18 page printout Reproducible Electronic Publishing can defeat censorship. Contents of thi

---
Master Index Current Directory Index Go to SkepticTank Go to Human Rights activist Keith Henson Go to Scientology cult

Skeptic Tank!

18 page printout Reproducible Electronic Publishing can defeat censorship. Contents of this file page WHAT INFIDELS HAVE DONE. 1 UNITARIAN CLUB DINNER. 4 THIRTEEN CLUB DINNER. 13 SPIRITUALITY. 15 **** **** This file, its printout, or copies of either are to be copied and given away, but NOT sold. Bank of Wisdom, Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 The Works of ROBERT G. INGERSOLL **** **** WHAT INFIDELS HAVE DONE. ONE HUNDRED years after Christ had died suppose some one had asked a Christian, What hospitals have you built? What asylums have you founded? They would have said "None." Suppose three hundred years after the death of Christ the same questions had been asked the Christian, he would have said "None, not one." Two hundred years more and the answer would have been the same. And at that time the Christian could have told the questioner that the Mohammedans had built asylums before the Christians. He could also have told him that there had been orphan asylums in China for hundreds and hundreds of years, hospitals in India, and hospitals for the sick at Athens. Here it may be well enough to say that all hospitals and asylums are not built for charity. They are built because people do not want to be annoyed by the sick and the insane. If a sick man should come down the street and sit upon your doorstep, what would you do with him? You would have to take him into your house or leave him to suffer. Private families do not wish to take the burden of the sick. Consequently, in self-defence, hospitals are built so that any wanderer coming to a house, dying, or suffering from any disease, may immediately be packed off to a hospital and not become a burden upon private charity. The fact that many diseases are contagious rendered hospitals necessary for the preservation of the lives of the citizens. The same thing is true of the asylums. People do not, as a rule, want to take into their families, all the children who happen to have no fathers and mothers. So they endow and build an asylum where those children can be sent -- and where they can be whipped according to law, Nobody wants an insane stranger in his house. The consequence is, that the community, to get rid of these people, to get rid of the trouble, build public institutions and send them there. Now, then, to come to the point, to answer the interrogatory often flung at us from the pulpit, What institutions have Infidels built? In the first place, there have not been many Infidels for many years and, as a rule, a known Infidel cannot get very rich, Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 1 WHAT INFIDELS HAVE DONE. for the reason, that the Christians are so forgiving and loving they boycott him. If the average Infidel, freely stating his opinion, could get through the world himself, for the last several hundred years, he has been in good luck. But as a matter of fact there have been some Infidels who have done some good, even from a Christian standpoint. The greatest charity ever established in the United States by a man -- not by a community to get rid of a nuisance, but by a man who wished to do good and wished that good to last after his death -- is the Girard College in the city of Philadelphia. Girard was an Infidel. He gained his first publicity by going like a common person into the hospitals and taking care of those suffering from contagious diseases -- from cholera and smallpox. So there is a man by the name of James Lick, an Infidel, who has given the finest observatory ever given to the world. And it is a good thing for an Infidel to increase the sight of men. The reason people are theologians is because they cannot see. Mr. Lick has increased human vision, and I can say right here that nothing has been seen through the telescope calculated to prove the astronomy of Joshua. Neither can you see with that telescope a star that bears a Christian name. The reason is that Christianity was opposed to astronomy. so astronomers took their revenge, and now there is not one star that glitters in all the vast firmament of the boundless heavens that has a Christian name. Mr. Carnegie has been what they call a public-spirited man. He has given millions of dollars for libraries and other institutions, and he certainly is not an orthodox Christian. Infidels, however, have done much better even than that. They have increased the sum of human knowledge. John W. Draper, in his work on "The Intellectual Development of Europe," has done more good to the American people and to the civilized world than all the priests in it. He was an Infidel. Buckle is another who has added to the sum of human knowledge. Thomas Paine, an Infidel, did more for this country than any other man who ever lived in it. Most of the colleges in this country have, I admit, been founded by Christians, and the money for their support has been donated by Christians, but most of the colleges of this country have simply classified ignorance, and I think the United States would be more learned than it is to-day if there never had been a Christian college in it. But whether Christians gave or Infidels gave has nothing to do with the probability of the jonah story or with the probability that the mark on the dial went back ten degrees to prove that a little Jewish king was not going to die of a boil. And if the Infidels are all stingy and the Christians are all generous it does not even tend to prove that three men were in a fiery furnace heated seven times hotter than was its wont without even scorching their clothes. The best college in this country -- or, at least, for a long time the best -- was the institution founded by Ezra Cornell. That is a school where people try to teach what they know instead of what they guess. Yet Cornell University was attacked by every orthodox college in the United States at the time it was founded, because they said it was without religion. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 2 WHAT INFIDELS HAVE DONE. Everybody knows that Christianity does not tend to generosity.Christianity says: "Save your own soul, whether anybody else saves his or not." Christianity says: "Let the great ship go down. You get into the little life-boat of the gospel and paddle ashore, no matter what becomes of the rest." Christianity says you must love God, or something in the sky, better than you love your wife and children. And the Christian, even when giving, expects to get a very large compound interest in another world. The Infidel who gives, asks no return except the joy that comes from relieving the wants of another. Again the Christians, although they have built colleges, have built them for the purpose of spreading their superstitions, and have poisoned the minds of the world, while the Infidel teachers have filled the world with light. Darwin did more for mankind than if he had built a thousand hospitals. Voltaire did more than if he had built a thousand asylums for the insane. He will prevent thousands from going insane that otherwise might be driven into insanity by the "glad tidings of great joy." Haeckel is filling the world with light. I am perfectly willing that the results of the labors of Christians and the labors of Infidels should be compared. Then let it be understood that Infidels have been in this world but a very short time. A few years ago there were hardly any. I can remember when I was the only Infidel in the town where I lived. Give us time and we will build colleges in which something will be taught that is of use. We hope to build temples that will be dedicated to reason and common sense, and where every effort will be made to reform mankind and make them better and better in this world. I am saying nothing against the charity of Christians; nothing against any kindness or goodness. But I say the Christians, in my judgment, have done more harm than they have done good. They may talk of the asylums they have built, but they have not built asylums enough to hold the people who have been driven insane by their teachings. Orthodox religion has opposed liberty. It has opposed investigation and free-thought. If all the churches in Europe had been observatories, if the cathedrals had been universities where facts were taught and where nature was studied, if all the priests had been real teachers, this world would have been far, far beyond what it is to-day. There is an idea that Christianity is positive, and Infidelity is negative. If this be so, then falsehood is positive and truth is negative. What I contend is that Infidelity is a positive religion; that Christianity is a negative religion. Christianity denies and Infidelity admits. Infidelity stands by facts; it demonstrates by the conclusions of the reason. Infidelity does all it can to develop the brain and the heart of man. That is positive. Religion asks man to give up this world for one he knows nothing about, That is negative. I stand by the religion of reason. I stand by the dogmas of demonstration. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 3 UNITARIAN CLUB DINNER. New York, January 15, 1892. TOAST. The Ideal. MR. PRESIDENT, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN: In the first place, I wish to tender my thanks to this club for having generosity and sense enough to invite me to speak this evening. It is probably the best thing the club has ever done. You have shown that you are not afraid of a man simply because he does not happen to agree entirely with you, although in a very general way it may be said that I come within one of you. So I think, not only that you have honored me -- that, I most cheerfully and gratefully admit -- but. upon my word, I think that you have honored yourselves. And imagine the distance the religious world has traveled in the last few years to make a thing of this kind possible! You know -- I presume every one of you knows -- that I have no religion -- not enough to last a minute -- none whatever -- that is, in the ordinary sense of that word. And yet you have become so nearly civilized that you are willing to hear what I have to say; and I have become so nearly civilized that I am willing to say what I think. And, in the second place, let me say that I have great respect for the Unitarian Church. I have great respect for the memory of Theodore Parker. I have great respect for every man who has assisted in relieving the heavens of an infinite monster. I have great respect for every man who has helped to put out the fires of hell. In other words, I have great respect for every man who has tried to civilize my race. The Unitarian Church has done more than any other church -- and maybe more than all other churches -- to substitute character for creed, and to say that a man should be judged by his spirit; by the climate of his heart; by the autumn of his generosity; by the spring of his hope; that he should be judged by what he does; by the influence that he exerts, rather than by the mythology he may believe, And whether there be one God or a million, I am perfectly satisfied that every duty that devolves upon me is within my reach, it is something that I can do myself, without the help of anybody else, either in this world or any other. Now, in order to make myself plain on this subject -- I think I was to speak about the Ideal -- I want to thank the Unitarian Church for what it has done; and I want to thank the Universalist Church, too. They at least believe in a God who is a gentleman; and that is much more than was ever done by an orthodox church. They believe, at least, in a heavenly father who will leave the latch string out until the last child gets home; and as that lets me in -- especially in reference to the "last" -- I have great respect for that church. But now I am coming to the Ideal; and in what I may say you may not all agree. I hope you won't, because that would be to me evidence that I am wrong. You cannot expect everybody to agree in Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 4 UNITARIAN CLUB DINNER. the right, and I cannot expect to be always in the right myself. I have to judge with the standard called my reason, and I do not know whether it is right or not; I will admit that. But as opposed to any other man's, I will bet on mine. That is to say, for home use. In the first place, I think it is said in some book -- and if I am wrong there are plenty here to correct me -- that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." I think a knowledge of the limitations of the human mind is the beginning of wisdom, and, I may almost say, the end of it -- really to understand yourself. Now, let me lay down this proposition. The imagination of man has the horizon of experience; and beyond experience or nature man cannot go, even in imagination. Man is not a creator. He combines; he adds together; he divides; he subtracts; he does not create, even in the world of imagination. Let me make myself a little plainer: Not one here -- not one in the wide, wide world can think of a color that he never saw. No human being can imagine a sound that he has not heard, and no one can think of a taste that he has not experienced. He can add to -- that is add together -- combine; but he cannot, by any possibility, create. Man originally, we will say -- go back to the age of barbarism, and you will not have to go far; our own childhood, probably, is as far as is necessary -- but go back to what is called the age of savagery; every man was an idealist, as every man is to-day an idealist. Every man in savage or civilized time, commencing with the first that ever crawled out of a cave and pushed the hair back from his