it a debt of gratitude?
Under this head there is space for but one point farther, out of the great store at hand.
The clergy were licensed to commit crime. They got up a neat little scheme called “benefit of clergy” by which they were secure from the punishment meted out to other criminals. The relief offered did sometimes reach other men, but as learning was largely confined to the clergy they were the chief beneficiaries, as the name implies and as was the intent of the law. Any man who could read was allowed “benefit of clergy;” in other words, his punishment was lightened or entirely omitted. But a woman, though she were a perfect mine of wisdom and could read in any number of languages, could receive no such benefit, because she could not take holy orders. They first enacted that she should not take orders, and then they denied to her the relief which only that ability could give. So great a favorite was woman with the Church!
The ordinary male criminal received the ordinary punishment, the clergy received none; and in order that the requisite gross amount of suffering for crime should be inflicted on somebody, the clergy enacted that woman should receive their share vicariously in addition to her own, and then to this they added such interest as would make the twenty-per-cent-a-month men of Wall street ashamed of their stupid financiering.
Thus the Church arrogated to itself the exclusive right to commit crime with impunity, and also claimed and exercised the right to prevent women from learning to read. If she still persisted it could then punish her doubly, because she had no right to learn.
For offenses for which ordinary men were hanged, women were burned alive, and priests were glorified. For larceny a man was branded in the hand or imprisoned for a few months; while for a first offence of the kind a woman was kindly permitted to be hanged or beheaded without benefit of clergy; and the clergy went scot free.* The Church did then as it does now, it claimed all the benefits of citizenship and paid none of the penalties and bore none of the burdens.**
* Blackstone. Christian.
** It still claims exemption from taxation, thus throwing its burden on others; and it also claims immunity from the very gambling laws which it so rigidly enforces against other institutions.
The Church did then just as it does now, in principle, in setting up certain great benefits which only priests might hope to obtain, and then enacting that certain persons were forever ineligible to the priesthood; and the same or quite as good reasons were given for denying women such relief from the penalties of the law as was freely extended to men, as are given today for refusing her the liberty, emoluments, and benefits that are freely accorded to the most imbecile little theological student who is educated by the needle of a sister and supported by money wrung from the fears of shop or factory girls, to whom he paints the terrors of hell, and freely threatens the same to those who disobey him. Salvation comes high, but no preacher ever gets so poor that he cannot distribute hell free of charge to the multitude without the least diminution of his stock-intrade.
I should think that an orthodox pulpit would be about the last place a self-respecting woman would wish to fill; but I am glad, since there are some who do so wish, that the issue has again been forced upon the Church, and that in 1884, true to her history, she was again compelled to acknowledge herself a respecter of persons, a degrader of women, and a clog to progress and individual liberty, equality, and conscience.
I am glad that women have recently forced the Methodist and Presbyterian Churches to declare their principles of class preference and partial legislation. I am glad that in 1884 these Churches were compelled to say in effect to women, so that the world could hear: “You are not and you never can be our equals. We are holy. You are unclean. We will hold you back and down to the ancient level we made for you just as long as the life is in us; and if you ever receive recognition as a human being, it must be at the hands of those who defy the Church and hate creeds that are not big enough to go all round. Our creeds are only large enough to give each sex half. But we won’t be stingy, we only want our share. You are entirely welcome to all the degradation here and all the damnation hereafter; and any man who attempts to deprive you of these blessings is a heretic and a sinner. Let us pray.”
In dealing with this point the humor of the situation is too plain to require comment, and I need only cite a few facts in order to place the beautiful little fiction where it belongs.*
* See Appendix T.
As to general education it is well known that the Church has fought investigation and persecuted science. From the third century to Bruno, and from Bruno to Darwin and Tyndall there is an unbroken chain of evidence as to her position in these matters and her opposition to the diffusion of knowledge. When, however, it became impossible for her to resist the demand of the people for education; when she could no longer retard liberty and prevent the recognition of individual rights; then she modestly demanded the right to do the teaching herself and to control its extent and scope.*
With a brain stultified by faith* she proposed to regulate investigations in which the habit of faith would necessarily prove fatal to the discovery of truth.*** She proposed to teach nothing but the dead languages and theology, and to confine knowledge to these fields, and she succeeded for many generations in so doing. Every time she found a man who had discovered something, or who had a theory he was trying to test by some little scientific investigations, she cried “heretic” and suppressed that man. She stuck to the dead languages, and the only thing she is not afraid of today is something dead. Any other kind of knowledge is a dangerous acquaintance for her to make. ****
If you meet a clergyman today who has devoted his time to the dead languages you need not be afraid that he is a heretic; but if he is studying the sciences, arts, literature, and history of the living world in earnest you can get your fagot ready. His orthodoxy is a dead doxy. It is only a question of time and bravery when he will swear off.*****
* See Appendix G, 1–4.
** See Appendix U.
*** See Clifford’s “Scientific Basis of Morals,” p. 25
**** See Morley’s “Diderot,” p. 190.
***** See Ibid, p. 126.
In the Church schools and “universities” today it is quite pathetic to hear the professors wrestle with geology and Genesis, and cut their astronomy to fit Joshua. If in one of these institutions for the petrifaction of the human mind there is a teacher who is either not nimble enough to escape the conclusions of a bright pupil or too honest to try, he is at once found to be “incompetent as an instructor,” and is dropped from the faculty. I know one case where it took twenty years to discover that a professor was not able to teach geology — and it took a heresy-hunter with a Bible to do it then.
But it is the claim of the Church in regard to the education of women with which I have to do here.
Women in Greece and Rome under Pagan rule had become learned and influential to an unparalleled degree.*
The early Fathers of the Church found women thirsty for knowledge and eager for opportunities to learn. They thereupon set about making it disreputable for a woman to know anything,** and in order to clinch their prohibition the Church asserted that woman was unable to learn, had not the mental capacity,*** was created without mental power and for purely physical purposes.
* See Lecky, Milman, Diderot, Morley, Christian, and others.
** “In the fourth century we find that holy men in council gravely argued the question, and that too with abundant confidence in their ability and power to decide the whole matter: ‘Ought women to be called human beings?’ A wise and pious father in the Church, after deliberating solemnly and long on the vexed question of women, finally concluded: ‘The female sex is not a fault in itself, but a fact in nature for which women themselves are not to blame;’ but he graciously cherished the opinion that women will be permitted to rise as men, at the resurrection. A few centuries later the masculine mind underwent great agitation over the question: ‘Would it be consistent with the duties and uses of women for them to learn the alphabet?’ And in America, after Bridget Gaffort had donated the first plot of ground for a public school, girls were still denied the advantages of such schools. The questions —‘Shall women be allowed to enter colleges?’ and ‘Shall they be admitted into the professions?’ have been as hotly contested as has been the question of their humanity.” — Gamble.
