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University of Adelaide
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Ladies and Gentlemen: Man advances just in the proportion that he mingles his thoughts with his labor — just in the proportion that he takes advantage of the forces of nature; just in proportion as he loses superstition and gains confidence in himself. Man advances as he ceases to fear the gods and learns to love his fellow-men. It is all, in my judgment, a question of intellectual development. Tell me the religion of any man and I will tell you the degree he marks on the intellectual thermometer of the world. It is a simple question of brain. Those among us who are the nearest barbarism have a barbarian religion. Those who are nearest civilization have the least superstition. It is, I say, a simple question of brain, and I want, in the first place, to lay the foundation to prove that assertion.
A little while ago I saw models of nearly everything that man has made. I saw models of all the water craft, from the rude dug-out in which floated a naked savage — one of our ancestors — a naked savage, with teeth twice as long as his forehead was high, with a spoonful of brains in the back of his orthodox head — I saw models of all the water craft of the world, from that dug-out up to a man-of-war that carries a hundred guns and miles of canvas; from that dug-out to the steamship that turns its brave prow from the port of New York with a compass like a conscience, crossing three thousand miles of billows without missing a throb or beat of its mighty iron heart from shore to shore. And I saw at the same time the paintings of the world, from the rude daub of yellow mud to the landscapes that enrich palaces and adorn houses of what were once called the common people. I saw also their sculpture, from the rude god with four legs, a half dozen arms, several noses, and two or three rows of ears, and one little, contemptible, brainless head, up to the figures of today — to the marbles that genius has clad in such a personality that it seems almost impudent to touch them without an introduction. I saw their books — books written upon the skins of wild beasts — upon shoulder-blades of sheep — books written upon leaves, upon bark, up to the splendid volumes that enrich the libraries of our day. When I speak of libraries I think of the remark of Plato: “A house that has a library in it has a soul.”
I saw at the same time the offensive weapons that man has made, from a club, such as was grasped by that same savage when he crawled from his den in the ground and hunted a snake for his dinner; from that club to the boomerang, to the sword, to the cross-bow, to the blunderbuss, to the flintlock, to the caplock, to the needle-gun, up to a cannon cast by Krupp, capable of hurling a ball weighing two thousand pounds through eighteen inches of solid steel. I saw too, the armor from the shell of a turtle that one of our brave ancestors lashed upon his breast when he went to fight for his country, the skin of a porcupine, dried with the quills on, which this same savage pulled over his orthodox head, up to the shirts of mail that were worn in the middle ages, that laughed at the edge of the sword and defied the point of the spear; up to a monitor clad in complete steel. And I say orthodox not only in the matter of religion, but in everything. Whoever has quit growing, he is orthodox, whether in art, politics, religion, philosophy — no matter what. Whoever thinks he has found it all out he is orthodox. Orthodoxy is that which rots, and heresy is that which grows forever. Orthodoxy is the night of the past, full of the darkness of superstition, and heresy is the eternal coming day, the light of which strikes the grand foreheads of the intellectual pioneers of the world. I saw their implements of agriculture, from the plow made of a crooked stick, attached to the horn of an ox by some twisted straw, with which our ancestors scraped the earth, and from that to the agricultural implements of this generation, that make it possible for a man to cultivate the soil without being an ignoramus.
In the old time there was but one crop; and when the rain did not come in answer to the prayer of hypocrites a famine came and people fell upon their knees. At that time they were full of superstition. They were frightened all the time for fear that some god would be enraged at his poor, hapless, feeble and starving children. But now, instead of depending upon one crop they have several, and if there is not rain enough for one there may be enough for another. And if the frosts kill all, we have railroads and steamship — enough to bring what we need from some other part of the world. Since man has found out something about agriculture, the gods have retired from the business of producing famines.
I saw at the same time their musical instruments, from the tomtom — that is, a hoop with a couple of strings of rawhide drawn across it — from that tom-tom, up to the instruments we have today, that make the common air blossom with melody, and I said to myself there is a regular advancement. I saw at the same time a row of human skulls, from the lowest skull that has been found, the Neanderthal skull — skulls from Central Africa, skulls from the bushmen of Australia — skulls from the farthest isles of the Pacific Sea — up to the best skulls of the last generation — and I noticed that there was the same difference between those skulls that there was between the products of those skulls, and I said to myself: “After all, it is a simple question of intellectual development.” There was the same difference between those skulls, the lowest and highest skulls, that there was between the dug-out and the man-of-war and the steamship, between the club and the Krupp gun, between the yellow daub and the landscape, between the tom-tom and an opera by Verdi. The first and lowest skull in this row was the den in which crawled the base and meaner instincts of mankind, and the last was a temple in which dwelt joy, liberty and love. And I said to myself, it is all a question of intellectual development.
Man has advanced just as he has mingled his thought with his labor. As he has grown he has taken advantage of the forces of nature; first of the moving wind, then of the falling water and finally of steam. From one step to another he has obtained better houses, better clothes, and better books, and he has done it by holding out every incentive to the ingenious to produce them. The world has said, give us better clubs and guns and cannons with which to kill our fellow Christians. And whoever will give us better weapons and better music, and better houses to live in, we will robe him in wealth crown him in honor, and render his name deathless. Every incentive was held out to every human being to improve these things, and that is the reason we have advanced in all mechanical arts. But that gentleman in the dugout not only had his ideas about politics, mechanics, and agriculture; he had his ideas also about religion. His idea about politics was “Might makes right.” It will be thousands of years, may be, before mankind will believe in the saying that “right makes might.” He had his religion. That low skull was a devil factory. He believed in Hell, and the belief was a consolation to him. He could see the waves of God’s wrath dashing against the rocks of dark damnation. He could see tossing in the whitecaps the faces of women, and stretching above the crests the dimpled hands of children; and he regarded these things as the justice and mercy of God. And all today who believe in this eternal punishment are the barbarians of the nineteenth century. That man believed in a devil, that had a long tail terminating with a fiery dart; that had wings like a bat — a devil that had a cheerful habit of breathing brimstone, that had a cloven foot, such as some orthodox clergymen seem to think I have. And there has not been a patentable improvement made upon that devil in all the years since. The moment you drive the devil out of theology, there is nothing left worth speaking of. The moment they drop the devil, away goes atonement. The moment they kill the devil, their whole scheme of salvation has lost all of its interest for mankind. You must keep the devil and, you must keep Hell. You must keep the devil, because with no devil no priest is necessary. Now, all I ask is this — the same privilege to improve upon his religion as upon his dug-out, and that is what I am going to do, the best I can. No matter what church you belong to, or what church belongs to us. Let us be honor bright and fair.
I want to ask you: Suppose the king, if there was one, and the priest if there was one at that time, had told these gentlemen in the dug-out: “That dug-out is the best boat that can be built by man; the pattern of that came from on high, from the great God of storm and flood, and any man who says he can improve it by putting a stick in the middle of it and a rag on the stick, is an infidel, and shall be burned at the stake;” what, in your judgment — honor bright — would have been the effect upon the circumnavigation of the globe? Suppose the king, if there was one, and the priest, if there was one — and I presume there was a priest, because it was a very ignorant age — suppose the king and priest had said: “The tomtom is the most beautiful instrument of music of which any man can conceive; that is the kind of music they have in Heaven; an angel sitting upon the edge of a glorified cloud, golden in the setting sun, playing upon that tom-tom, became so enraptured, so entranced with her own music, that in a kind of ecstasy she dropped it — that is how we obtained it; and any man who says it can be improved by putting a back and front to it, and four strings, and a bridge, and getting a bow of hair with rosin, is a blaspheming wretch, and shall die the death,”— I ask you, what effect would that have had upon music? If that course had been pursued, would the human ears, in your judgment, ever have been enriched with the divine symphonies of Beethoven? Suppose the king, if there was one, and the priest, had said “That crooked stick is the best plow that can be invented, the pattern of that plow was given to a pious farmer in an exceedingly holy dream, and that twisted straw is the ne plus ultra of all twisted things, and any man who says he can make an improvement upon that plow, is an atheist;” what, in your judgment, would have been the effect upon the science of agriculture?
Now, all I ask is the same privilege to improve upon his religion as upon his mechanical arts. Why don’t we go back to that period to get the telegraph? Because they were barbarians. And shall we go to barbarians to get our religion? What is religion? Religion simply embraces the duty of man to man. Religion is simply the science of human duty and the duty of man to man — that is what it is. It is the highest science of all. And all other sciences are as nothing, except as they contribute to the happiness of man. The science of religion is the highest of all, embracing all others. And shall we go to the barbarians to learn the science of sciences? The nineteenth century knows more about religion than all the centuries dead. There is more real charity in the world today than ever before. There is more thought today than ever before. Woman is glorified today as she never was before in the history of the world. There are more happy families now than ever before — more children treated as though they were tender blossoms than as though they were brutes than in any other time or nation. Religion is simply the duty a man owes to man; and when you fall upon your knees and pray for something you know not of, you neither benefit the one you pray for nor yourself. One ounce of restitution is worth a million of repentances anywhere, and a man will get along faster by helping himself a minute than by praying ten years for somebody to help him. Suppose you were coming along the street, and found a party of men and women on their knees praying to a bank, and you asked them, “Have any of you borrowed any money of this bank?” “No, but our fathers, they, too, prayed to this bank.” “Did they ever get any?” “No, not that we ever heard of.” I would tell them to get up. It is easier to earn it, and it is far more manly.
Our fathers in the “good old times,”— and the best that I can say of the “good old times” is that they are gone, and the best I can say of the good old people that lived in them is that they are gone, too — believed that you made a man think your way by force. Well, you can’t do it. There is a splendid something in man that says: “I won’t; I won’t be driven.” But our fathers thought men could be driven. They tried it in the “good old times.” I used to read about the manner in which the early Christians made converts — how they impressed upon the world the idea that God loved them. I have read it, but it didn’t burn into my soul. I didn’t think much about it — I heard so much about being fried forever in Hell that it didn’t seem so bad to burn a few minutes. I love liberty and I hate all persecutions in the name of God. I never appreciated the infamies that have been committed in the name of religion until I saw the iron arguments that Christians used. I saw, for instance, the thumb-screw, two little innocent looking pieces of iron, armed with some little protuberances on the inner side to keep it from slipping down, and through each end a screw, and when some man had made some trifling remark, for instance, that he never believed that God made a fish swallow a man to keep him from drowning, or something like that, or, for instance, that he didn’t believe in baptism. You know that is very wrong. You can see for yourself the justice of damning a man if his parents happened to baptize him in the wrong way — God cannot afford to break a rule or two to save all the men in the world. I happened to be in the company of some Baptist ministers once — you may wonder how I happened to be in such company as that — and one of them asked me what I thought about baptism. Well, I told them I hadn’t thought much about it — that I had never sat up nights on that question. I said: “Baptism — with soap — is a good institution.” Now, when some man had said some trifling thing like that, they put this thumb-screw on him, and in the name of universal benevolence and for the love of God — man has never persecuted man for the love of man; man has never persecuted another for the love of charity — it is always for the love of something he calls God, and every man’s idea of God is his own idea. If there is an infinite God, and there may be — I don’t know — there may be a million for all I know — I hope there is more than one — one seems so lonesome. They kept turning this down, and when this was done, most men would say: “I will recant.” I think, I would. There is not much of the martyr about me. I would have told them: “Now you write it down, and I will sign it. You may have one God or a million, one Hell or a million. You stop that — I am tired.”