forehead to look at the sun -- commence with him and end with Judge Wright -- the last expression on the God question -- and from that cave to the soul that lives in this temple, everyone has been an idealist and has endeavored to account in some way for what he saw and for what he felt; in other words, for the phenomena of nature. The easiest way to account for it by the rudest savage, is the way it has been accounted for to-night. What makes the river run? There's a god in it. What makes the tree grow? There's a god in it. What makes the star shine? There's a god in it. What makes the sun rise? Why, he is a god himself. And what makes the nightingale sing until the air is faint with melody? There's a god in it. They commenced making gods to account for everything that happens; gods of dreams and gods of love and friend ship, and heroism and courage. Splendid! They kept making more and more. The more they found out in nature, up to a certain point, the more gods they needed; and they kept on making gods until almost every wave of the sea bore a god. Gods on every mountain, and in every vale and field, and by every stream! Gods in flowers, gods in grass; gods everywhere! All accounting for this world and for what happened in this world. Then, when they had got about to the top, when their ingenuity had been exhausted, they had not produced anything, and they did not produce anything beyond their own experience. We are told that they were idolaters. That is a mistake, except in the sense that we are all idolaters. They said, "Here is a god; let us express our idea of him. He is stronger than a man; let us give him the body of a lion. He is swifter than a man; let us give him the wings of an Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 5 UNITARIAN CLUB DINNER. eagle. He is wiser than a mall" -- and when a man was very savage he said, "let us give him the head of a serpent;" a serpent is wonderfully wise; he travels without feet; he climbs without claws; he lives without food, and he is of the simplest conceivable form. And that was simply to represent their idea of power, of swiftness, of wisdom. And yet this impossible monster was simply made of what man had seen in nature, and he put the various attributes or parts together by his imagination. He created nothing. He simply took these parts of certain beasts, when beasts were supposed to be superior to man in some particulars, and in that way expressed his thought. You go into the territory of Arizona to-day, and you will find there pictures of God. He was clothed in stone, through which no arrow could pierce, and so they called God the Stone-Shirted whom no Indian could kill. That was for the simple and only reason that it was impossible to get an arrow through his armor. They got the idea from the armadillo. Now, I am simply saying this to show that they were making gods for all these centuries, and making them out of something they found in nature. Then, after they got through with the beast business, they made gods after the image of man; and they are the best gods, so far as I know, that have been made. The gods that were first made after the image of man were not made after the pattern of very good men; but they were good men according to the standard of that time, because, as I will show you in a moment, all these things are relative. The qualities or things that we call mercy, justice, charity and religion are all relative. There was a time when the victor on the field of battle was exceedingly merciful if he failed to eat his prisoner; he was regarded as a very charitable gentleman if he refused to eat the man he had captured in battle. Afterward he was regarded as an exceedingly benevolent person if he would spare a prisoner's life and make him a slave. So that -- but you all know it as well as I do or you would not be Unitarians -- all this has been simply a growth from year to year, from generation to generation, from age to age. And let me tell you the first thing about these gods that they made after the image of men. After a time there were men on the earth who were better than these gods in heaven. Then those gods began to die, one after another, and dropped from their thrones. The time will probably come in the history of this world when an insurance company can calculate the average life of gods as well as they do now of men; because all these gods have been made by folks. And, let me say right here, the folks did the best they could. I do not blame them. Everybody in the business has always done his best. I admit it. I admit that man has traveled from the first conception up to Unitarianism by a necessary road. Under the conditions he could have come up in no other way. I admit all that. I blame nobody. But I am simply trying to tell, in a very feeble manner, how it is. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 6 UNITARIAN CLUB DINNER. Now, in a little while, I say, men got better than their gods. Then the gods began to die. Then we began to find out a few things in nature, and we found out that we were supporting more gods than were necessary -- that fewer gods could do the business -- and that, from an economical point of view, expenses ought to be cut down. There were too many temples, too many priests, and you always had to give tithes of something to each one, and these gods were about to eat up the substance of the world. And there came a time when it got to that point that either the gods would eat up the people or the people must destroy some gods, and of course they destroyed the gods -- one by one and in their places they put forces of nature to do the business -- forces of nature that needed no church, that needed no theologians; forces of nature that you are under no obligation to; that you do not have to pay anything to keep working. We found that the attraction of gravitation would attend to its business, night and day, at its own expense. There was a great saving. I wish it were the same with all kinds of law, so that we could all go into some useful business, including myself. So day by day, they dispensed with this expense of deities; and the world got along just as well -- a good deal better. They used to think -- a community thought -- that if a man was allowed to say a word against a deity, the god would visit his vengeance upon the entire nation. But they found out, after a while, that no harm came of it; so they went on destroying the gods. Now, all these things are relative; and they made gods a little better all the time -- I admit that -- till we struck the Presbyterian, which is probably the worst ever made. The Presbyterians seem to have bred back. But no matter. As man became more just, or nearer just, as he became more charitable, or nearer charitable, his god grew to be a little better and a little better. He was very bad in Geneva -- the three that we then had. They were very bad in Scotland -- horrible! Very