*** “There existed at the same time in this celebrated city a class of women, the glory of whose intellectual brilliancy still survives; and when Alcibiades drew around him the first philosophers and statesmen of Greece, ‘it was a virtue to applaud Aspasia;’ of whom it has been said that she lectured publicly on rhetoric and philosophy with such ability that Socrates and Alcibiades gathered wisdom from her lips, and so marked was her genius for statesmanship that Pericles afterward married her and allowed her to govern Athens, then at the height of its glory and power. Numerous examples might be cited in which Athenian women rendered material aid to the state.” — Gamble.
It was maintained that her “sphere” was clearly defined, and that it was purely and solely an animal one; and worst of all it was stoutly asserted that her greatest crime had always been a desire for wisdom, and that it was this desire which brought the penalty of labor and death into this world.*
With such a belief it is hardly strange that the education of girls was looked upon as a crime; and with such a record it is almost incredible effrontery that enables the Church today to claim credit for the education of women,** If she were to educate every woman living, free of charge, in every branch of known knowledge, she could not repay woman for what she has deprived her of in the past, or efface the indignity she has already offered.***
* See Morley’s “Diderot,” p. 76; Lea’s “Sacerdotal Celibacy;” Lecky’s “European Morals.”
** See Appendix H, 1 to 4.
*** Lecky, “European Morals,” p. 310.
A prominent clergyman of the Church of England, who was recently much honored in this country, lately said, in a sermon to women: “There are those who think a woman can be taught logic. This is a mistake. Men are logical, women are not.” He was too modest to give his proofs. It seemed to me strange that he did not mention the doctrines of the trinity and vicarious atonement, or a few of the miracles, as the result of logic in the masculine mind. And I could not help thinking at the time that a man whose mental furniture was chiefly composed of the thirty-nine articles and the Westminster Catechism would naturally be a profound authority on logic. An orthodox preacher talking about logic is a sight to arouse the compassion of a demon. Next to the natural sciences, logic can give the Church the colic quicker than any other kind of a green apple. And so it is not strange that the clergy should be afraid that it would disagree with the more delicate constitution of a woman. They always did maintain that any diet that was a trifle too heavy for them couldn’t be digested by anybody else; and they would be perfectly right in their supposition if intellectual dyspepsia or softening of the brain were contagious.
The “sphere” of no other creature is wholly determined and bounded by one physical characteristic or capacity. To every other creature is conceded without question the right to use more than one talent.
But the Fathers decided in holy and solemn council that it would be “unbecoming” for a woman to learn the alphabet, and that she could have no possible use for such information. They said that she would be a better mother without distracting her dear little brain with the a, b, c’s, and that therefore she should not learn them. They also decided that she who was so far lost to modesty as to become acquainted with the multiplication table “was an unfit associate for our wives and mothers.” There was something wrong with such a woman. She was either a “witch” or else she was “married to the devil.”
That is the way the Church encouraged education for women. This was done, the holy Fathers said, to “protect women from the awful temptations of life to which the Lord in his infinite wisdom had subjected man.” They had too much respect for their wives and mothers to permit them to come in contact with the wickedness of long division or cube root, and they hoped while life lasted that no man would be so negligent of duty as to allow his sister to soil her pure mind with conic sections.
Well, in time there were a few women brave enough, and a few men honorable and moral enough, to set aside the letter of this prohibition; but much of its spirit still blossoms in all its splendor in Columbia, Harvard, Yale, and various other institutions of learning, where women are either not permitted to enter at all or are required to learn and accomplish unaided that which it takes a large faculty of instructors and every known or obtainable educational device (together with future business stimulus) to enable the young men to do the same thing!
The Fathers said, in effect, “It was through woman wanting to know something that sin came into this world; therefore let her hereafter want to know nothing.” They taught that a desire for knowledge on the part of woman was the greatest crime ever committed on this earth, and that it so enraged God that he punished it by death and by every curse known to man. When it was pointed out that animals had lived and died on this earth long before man could have lived, they said that God knew Adam was going to live and Eve was going to sin, so he made death retroactive because Adam would represent all animals when he should be created!
All this was thought and done and taught in order to agree with the silly story of the “fall of man in the Garden of Eden,” which every one acquainted with the simple rudiments of science or the history of the races knows to be a childish legend of an undeveloped people. Instead of a “fall” from perfect beginnings, there has been and is a constant rise in the moral as well as in the mental and physical conditions of man. The type is higher, the race nobler and nearer perfection than it ever was before; and the stories of our Bible are the same as those of all other Bibles, simply the effort of ignorant or imaginative men to account for the origin and destiny of things of which they had no accurate knowledge.*
* One of the simplest and most interesting explanations of this latter point will be found in “The Childhood of Religions,” by Edward Clodd, F.R.A.S., where the Christian reader may be surprised to find that the “ten-commandment” idea (with a number of them which apply to general morals, as “Thou shalt not kill,” etc.) is not confined to our Bible, but is found also in the Buddhist Bible in the same form; that the “golden rule” was given by Confucius 500 years before Christ; and that Christianity, when taken as it should be with the other great religions and examined in the same way, presents no problem, no claim, and no proofs which are not found in equal strength in one or more of the other forms of faith. In the matters of morality, miracles, and power to attract and “comfort” multitudes of people, it ranks neither first nor last. It is simply one of several, and in no essential matter is it different from them.
St. Paul said, “If they [women] will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home;” and the colossal ignorance of most women would seem to indicate that they have obeyed the command to the letter. But fortunately for women the civilization of freedom has outgrown St. Paul as it has the dictates of the Church, and one by one the doors of information, and hence the doors to honest labor, have been opened, and the possibility of living with dignity and honor has replaced the forced degradation of the days when the power of the Church enabled it to reduce women to the animal existence it so long forced upon her.
So long as the Church allowed woman but one avenue of support, so long did it force her to use that single means of livelihood. So long as it made her believe that she could bring to this world nothing of value but her capacity to minister to the lower animal wants of man, so long did it force upon her that single alternative — or starvation.
So long as it is able to make multitudes of women believe themselves of value for but one purpose, just that long will it continue to insure the degradation of many of those women who are helpless, or weak, or loving, or ignorant of the motives of those in whose power they are. So long as it teaches woman that she can repay her debt to the world in but one way, so long will it promote commerce in vice and revenue in shame.