Do you know, sometimes I have thought that all the hypocrites in the world are not worth one drop of honest blood. I am sorry that any good man ever died for religion. I would rather let them advance a little easier. It is too bad to see a good man sacrificed for a lot of wild beasts and cattle. But there is now and then a man who would not swerve the breadth of a hair. There was now and then a sublime heart willing to die for an intellectual conviction, and had it not been for these men we would have been wild beasts and savages today. There were some men who would not take it back, and had it not been for a few such brave, heroic souls in every age we would have been cannibals, with pictures of wild beasts tattooed upon our breasts, dancing around some dried-snake fetish. And so they turned it down to the last thread of agony, and threw the victim into some dungeon, where, in the throbbing silence and darkness, he might suffer the agonies of the fabled damned. This was done in the name of love, in the name of mercy, in the name of the compassionate Christ. And the men that did it are the men that made our Bible for us.
I saw, too, at the same time, the Collar of torture. Imagine a circle of iron, and on the inside a hundred points almost as sharp as needles. This argument was fastened about the throat of the sufferer. Then he could not walk nor sit down, nor stir without the neck being punctured by these points. In a little while the throat would begin to swell, and suffocation would end the agonies of that man. This man, it may be, had committed the crime of saying, with tears upon his cheeks, “I do not believe that God, the father of us all, will damn to eternal perdition any of the children of men.” And that was done to convince the world that God so loved the world that He died for us. That was in order that people might hear the glad tidings of great joy to all people.
I saw another instrument, called the scavenger’s daughter. Imagine a pair of shears with handles, not only where they now are, but at the points as well and just above the pivot that unites the blades a circle of iron. In the upper handles the hands would be placed; in the lower, the feet; and through the iron ring, at the centre, the head of the victim would be forced, and in that position the man would be thrown upon the earth, and the strain upon the muscle would produce such agony that insanity took pity. And this was done to keep people from going to Hell — to convince that man that he had made a mistake in his logic — and it was done, too, by Protestants — Protestants that persecuted to the extent of their power, and that is as much as Catholicism ever did. They would persecute now if they had the power. There is not a man in this vast audience who will say that the church should have temporal power. There is not one of you but what believes in the eternal divorce of church and state. Is it possible that the only people who are fit to go to heaven are the only people not fit to rule mankind?
I saw at the same time the rack. This was a box like the bed of a wagon, with a windlass at each end, and ratchets to prevent slipping. Over each windlass went chains, and when some man had, for instance, denied the doctrine of the trinity, a doctrine it is necessary to believe in order to get to Heaven — but, thank the Lord, you don’t have to understand it. This man merely denied that three times one was one, or maybe he denied that there was ever any Son in the world exactly as old as his father, or that there ever was a boy eternally older than his mother — then they put that man on the rack. Nobody had ever been persecuted for calling God bad — it has always been for calling him good. When I stand here to say that, if there is a Hell, God is a fiend, they say that is very bad. They say I am trying to tear down the institutions of public virtue. But let me tell you one thing: there is no reformation in fear — you can scare a man so that he won’t do it sometimes, but I will swear you can’t scare him so bad that he won’t want to do it. Then they put this man on the rack and priests began turning these levers, and kept turning until the ankles, the hips, the shoulders, the elbows, the wrists, and all the joints of the victim were dislocated, and he was wet with agony, and standing by was a physician to feel his pulse. What for? To save his life? Yes. In mercy? No. But in order that they might have the pleasure of racking him once more. And this was the Christian spirit. This was done in the name of civilization, in the name of religion, and all these wretches who did it died in peace. There is not an orthodox preacher in the city that has not a respect for every one of them. As, for instance, for John Calvin, who was a murderer and nothing but a murderer, who would have disgraced an ordinary gallows by being hanged upon it. These men when they came to die were not frightened. God did not send any devils into their death-rooms to make mouths at them. He reserved them for Voltaire, who brought religious liberty to France. He reserved them for Thomas Paine, who did more for liberty than all the churches. But all the inquisitors died with the white hands of peace folded over the breast of piety. And when they died, the room was filled with the rustle of the wings of angels, waiting to bear the wretches to Heaven.
When I read these frightful books it seems to me sometimes as though I had suffered all these things myself. It seems sometimes as though I had stood upon the shore of exile, and gazed with tearful eyes toward home and native land; it seems to me as though I had been staked out upon the sands of the sea, and drowned by the inexorable, advancing tide; as though my nails had been torn from my hands, and into the bleeding quick needles had been thrust; as though my feet had been crushed in iron boots; as though I had been chained in the cell of Inquisition, and listened with dying ears for the coming footsteps of release; as though I had stood upon the scaffold and saw the glittering axe fall upon me; as though I had been upon the rack and had seen, bending above me, the white faces of hypocrite priests; as though I had been taken from my fireside, from my wife and children, taken to the public square, chained; as though fagots had been piled about me; as though the flames had climbed around my limbs and scorched my eyes to blindness, and as though my ashes had been scattered to the four winds by all the countless hands of hate. And, while I so feel, I swear that while I live I will do what little I can to augment the liberties of man, woman and child. I denounce slavery and superstition everywhere. I believe in liberty, and happiness, and love, and joy in this world. I am amazed that any man ever had the impudence to try and do another man’s thinking. I have just as good a right to talk theology as a minister. If they all agreed I might admit it was a science, but as all disagree, and the more they study the wider they get apart, I may be permitted to suggest, it is not a science. When no two will tell you the road to Heaven — that is, giving you the same route — and if you would inquire of them all, you would just give up trying to go there, and say I may as well stay where I am, and let the Lord come to me.
Do you know that this world has not been fit for a lady and gentleman to live in for twenty-five years, just on account of slavery. It was not until the year 1808 that Great Britain abolished the slave trade, and up to that time her judges, her priests occupying her pulpits, the members of the royal family, owned stock in the slave ships, and luxuriated upon the profits of piracy and murder. It was not until the same year that the United States of America abolished the slave trade between this and other countries, but carefully preserved it as between the states. It was not until the 28th day of August, 1833, that Great Britain abolished human slavery in her colonies; and it was not until the 1st day of January, 1863, that Abraham Lincoln, sustained by the sublime and heroic North, rendered our flag pure as the sky in which it floats. Abraham Lincoln was, in my judgment, in many respects, the grandest man ever president of the United States. Upon his monument these words should be written: “Here sleeps the only man in the history of the world, who, having been clothed with almost absolute power, never abused it, except upon the side of mercy.”
For two hundred years the Christians of the United States deliberately turned the cross of Christ into a whipping-post. Christians bred hounds to catch other Christians. Let me show you what the Bible has done for mankind: “Servants, be obedient to your masters.” The only word coming from that sweet Heaven was, “Servants, obey your masters.” Frederick Douglas told me that he had lectured upon the subject of freedom twenty years before he was permitted to set his foot in a church. I tell you the world has not been fit to live in for twenty-five years. Then all the people used to cringe and crawl to preachers. Mr. Buckle, in his history of civilization, shows that men were even struck dead for speaking impolitely to a priest. God would not stand it. See how they used to crawl before cardinals, bishops and popes. It is not so now. Before wealth they bowed to the very earth, and in the presence of titles they became abject. All this is slowly, but surely changing. We no longer bow to men simply because they are rich. Our fathers worshiped the golden calf. The worst you can say of an American now is, he worships the gold of the calf. Even the calf is beginning to see this distinction.
The time will come when no matter how much money a man has, he will not be respected unless he is using it for the benefit of his fellow-men. It will soon be here. It no longer satisfies the ambition of a great man to be king or emperor. The last Napoleon was not satisfied with being the emperor of the French. He was not satisfied with having a circlet of gold about his head. He wanted some evidence that he had something of value within his head. So he wrote the life of Julius Caesar, that he might become a member of the French academy. The emperors, the kings, the popes, no longer tower above their fellows. Compare, for instance, King William and Helmholtz. The king is one of the anointed by the Most High, as they claim — one upon whose head has been poured the divine petroleum of authority. Compare this king with Helmholtz, who towers an intellectual Colossus above the crowned mediocrity. Compare George Eliot with Queen Victoria. The queen is clothed in garments given her by blind fortune and unreasoning chance, while George Eliot wears robes of glory woven in the loom of her own genius. And so it is the world over. The time is coming when a man will be rated at his real worth, and that by his brain and heart. We care nothing now about an officer unless he fills his place. No matter if he is president, if he rattles in the place nobody cares anything about him. I might give you an instance in point, but I won’t. The world is getting better and grander and nobler every day.
Now, if men have been slaves, if they have crawled in the dust before one another, what shall I say of women? They have been the slaves of men. It took thousands of ages to bring women from abject slavery up to the divine height of marriage. I believe in marriage. If there is any Heaven upon earth, it is in the family by the fireside and the family is a unit of government. Without the family relation that is tender, pure and true, civilization is impossible. Ladies, the ornaments you wear upon your persons tonight are but the souvenirs of your mother’s bondage. The chains around your necks; and the bracelets clasped upon your white arms by the thrilled hand of love, have been changed by the wand of civilization from iron to shining, glittering gold. Nearly every civilization in this world accounts for the devilment in it by the crimes of woman. They say woman brought all the trouble into the world. I don’t care if she did. I would rather live in a world full of trouble with the women I love, than to live in Heaven with nobody but men. I read in a book an account of the creation of the world. The book I have taken pains to say was not written by any God. And why do I say so? Because I can write a far better book myself. Because it is full of barbarism. Several ministers in this city have undertaken to answer me — notably those who don’t believe the Bible themselves. I want to ask these men one thing. I want them to be fair.