bad in New England -- infamous! I might as well tell the truth about it -- very bad! And then men went to work, finally, to civilize their gods, to civilize heaven, to give heaven the benefit of the freedom of this brave world. That's what we did. We wanted to civilize religion -- civilize what is known as Christianity. And nothing on earth needed civilization more; and nothing needs it more than that to-night. Civilization! I am not so much for the freedom of religion as I am for the religion of freedom. Now, there was a time when our ancestors -- good people, away back, all dead, no great regret expressed at this meeting on that account -- there was a time when our ancestors were happy in their belief that nearly everybody was to be lost, and that a few, including themselves, were to be saved. That religion, I say, fitted that time. It fitted their geology. It was a very good running mate for their astronomy. It was a good match for their chemistry. In other words, they were about equal in every department of human ignorance. And they insisted that there lived up there somewhere -- generally up -- exactly where nobody has, I believe, yet said -- a Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 7 UNITARIAN CLUB DINNER. being, an infinite person "without body, parts, or passions," and yet without passions he was angry at the wicked every day; without body he inhabited a certain place; and without parts he was, after all, in some strange and miraculous manner, organized so that he thought. And I don't know that it is possible for anyone here -- I don't know that anyone here is gifted with imagination enough -- to conceive of such a being. Our fathers had not imagination enough to do so, at least, and so they said of this God, that he loves and he hates; he punishes and he rewards; and that religion has been described perfectly tonight by Judge Wright as really making God a monster, and men poor, helpless victims. And the highest possible conception of the orthodox man was, finally, to be a good servant -- just lucky enough to get in -- feathers somewhat singed, but enough left to fly. That was the idea of our fathers. And then came these divisions, simply because men began to think. And why did they begin to think? Because in every direction, in all departments, they were getting more and more information. And then the religion did not fit. When they found out something of the history of this globe they found out that the Scriptures were not true. I will not say not inspired, because I do not know whether they are inspired or not. It is a question, to me, of no possible importance, whether they are inspired or not. The question is: Are they true? If they are true, they do not need inspiration; and if they are not true, inspiration will not help them. So that is a matter that I care nothing about. On every hand, I say, they studied and thought. They began to grow -- to have new ideas of mercy, kindness, justice; new ideas of duty -- new ideas of life. The old gods, after we got past the civilization of the Greeks, past their mythology -- and it is the best mythology that man has ever made -- after we got past that, I say, the gods cared very little about women. Women occupied no place in the state -- no place by the hearth, except one of subordination, and almost of slavery. So the early churches made God after that image who held women in contempt. It was only natural -- I am not blaming anybody -- they had to do it, it was part of the must! Now, I say that we have advanced up to the point that we demand not only intelligence, but justice and mercy, in the sky; we demand that -- that idea of God. Then comes my trouble. I want to be honest about it. Here is my trouble -- and I want it also understood that if I should see a man praying to a stone image or to a stuffed serpent, with that man's wife or daughter or son lying at the point of death, and that poor savage on his knees imploring that image or that stuffed serpent to save his child or his wife, there is nothing in my heart that could suggest the slightest scorn, or any other feeling than that of sympathy; any other feeling than that of grief that the stuffed serpent could not answer the prayer and that the stone image did not feel; I want that understood. And wherever man prays for the right -- no matter to whom or to what he prays; where he prays for strength to conquer the wrong, I hope his prayer may be heard; and if I think there is no one else to hear it I will hear it, and I am willing to help answer it to the extent of my power. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 8 UNITARIAN CLUB DINNER. So I want it distinctly understood that that is my feeling. But here is my trouble: I find this world made on a very cruel plain I do not say it is wrong -- I just say that that is the way it seems to me. I may be wrong myself, because this is the only world I was ever in; I am provincial. This grain of sand and tear they call the earth is the only world I have ever lived in. And you have no idea how little I know about the rest of this universe; you never will know how little I know about it until you examine your own minds on the same subject. The plan is this: Life feeds on life. justice does not always triumph., Innocence is not a perfect shield. There is my trouble. No matter now, whether you agree with me or not; I beg of you to be honest and fair with me in your thought, as I am toward you in mine. I hope, as devoutly as you, that there is a power somewhere in this universe that will finally bring everything as it should be. I take a little consolation in the "perhaps" -- in the guess that this is only one scene of a great drama, and that when the curtain rises on the fifth act, if I live that long, I may see the coherence and the relation of things. But up to the present writing -- or speaking -- I do not. I do not understand it -- a God that has life feed on life; every joy in the world born of some agony! I do not understand why in this world, over the Niagara of cruelty, should run this ocean of blood. I do not understand it. And, then, why does not justice always triumph? Why is not innocence a perfect shield? These are my troubles. Suppose a man had control of the atmosphere, knew enough of the secrets of nature, had read enough in "nature's infinite book of secrecy" so that he could control the wind and rain; suppose a man had that power, and suppose that last year he kept the rain from Russia and did not allow the crops to ripen when hundreds of thousands were famishing and when little babes were found with their lips on the breasts of dead mothers! What would you think of such a man? Now, there is my trouble. If there be a God he understood this. He knew when he withheld his rain that the famine would come. He saw the dead mothers, he saw the empty breasts of death, and he saw the helpless babes. There is my trouble. I am perfectly frank