Every man is taught that he can repay his debt to this world in many ways. He has open to him many avenues of happiness, many paths to honorable employment. If he fails in one there is still hope. If he misses supreme happiness in marriage he has still left ambition, labor, study, fame; if the one failure overtakes him, no matter how sad, he still can turn aside and find, if not joy, at least occupation and rest.
But the Church has always taught woman that there is but one “sphere,” one hope, one occupation, one life for her. If she fails in that, what wonder that with broken hope comes broken virtue or despair? Every woman who has fallen or lost her way has been previously taught by the Church that she had and has but one resource; that there is open to her in life but one path; that whether that path be legally crooked or straight, she was created for but one purpose; that man is to decide for her what that purpose is; and that she must under no circumstances set her own judgment up against his.
The legitimate fruits of such an education are too horribly apparent to need explanation. Every fallen woman is a perpetual monument to the infamy of a religion and a social custom that narrow her life to the possibilities of but one function, and provide her no escape — a system that trains her to depend wholly on one physical characteristic of her being, and to neglect all else.
That system teaches her that her mind is to be of but slight use to her; that her hands may not learn the cunning of a trade nor her brain the bearings of a profession; that mentally she is nothing; and that physically she is worse than nothing only in so far as she may minister to one appetite. I hold that the most legitimate outcome of such an education is to be found in the class that makes merchandise of all that woman is taught that she possesses that is of worth to herself or to this world. No system could be more perfectly devised to accomplish this purpose.*
* See Lea’s “Sacerdotal Celibacy.”
We are told that women owe honorable marriage to Christianity;* that the more beautiful and tender relations of husband and wife find their root there; that Christianity protects and elevates the mother as no other law or religion ever has. Let us see.
* See Appendix I, 1–2.
On this subject I find in Maine’s “Ancient Law” these facts:
“Although women had been objects of barter and sale, according to barbaric usages, between their male relatives, the later Roman [Pagan] law having assumed, on the theory of Natural Law, the equality of the sexes, control of the person of women was quite obsolete when Christianity was born. Her situation had become one of great personal liberty and proprietary independence, even when married, and the arbitrary power over her of her male relations, or her guardian, was reduced to a nullity, while the form of marriage conferred on the husband no superiority.”
Thus as a daughter and as a wife had she grown to be honored and recognized as an equal under Pagan rule.
“But Christianity tended from the first to narrow this remarkable liberty. . . . The latest Roman [Pagan] law, so far as touched by the constitutions of the Christian emperors, bears marks of reaction against these great liberal doctrines.” — Maine.
And again began the sale of women. Christianity held her as unclean and in all respects inferior; and “during the era which begins modern history the women of dominant races are seen everywhere under various forms of archaic guardianship, and the husband pays a money price to her male relations for her. The prevalent state of religious sentiment may explain why it is that modern jurisprudence has absorbed among its rudiments much more than usual of those rules [archaic] concerning the position of women which belong peculiarly to an imperfect civilization.” — Ibid.
Thus it will be seen that from the first, and extending down to the present, the Church did all she could to cast woman back into the night of the race from which in a great measure she had been rescued through the ages when Natural Law and not “revelation” was the guide of man. The laws which the Church found liberal and just toward women it discarded, and it searched back in the ages of night for such as it saw fit to re-enact for her. Of this Maine says: “The husband now draws to himself the power which formerly belonged to his wife’s male relatives, the only difference being that he no longer pays anything for the privilege.”
As Christians grew economical wives came cheaper than formerly, and it became a dogma that wives were not worth much anyhow, and then, too, it enabled persons of limited means to have more of them. Of a somewhat later date Maine says: “At this point heavy disabilities begin to be imposed upon wives.”
That was to make marriage honorable and attractive, no doubt, and, says Maine: “It was very long before the subordination entailed on women by marriage was sensibly diminished.” And what diminution it received came from men who fought against Church law.*
See Lecky, Maine, Lea, Milman, Christian, Blackstone, Morley, and others for ample proof of this fact
It was only the crumbs of liberty, honor, and justice extorted by men who fought the Church on behalf of wives, that lightened their most oppressive burdens. It was true then, and it is true today, that women owe what justice and freedom and power they possess to the fact that the best and clearest-headed men are more honorable than our religion, and that they have invited Moses and St. Paul to take a back seat Moses has complied, and St. Paul is half-way down the aisle.
Some of the clergy now explain that although Paul may have written certain things inimical to women, he did not mean them, so it is all right. Such passages as 1 Cor. xi. 3–9; xiv. 34–35; and Eph. v. 22–24, are now explained to be intended in a purely Pickwickian sense; and a Rev. Mr. Boyd, of St. Louis, has even gone so far as to produce the doughty apostle before a woman-suffrage society, as on their side of that argument. This second conversion of St. Paul impresses one as even more remarkable than his first. It took an “angel of God” to show him the error of his ways in Ephesus, but one little Baptist preacher did it this time — all by himself. Truly St. Paul is getting easier to deal with than he used to be.
But to resume, Maine, in tracing the amalgamation of the later Roman (Pagan) law with the archaic laws of a lower civilization (the result of which was Christian law), shows that the Church, while it chose the Roman laws, which had arrived at so high a state, for others, retained for women, and particularly for wives, the least favorable of the Roman, eked out with the archaic Patria Potestas and the more degrading provisions of the earlier civilizations. Maine reluctantly says that the jurisconsults of the day contended for better laws for wives, but that the Church prevailed in most instances, and established the more oppressive ones.
With certain of these laws — the worst ones — I cannot deal here for obvious reasons; but a few of them I may be permitted to give without offence to the modesty of any one.
Blackstone says: “By marriage the husband and wife are one person in law; that is, the very being or legal existence of the woman is suspended during the marriage, or at least is incorporated and consolidated into that of the husband. The husband becomes her baron or lord — she his servant. Upon this principle of the union of person in husband and wife depend almost all the legal rights, duties, and disabilities they acquire by marriage.”
That is to say the husband acquires all the rights, and the wife all the disabilities; and the Church wishing to be fair has made the latter as many as possible.
“And therefore,” continues Blackstone, “it is also generally true, that all compacts made between husband and wife, when single, are voided by the intermarriage.” The working of this principle has been so often illustrated as to render comment unnecessary. A wife retains no rights which her husband is bound to respect, no matter how solemn the compact before marriage, nor what her belief in its strength might have been.
Fortunately for women, happily for wives, men are more decent than their religion; and the law of custom and public opinion has largely outgrown this enactment of the Church, made when she had the power to thus degrade women and brutalize men.