Every minister in the City of Chicago that answers me, and those who have answered me had better answer me again — I want them to say, and without any sort of evasion — without resorting to any pious tricks — I want them to say whether they believe that the Eternal God of this universe ever upheld the crime of polygamy. Say it square and fair. Don’t begin to talk about that being a peculiar time, and that God was easy on the prejudices of those old fellows. I want them to answer that question and to answer it squarely, which they haven’t done. Did this God, which you pretend to worship, ever sanction the institution of human slavery? Now, answer fair. Don’t slide around it. Don’t begin and answer what a bad man I am, nor what a good man Moses was. Stick to the text. Do you believe in a God that allowed a man to be sold from his children? Do you worship such an infinite monster? And if you do, tell your congregation whether you are not ashamed to admit it. Let every minister who answers me again tell whether he believes God commanded his general to kill the little dimpled babe in the cradle. Let him answer it. Don’t say that those were very bad times. Tell whether He did it or not, and then your people will know whether to hate that God or not. Be honest. Tell them whether that God in war captured young maidens and turned them over to the soldiers; and then ask the wives and sweet girls of your congregation to get down on their knees and worship the infinite fiend that did that thing. Answer! It is your God I am talking about, and if that is what God did, please tell your congregation what, under the same circumstances, the devil would have done. Don’t tell your people that is a poem. Don’t tell your people that is pictorial. That won’t do. Tell your people whether it is true or false. That is what I want you to do.
In this book I read about God’s making the world and one man. That is all He intended to make. The making of woman was a second thought, though I am willing to admit that as a rule second thoughts are best. This God made a man and put him in a public park. In a little while He noticed that the man got lonesome; then He found He had made a mistake, and that He would have to make somebody to keep him company. But having used up all the nothing He originally used in making the world and one man, He had to take a part of a man to start a woman with. So He causes sleep to fall on this man — now understand me, I do not say this story is true. After the sleep had fallen on this man the Supreme Being took a rib, or, as the French would call it, a cutlet, out of him, and from that He made a woman; and I am willing to swear, taking into account the amount and quality of the raw material used, this was the most magnificent job ever accomplished in this world. Well, after He got the woman done she was brought to the man, not to see how she liked him, but to see how he liked her. He liked her and they started housekeeping, and they were told of certain things they might do and of one thing they could not do — and of course they did it. I would have done it in fifteen minutes, I know it. There wouldn’t have been an apple on that tree half an hour from date, and the limbs would have been full of clubs. And then they were turned out of the park and extra policemen were put on to keep them from getting back. And then trouble commenced and we have been at it ever since. Nearly all the religions of this world account for the existence of evil by such a story as that.
Well, I read in another book what appeared to be an account of the same transaction. It was written about four thousand years before the other. All commentators agree that the one that was written last was the original, and the one that was written first was copied from the one that was written last. But I would advise you all not to allow your creed to be disturbed by a little matter of four or five thousand years. It is a great deal better to be mistaken in dates than to go to the devil. In this other account the Supreme Brahma made up his mind to make the world and a man and woman. He made the world and he made the man and then the woman, and put them on the Island of Ceylon. According to the account it was the most beautiful island of which man can conceive. Such birds, such songs, such flowers, and such verdure! And the branches of the trees were so arranged that when the wind swept through them every tree was a thousand aeolian harps. Brahma, when he put them there, said: “Let them have a period of courtship, for it is my desire and will that true love should forever precede marriage.” When I read that, it was so much more beautiful and lofty than the other, that I said to myself: “If either one of these stories ever turns out to be true, I hope it will be this one.”
Then they had their courtship, with the nightingale singing and the stars shining and the flowers blooming, and they fell in love. Imagine that courtship! No prospective fathers or mothers-in-law; no prying and gossiping neighbors; nobody to say, “Young man, how do you expect to support her?” Nothing of that kind, nothing but the nightingale singing its song of joy and pain, as though the thorn already touched its heart. They were married by the Supreme Brahma, and he said to them, “Remain here; you must never leave this island.” Well, after a little while the man — and his name was Adami, and the woman’s name was Heva — said to Heva: “I believe I’ll look about a little.” He wanted to go West. He went to the western extremity of the island where there was a little narrow neck of land connecting it with the mainland, and the devil, who is always playing pranks with us, produced a mirage, and when he looked over to the mainland, such hills and vales, such dells and dales, such mountains crowned with snow, such cataracts clad in bows of glory did he see there, that he went back and told Heva: “The country over there is a thousand times better than this, let us migrate.” She, like every other woman that ever lived, said: “Let well enough alone we have all we want; let us stay here.” But he said: “No, let us go;” so she followed him, and when they came to this narrow neck of land, he took her on his back like a gentleman, and carried her over. But the moment they got over, they heard a crash, and, looking back, discovered that this narrow neck of land had fallen into the sea. The mirage had disappeared, and there was naught but rocks and sand, and the Supreme Brahma cursed them both to the lowest Hell.
Then it was that the man spoke — and I have liked him ever since for it —“Curse me, but curse not her; it was not her fault, it was mine.” That’s the kind of a man to start a world with. The Supreme Brahma said: “I will save her but not thee.” And she spoke out of her fullness of love, out of a heart in which there was love enough to make all her daughters rich in holy affection, and said: “If thou wilt not spare him, spare neither me. I do not wish to live without him, I love him.” Then the Supreme Brahma said — and I have liked him ever since I read it —“I will spare you both, and watch over you and your children forever.” Honor bright, is that not the better and grander story?
And in that same book I find this “Man is strength, woman is beauty; man is courage, woman is love. When the one man loves the one woman, and the one woman loves the one man, the very angels leave Heaven, and come and sit in that house, and sing for joy.” In the same book this: “Blessed is that man, and beloved of all the gods, who is afraid of no man, and of whom no man is afraid.” Magnificent character! A missionary certainly ought to talk to that man. And I find this: “Never will I accept private, individual salvation, but rather will I stay and work, strive and suffer, until every soul from every star has been brought home to God.” Compare that with the Christian that expects to go to Heaven while the world is rolling over Niagara to an eternal and unending Hell. So I say that religion lays all the crime and troubles of this world at the beautiful feet of woman. And then the church has the impudence to say that it has exalted women. I believe that marriage is a perfect partnership; that woman has every right that man has — and one more — the right to be protected. Above all men in the world I hate a stingy man — a man that will make his wife beg for money. “What did you do with the dollar I gave you last week? And what are you going to do with this?” It is vile. No gentleman will ever be satisfied with the love of a beggar and a slave — no gentleman will ever be satisfied except with the love of an equal. What kind of children does a man expect to have with a beggar for their mother? A man can not be so poor but that he can be generous, and if you only have one dollar in the word and you have got to spend it, spend it like a lord — spend it as though it were a dry leaf, and you the owner of unbounded forests — spend it as though you had a wilderness of your own. That’s the way to spend it.
I had rather be a beggar and spend my last dollar like a king, than be a king and spend my money like a beggar. If it has got to go, let it go. And this is my advice to the poor. For you can never be so poor that whatever you do you can’t do in a grand and manly way. I hate a cross man. What right has a man to assassinate the joy of life? When you go home you ought to go like a ray of light — so that it will, even in the night, burst out of the doors and windows and illuminate the darkness. Some men think their mighty brains have been in a turmoil; they have been thinking about who will be Alderman from the Fifth Ward; they have been thinking about politics, great and mighty questions have been engaging their minds, they have bought calico at five cents or six, and want to sell it for seven. Think of the intellectual strain that must have been upon that man, and when he gets home everybody else in the house must look out for his comfort. A woman who has only taken care of five or six children, and one or two of them sick, has been nursing them and singing to them, and trying to make one yard of cloth do the work of two, she, of course, is fresh and fine and ready to wait upon this gentleman — the head of the family — the boss. I was reading the other day of an apparatus invented for the ejecting of gentlemen who subsist upon free lunches. It is so arranged that when the fellow gets both hands into the victuals, a large hand descends upon him, jams his hat over his eyes — he is seized, turned toward the door, and just in the nick of time an immense boot comes from the other side, kicks him in italics, sends him out over the sidewalk and lands him rolling in the gutter. I never hear of such a man — a boss — that I don’t feel as though that machine ought to be brought into requisition for his benefit.
Love is the only thing that will pay ten per cent of interest on the outlay. Love is the only thing in which the height of extravagance is the last degree of economy. It is the only thing, I tell you. Joy is wealth. Love is the legal tender of the soul — and you need not be rich to be happy. We have all been raised on success in this country. Always been talked with about being successful, and have never thought ourselves very rich unless we were the possessors of some magnificent mansion, and unless our names have been between the putrid lips of rumor we could not be happy. Every little boy is striving to be this and be that. I tell you the happy man is the successful man. The man that has won the love of one good woman is a successful man. The man that has been the emperor of one good heart, and that heart embraced all his, has been a success. If another has been the emperor of the round world and has never loved and been loved, his life is a failure. It won’t do. Let us teach our children the other way, that the happy man is the successful man, and he who is a happy man is the one who always tries to make some one else happy.
The man who marries a woman to make her happy; that marries her as much for her own sake as for his own; not the man that thinks his wife is his property, who thinks that the title to her belongs to him — that the woman is the property of the man; wretches who get mad at their wives and then shoot them down in the street because they think the woman is their property. I tell you it is not necessary to be rich and great and powerful to be happy.
A little while ago I stood by the grave of the old Napoleon — a magnificent tomb of gilt and gold, fit almost for a dead deity — and gazed upon the sarcophagus of black Egyptian marble, where rest at last the ashes of the restless man. I leaned over the balustrade and thought about the career of the greatest soldier of the modern world. I saw him walk upon the banks of the Seine, contemplating suicide — I saw him at Toulon — I saw him putting down the mob in the streets of Paris — I saw him at the head of the army of Italy — I saw him crossing the bridge of Lodi with the tri-color in his hand — I saw him in Egypt in the shadows of the pyramids — I saw him conquer the Alps and mingle the eagles of France with the eagles of the crags. I saw him at Marengo — at Ulm and Austerlitz. I saw him in Russia, where the infantry of the snow and the cavalry of the wild blast scattered his legions like Winter’s withered leaves. I saw him at Leipzig in defeat and disaster — driven by a million bayonets back upon Paris — clutched like a wild beast — banished to Elba. I saw him escape and retake an empire by the force of his genius. I saw him upon the frightful field of Waterloo, where chance and fate combined to wreck the fortunes of their former king. And I saw him at St. Helena, with his hands crossed behind him, gazing out upon the sad and solemn sea. I thought of the orphans and widows he had made — of the tears that had been shed for his glory, and of the only woman who ever loved him, pushed from his heart by the cold hand of ambition. And I said I would rather have been a French peasant and worn wooden shoes. I would rather have lived in a hut with a vine growing over the door, and the grapes growing purple in the kisses of the Autumn sun; I would rather have been that poor peasant with my loving wife by my side, knitting as the day died out of the sky, with my children upon my knees and their arms about me; I would rather have been that man and gone down to the tongueless silence of the dreamless dust than to have been that imperial impersonation of force and murder, known as Napoleon the Great. It is not necessary to be rich in order to be happy. It is only necessary to be in love. Thousands of men go to college and get a certificate that they have an education, and that certificate is in Latin and they stop studying, and in two years, to save their life, they couldn’t read the certificate they got.