with you and honest. That is my trouble. Now, understand me! I do not say there is no God. I do not know. As I told you before, I have traveled but very little -- only in this world. I want it understood that I do not pretend to know. I say I think. And in my mind the idea expressed by Judge Wright so eloquently and so beautifully is not exactly true. I cannot conceive of the God he endeavors to describe, because he gives to that God will, purpose, achievement, benevolence, love, and no form -- no organization -- no wants. There's the trouble. No wants. And let me say why that is a trouble. Man acts only because he wants. You civilize man by increasing his wants, or, as his wants increase he becomes civilized. You find a lazy savage who would not hunt an elephant tusk to save your life. But let him have a few tastes of whiskey and tobacco, and he will run his legs off for tusks. You Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 9 UNITARIAN CLUB DINNER. have given him another want and he is waling to work. And they nearly all started on the road toward Unitarianism -- that is to say, toward civilization -- in that way. You must increase their wants. The question arises: Can an infinite being want anything? If he does and cannot get it, he is not happy. If he does not want anything, I cannot help him. I am under no obligation to do anything for anybody who does not need anything and who does not want anything. Now, there is my trouble. I may be wrong, and I may get paid for it some time, but that is my trouble. I do not see -- admitting that all is true that has been said about the existence of God -- I do not see what I can do for him; and I do not see either what he can do for me, judging by what he has done for others. And then I come to the other point, that religion so-called, explains our duties to this supposed being, when we do not even know that he exists; and no human being has got imagination enough to describe him, or to use such, words that you understand what he is trying to say. I have listened with great pleasure to Judge Wright this evening and I have heard a great many other beautiful things on the same subject -- none better than his. But I never understood them -- never. Now, then, what is religion? I say, religion is all here in this world -- right here -- and that all our duties are right here to our fellow-men; that the man that builds a home; marries the girl that he loves; takes good care of her; likes the family; stays home nights, as a general thing; pays his debts; tries to find out what he can; gets all the ideas and beautiful things that his mind will hold; turns a part of his brain into a gallery of fine arts; has a host of paintings and statues there; then has another niche devoted to music -- a magnificent dome, filled with winged notes that rise to glory -- now, the man who does that gets all he can from the great ones dead; swaps all the thoughts he can with the ones that are alive; true to the ideal that he has here in his brain -- he is what I call a religious man, because he makes the world better, happier; he puts the dimples of joy in the cheeks of the ones he loves, and he lets the gods run heaven to suit themselves. And I am not saying that he is right; I do not know. This is all the religion that I have; to make somebody else happier if I can. I divide this world into two classes -- the cruel and the kind; and I think a thousand times more of a kind man than I do of an intelligent man. I think more of kindness than I do of genius, I think more of real, good, human nature in that way -- of one who is willing to lend a helping hand and who goes through the world with a face that looks as if its owner were willing to answer a decent question -- I think a thousand times more of that than I do of being theologically right; because I do not care whether I am theologically right or not. It is something that is not worth talking about, because it is something that I never, never, never shall understand; and every one of you will die and you won't Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 10 UNITARIAN CLUB DINNER. understand it either -- until after you die at any rate. I do not know what will happen then. I am not denying anything. There is another ideal, and it is a beautiful ideal. It is the greatest dream that ever entered the heart or brain of man -- the Dream of Immortality. It was born of human affection. It did not come to us from heaven. It was born of the human heart. -- And when he who loved, kissed the lips of her who was dead, there came into his heart the dream: We may meet again. And, let me till you, that hope of immortality never came from any religion. That hope of immortality has helped make religion. It has been the great oak around which have climbed the poisonous vines of superstition -- that hope of immortality is the great oak. And yet the moment a man expresses a doubt about the truth of Joshua or Jonah or the other three fellows in a furnace, up hops some poor little wretch and says, "Why, he doesn't want to live any more; he wants to die and go down like a dog, and that is the end of him and his wife and children." They really seem to think that the moment a man is what they call an Infidel he has no affections, no heart, no feeling, no hope -- nothing -- nothing. just anxious to be annihilated! But, if the orthodox creed be true, I make my choice to-night. I take hell. And if it is between hell and annihilation, I take annihilation. I will tell you why I take hell in making the first choice. We have heard from both of those places -- heaven and hell. According to the New Testament there was a rich, man in hell, and a poor man, Lazarus, in heaven. And there was another gentleman by the name of Abraham. The rich man in hell was in flames, and he called for water, and they told him they couldn't give him any. No bridge! But they did not express the slightest regret that they could not give him any water. Mr. Abraham was not decent enough to say he would if he could; no, sir; nothing. It did not make any difference to him. But this rich man in hell -- in torment -- his heart was all right, for he remembered his brothers; and he said to this Abraham, "If you cannot go, why, send a man to my five brethren, so that they will not come to this Place!" Good fellow, to think of his five brothers when he was burning up. Good fellow. Best fellow we ever heard from on the other side -- in either world. So, I say, there is my place. And, incidentally, Abraham at that time gave his judgment as to the value of miracles. He said, "Though one should arise from the dead he wouldn't help your five brethren!" "There are Moses and the prophets." No need of raising people from the dead. That is my idea, in a general way, about religion; and I want the imagination to go to work upon it, taking the perfections of one church, of one school, of one system, and putting them