“If the wife be injured in her person or her property she can bring no action for redress without her husband’s concurrence and in his name,” and on the basis of loss of her services to him as a servant. “But in criminal prosecutions, it is true, the wife may be indicted and punished separately.” *
In the case of punishment the Church was entirely willing to give the devil his due. It had no ambition to deprive women of any indictments and punishments that were to be had. In this case, although the husband and wife were one, she was that one. Where privileges or property-rights were to be considered, he was the “one.” Such grand reversible doctrines were always on tap with the clergy, and their barrel was always full. Truly, wives do owe much to the Church.
Some of the provisions of these laws have, of late years, been modified by the efforts of men who were pronounced “infidels, destroyers of the Bible, the home, and the dignity of women,” aided by women whom the orthodox deride as “strong — minded, ill-balanced, coarse, impious,” etc., etc., ad infinitum, ad nauseam. A strong mind, whether in man or woman, has always been to the clergy as a red rag to a bull.
“A woman may make a will, with the assent of her husband, by way of appointment of her personal property. She cannot even with his consent devise lands. . . . Although our law in general considers a man and wife as one person, yet there are some instances where she is considered separately as his inferior,” and for that trip only.
As I remarked before when it comes to penalties she is welcome to the whole lot.
“She may not make a deed.”
“A man may administer moderate correction to his wife.”
“These are the chief legal effects of marriage. Even the disabilities of the wife,” Blackstone naively remarks, “are for the most part intended for her protection; so great a favorite is the female sex of the laws of England!”
I should think that if this latter point were not quite clear to a woman, “moderate correction” might convince her that she was quite an unreasonable favorite — beyond her most eager desires. Where the Pagan law recognized her as the equal of her husband, the Church discarded that law, and based the Canon Law upon an archaic invention.
Where Maine speaks of the later growth of Pagan law and of Christian influence upon it, he says: “But the chapter of law relating to married women was for the most part read by the light, not of Roman [or Pagan] but of Canon [or Church] Law, which in no one particular departs so widely from the [improved] spirit of the secular jurisprudence as in the view it takes of the relations created by marriage. This was in part inevitable, since no society which possesses any tincture of Christian institutions is likely to restore to married women the personal liberty conferred on them by the middle Roman law.”
Women who support the clergy with one hand, and hold out the other for the ballot; who one day express indignation at the refusal to them of human recognition, and the next day intone the creeds, will have to learn that there is nothing which has so successfully stood, and still so powerfully stands, in the way of the individual liberty, human rights, and dignity of wives, as the Church which they support.
Blackstone says: “In times of popery a great variety of impediments to marriage were made, which impediments might, however, be bought off with money.”
You could, for instance, buy a more distant relationship to your future wife for so much cash down to the Church. If your inamorata were your first cousin, you could remove her several degrees with five hundred dollars, and make her no relation at all for a little more. Such little sleight-of-hand performances are as nothing to a well-trained clergyman. Slip a check into one hand, and a request to marry your aunt into the other, let a clergyman shake them up in the coffers of the Church, and when one comes out gold, the other will appear as a blushing bride not even related to her own father, and not more than third cousin to herself.
Of the claim made by the early Christian Fathers, that it was because of the mental inferiority and incapacity of women that the more unjust and binding laws were enacted for them, thus doing all they could to create and intensify by law the incapacity which they asserted was imposed by God, Maine says: “But the proprietary disabilities of married females stand on quite a different basis from personal incapacity, and it is by the tendency of their doctrines to keep alive and consolidate the former, that the expositors of the Canon Law have deeply injured civilization.”
He adds that there are many evidences of a struggle between secular principles in favor of justice for wives, and ecclesiastical principles against it, “but the Canon Law nearly everywhere prevailed. The systems which are least indulgent to married women are invariably those which have followed the Canon Law exclusively. . . . It enforced the complete legal subjection of wives.”
Lecky says: “Fierce invectives against the sex form a conspicuous and grotesque portion of the writings of the Fathers. Woman was represented as the door of hell, as the mother of all human ills. She should be ashamed at the very thought that she is a woman. . . . Women were even forbidden, in the sixth century, on account of their impurity, to receive the Eucharist into their naked hands. Their essentially subordinate position was continually maintained. This teaching in part determined the principles of legislation concerning the sex.* The Pagan laws during the empire had been continually repealing the old disabilities of women, and the legislative movement in their favor continued with unabated force from Constantine to Justinian, and appeared also in some of the early laws of the barbarians. But in the whole feudal [Christian] legislation women were placed in a much lower legal position than in the Pagan empire.”
* See Appendix J.
And he adds that the French revolutionists (the infidel party) established better laws for women, “and initiated a great reformation of both law and opinion, which sooner or later must traverse the world.” And these reformations, being in Christendom, will be calmly claimed in the future, as in the present, as due to the beneficent influence of the Church. The Church always belongs to the conservative party, but after a good thing is established in despite of her, she says: “Just see what I have done! ‘See what a good boy am I!”’
Not many years ago a few great-souled men who were “heretics” got a glimpse of a principle which has electrified the world. They said that individual liberty is a universal right; they maintained that humanity is a unit, with interests and aims indivisible, and that liberty to use to the utmost advantage all natural abilities cannot be denied one-half of the race without crippling both. A few even went so far as to suggest that the assumption of the inferiority of women, and the imposition of disabilities upon them, under the claim of divine authority, is the greatest crime in the great calendar of crime for which the Church has yet to render a reckoning to humanity.
To one who reads the history of Canon Law, it is not strange that Christian Judges still decide that women are “incompetent to practice law,” and that they should not be allowed to study it. A woman well versed in the history of ancient and modern law might easily be an uncomfortable advocate for such a judge to face. He would probably feel the need of an umbrella.
It is not strange that Columbia College, with its corps of clergymen, “fails to see the propriety” of opening its doors to women. The few clergymen who have for some little time past taken the side of fair-play in this and like matters have simply deserted their colors and come over to the side they are worldly-wise enough to see is to be the side of the future. When it comes to diplomacy the Church is always on deck in time to gather in the spoils; but she stays safely below during the engagement, and simply holds back and anchors firm until she sees which way it is likely to end.
The moment there is an understanding on the part of women of what they owe to Church Law, that moment will educational clerical monopolists, such as the champion anchor of Columbia, be compelled to earn an honest living in some honest business pertaining to this world. It will be a great day for women when they refuse to longer support these pretenders to divine knowledge, who are willing, at so much a head, to tell what they do not know at the expense of the pale, tired needlewoman, who is in want of almost every comfort that money can buy in this world, together with the surplus gold of the fashionable devotees who minister to the vanity of the clergy, and give to the coffers of the Church that which would save thousands of young girls from degradation and crime, and put the roses of health on the cheek of innocence.