It is mostly so in marrying. They stop courting when they get married. They think, we have won her and that is enough. Ah! the difference before and after! How well they look! How bright their eyes! How light their steps, and how full they were of generosity and laughter! I tell you a man should consider himself in good luck if a woman loves him when he is doing his level best! Good luck! Good luck! And another thing that is the cause of much trouble is that people don’t count fairly. They do what they call putting their best foot forward. That means lying a little. I say put your worst foot forward. If you have got any faults admit them. If you drink say so and quit it. If you chew and smoke and swear, say so. If some of your kindred are not very good people, say so. If you have had two or three that died on the gallows, or that ought to have died there, say so. Tell all your faults and if after she knows your faults she says she will have you, you have got the dead wood on that woman forever. I claim that there should be perfect equality in the home, and I can not think of anything nearer Heaven than a home where there is true republicanism and true democracy at the fireside. All are equal.
And then, do you know, I like to think that love is eternal; that if you really love the woman, for her sake, you will love her no matter what she may do; that if she really loves you, for your sake, the same; that love does not look at alterations, through the wrinkles of time, through the mask of years — if you really love her you will always see the face you loved and won. And I like to think of it. If a man loves a woman she does not ever grow old to him. And the woman who really loves a man does not see that he is growing older. He is not decrepit to her. He is not tremulous. He is not old. He is not bowed. She always sees the same gallant fellow that won her hand and heart. I like to think of it in that way, and as Shakespeare says: “Let Time reach with his sickle as far as ever he can; although he can reach ruddy cheeks and ripe lips, and flashing eyes, he can not quite reach love.” I like to think of it. We will go down the hill of life together, and enter the shadow one with the other, and as we go down we may hear the ripple of the laughter of our grandchildren, and the birds, and spring, and youth, and love will sing once more upon the leafless branches of the tree of age. I love to think of it in that way — absolute equals, happy, happy, and free, all our own.
But some people say: “Would you allow a woman to vote?” Yes, if she wants to; that is her business, not mine. If a woman wants to vote, I am too much of a gentleman to say she shall not. But, they say, woman has not sense enough to vote. It don’t take much. But it seems to me there are some questions, as for instance, the question of peace or war, that a woman should be allowed to vote upon. A woman that has sons to be offered on the altar of that Moloch, it seems to me that such a woman should have as much right to vote upon the question of peace and war as some thrice-besotted sot that reels to the ballot box and deposits his vote for war. But if women have been slaves, what shall we say of the little children, born in the sub-cellars, children of poverty, children of crime, children of wealth, children that are afraid when they hear their names pronounced by the lips of their mother, children that cower in fear when they hear the footsteps of their brutal father, the flotsam and jetsam upon the rude sea of life, my heart goes out to them one and all.
Children have all the rights that we have and one more, and that is to be protected. Treat your children in that way. Suppose your child tells a lie. Don’t pretend that the whole world is going into bankruptcy. Don’t pretend that that is the first lie ever told. Tell them, like an honest man, that you have told hundreds of lies yourself, and tell the dear little darling that it is not the best way; that it soils the soul. Think of the man that deals in stocks whipping his children for putting false rumors afloat! Think of an orthodox minister whipping his own flesh and blood, for not telling all it thinks! Think of that! Think of a lawyer for beating his child for avoiding the truth! when the old man makes about half his living that way. A lie is born of weakness on one side and tyranny on the other. That is what it is. Think of a great big man coming at a little bit of a child with a club in his hand! What is the little darling to do? Lie, of course. I think that mother Nature put that ingenuity into the mind of the child, when attacked by a parent, to throw up a little breastwork in the shape of a lie to defend itself. When a great general wins a battle by what they call strategy, we build monuments to him. What is strategy? Lies. Suppose a man as much larger than we are as we are larger than a child five years of age, should come at us with a liberty pole in his hand, and in tones of thunder want to know “who broke that plate,” there isn’t one of us, not excepting myself, that wouldn’t swear that we never had seen that plate in our lives, or that it was cracked when we got it.
Another good way to make children tell the truth is to tell it yourself. Keep your word with your child the same as you would with your banker. If you tell a child you will do anything, either do it or give the child the reason why. Truth is born of confidence. It comes from the lips of love and liberty. I was over in Michigan the other day. There was a boy over there at Grand Rapids about five or six years old, a nice, smart boy, as you will see from the remark he made — what you might call a nineteenth century boy. His father and mother had promised to take him out riding. They had promised to take him out riding for about three weeks, and they would slip off and go without him. Well, after while that got kind of played out with the little boy, and the day before I was there they played the trick on him again. They went out and got the carriage, and went away, and as they rode away from the front of the house, he happened to be standing there with his nurse, and he saw them. The whole thing flashed on him in a moment. He took in the situation, and turned to his nurse and said, pointing to his father and mother, “There go the two d — t liars in the State of Michigan!” When you go home fill the house with joy, so that the light of it will stream out the windows and doors, and illuminate even the darkness. It is just as easy that way as any in the world.
I want to tell you tonight that you can not get the robe of hypocrisy on you so thick that the sharp eye of childhood will not see through every veil, and if you pretend to your children that you are the best man that ever lived — the bravest man that ever lived — they will find you out every time. They will not have the same opinion of father when they grow up that they used to have. They will have to be in mighty bad luck if they ever do meaner things than you have done. When your child confesses to you that it has committed a fault, take that child in your arms, and let it feel your heart beat against its heart, and raise your children in the sunlight of love, and they will be sunbeams to you along the pathway of life. Abolish the club and the whip from the house, because, if the civilized use a whip, the ignorant and the brutal will use a club, and they will use it because you use the whip.
Every little while some door is thrown open in some orphan asylum, and there we see the bleeding back of a child whipped beneath the roof that was raised by love. It is infamous, and a man that can’t raise a child without the whip ought not to have a child. If there is one of you here that ever expect to whip your child again, let me ask you something. Have your photograph taken at the time and let it show your face red with vulgar anger, and the face of the little one with eyes swimming in tears, and the little chin dimpled with fear, looking like a piece of water struck by a sudden cold wind. If that little child should die, I can not think of a sweeter way to spend an Autumn afternoon than to take that photograph and go to the cemetery, when the maples are clad in tender gold, and when little scarlet runners are coming from the sad heart of the earth, and sit down upon that mound, and look upon that photograph, and think of the flesh, now dust, that you beat. Just think of it. I could not bear to die in the arms of a child that I had whipped. I could not bear to feel upon my lips, when they were withered beneath the touch of death, the kiss of one that I had struck. Some Christians act as though they really thought that when Christ said, “Suffer little children to come unto me,” He had a rawhide under His coat. They act as though they really thought that He made that remark simply to get the children within striking distance.
I have known Christians to turn their children from their doors, especially a daughter, and then get down on their knees and pray to God to watch over them and help them. I will never ask God to help my children unless I am doing my level best in that same wretched line. I will tell you what I say to my girls: “Go where you will; do what crime you may; fall to what depth of degradation you may; in all the storms and winds and earthquakes of life, no matter what you do, you never can commit any crime that will shut my door, my arms or my heart to you. As long as I live you have one sincere friend.” Call me an atheist; call me an infidel because I hate the God of the Jew — which I do. I intend so to live that when I die my children can come to my grave and truthfully say: “He who sleeps here never gave us one moment of pain.”
When I was a boy there was one day in each week too good for a child to be happy in. In these good old times Sunday commenced when the sun went down on Saturday night and closed when the sun went down on Sunday night. We commenced Saturday to get a good ready. And when the sun went down Saturday night there was a gloom deeper than midnight that fell upon the house. You could not crack hickory nuts then. And if you were caught chewing gum, it was only another evidence of the total depravity of the human heart. Well, after a while we got to bed sadly and sorrowfully after having heard Heaven thanked that we were not all in Hell. And I sometimes used to wonder how the mercy of God lasted as long as it did, because I recollected that on several occasions I had not been at school, when I was supposed to be there. Why I was not burned to a crisp was a mystery to me. The next morning we got ready for church — all solemn, and when we got there the minister was up in the pulpit, about twenty feet high, and he commenced at Genesis about “The fall of man,” and he went on to about twenty thirdly; then he struck the second application, and when he struck the application I knew he was about half way through. And then he went on to show the scheme how the Lord was satisfied by punishing the wrong man. Nobody but a God would have thought of that ingenious way. Well, when he got through that, then came the catechism — the chief end of man. Then my turn came, and we sat along on a little bench where our feet came within about fifteen inches of the floor, and the dear old minister used to ask us:
“Boys, do you know that you ought to be in Hell?”
And we answered up as cheerfully as could be expected under the circumstances.
“Well, boys, do you know that you would go to Hell if you died in your sins?”
And we said: “Yes, sir.”
And then came the great test:
“Boys”— I can’t get the tone, you know. And do you know that is how the preachers get the bronchitis. You never heard of an auctioneer getting the bronchitis, nor the second mate on a steamboat — never. What gives it to the minister is talking solemnly when they don’t feel that way, and it has the same influence upon the organs of speech that it would have upon the cords of the calves of your legs to walk on your tip-toes, and so I call bronchitis “parsonitis.” And if the ministers would all tell exactly what they think they would all get well, but keeping back a part of the truth is what gives them bronchitis.
Well the old man — the dear old minister — used to try and show us how long we would be in Hell if we would only locate there. But to finish the other. The grand test question was:
“Boys, if it was God’s will that you should go to Hell, would you be willing to go?”
And every little liar said:
Then, in order to tell how long we would stay there, he used to say:
“Suppose once in a billion ages a bird should come from a far distant clime and carry off in its bill one little grain of sand, the time would finally come when the last grain of sand would be carried away. Do you understand?”
“Boys, by that time it would not be sun-up in Hell.”