together, just as the sculptor makes a great statue by taking the eyes from one, the nose from another, the limbs from another, and so on; just as they make a great painting from a landscape by putting a river in this place, instead of over there, changing the location of a tree and improving on what they call nature -- that Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 11 UNITARIAN CLUB DINNER. is to say, simply by adding to, taking from; that is all we can do. But let us go on doing that until there shall be a church in sympathy with the best human heart and in harmony with the best human brain. And, what is more, let us have that religion for the world we live in. Right here! Let us have that religion until it cannot be said that they who do the most work have the least to eat. Let us have that religion here until hundreds and thousands of women are not compelled to make a living with the needle that has been called "the asp for the breast of the poor," and to live in tenements, in filth, where modesty is impossible. I say, let us preach that religion here until men will be ashamed to have forty or fifty millions, or any more than they need, while their brethren lack bread -- while their sisters die from want. Let us preach that religion here until man will have more ambition to become wise and good than to become rich and powerful. Let us preach that religion here among ourselves until there are no abused and beaten wives. Let us preach that religion until children are no longer afraid of their own parents and until there is no back of a child bearing the scars of a father's lash. Let us preach it, I say, until we understand and know that every man does as he must, and that, if we want better men and women, we must have better conditions. Let us preach this grand religion until everywhere, the world over, men are just and kind to each other. And then, if there be another world, we shall be prepared for it. And if I come into the presence of an infinite, good, and wise being, he will say, "Well, you did the best you could. You did very well, indeed. There is plenty of work for you to do here. Try and get a little higher than you were before." Let us preach that one drop of restitution is worth an ocean of repentance. And if there is a life of eternal progress before us, I shall be as glad as any other angel to find that out. But I will not sacrifice the world I have for one I know not of. I will not live here in fear, when I do not know that that which I fear lives. I am going to live a perfectly free man. I am going to reap the harvest of my mind, no matter how poor it is, whether it is wheat or corn or worthless weeds. And I am going to scatter it. Some may "fall on stony ground." But I think I have struck good soil to-night. And so, ladies and gentlemen, I thank you a thousand times for your attention. I beg that you will forgive the time that I have taken, and allow me to say, once more, that this event marks an epoch in Religious Liberty in the United States. END **** **** Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 12 THIRTEEN CLUB DINNER. New York, December 13, 1886. TOAST. The Superstitions of Public Men. MR. CHIEF RULER AND GENTLEMEN: I suppose that the superstition most prevalent with public men, is the idea that they are of great importance to the public. As a matter of fact, public men, -- that is to say, men in office, -- reflect the average intelligence of the people, and no more. A public man, to be successful, must not assert anything unless it is exceedingly popular. And he need not deny anything unless everybody is against it. Usually he has to be like the center of the earth, -- draw all things his way, without weighing anything himself. One of the difficulties, or rather, one of the objections, to a government republican in form, is this: Everybody imagines that he is everybody's master. And the result has been to make most of our public men exceedingly conservative in the expression of their real opinions. A man, wishing to be elected to an office, generally agrees with most everybody he meets. If he meets a Prohibitionist, he says: "Of course I am a temperance man. I am opposed to all excesses, my dear friend, and no one knows better than myself the evils that have been caused by intemperance." The next man happens to keep a saloon, and happens to be quite influential in that part of the district, and the candidate immediately says to him -- "The idea that these Prohibitionists can take away the personal liberty of the citizen is simply monstrous!" In a moment after, he is greeted by a Methodist, and he hastens to say, that while he does not belong to that church himself, his wife does; that he would gladly be a member, but does not feel that he is good enough. He tells a Presbyterian that his grandfather was of that faith, and that he was a most excellent man, and laments from the bottom of his heart that he himself is not within that fold. A few moments after, on meeting a skeptic, he declares, with the greatest fervor, that reason is the only guide, and that he looks forward to the time when superstition will be dethroned. In other words, the greatest superstition now entertained by public men is that hypocrisy is the royal road to success. Of course, there are many other superstitions, and one is, that the Democratic party has not outlived its usefulness. Another is, that the Republican party should have power for what it has done, instead of what it proposes to do, In my judgment, these statesmen are mistaken. The people of the United States, after all, admire intellectual honesty and have respect for moral courage. The time has come for the old ideas and superstitions in politics to be thrown away -- not in phrase, not in pretence, but in fact; and the time has come when a man can safely rely on the intelligence and courage of the American people. The most significant fact in this world to-day, is, that in nearly every village under the American flag the school-house is larger than the church. People are beginning to have a little confidence in intelligence and in facts. Every public man and every private man, who is actuated in his life by a belief in something Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 13 THIRTEEN CLUB DINNER. that no one can prove, -- that no one can demonstrate, -- is, to that extent, a superstitious man. It may be that I go further than most of you, because if I have any superstition, it is a superstition against superstition. It seems to me that the first things for every man, whether in or out of office, to believe in, -- the first things to rely on, are demonstrated facts. These are the corner stones, -- these are the columns that nothing can move, -- these are the stars that no darkness can hide, -- these are the true and only foundations of belief. Beyond the truths that have been demonstrated is the horizon of the Probable, and in the world