Every dollar that is paid to support the Church is paid to degrade a woman. Every collection that is made to spread “revelation” is used to suppress enlightenment and retard civilization. Every dollar that is invested in “another world” is a dollar diverted from useful purposes in this. Every hour that is spent mooning about “heaven” is that much time taken from needed labor here.
If our energies were wanted in another world we should most likely be in another world. Since we are in this one it is a pretty strong hint that we are expected to attend to business right here. We can’t do justice to two worlds at the same time; and since we are assured that we shall have the whole of eternity to arrange matters in the next one, it leaves very little time by comparison to devote to our duties in this.
There we are to have nothing to do but sing and be happy — twang a harp and smile.
Here we have pain to alleviate, ignorance to dispel, innocence to protect, disease to master, and crime to restrain and prevent. Here we have the helpless to shield and guard and protect. Here we have homes to make happy, the hearts of husbands and wives to make glad, the light of love and trust to kindle in the eyes of children. Here is old age to cheer and console. Here are orphans to educate and protect, widows to comfort, and oppression to uproot.
There — nothing to do but look after yourself and manage your harp; nobody to help — all will be perfect; nothing to learn — all will be wise; no hearts to cheer — all will be happy. All that a mother will have to do if she gets a little tired practicing on her lyre and feels gloomy will be to just take a good look over the wall, and photograph on her eyes the picture of her husband and children freshly dipped in oil and put on the griddle, and she will come back to business perfectly satisfied, take up her song where she left off, and praise the Lamb for his infinite mercy. All eternity to learn how to fly round in a robe and keep time with the orchestra! Why a deaf man could learn to do that in fifty or sixty years, and then have all the rest of the time to spare.
We are here such a little while, there is so much to learn, there is so much to do, there is so much to undo, that no man can afford to waste his time on an infinite future of time, space, and leisure. Men cannot afford to lose your best energies. “God” can get on very well without them. Time is short, and needs are pressing; and this thing you know — you can keep busy doing good right here. If there is a hereafter, could there be a better preparation for it than that?
After all that has preceded this page I need hardly do more with this count of the last claim of “Theological Fiction” than simply say, if the Bible is woman’s best friend, then the clergy, without authority and in violation of the precepts of their own guide, have been her worst enemy, either through malice or ignorance; in either of which cases they are and have always been unfit to dictate, to lead opinion, or to receive a following as reliable guides for this world or the next.
If they have been so ignorant or so malicious for nearly nineteen hundred years as to thus systematically misconstrue their own authority — their own “revelation”— to the constant disadvantage of women (and the consequent enfeeblement of the race), surely they can claim no respect for their opinions and no confidence in their divine calling.* In trying to shield the Bible the clergy simply convict themselves.**
* See Appendix K.
** See Appendix L.
But I incline to the opinion that in the main this view of the case is unfair to the clergy, and that they have followed, in spirit if not literally, the dictates of the Bible as a whole. It is undoubtedly true that the Bible throughout holds woman as an inferior in both mental and moral characteristics; and upon this understanding of it the Fathers built the Church and crystallized the laws.
The Fathers of the Church were as a rule a bad lot themselves. All contemporaneous history and all internal evidence prove this fact: and when we remember that the “Prophets” were almost to a man polygamists; that their belief and practices in this regard were of the order and type of Mormondom today, and for the same reasons; that they were slave-holders and slave-stealers; that they believed in a God of infinite cruelty and revenge — of arbitrary will and reasonless barbarity; and that they were licentious and brutal beyond description; it will be easy to understand the position which such men — with these beliefs, practices, mentality, and moral degradation — would accord to women. Every Bible of every people; every history of every race showing like civilization, will show you like results.*
* See Appendix M.
In the New Testament we find an effort to readjust old clothes to a new body, some of whose members had grown better and some worse in dogma and belief. Where women are especially dealt with we find them commanded to “be under obedience,” and always to subject their wills to the ways and wills of men; while the general tone and treatment are always based upon the assumption that she is an inferior, a secondary creation, and a subject class.*
That this is the understanding of the Bible always recognized by the Church (and today questioned by only a very small minority who are shrewd enough to see the necessity of revamping it to fit the new public morality and civilization), all history attests; but the vehemence with which the doctrine has been asserted the foregoing pages can only faintly indicate. **
But certainly, if for thousands of years the clergy have, as a body, misconstrued or misunderstood the spirit of their own book (to which they have always claimed to possess the only key), they should not blame those who today take issue with them upon their information, their dictates, their basis of morality, or their interpretations of the rights of humanity.
If, as they claim today, the Bible is the friend of women and no respecter of persons, a conclusion which it took them hundreds of years to reach, it has taken them too long to discover the fact for their guidance to be either a desirable or a safe one for humanity; and the millions of women they have degraded and oppressed in the past are certainly not an argument in favor of their infallibility now. ***
* See Appendix N.
** See Appendix O.
*** See Appendix P.
Let them give way to men who, claiming no right to divine authority or superhuman wisdom, speak in the interest of all humanity the best they know (always acknowledged to be subject to revision for the better); who are not bound back and retarded by the outgrown toggery of the Jewish civilization of David and his time or the Christian dictatorship of Paul.* Acknowledging themselves as false and oppressive interpreters of divine law for centuries past is but a poor recommendation of their ability or integrity for the future.
* See Appendix Q.
Whichever horn of the dilemma they accept, there is but one honorable course for the clergy to pursue, and that is to resign in favor of those who have all along been on the right track, without a pretence of divine guidance; who in despite of faith and fagot have made progress possible.
* See Appendices T and V.
After my lecture on Men, Women, and Gods, in Chicago, I was asked how it would be possible to train children to be good without a belief in the divinity of the Bible; how they could be made to know it is wrong to be and steal and kill.
The belief that the Bible is the originator of these and like moral ideas, or that Christ was their first teacher, is far from the truth; and it is only another evidence of the duplicity or ignorance of the Church that such a belief obtains or that such a falsehood is systematically taught.
It is too easily forgotten that morals are universal, that Christianity is local. Practical moral ideas grow up very early, and develop with the development of a race. They are the response to the needs of a people, and when formulated have in several cases taken the shape of “commandments” from some unseen power. These necessary practical laws are by degrees attached to those of imaginary value, and all alike are held in esteem as of equal moral worth. By this means a ficticious standard of right and wrong becomes established, and a weakening of confidence in the valueless part results in damage to that portion which was originally the result of wise and necessary legislation.*
When children (of whatever age) do this or that “because God said so,” the precepts taught on this basis, even though they are good, will have no hold upon the man who discovers that their origin was purely human. It is a dangerous experiment, and depends wholly upon ignorance for its success. A firm basis of reason in this world is the only solid foundation of moral training.