Where did that doctrine of Hell come from? I will tell you; from that fellow in the dug-out. Where did he get it? It was a souvenir from the wild beasts. Yes, I tell you he got it from the wild beasts, from the glittering eye of the serpent, from the coiling, twisting snakes with their fangs mouths; and it came from the bark, growl and howl of wild beasts; it was born of a laugh of the hyena and got it from the depraved chatter of malicious apes. And I despise it with every drop of my blood and defy it. If there is any God in this universe who will damn his children for an expression of an honest thought I wish to go to Hell. I would rather go there than go to heaven and keep the company of a God that would thus damn his children. Oh it is an infamous doctrine to teach that to little children, to put a shadow in the heart of a child to fill the insane asylums with that miserable, infamous lie. I see now and then a little girl — a dear little darling, with a face like the light, and eyes of joy, a human blossom, and I think, “is it possible that little girl will ever grow up to be a Presbyterian?” Is it possible, my goodness, that that flower will finally believe in the five points of Calvinism or in the eternal damnation of man? Is it possible that that little fairy will finally believe that she could be happy in Heaven with her baby in Hell? Think of it! Think of it! And that is the Christian religion!
We cry out against the Indian mother that throws her child into the Ganges, to be devoured by the alligator or crocodile, but that is joy in comparison with the Christian mother’s hope, that she may be in salvation while her brave boy is in Hell.
I tell you I want to kick the doctrine about Hell — I want to kick it out every time I go by it. I want to get Americans in this country placed so they will be ashamed to preach it. I want to get the congregations so that they won’t listen to it. We cannot divide the world off into saints and sinners in that way. There is a little girl, fair as a flower, and she grows up until she is twelve, thirteen, or fourteen years old. Are you going to damn her in the fifteenth, sixteenth or seventeenth year, when the arrow from Cupid’s bow touches her heart and she is glorified — are you going to damn her now? She marries and loves, and holds in her arms a beautiful child? Are you going to damn her now? When are you going to damn her? Because she has listened to some Methodist minister and after all that flood of light failed to believe? Are you going to damn her then? I tell you God can not afford to damn such a woman.
A woman in the State of Indiana forty or fifty years ago who carded the wool and made rolls and spun them, and made the cloth and cut out the clothes for the children, and nursed them, and sat up with them nights and — gave them medicine, and held them in her arms and wept over them — cried for joy and wept for fear, and finally raised ten or eleven good men and women with the ruddy glow of health upon their cheeks, and she would have died for any one of them any moment of her life, and finally she, bowed with age and bent with care and labor, dies, and at the moment the magical touch of death is upon her face, she looks as though she never had had a care, and her children burying her cover her face with tears. Do you tell me God can afford to damn that kind of a woman? One such act of injustice would turn Heaven itself into Hell. If there is any God, sitting above him in infinite serenity we have the figure of justice. Even a God must do justice; even a God must worship justice; and any form of superstition that destroys justice is infamous! Just think of teaching that doctrine to little children! A little child would go out into the garden, and there would be a little tree laden with blossoms, and the little fellow would lean against it, and there would be a bird on one of the boughs, singing and swinging, and thinking about four little speckled eggs, warmed by the breast of its mate — and singing and swinging, and the music in in happy waves rippling out of the tiny throat, and the flowers blossoming, the air filled with perfume, and the great white clouds floating in the sky, and the little boy would lean up against the tree and think about Hell and the worm that never dies. Oh! the idea there can be any day too good for a child to be happy in!
Well, after we got over the catechism, then came the sermon in the afternoon, and it was exactly like the one in the forenoon, except the other end to. Then we started for home — a solemn march —“not a soldier discharged his farewell shot”— and when we got home, if we had been really good boys, we used to be taken up to the cemetery to cheer us up, and it always did cheer me, those sunken graves, those leaning stones, those gloomy epitaphs covered with the moss of years always cheered me. When I looked at them I said: “Well, this kind of thing can’t last always.” Then we came back home, and we had books to read which were very eloquent and amusing. We had Josephus, and the “History of the Waldenses,” and Fox’s “Book of Martyrs,” Baxter’s “Saint’s Rest,” and “Jenkyn on the Atonement.” I used to read Jenkyn with a good deal of pleasure, and I often thought that the atonement would have to be very broad in its provisions to cover the case of a man that would I write such a book for boys. Then I would look to see how the sun was getting on, and sometimes I thought it had stuck from pure cussedness. Then I would go back and try Jenkyn’s again. Well, but it had to go down, and when the last rim of light sank below the horizon, off would go our hats and we would give three cheers for liberty once again.
I tell you, don’t make slaves of your children on Sunday.
The idea that there is any God that hates to hear a child laugh! Let your children play games on Sunday. Here is a poor man that hasn’t money enough to go to a big church and he has too much independence to go to a little church that the big church built for charity. He doesn’t want to slide into Heaven that way. I tell you don’t come to church, but go to the woods and take your family and a lunch with you, and sit down upon the old log and let the children gather flowers and hear the leaves whispering poems like memories of long ago, and when the sun is about going down, kissing the summits of far hills, go home with your hearts filled with throbs of joy. There is more recreation and joy in that than going to a dry goods box with a steeple on top of it and hearing a man tell you that your chances are about ninety-nine to one for being eternally damned. Let us make this Sunday a day of splendid pleasure, not to excess, but to everything that makes man purer and grander and nobler. I would like to see now something like this: Instead of so many churches, a vast cathedral that would hold twenty or thirty thousands of people, and I would like to see an opera produced in it that would make the souls of men have higher and grander and nobler aims. I would like to see the walls covered with pictures and the niches rich with statuary; I would like to see something put there that you could use in this world now, and I do not believe in sacrificing the present to the future; I do not believe in drinking skimmed milk here with the promise of butter beyond the clouds. Space or time can not be holy any more than a vacuum can be pious. Not a bit, not a bit; and no day can be so holy but what the laugh of a child will make it holier still.
Strike with hand of fire, on, weird musician, thy harp, strung with Apollo’s golden hair! Fill the vast cathedral aisles with symphonies sweet and dim, deft toucher of the organ’s keys; blow, bugler, blow until thy silver notes do touch and kiss the moonlit waves, and charm the lovers wandering ‘mid the vine-clad hills. But know your sweetest strains are discords all compared with childhood’s happy laugh — the laugh that fills the eyes with light and every heart with joy! O, rippling river of laughter, thou art the blessed boundary line between the beasts and men, and every wayward wave of thine doth drown some fretful fiend of care. O Laughter, rose lipped daughter of joy, there are dimples enough in thy cheeks to catch and hold and glorify all the tears of grief.
Don’t plant your children in long, straight rows like posts. Let them have light and air and let them grow beautiful as palms. When I was a little boy children went to bed when they were not sleepy, and always got up when they were. I would like to see that changed, but they say we are too poor, some of us, to do it. Well, all right. It is as easy to wake a child with a kiss as with a blow; with kindness as with curse. And, another thing; let the children eat what they want to. Let them commence at whichever end of the dinner they desire. That is my doctrine. They know what they want much better than you do. Nature is a great deal smarter than you ever were.
All the advance that has been made in the science of medicine, has been made by the recklessness of patients. I can recollect when they wouldn’t give a man water in a fever — not a drop. Now and then some fellow would get so thirsty he would say “Well, I’ll die any way, so I’ll drink it,” and thereupon he would drink a gallon of water, and thereupon he would burst into a generous perspiration, and get well — and the next morning when the doctor would come to see him they would tell him about the man drinking the water, and he would say:
“Well, he swallowed two pitchers full.”
“Is he alive?”
So they would go into the room and the doctor would feel his pulse and ask him:
“Did you drink two pitchers of water?”
“My God! what a constitution you have got.”
I tell you there is something splendid in man that will not always mind. Why, if we had done as the kings told us five hundred years ago, we would all have been slaves. If we had done as the priests told us we would all have been idiots. If we had done as the doctors told us we would all have been dead. We have been saved by disobedience. We have been saved by that splendid thing called independence, and I want to see more of it, day after day, and I want to see children raised so they will have it. That is my doctrine. Give the children a chance. Be perfectly honor bright with them, and they will be your friends when you are old. Don’t try to teach them something they can never learn. Don’t insist upon their pursuing some calling they have no sort of faculty for. Don’t make that poor girl play ten years on a piano when she has no ear for music, and when she has practiced until she can play “Bonaparte crossing the Alps,” and you can’t tell after she has played it whether Bonaparte ever got across or not. Men are oaks, women are vines, children are flowers, and if there is any Heaven in this world, it is in the family. It is where the wife loves the husband, and the husband loves the wife, and where the dimpled arms of children are about the necks of both. That is Heaven, if there is any — and I do not want any better Heaven in another world than that, and if in another world I can not live with the ones I loved here, then I would rather not be there. I would rather resign.
Well, my friends, I have some excuses to make for the race to which I belong. In the first place, this world is not very well adapted to raising good men and good women. It is three times better adapted to the cultivation of fish than of people. There is one little narrow belt running zigzag around the world, in which men and women of genius can be raised, and that is all. It is with man as it is with vegetation. In the valley you find the oak and elm tossing their branches defiantly to the storm, and as you advance up the mountain side the hemlock, the pine, the birch, the spruce, the fir, and finally you come to little dwarfed trees, that look like other trees seen through a telescope reversed — every limb twisted as through pain — getting a scanty subsistence from the miserly crevices of the rocks. You go on and on, until at last the highest crag is freckled with a kind of moss, and vegetation ends. You might as well try to raise oaks and elms where the mosses grow, as to raise great men and women where their surroundings are unfavorable. You must have the proper climate and soil. There never has been a man or woman of genius from the southern hemisphere, because the Lord didn’t allow the right climate to fall upon the land. It falls upon the water. There never was much civilization except where there has been snow, and ordinarily decent Winter. You can’t have civilization without it. Where man needs no bedclothes but clouds, revolution is the normal condition of such a people. It is the Winter that gives us the home; it is the Winter that gives us the fireside and the family relation and all the beautiful flowers of love that adorn that relation. Civilization, liberty, justice, charity and intellectual advancement are all flowers that bloom in the drifted snow. You can’t have them anywhere else, and that is the reason we of the north are civilized, and that is the reason that civilization has always been with Winter. That is the reason that philosophy has been here, and, in spite of all our superstitions, we have advanced beyond some of the other races, because we have had this assistance of nature, that drove us into the family relation, that made us prudent; that made us lay up at one time for another season of the year. So there is one excuse I have for my race.