of the Probable every man has the right to guess for himself. Beyond the region of the Probable is the Possible, and beyond the Possible is the Impossible, and beyond the Impossible are the religions of this world. My idea is this: Any man who acts in view of the improbable or of the Impossible - that is to say, of the Supernatural -- is a superstitious man. Any man who believes that he can add to the happiness of the Infinite, by depriving himself of innocent pleasure, is superstitions. Any man who imagines that he can make some God happy, by making himself miserable, is superstitious, Any one who thinks he can gain happiness in another world, by raising hell with his fellow-men in this, is simply superstitious. Any man who believes in a Being of infinite wisdom and goodness, and yet believes that that Being has peopled a world with failures, is superstitious. Any man who believes that an infinitely wise and good God would take pains to make a man, intending at the time that the man should be eternally damned, is absurdly superstitious. In other words, he who believes that there is, or that there can be, any other religious duty than to increase the happiness of mankind, in this world, now and here, is superstitious. I have known a great many private men who were not men of genius. I have known some men of genius about whom it was kept private, and I have known many public men, and my wonder increased the better I knew them, that they occupied positions of trust and honor. But, after all, it is the people's fault. They who demand hypocrisy must be satisfied with mediocrity. Our public men will be better and greater and less superstitious, when the people become greater and better and less superstitious. There is an old story, that we have all heard, about Senator Nesmith. He was elected a Senator from Oregon. When he had been in Washington a little while, one of the other Senators said to him: "How did you feel when you found yourself sitting here in the United States Senate?" He replied: "For the first two months, I just sat and wondered how a damned fool like me ever broke into the Senate. Since that, I have done nothing but wonder how the other fools got here." To-day the need of our civilization is public men who have the courage to speak as they think. We need a man for President who will not publicly thank God for earthquakes. We need somebody with the courage to say that all that happens in nature happens without design, and without reference to man; somebody who will say that Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 14 THIRTEEN CLUB DINNER. the men and women killed are not murdered by supernatural beings, and that everything that happens in nature, happens without malice and without mercy. We want somebody who will have courage enough not to charge an infinitely good and wise Being with all the cruelties and agonies and sufferings of this world. We want such men in public places, -- men who will appeal to the reason of their fellows, to the highest intelligence of the people; men who will have courage enough, in this the nineteenth century, to agree with the conclusions of science. We want some man who will not pretend to believe, and who does not in fact believe, the stories that Superstition has told to Credulity. The most important thing in this word is the destruction of superstition. Superstition interferes with the happiness of mankind. Superstition is a terrible serpent, reaching in frightful coils from heaven to earth and thrusting its poisoned fangs into the hearts of men. While I live, I am going to do what little I can for the destruction of this monster. Whatever may happen in another world -- and I will take my chances there, -- I am opposed to superstition in this. And if, when I reach that other world, it needs reforming, I shall do what little I can there for the destruction of the false. Let me tell you one thing more, and I am done. The only way to have brave, honest, intelligent, conscientious public men, men without superstition, is to do what we can to make the average citizen brave, conscientious and intelligent. If you wish to see courage in the presidential chair, conscience upon the bench, intelligence of the highest order in Congress; if you expect public men to be great enough to reflect honor upon the Republic, private citizens must have the courage and the intelligence to elect, and to sustain, such men. I have said, and I say it again, that never while I live will I vote for any man to be President of the United States, no matter if he does belong to my party, who has not won his spurs on some field of intellectual conflict. We have had enough mediocrity, enough policy, enough superstition, enough prejudice, enough provincialism, and the time has come for the American citizen to say: "Hereafter I will be represented by men who are worthy, not only of the great Republic, but of the Nineteenth Century." END **** **** SPIRITUALITY. IF there is an abused word in our language, it is "spirituality." It has been repeated over and over for several hundred years by pious pretenders and snivelers as though it belonged exclusively to them. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 15 SPIRITUALITY. In the early days of Christianity, the "spiritual" renounced the world with all its duties and obligations. They deserted their wives and children. They became hermits and dwelt in caves. They spent their useless years in praying for their shriveled and worthless souls. They were too "spiritual" to love women, to build homes and to labor for children. They were too "spiritual" to earn their bread, so they became beggars and stood by the highways of Life and held out their hands and asked alms of Industry and Courage. They were too "spiritual" to be merciful. They preached the dogma of eternal pain and gloried in "the wrath to come." They were too "spiritual" to be civilized, so they persecuted their fellow-men for expressing their honest thoughts. They were so "spiritual" that they invented instruments of torture, founded the Inquisition, appealed to the whip, the rack, the sword and the fagot. They tore the flesh of their fellow-men with hooks of iron, buried their neighbors alive, cut off their eyelids, dashed out the brains of babes and cut off the breasts of mothers. These "spiritual" wretches spent day and night on their knees, praying for their own salvation and asking God to curse the best and noblest of the world. John Calvin was intensely "spiritual" when he warmed his fleshless hands at the flames that consumed Servetus. John Knox was constrained by his "spirituality" to utter low and loathsome calumnies against all women. All the witch-burners and Quaker-maimers and mutilators were so "spiritual" that they constantly looked heavenward and longed for the skies. These lovers of God -- these haters of men -- looked upon the Greek marbles as unclean, and denounced the glories