My Chicago questioner proceeded upon the hypothesis that what of valuable morals are contained in the Bible were a “revelation” to one people, and that their value was dependent upon this origin. For the benefit of those who have been similarly* imposed upon, I will cite a few facts in as short space as possible.
* “Durable morality had been associated with a transitory religious faith. The faith fell into intellectual discredit, and sexual morality shared its decline for a short season. This must always be the natural consequence of building sound ethics on the shifting sands and rotting foundations of theology. It is one of those enormous drawbacks that people seldom take into account when they are enumerating the blessings of superstition.” — Morley’s “Diderot,” p. 71.
** Professor Max Muller says that “the consciousness of sin is a leading feature in the religion of the Veda, so is likewise the belief that the gods are able to take away from man the heavy burden of his sins.”
Brahmanism, with its two hundred millions of believers, and its Rig–Veda (Bible) composed two thousand four hundred years before Christ, has its rigid code of morals; its theory of creation; its teachings about sin; its revelations; its belief in the ability of the gods to forgive;** its belief that its bible came from God; and its devotees who believe that an infinite God is pleased with the toys of worship, praise, and adulation of man. It has its prayers and hymns, its offerings and sacrifices. Corresponding with our “Trinity” idea the Brahmin has his three great gods; and in place of our “angels” he has his infinite number of little ones.*
Next, Zoroastrianism, certainly twelve hundred years older than Christ, has its legends (quite as authentic as our own) of miracles performed by its founder and his followers; its Zend–Avesta (Bible); its “Supreme Spirit;” its belief in gods and demons who interfere with affairs in this world and who are ever at war with each other; its sacred fires; its Lord; its praise; and its pretence to direct communication in the past with spirits and with gods who gave their Prophet “commandments.”** It lacks none of the paraphernalia of a “divine institution” ready for business, and we are unable to discount it in either loaves or fishes. It also has its heaven and hell;*** its Messiah or Prophet; its arch fiend or devil; its rites and ceremonies.
* See Edward Clodd, F.R.A.S., “Childhood of Religions.”
** “In the Gathas or oldest part of the Zend–Avesta, which contains the leading doctrines of Zoroaster, he asks Ormuzd [God] for truth and guidance, and desires to know what he shall do. He is told to be pure in thought, word, and deed; to be temperate, chaste, and truthful; to offer prayer to Ormuzd and the powers that fight with him; to destroy all hurtful things; and to do all that will increase the well-being of mankind. Men were not to cringe before the powers of darkness as slaves crouch before a tyrant, they were to meet them upstanding, and confound them by unending opposition and the power of a holy life. ‘Oh men, if you cling to these commandments which Mazda has given, which are a torment to the wicked and a blessing to the righteous, then there will be victory through them.’” — Max Muller.
*** “In this old faith there was a belief in two abodes for the departed: heaven, the ‘house of the angels’ hymns,’ and hell, where the wicked were sent. Between the two there was a bridge.” — Ibid.
Professor Max Muller remarks: “There were periods in the history of the world when the worship of Ormuzd threatened to rise triumphant on the ruins of the temples of all other gods. If the battles of Marathon and Salamis had been lost and Greece had succumbed to Persia, the state religion of the empire of Cyrus, which was the worship of Ormuzd, might have become the religion of the whole civilized world.”
In which case my Chicago friend would have asked, “If you destroy a belief in Ormuzd, and that he gave the only supernatural moral law to Zoroaster, how will children ever be taught what is right and what is wrong, and how can they ever know that it is not right to lie and kill and steal?”
“Their creed is of the simplest kind; it is to fear God, to live a life of pure thoughts, pure words, pure deeds, and to die in the hope of a world to come. It is the creed of those who have lived nearest to God and served him faithfullest in every age, and wherever they dwell who accept it and practice it, they bear witness to that which makes them children of God and brethren of the prophets, among whom Zoroaster was not the least. The Jews were carried away as captives to Babylon some 600 years before Christ, and during the seventy years of their exile there, they came into contact with the Persian religion and derived from it ideas about the immortality of the soul, which their own religion did not contain. They also borrowed from it their belief in a multitude of angels, and in Satan as the ruler over evil spirits.” [So you see that even our devil is a borrowed one, and it now seems to be about time to return him with thanks. ] “The ease with which man believes in unearthly powers working for his hurt prepares a people to admit into its creed the doctrine of evil spirits, and although it is certain that the Jews had no belief in such spirits before their captivity in Babylon, they spoke of Satan (which means an adversary) as a messenger sent from God to watch the deeds of men and accuse them to Him for their wrong-doing. Satan thus becoming by degrees an object of dread, upon whom all the evil which befell man was charged, the minds of the Jews were ripe for accepting the Persian doctrine of Ahriman with his legions of devils. Ahriman became the Jewish Satan, a belief in whom formed part of early Christian doctrine, and is now but slowly dying out. What fearful ills it has caused, history has many a page to tell. The doctrine that Satan, once an angel of light, had been cast from heaven for rebellion against God, and had ever since played havoc among mankind, gave rise to the belief that he and his demons could possess the souls of men and animals at pleasure. Hence grew the belief in wizards and witches, under which millions of creatures, both young and old, were cruelly tortured and put to death. We turn over the smeared pages of this history in haste, thankful that from such a nightmare the world has wakened.” *
The world has awakened, but the Church still snores on, confident and happy in the belief that she has a devil all her own, and that he is attending strictly to business.
Next we have Buddhism, which numbers more followers than any other faith. It is five hundred years older than Christianity. It has its prophet or Messiah who was exposed to a tempter,** and overcame all evil; its fastings and prayers; its miracles and its visions. Of Buddha’s teachings Prof. Max Muller tells us that he used to say, “Nothing on earth is stable, nothing is real. Life is as transitory as a spark of fire, or the sound of a lyre. There must be some supreme intelligence where we could find rest. If I attained it I could bring light to men. If I were free myself I could deliver the world.”
** “Afterward the tempter sent his three daughters, one a winning girl, one a blooming virgin, and one a middle-aged beauty, to allure him, but they could not. Buddha was proof against all the demon’s arts, and his only trouble was whether it were well or not to preach his doctrines to men. Feeling how hard to gain was that which he had gained, and how enslaved men were by their passions so that they might neither listen to him nor understand him, he had well-nigh resolved to be silent, but, at the last, deep compassion for all beings made him resolve to tell his secret to mankind, that they too might be free, and he thus became the founder of the most popular religion of ancient or modern times. The spot where Buddha obtained his knowledge became one of the most sacred places in India.” — Clodd.
Buddha, like Christ, wrote nothing, and the doctrines of the new religion were fixed and written by his disciples after his death. Councils were held afterwards to correct errors and send out missionaries. You will see, therefore, that even “revisions” are not a product of Christianity, and that “revelations” have always been subject to reform to fit the times.*
* “Two other councils were afterward held for the correction of errors that had crept into the faith, and for sending missionaries into other lands. The last of these councils is said to have been held 251 years before Christ, so that long before Christianity was founded we have this great religion with its sacred traditions of Buddha’s words, its councils and its missions, besides, as we shall presently see, many things strangely like the rites of the Roman Catholic Church.”— Clodd.
I will here give a few of the wise or kind or moral commands of Buddha. If the first were followed in Christian countries we should be a more moral and a less superstitious people than we are today.
“Buddha said: ‘The succoring of mother and father, the cherishing of child and wife, and the following of a lawful calling, this is the greatest blessing.’
“‘The giving alms, a religious life, aid rendered to relations, blameless acts, this, is the greatest blessing.’
“‘The abstaining from sins and the avoiding them, the eschewing of intoxicating drink, diligence in good deeds, reverence and humility, contentment and gratefulness, this is the greatest blessing.’
“‘Those who having done these things, become invincible on all sides, attain happiness on all sides. This is the greatest blessing.’
“‘He who lives a hundred years, vicious and unrestrained, a life of one day is better if a man is virtuous and reflecting.’
“‘Let no man think lightly of evil, saying in his heart, it will not come near unto me. Even by the falling of water-drops a water-pot is filled; the fool becomes full of evil if he gathers it little by little.’
“‘Not to commit any sin, to do good, and to purify one’s mind, that is the teaching of the Awakened.’ (This is one of the most solemn verses among the Buddhists).
“‘Let us live happily then, not hating those who hate us! Let us dwell free from hatred among men who hate!’
“After these doctrines there follow ten commandments, of which the first five apply to all people, and the rest chiefly to such as set themselves apart for a religious life. They are: not to kill; not to steal; not to commit adultery; not to lie; not to get drunk; to abstain from late meals; from public amusements; from expensive dress; from large beds; and to accept neither gold nor silver.” *
Keep in mind that Buddha lived more than 500 years before Christ.
“The success of Buddhism was in this: It was a protest against the powers of the priests; it to a large degree broke down caste by declaring that all men are equal, and by allowing any one desiring to live a holy life to become a priest. It abolished sacrifices; made it the duty of all men to honor their parents and care for their children, to be kind to the sick and poor and sorrowing, and to forgive their enemies and return good for evil; it spread a spirit of charity abroad which encompassed the lowest life as well as the highest.” **
With these before him will a Christian suppose that morals are dependent upon our Bible?
Of Confucianism, believed by millions to be essential to their salvation, and one of the three state religions of China, Clodd says: “On the soil of this great country there is crowded nearly half the human race, the most orderly people on the globe. This man (Confucius), who was reviled in life, but whose influence sways the hundreds of millions of China, was born 551 years before Christ. His nature was so beautifully simple and sincere that he would not pretend to knowledge of that which he felt was beyond human reach and thought.”
What an earthquake there would be if our clergymen where only to become inoculated with that sort of simple sincerity I His disciples and followers did that for him as has been done in most other cases.
“The sacred books of China are called the Kings, and are five in number, containing treatises on morals, books of rites, poems, and history. They are of great age, perhaps as old as the earliest hymns of the Rig–Veda, and are free from any impure thoughts. [Which is much more than can be said of our own sacred books, which are not so old.] In the Book of Poetry are three hundred pieces, but the design of them all may be embraced in that one sentence, ‘Have no depraved thoughts.’
“At the time when Confucius lived, China was divided into a number of petty kingdoms whose rulers were ever quarrelling, and although he became engaged in various public situations of trust, the disorder of the State at last caused him to resign them, and he retired to another part of the country. He then continued the life of a public teacher, instructing men in the simple moral truths by which he sought to govern his own life. The purity of that life, and the example of veneration for the old laws which he set, gathered round him many grave and thoughtful men, who worked with him for the common good.”
Confucius said among other wise and moral things: “Coarse rice for food, water to drink, the bended arm for a pillow — happiness may be enjoyed even with these; but without virtue, both riches and honor seem to me like the passing cloud. . . . Our passions shut up the door of our souls against God.”
What we are pleased to call “the golden rule,” and to look upon as purely Christian, he gave in these words 500 years before Christ was born: “Tsze-kung said, ‘What I do not wish men to do to me, I also wish not to do to men.’ The Master said, ‘You have not attained to that.’
“Such is the power of words, that those uttered by this intensely earnest man, whose work was ended only by death, have kept alive throughout the vast empire of China a reverence for the past and a sense of duty to the present which have made the Chinese the most orderly and moral people in the world.”
So much for the great religions that are older than our own and could not have borrowed from us. So much for the moral sentiments of the peoples who developed them, and who live and die happy with them today. It leaves only a small part of this globe and a comparatively small number of its inhabitants who believe in and are guided by the Bible, or by the morality which has grown side-by-side with it.
But there is one other great religion which is of interest to us: *
* See Appendix R.
“And the value of Islam, the youngest of the great religions, is that we are able to see how its first simple form became overlaid with legend and foolish superstition, and thus learn how, in like manner, myth and fable have grown around more ancient religions [and around our own].
“For example; although Mohammed came into the world like other children, wonderful things are said to have taken place at his birth.
“He never claimed to be a perfect man; he did not pretend to foretell events or to work miracles.
“In spite of all this, his followers said of him, while he was yet living, that he worked wonders, and they believed the golden vision, hinted at in Koran, to have been a real event, although Mohammed said over and over again that it was but a dream.
“This religion is the guide in life and the support in death of one hundred and fifty millions of our fellow creatures; like Christianity, it has its missionaries scattered over the globe, and offers itself as a faith needed by all men.
“The success of Islam was great. Not one hundred years after the death of the prophet, it had converted half the then known world, and its green flag waved from China to Spain. Christianity gave way before it, and has never regained some of the ground then lost, while at this day we see Islam making marked progress in Africa and elsewhere. Travelers tell us that the gain is great when a tribe casts away its idols and embraces Islam. Filth and drunkenness flee away, and the state of the people is bettered in a high degree.”
“Muslims have not treated Christ as we have treated Mohammed, for the devout among them never utter his name without adding the touching words, ‘on whom be peace.’”
“Mohammed counseled men to live a good life, and to strive after the mercy of God by fasting, charity, and prayer, which he called ‘the key of paradise.’”
“He abolished the frightful practice of killing female children, and made the family tie more respected.”
He said: “A man’s true wealth hereafter is the good he has done in this world to his fellow-men. When he dies, people will ask, What property has he left behind him? But the angels will ask, What good deeds has he sent before him?” [Which is a doctrine wholesome and just, so for as it applies to this world, and inculcates the right sort of morals.]
“Mohammed commanded his followers to make no image of any living thing, to show mercy to the weak and orphaned, and kindness to brutes; to abstain from gambling, and the use of strong drink.
“The great truth which he strove to make real to them was that God is one, that, as the Koran says, ‘they surely are infidels who say that God is the third of three, for there is no God but one God.’”
He was the great original Unitarian.
“I should add that the wars of Islam did not leave waste and ruin in their path, but that the Arabs, when they came to Europe, alone held aloft the light of learning, and in the once famous schools of Spain, taught ‘philosophy, medicine, astronomy, and the golden art of song.’”
We cannot speak so well of the “holy wars” of Christianity.
In speaking of the men who wrote our Bible, Clodd says: “Nor is it easy to find in what they have said truths which, in one form or another, have not been stated by the writers of some of the sacred books into which we have dipped.”
I have quoted more fully than had been my intention simply to show the egotistic ignorance of the Christian’s claim to possess a religion or a Bible which differs, in any material regard, from several others which are older, and to indicate that moral ideas, precepts, and practices are the property of no special people, but are the inevitable result of continued life itself, and the evolution of civilizations however different in outward form and expression. They are the necessary results of human companionship and necessities, and not the fruits of any religion or the “revelation” from on high to any people. As William Kingdon Clifford, F. R. S., in his work on the “Scientific Basis of Morals,” very justly says:
“There is more than one moral sense, and what I feel to be right another man may feel to be wrong.
“In just the same way our question about the best conscience will resolve itself into a question about the purpose or function of the conscience — why we have got it, and what it is good for.
“Now to my mind the simplest and clearest and most profound philosophy that was ever written upon this subject is to be found in the 2d and 3d chapters of Mr. Darwin’s ‘Descent of Man.’ In these chapters it appears that just as most physical characteristics of organisms have been evolved and preserved because they were useful to the individual in the struggle for existence against other individuals and other species, so this particular feeling has been evolved and preserved because it is useful to the tribe or community in the struggle for existence against other tribes, and against the environment as a whole. The function of conscience is the preservation of the tribe as a tribe. And we shall rightly train our consciences if we learn to approve these actions which tend to the advantage of the community.
“The virtue of purity, for example, attains in this way a fairly exact definition: purity in a man is that course of conduct which makes him to be a good husband and father, in a woman that which makes her to be a good wife and mother, or which helps other people so to prepare and keep themselves. It is easy to see how many false ideas and pernicious precepts are swept away by even so simple a definition as that.”
In urging the necessity of a more substantial basis of morals than one built upon a theory of arbitrary dictation, he says: “The worship of a deity who is represented as unfair or unfriendly to any portion of the community is a wrong thing, however great may be the threats and promises by which it is commended. And still worse, the reference of right and wrong to his arbitrary will as a standard, the diversion of the allegiance of the moral sense from the community to him, is the most insidious and fatal of social diseases. . . . If I let myself believe anything on insufficient evidence, there may be no great harm done by the mere belief; it may be true after all, or I may never have occasion to exhibit it in outward acts. But I cannot help doing this great wrong toward Man, that I make myself credulous. The danger to society is not merely that it should believe wrong things, though that is great enough; but that it should become credulous, and lose the habit of testing things and inquiring into them; for then it must sink back into savagery.
“The harm which is done by credulity in a man is not confined to the fostering of a credulous character in others, and consequent support of false beliefs. Habitual want of care about what I believe leads to habitual want of care in others about the truth of what is told to me. Men speak the truth to one another when each reveres the truth in his own mind and in the other’s mind; but how shall my friend revere the truth in my mind when I myself am careless about it, when I believe things because I want to believe them, and because they are comforting and pleasant? Will he not learn to cry, ‘Peace,’ to me, when there is no peace? By such a course I shall surround myself with a thick atmosphere of falsehood and fraud, and in that I must live. It may matter little to me, in my cloud-castle of sweet illusions and darling lies; but it matters much to Man that I have made my neighbors ready to deceive. The credulous man is father to the liar. . . .
“We all suffer severely enough from the maintenance and support of false beliefs and the fatally wrong actions which they lead to; and the evil born when one such belief is entertained is great and wide. But a greater and wider evil arises when the credulous character is maintained and supported, when a habit of believing for unworthy reasons is fostered and made permanent. . . .
“The fact that believers have found joy and peace in believing gives us the right to say that the doctrine is a comfortable doctrine, and pleasant to the soul; but it does not give us the right to say that it is true. . . .
“And the question which our conscience is always asking about that which we are tempted to believe is not, ‘Is it comfortable and pleasant?’ but, ‘Is it true?’”
The sooner moral actions and the necessity of clean, helpful, and charitable living are put upon a basis more solid and permanent than theology the better will it be for civilization; and if this chapter shall, by its light style, attract the attention of those who are too busy, or are disinclined for any reason whatsoever, to collect from more profound works the facts here given, I shall be satisfied with the result, because I shall have done something toward the triumph of fact over fiction.
We cannot repeat too often nor emphasize too strongly this one simple fact, that we need all our energy and time to make this world fit to live in; to make homes where mothers are happy and children are glad — homes where fathers hasten when their work is done, and are welcomed with a shout of joy.
The toilers who wend up the hillside,
The toilers below in the mill
Alike are the victims of priestcraft,
They “do but the Master’s will.”
The Master’s will! ah the cunning,
The bitterly cruel device,
To wring from the lowly and burdened
Submission at any price!
Submission to tyrants in Russia —
Submission to tyrants in Rome;
The throne and the altar have ever
Combined to despoil the home,
But the home is the heaven to live for,
And Love is the God sublime
Who paints in tints of glory,
Upon the wings of Time
This legend, grand and simple,
And true as eternal Right —
“No Justice e’er came from Jury,
Whose verdict was based on might!”
As high above earth as is heaven;
As high as the stars above
The Church, the chapel, the altar;
Is the home whose God is Love.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:50