I have got another. I think we came from the lower animals. I am not dead sure of it, but think so. When I first read about it I didn’t like it. My heart was filled with sympathy for those people who have nothing to be proud of except ancestors. I thought how terrible it will be upon the nobility of the old world. Think of their being forced to trace their ancestry back to the Duke Orang–Outang or to the Princess Chimpanzee. After thinking it all over I came to the conclusion that I liked that doctrine. I became convinced in spite of myself. I read about rudimentary bones and muscles. I was told that everybody had rudimentary muscles extending from the ear into the cheek. I asked: “What are they?” I was told: “They are the remains of muscles; that they became rudimentary from the lack of use.” They went into bankruptcy. They are the muscles with which your ancestors used to flap their ears. Well, at first, I was greatly astonished, and afterward I was more astonished to find they had become rudimentary. How can you account for John Calvin unless we came up from the lower animals? How could you account for a man that would use the extremes of torture unless you admit that there is in man the elements of a snake, of a vulture, a hyena, and a jackal? How can you account for the religious creeds of today? How can you account for that infamous doctrine of Hell, except with an animal origin? How can you account for your conception of a God that would sell women and babes into slavery?
Well, I thought that thing over and I began to like it after a while, and I said: “It is not so much difference who my father was as who his son is.” And I finally said I would rather belong to a race that commenced with the skull-less vertebrates in the dim Laurentian seas, that wriggled without knowing why they wriggled, swimming without knowing where they were going, that come along up by degrees through millions of ages, through all that crawls, and swims, and floats, and runs, and growls, and barks, and howls, until it struck this fellow in the dug-out. And then that fellow in the dugout getting a little grander, and each one below calling every one above him a heretic, calling every one who had made a little advance an infidel or an atheist, and finally the heads getting a little higher and looming up a little grander and more splendidly, and finally produced Shakespeare, who harvested all the field of dramatic thought and from whose day until now there have been none but gleaners of chaff and straw. Shakespeare was an intellectual ocean whose waves touched all the shores of human thought, within which were all the tides and currents and pulses upon which lay all the lights and shadows, and over which brooded all the calms, and swept all the storms and tempests of which the soul is capable. I would rather belong to that race that commenced with that skull-less vertebrate; that produced Shakespeare, a race that has before it an infinite future, with the angel of progress leaning from the far horizon, beckoning men forward and upward forever. I would rather belong to that race than to have descended from a perfect pair upon which the Lord has lost money every moment from that day to this.
Now, my crime has been this: I have insisted that the Bible is not the word of God. I have insisted that we should not whip our children. I have insisted that we should treat our wives as loving equals. I have denied that God — if there is any God — ever upheld polygamy and slavery. I have denied that that God ever told his generals to kill innocent babes and tear and rip open women with the sword of war. I have denied that and for that I have been assailed by the clergy of the United States. They tell me I have misquoted; and I owe it to you, and maybe I owe it to myself, to read one or two words to you upon this subject. In order to do that I shall have to put on my glasses; and that brings me back to where I started — that man has advanced just in proportion as his thought has mingled with his labor. If man’s eyes hadn’t failed he would never have made any spectacles, he would never have had the telescope, and he would never have been able to read the leaves of Heaven.
Now, they tell me — and there are several gentlemen who have spoken on this subject — the Rev. Mr. Collyer, a gentleman standing as high as anybody, and I have nothing to say against him — because I denounced God who upheld murder, and slavery and polygamy, he said that what I said was slang. I would like to have it compared with any sermon that ever issued from the lips of that gentleman. And before he gets through he admits that the Old Testament is a rotten tree that will soon fall into the earth and act as a fertilizer for his doctrine.
Is it honest in that man to assail my motive? Let him answer my argument! Is it honest and fair in him to say I am doing a certain thing because it is popular? Has it got to this, that, in this Christian country, where they have preached every day hundreds and thousands of sermons — has it got to this that infidelity is so popular in the United States?
If it has, I take courage. And I not only see the dawn of a brighter day, but the day is here. Think of it! A minister tells me in this year of grace, 1879, that a man is an infidel simply that he may be popular. I am glad of it. Simply that he may make money. Is it possible that we can make more money tearing up churches than in building them up? Is it possible that we can make more money denouncing the God of slavery than we can praising the God that took liberty from man? If so, I am glad.
I call publicly upon Robert Collyer — a man for whom I have great respect — I call publicly upon Robert Collyer to state to the people of this city whether he believes the Old Testament was inspired. I call upon him to state whether he believes that God ever upheld these institutions; whether God was a polygamist; whether he believes that God commanded Moses or Joshua or any one else to slay little children in the cradle. Do you believe that Robert Collyer would obey such an order? Do you believe that he would rush to the cradle and drive the knife of theological hatred to the tender heart of a dimpled child? And yet when I denounce a God that will give such a hellish order, he says it is slang.
I want him to answer; and when he answers he will say he does not believe the Bible is inspired. That is what he will say, and he holds these old worthies in the same contempt that I do. Suppose he should act like Abraham. Suppose he should send some woman out into the wilderness with his child in her arms to starve, would he think that mankind ought to hold up his name forever, for reverence.
Robert Collyer says that we should read and scan every word of the Old Testament with reverence; that we should take this book up with reverential hands. I deny it. We should read it as we do every other book, and everything good in it, keep it and everything that shocks the brain and shocks the heart, throw it away. Let us be honest.
Prof. Swing has made a few remarks on this subject, and I say the spirit he has exhibited has been as gentle and as sweet as the perfume of a flower. He was too good a man to stay in the Presbyterian church. He was a rose among thistles. He was a dove among vultures and they hunted him out, and I am glad he came out. I tell all the churches to drive all such men out, and when he comes I want him to state just what he thinks. I want him to tell the people of Chicago whether he believes the Bible is inspired in any sense except that in which Shakespeare was inspired. Honor bright, I tell you that all the sweet and beautiful things in the Bible would not make one play of Shakespeare; all the philosophy in the world would not make one scene in Hamlet; all the beauties of the Bible would not make one scene in the Midsummer Night’s Dream; all the beautiful things about woman in the Bible would not begin to create such a character as Perditu or Imogene or Miranda. Not one.
I want him to tell whether he believes the Bible was inspired in any other way than Shakespeare was inspired. I want him to pick out something as beautiful and tender as Burns’ poem to Mary in Heaven. I want him to tell whether he believes the story about the bears eating up children; whether that is inspired. I want him to tell whether he considers that a poem or not. I want to know if the same God made those bears that devoured the children because they laughed at an old man out of hair. I want to know if the same God that did that is the same God who said, “Suffer little children to come unto me, for such is the kingdom of Heaven.” I want him to answer it, and answer it fairly. That is all I ask. I want just the fair thing.
Now, sometimes Mr. Swing talks as though he believed the Bible, and then he talks to me as though he didn’t believe the Bible. The day he made this sermon I think he did, just a little, believe it. He is like the man that passed a ten dollar counterfeit bill. He was arrested and his father went to see him and said, “John, how could you commit such a crime? How could you bring my gray hairs in sorrow to the grave?” “Well,” he says, “father, I’ll tell you. I got this bill and some days I thought it was bad and some days I thought it was good, and one day when I thought it was good I passed it.”
I want it distinctly understood that I have the greatest respect for Prof. Swing, but I want him to tell whether the 109th psalm is inspired. I want him to tell whether the passages I shall afterward read in this book are inspired. That is what I want.
Then there is another gentleman here. His name is Herford. He says it is not fair to apply the test of truth to the Bible — I don’t think it is myself. He says although Moses upheld slavery, that he improved it. They were not quite so bad as they were before, and Heaven justified slavery at that time. Do you believe that God ever turned the arms of children into chains of slavery? Do you believe that God ever said to a man: “You can’t have your wife unless you will be a slave? You can not have your children unless you will lose your liberty; and unless you are willing to throw them from your heart forever, you can not be free?” I want Mr. Herford to state whether he loves such a God. Be honor bright about it. Don’t begin to talk about civilization or what the church has done or will do. Just walk right up to the rack and say whether you love and worship a God that established slavery. Honest! And love and worship a God that would allow a little babe to be torn from the breast of its mother and sold into slavery. Now tell it fair, Mr. Herford, I want you to tell the ladies in your congregation that you believe in a God that allowed women to be given to the soldiers. Tell them that, and then if you say it was not the God of Moses, then don’t praise Moses any more. Don’t do it. Answer these questions.
Then here is another gentleman, Mr. Ryder, the Rev. Mr. Ryder, and he says that Calvinism is rejected by a majority of Christendom. He is mistaken. There is what they call the Evangelical Alliance. They met in this country in 1875 or 1876, and there were present representatives of all the evangelical churches in the world, and they adopted a creed, and that creed is that man is totally depraved. That creed is that there is an eternal, universal Hell, and that every man that does not believe in a certain way is bound to be damned forever, and that there is only one way to be saved, and that is by faith, and by faith alone; and they would not allow anybody to be represented there that did not believe that, and they would not allow a Unitarian there, and would not have allowed Dr. Ryder there, because he takes away from the Christian world the consolation naturally arising from the belief in Hell.
Dr. Ryder is mistaken. All the orthodox religion of the day is Calvinism. It believes in the fall of man. It believes in the atonement. It believes in the eternity of Hell, and it believes in salvation by faith; that is to say, by credulity.
That is what they believe, and he is mistaken; and I want to tell Dr. Kyder today, if there is a God, and He wrote the Old Testament, there is a Hell. The God that wrote the Old Testament will have a Hell. And I want to tell Dr. Ryder another thing, that the Bible teaches an eternity of punishment. I want to tell him that the Bible upholds the doctrine of Hell. I want to tell Him that if there is no Hell, somebody ought to have said so, and Jesus Christ should not have said: “I will at the last day say: ‘Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’” If there was not such a place, Christ would not have said: “Depart from me, ye cursed, and these shall go hence into everlasting fire.” And if you, Dr. Ryder, are depending for salvation on the God that wrote the Old Testament, you will inevitably be eternally damned.
There is no hope for you. It is just as bad to deny Hell as it is to deny Heaven. It is just as much blasphemy to deny the devil as to deny God, according to the orthodox creed. He admits that the Jews were polygamists, but, he says, how was it they finally quit it? I can tell you — the soil was so poor they couldn’t afford it. Prof. Swing says the Bible is a poem, Dr. Ryder says it is a picture. The Garden of Eden is pictorial; a pictorial snake and a pictorial woman, I suppose, and a pictorial man, and maybe it was a pictorial sin. And only a pictorial atonement.
Then there is another gentleman, and he a rabbi, a Rabbi Bien, or Bean, or whatever his name is, and he comes to the defense of the Great Law-giver. There was another rabbi who attacked me in Cincinnati, and I couldn’t help but think of the old saying that a man got off when he said the tallest man he ever knew, his name was Short. And the fattest man he ever saw, his name was Lean. And it is only necessary for me to add that this rabbi in Cincinnati was Wise.
The rabbi here, I will not answer him, and I will tell you why. Because he has taken himself outside of all the limits of a gentleman; because he has taken it upon himself to traduce American women in language the beastliest I ever read; and any man who says that the American women are not just as good women as any God can make and pick his mud today, is an unappreciative barbarian.
I will let him alone because he denounced all the men in this country, all the members of Congress, all the members of the Senate, and all the judges upon the Bench; in his lecture he denounced them as thieves and robbers. That won’t do. I want to remind him that in this country the Jews were first admitted to the privileges of citizens; that in this country they were first given all their rights, and I am as much in favor of their having their rights as I am in favor of having my own. But when a rabbi so far forgets himself as to traduce the women and men of this country, I pronounce him a vulgar falsifier, and let him alone.
Strange, that nearly every man that has answered me has answered me mostly on the same side. Strange, that nearly every man that thought himself called upon to defend the Bible was one who did not believe in it himself. Isn’t it strange? They are like some suspected people, always anxious to show their marriage certificate. They want at least to convince the world that they are not as bad as I am.
Now, I want to read you just one or two things, and then I am going to let you go. I want to see if I have said such awful things, and whether I have got any scripture to stand by me. I will read only two or three verses. Does the Bible teach man to enslave his brother? If it does, it is not the word of God, unless God is a slaveholder.
“Moreover, all the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy of their families which are with you, which they beget in your land, and they shall be your possession. Ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you to inherit them. They shall be your bondsmen forever.”—(Old Testament.)
Upon the limbs of unborn babes this fiendish God put the chains of slavery. I hate him.
“Both thy bondmen and bondwomen shall be of the heathen round about thee and them shall ye buy, bondmen and bondwomen.”
Now let us read what the New Testament has. I could read a great deal more, but that is enough.
“Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters, according to the flesh in fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ.”
This is putting the dirty thief that steals your labor on an equality with God.
“Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle but also to the froward.”
“For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully.”
The idea of a man on account of conscience toward God stealing another man, or allowing him nothing but lashes on his back as legal-tender for labor performed.
“Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honor, that the name of God and His doctrine be not blasphemed.”
How can you blaspheme the name of God by asserting your independence? How can you blaspheme the name of a God by striking fetters from the limbs of men? I wish some of your ministers would tell you that. “And they that have believing masters let them not despise them.” That is to say, a good Christian could own another believer in Jesus Christ; could own a woman and her children, and could sell the child away from its mother. That is a sweet belief. O, hypocrisy!
“Let them not despise them because they are brethren, but rather do them service because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit.”
Oh, what slush! Here is what they will tell the poor slave, so that he will serve the man that stole his wife and children from him:
“For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. Having food and raiment let us be therewith content.”
Don’t you think that it would do just as well to preach that to the thieving man as to the suffering slave? I think so. Then this same Bible teaches witchcraft, that spirits go into the bodies of the man, and pigs, and that God himself made a trade with the devil, and the devil traded him off — a man for a certain number of swine, and the devil lost money because the hogs ran right down into the sea. He got a corner on that deal.
Now let us see how they believed in the rights of children:
“If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not harken unto them, then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place. And they shall say unto the elders of his city, ‘This, our son, is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice, he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ And all the men of this city shall stone him with stones, that he die, so shalt thou put evil away.”
That is a very good way to raise children. Here is the story of Jephthah. He went off and he asked the Lord to let him whip some people, and he told the Lord if He would let him whip them, he would sacrifice to the Lord the first thing that met him on his return; and the first thing that met him was his own beautiful daughter, and he sacrificed her. Is there a sadder story in all history than that? What do you think of a man that would sacrifice his own daughter? What do you think of a God that would receive that sacrifice? Now, then, they come to women in this blessed gospel, and let us see what the gospel says about women. Then you ought all to go to church, girls, next Sunday and hear it. “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection; but I suffer not a woman to teach nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence for Adam was formed first, not Eve.”
Don’t you see?
“And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in child-bearing if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.” (That is Mr. Timothy.) “But I would have you know that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is the man, and the head of Christ is God.”
I suppose that every old maid is acephalous.
“For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, for as much as he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of the man. For the man is not of the woman, but woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman, but the woman for the man.” “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husband as unto the Lord, for the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the Church.”
Do you hear that? You didn’t know how much we were above you. When you go back to the old testament, to the great law-giver, you find that the woman has to ask forgiveness for having borne a child. If it was a boy, thirty-three days she was unclean; if it was a girl, sixty-six. Nice laws! Good laws! If there is a pure thing in this world, if there is a picture of perfect purity, it is a mother with her child in her arms. Yes, I think more of a good woman and a child than I do of all the gods I have ever heard these people tell about. Just think of this:
“When thou goest forth to war against thine enemies, and the Lord thy God hath delivered them into thine hands, and thou hast taken them captive, and seest among the captives a beautiful woman and hast a desire unto her that thou wouldst have her to thy wife, then thou shalt bring her home to thine house, and she shall shave her head, and pare her nails.”
Wherefore, ye must needs be subject not only for wrath but for conscience sake. “For this cause pay you tribute also, for they are God’s ministers.”
I despise this wretched doctrine. Wherever the sword of rebellion is drawn in favor of the right, I am a rebel. I suppose Alexander, czar of Russia, was put there by the order of God, was he? I am sorry he was not removed by the nihilist that shot at him the other day.
I tell you, in a country like that, where there are hundreds of girls not 16 years of age prisoners in Siberia, simply for giving their ideas about liberty, and we telegraphed to that country, congratulating that wretch that he was not killed, my heart goes into the prison, my heart goes with the poor girl working as a miner in the mines, crawling on her hands and knees getting the precious ore out of the mines, and my sympathies go with her, and my sympathies cluster around the point of the dagger.
Does the bible describe a god of mercy? Let me read you a verse or two:
“I will make mine arrows drunk with blood, and my sword shall devour flesh.” “Thy foot may be dipped in the blood of thine enemies, and the tongue of thy dogs in the same.”
“And the Lord thy God will put out those nations before thee by little and little; thou mayest not consume them at once, lest the beasts of the field increase upon thee.
“But the Lord thy God shall deliver them unto thee, and shall destroy them with a mighty destruction, until they be destroyed.”
“And he shall deliver their kings into thine hand, and thou shalt destroy their name from under heaven; there shall no man be able to stand before thee, until thou have destroyed them.”
I can see what he had her nails pared for. Does the bible teach polygamy? The Rev. Dr. Newman, consul general to all the world — had a discussion with Elder Heber of Kimball, or some such wretch in Utah — whether the bible sustains polygamy, and the Mormons have printed that discussion as a campaign document. Read the order of Moses in the 31st chapter of Numbers. A great many chapters I dare not read to you. They are too filthy. I leave all that to the clergy. Read the 31st chapter of Exodus, the 31st chapter of Deuteronomy, the life of Abraham, and the life of David, and the life of Solomon, and then tell me that the bible does not uphold polygamy and concubinage!
Let them answer. Then I said that the bible upheld tyranny. Let me read you a little: “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God. The powers that be are ordained of God.”
George III was king by the grace of God, and when our fathers rose in rebellion, according to this doctrine, they rose against the power of God; and if they did they were successful.
And so it goes on, telling of all the cities that were destroyed, and of the great-hearted men, that they dashed their brains out, and all the little babes, and all the sweet women that they killed and plundered — all in the name of a most merciful God. Well, think of it! The Old Testament is filled with anathemas, and with curses, and with words of revenge, and jealousy, and hatred, and meanness, and brutality. Have I read enough to show that what I said is so? I think I have. I wish I had time to read to you further of what the dear old fathers of the church said about woman — wait a minute, and I will read you a little. We have got them running. St. Augustine in his 22d book says: “A woman ought to serve her husband as unto God, affirming that woman ought to be braced and bridled betimes, if she aspire to any dominion, alleging that dangerous and perilous it is to suffer her to precede, although it be in temporal and corporeal things. How can woman be in the image of God, seeing she is subject to man, and hath no authority to teach, neither to be a witness, neither to judge, much less to rule or bear the rod of empire.”
Oh, he is a good one. These are the very words of Augustine. Let me read some more. “Woman shall be subject unto man as unto Christ.” That is St. Augustine, and this sentence of Augustine ought to be noted of all women, for in it he plainly affirms that women are all the more subject to man. And now, St. Ambrose, he is a good boy. “Adam was deceived by Eve — called Heva — and not Heva by Adam, and therefore just it is that woman receive and acknowledge him for governor whom she called sin, lest that again she slip and fall with womanly facility. Don’t you see that woman has sinned once, and man never? If you give woman an opportunity, she will sin again, whereas if you give it to man, who never, never betrayed his trust in the world, nothing bad can happen. Let women be subject to their own husbands as unto the Lord, for man is the head of woman, and Christ is the head of the congregation.” They are all real good men, all of them. “It is not permitted to woman to speak; let her be in silence; as the law said: unto thy husband shalt thou ever be, and he shall bear dominion over thee.”
So St. Chrysostom. He is another good man. “Woman,” he says, “was put under the power of man, and man was pronounced lord over her; that she should obey man, that the head should not follow the feet. False priests do commonly deceive women, because they are easily persuaded to any opinion — especially if it be again given, and because they lack prudence and right reason to judge the things that be spoken; which should not be the nature of those that are appointed to govern others. For they should be constant, stable, prudent, and doing everything with discretion and reason, which virtues woman can not have in equality with man.”
I tell you women are more prudent than men. I tell you, as a rule, women are more truthful than men. I tell you that women are more faithful than men — ten times as faithful as man. I never saw a man pursue his wife into the very ditch and dust of degradation and take her in his arms. I never saw a man stand at the shore where she had been morally wrecked, waiting for the waves to bring back even her corpse to his arms but I have seen woman do it. I have seen woman with her white arms lift man from the mire of degradation, and hold him to her bosom as though he were an angel.
And these men thought woman not fit to be held as pure in the sight of God as man. I never saw a man that pretended that he didn’t love a woman; that pretended that he loved God better than he did a woman, that he didn’t look hateful to me, hateful and unclean. I could read you twenty others, but I haven’t time to do it. They are all to the same effect exactly. They hate woman, and say man is as much above her as God is above man. I am a believer in absolute equality. I am a believer in absolute liberty between man and wife. I believe in liberty, and I say, “Oh, liberty, float not forever in the far horizon — remain not forever in the dream of the enthusiast, the philanthropist and poet; but come and make thy home among the children of men.”
I know not what discoveries, what inventions, what thoughts may leap from the brain of the world. I know not what garments of glory may be woven by the years to come. I can not dream of the victories to be won. I do know that, coming upon the field of thought; but down the infinite sea of the future, there will never touch this “bank and shoal of time” a richer gift, a rarer blessing than liberty for man, woman and child.
I never addressed a more magnificent audience in my life, and I thank you, I thank you a thousand times over.
Nothing is more gratifying than to see ideas that were received with scorn, flourishing in the sunshine of approval. Only a few weeks ago I stated that the Bible was not inspired; that Moses was mistaken, that the “flood” was a foolish myth; that the Tower of Babel existed only in credulity; that God did not create the universe from nothing, that He did not start the first woman with a rib; that He never upheld slavery; that He was not a polygamist; that He did not kill people for making hair-oil, that He did not order His Generals to kill the dimpled babes; that He did not allow the roses of love and the violets of modesty to be trodden under the brutal feet of lust; that the Hebrew language was written without vowels; that the Bible was composed of many books written by unknown men; that all translations differed from each other, and that this book had filled the world with agony and crime.
At that time I had not the remotest idea that the most learned clergymen in Chicago would substantially agree with me — in public. I have read the replies of the Rev. Robert Collyer, Dr. Thomas, Rabbi Kohler, Rev. Brooke Herford, Prof. Swing, and Dr. Ryder, and will now ask them a few questions, answering them in their own words.
First, REV. ROBERT COLLYER:
Question. What is your opinion of the Bible? Answer. “It is a splendid book. It makes the noblest type of Catholics and the meanest bigots. Through this book men give their hearts for good to God, or for evil to the Devil. The best argument for the intrinsic greatness of the book is that it can touch such wide extremes, and seem to maintain us in the most unparalleled cruelty, as well as the most tender mercy; that it can inspire purity like that of the great saints and afford arguments in favor of polygamy. The Bible is the text book of ironclad Calvinism and sunny Universalism. It makes the Quaker quiet and the Millerite crazy. It inspired the Union soldier to live and grandly die for the right, and Stonewall Jackson to live nobly and die grandly for the wrong.”
Q. But, Mr. Collyer, do you really think that a book with as many passages in favor of wrong as right, is inspired? A. I look upon the Old Testament as a rotting tree. When it falls it will fertilize a bank of violets.
Q. Do you believe that God upheld slavery and polygamy? Do you believe that He ordered the killing of babes and the violation of maidens? A. “There is three-fold inspiration in the Bible, the first peerless and perfect, the Word of God to man; — the second simply and purely human, and then below this again, there is an inspiration born of an evil heart, ruthless and savage there and then as anything well can be. A three-fold inspiration, of Heaven first, then of the Earth, and then of Hell, all in the same book, all sometimes in the same chapter, and then, besides, a great many things that need no inspiration.”
Q. Then, after all, you do not pretend that the Scriptures are really inspired? A. “The Scriptures make no such claim for themselves as the Church make’s for them. They leave me free to say this is false, or this is true. The truth even within the Bible dies and lives, makes on this side and loses on that.”
Q. What do you say to the last verse in the Bible, where a curse is threatened to any man who takes from or adds to the book? A. “I have but one answer to this question, and it is: Let who will have written this, I can not for an instant believe that it was written by a divine inspiration. Such dogmas and threats as these are not of God, but of man, and not of any man of a free spirit and heart eager for the truth, but a narrow man who would cripple and confine the human soul in its quest after the whole truth of God, and back those who have done the shameful things in the name of the Most High.”
Q. Do you not regard such talk as slang?
(Supposed) Answer. If an infidel had said that the writer of Revelations was narrow and bigoted, I might have denounced his discourse as “slang,” but I think that Unitarian ministers can do so with the greatest propriety.
Q. Do you believe in the stories of the Bible, about Jael, and the sun standing still, and the walls falling at the blowing of horns? A. “They may be legends, myths, poems, or what they will, but they are not the Word of God. So I say again, it was not the God and Father of us all who inspired the woman to drive that nail crashing through the king’s temple after she had given him that bowl of milk and bid him sleep in safety, but a very mean Devil of hatred and revenge that I should hardly expect to find in a squaw on the plains. It was not the ram’s horns and the shouting before which the walls fell flat. If they went down at all, it was through good solid pounding. And not for an instant did the steady sun stand still or let his planet stand still while barbarian fought barbarian. He kept just the time then he keeps now. They might believe it who made the record. I do not. And since the whole Christian world might believe it, still we do not who gather in this church. A free and reasonable mind stands right in our way. Newton might believe it as a Christian and disbelieve it as a philosopher. We stand then with the philosopher against the Christian, for we must believe what is true to us in the last test, and these things are not true.”
SECOND, REV. DR. THOMAS.
Question. What is your opinion of the Old Testament? Answer. “My opinion is that it is not one book, but many — thirty-nine books bound up in one. The date and authorship of most of these books are wholly unknown. The Hebrews wrote without vowels and without dividing the letters into syllables, words or sentences. The books were gathered up by Ezra. At that time only two of the Jewish tribes remained. All progress had ceased. In gathering up the sacred book, copyists exercised great liberty in making changes and additions.”
Q. Yes, we know all that, but is the Old Testament inspired? A. “There maybe the inspiration of art, of poetry, or oratory; of patriotism — and there are such inspirations. There are moments when great truths and principles come to men. They seek the man and not the man them.”
Q. Yes, we will admit that, but is the Bible inspired? A. “But still I know of no way to convince any one of spirit and inspiration and God only as His reason may take hold of these things.”
Q. Do you think the Old Testament true? A. “The story of Eden may be an allegory; the history of the children of Israel may have mistakes.”
Q. Must inspiration claim infallibility? A. “It is a mistake to say that if you believe one part of the Bible you must believe all. Some of the thirty-nine books may be inspired, others not; or there may be degrees of inspiration.”
Q. Do you believe that God commanded the soldiers to kill the children and the married women and save for themselves the maidens, as recorded in Numbers 31:2? Do you believe that God upheld slavery? Do you believe that God upheld polygamy? A. “The Bible may be wrong in some statements. God and right can not be wrong. We must not exalt the Bible above God. It may be that we have claimed too much for the Bible, and thereby given not a little occasion for such men as Mr. Ingersoll to appear at the other extreme, denying too much.”
Q. What then shall be done? A. “We must take a middle ground. It is not necessary to believe that the bears devoured the forty-two children, nor that Jonah was swallowed by the whale.”
THIRD, REV. DR. KOHLER.
Question. What is your opinion about the Old Testament? Answer. “I will not make futile attempts of artificially interpreting the letter of the Bible so as to make it reflect the philosophical, moral and scientific views of our time. The Bible is a sacred record of humanity’s childhood.”
Q. Are you an orthodox Christian? A. “No. Orthodoxy, with its face turned backward to a ruined temple or a dead Messiah, is fast becoming like Lot’s wife, a pillar of salt.”
Q. Do you really believe the Old Testament was inspired? A. “I greatly acknowledge our indebtedness to men like Voltaire and Thomas Paine, whose bold denial and cutting wit were so instrumental in bringing about this glorious era of freedom, so congenial and blissful, particularly to the long-abused Jewish race.”
Q. Do you believe in the inspiration of the Bible? A. “Of course there is a destructive ax needed to strike down the old building in order to make room for the grander new. The divine origin claimed by the Hebrews for their national literature was claimed by all nations for their old records and laws as preserved by the priesthood. As Moses — the Hebrew law giver, is represented as having received the law from God on the holy mountains, so is Zoroaster, the Persian, Manu, the Hindoo, Minos, the Cretan, Lycurgus, the Spartan, and Numa, the Roman.”
Q. Do you believe all the stories in the Bible? A. “All that can and must be said against them is that they have been too long retained around the arms and limbs of grown-up manhood to check the spiritual progress of religion; that by Jewish ritualism and Christian dogmatism they became fetters unto the soul, turning the light of heaven into a misty haze to blind the eye, and even into a Hell fire of fanaticism to consume souls.”
Q. Is the Bible inspired? A. “True, the Bible is not free from errors, nor is any work of man and time. It abounds in childish views and offensive matters. I trust it will, in a time not far off, be presented for common use in families, schools, synagogues and churches, in a refined shape, cleansed from all dross and chaff, and stumbling-blocks on which the scoffer delights to dwell.”
FOURTH, REV. MR. HERFORD.
Question. Is the Bible true? Answer. “Ingersoll is very fond of saying ‘The question is not, is the Bible inspired, but is it true?’ That sounds very plausible, but you know as applied to any ancient book it is simply nonsense.”
Q. Do you think the stories in the Bible exaggerated? A. “I dare say the numbers are immensely exaggerated.”
Q. Do you think that God upheld polygamy? A. “The truth of which simply is, that four thousand years ago polygamy existed among the Jews, as everywhere else on earth then, and even their prophets did not come to the idea of its being wrong. But what is there to be indignant about in that? And so you really wonder why any man should be indignant at the idea that God upheld and sanctioned that beastliness called polygamy? What is there to be indignant about in that?”
FIFTH, PROF. SWING.
Question. What is your idea of the Bible? Answer. “I think it a poem.”
SIXTH, REV. DR. RYDER.
Question. And what is your idea of the sacred Scriptures? Answer. “Like other nations, the Hebrews had their patriotic, descriptive, didactic and lyrical poems in the same varieties as other nations; but with them, unlike other nations, whatever may be the form of their poetry, it always possesses the characteristic of religion.”
Q. I suppose you fully appreciate the religious characteristics of the Song of Solomon? No answer.
Q. Does the Bible uphold polygamy? A. “The law of Moses did not forbid it, but contained many provisions against its worst abuses, and such as were intended to restrict it within narrow limits.”
Q. So you think God corrected some of the worst abuses of polygamy, but preserved the institution itself?
I might question many others, but have concluded not to consider those as members of my Bible class who deal in calumnies and epithets. From the so-called “replies” of such ministers it appears that, while Christianity changes the heart, it does not improve the manners, and one can get into Heaven in the next world without having been a gentleman in this.
It is difficult for me to express the deep and thrilling satisfaction I have experienced in reading the admissions of the clergy of Chicago. Surely the battle of intellectual liberty is almost won when ministers admit that the Bible is filled with ignorant and cruel mistakes; that each man has the right to think for himself, and that it is not necessary to believe the Scriptures in order to be saved.
From the bottom of my heart, I congratulate my pupils on the advance they have made, and hope soon to meet them on the serene heights of perfect freedom.
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