of Art as the snares and pitfalls of perdition. These "spiritual" mendicants hated laughter and smiles and dimples, and exhausted their diseased and polluted imaginations in the effort to make love loathsome. From almost every pulpit was heard the denunciation of all that adds to the wealth, the joy and glory of life. It became the fashion for the "spiritual" to malign every hope and passion that tends to humanize and refine the heart. Man was denounced as totally depraved. Woman was declared to be a perpetual temptation -- her beauty a snare and her touch pollution. Even in our own time and country some of the ministers, no matter how radical they claim to be, retain the aroma, the odor, or the smell of the "spiritual." They denounce some of the best and greatest -- some of the benefactors of the race -- for having lived on the low plane of usefulness -- and for having had the pitiful ambition to make their fellows happy in this world. Thomas Paine was a groveling wretch because he devoted his life to the preservation of the rights of man, and Voltaire lacked the "spiritual" because he abolished torture in France and attacked, with the enthusiasm of a divine madness, the monster that was endeavoring to drive the hope of liberty from the heart of man. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 16 SPIRITUALITY. Humboldt was not "spiritual" enough to repeat with closed eyes the absurdities of superstition, but was so lost to all the "skyey influences" that he was satisfied to add to the intellectual wealth of the world. Darwin lacked "spirituality," and in its place had nothing but sincerity, patience, intelligence, the spirit of investigation and the courage to give his honest conclusions to the world. He contented himself with giving to his fellow-men the greatest and the sublime truths that man has spoken since lips have uttered speech. But we are now told that these soldiers of science, these heroes of liberty, these sculptors and painters, these singers of songs, these composers of music, lack "spirituality" and after all were only common clay. This word "spirituality" is the fortress, the breastwork, the rifle-pit of the Pharisee. It sustains the same relation to sincerity that Dutch metal does to pure gold. There seems to be something about a pulpit that poisons the occupant -- that changes his nature -- that causes him to denounce what he really loves and to laud with the fervor of insanity a joy that he never felt -- a rapture that never thrilled his soul. Hypnotised by his surroundings, he unconsciously brings to market that which he supposes the purchasers desire. In every church, whether orthodox or radical, there are two parties -- one conservative, looking backward, one radical, looking forward, and generally a minister "spiritual" enough to look both ways. A minister who seems to be a philosopher on the street, or in the home of a sensible man, cannot withstand the atmosphere of the pulpit. The moment he stands behind the Bible cushion, like Bottom, he is "translated" and the Titania of superstition "kisses his large, fair ears." Nothing is more amusing than to hear a clergyman denounce worldliness -- ask his hearers what it will profit them to build railways and palaces and lose their own souls -- inquire of the common folks before him why they waste their precious years in following trades and professions, in gathering treasures that moths corrupt and rust devours, giving their days to the vulgar business of making money, -- and then see him take up a collection, knowing perfectly well that only the worldly, the very people he has denounced, can by any possibility give a dollar. "Spirituality" for the most part is a mask worn by idleness, arrogance and greed. Some people imagine that they are "spiritual" when they are sickly. It may be well enough to ask: What is it to be really spiritual? Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 17 SPIRITUALITY. The spiritual man lives to his ideal. He endeavors to make others happy. He does not despise the passions that have filled the world with art and glory. He loves his wife and children -- home and fireside. He cultivates the amenities and refinements of life. He is the friend and champion of the oppressed. His sympathies are with the poor and the suffering. He attacks what he believes to be wrong, though defended by the many, and he is willing to stand for the right against the world. He enjoys the beautiful. In the presence of the highest creations of Art his eyes are suffused with tears. When he listens to the great melodies, the divine harmonies, he feels the sorrows and the raptures of death and love. He is intensely human. He carries in his heart the burdens of the world. He searches for the deeper meanings. He appreciates the harmonies of conduct, the melody of a perfect life. He loves his wife and children better than any god. He cares more for the world he lives in than for any other. He tries to discharge the duties of this life, to help those that he can reach. He believes in being useful -- in making money to feed and clothe and educate the ones he loves -- to assist the deserving and to support himself. He does not wish to be a burden on others. He is just, generous and sincere, Spirituality is all of this world. It is a child of this earth, born and cradled here. It comes from no heaven, but it makes a heaven where it is. There is no possible connection between superstition and the spiritual, or between theology and the spiritual. The spiritually-minded man is a poet. If he does not write poetry, he lives it. He is an artist. If he does not paint pictures or chisel statues, he feels them, and their beauty softens his heart. He fills the temple of his soul with all that is beautiful, and he worships at the shrine of the Ideal. In all the relations of life he is faithful and true. He asks for nothing that he does not earn. He does not wish to be happy in heaven if he must receive happiness as alms. He does not rely on the goodness of another. He is not ambitious to become a winged pauper. Spirituality is the perfect health of the soul. It is noble, manly, generous, brave, free-spoken, natural, superb. Nothing is more sickening than the "spiritual" whine -- the pretence that crawls at first and talks about humility and then suddenly becomes arrogant and says: "I am 'spiritual.' I hold in contempt the vulgar joys of this life. You work and toil and build homes and sing songs and weave your delicate robes, You love women and children and adorn yourselves. You subdue the earth and dig for gold, You have your theaters, your operas and all the luxuries of life; but I, beggar that I am, Pharisee that I am, am your superior because I am 'spiritual.'" Above all things, let us be sincere. -- The Conservator, Philadelphia 1891. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 18

---

E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank