The History of a False Religion - E. L. Bulwer - ebook
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RELIGION, says Noah Webster in his American Dictionary of the English Language, is derived from "Religo, to bind anew;" and, in this History of a False Religion, our author has shown how easily its votaries were insnared, deceived, and mentally bound in a labyrinth of falsehood and error, by a designing knave, who established a new religion and a new order of priesthood by imposing on their ignorance and credulity.The history of the origin of one supernatural religion will, with slight alterations, serve to describe them all. Their claim to credence rests on the exhibition of so-called miracles—that is, on a violation of the laws of nature,—for, if religions were founded on the demonstrated truths of science, there would be no mystery, no supernaturalism, no miracles, no skepticism, no false religion. We would have only verified truths and demonstrated facts for the basis of our belief. But this simple foundation does not satisfy the unreasoning multitude. They demand signs, portents, mysteries, wonders and miracles for their faith and the supply of prophets, knaves and impostors has always been found ample to satisfy this abnormal demand of credulity.Designing men, even at the present day, find little difficulty in establishing new systems of faith and belief. Joseph Smith, who invented the Mormon religion, had more followers and influence in this country at his death, than the Carpenter's Son obtained centuries ago from the unlettered inhabitants of Palestine; and yet Smith achieved his success among educated people in this so-called enlightened age, while Jesus taught in an age of semi-barbarism and faith, when both Jews and Pagans asserted and believed that beasts, birds, reptiles and even fishes understood human language, were often gifted with human speech, and sometimes seemed to possess even more than ordinary human intelligence.

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E. L. Bulwer

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Table of contents

PREFACE

THE FALLEN STAR, or, THE HISTORY OF A FALSE RELIGION

by E. L. Bulwer

AN ALLEGORY OF THE STARS.

FORMING A NEW RELIGION.

CONCLUSION

ON THE ORIGIN OF EVIL

By Lord Brougham

A DISSERTATION ON THE ORIGIN OF EVIL.

FOOTNOTES:

PREFACE

RELIGION, says Noah Webster in his American Dictionary of the English Language, is derived from "Religo, to bind anew;" and, in this History of a False Religion, our author has shown how easily its votaries were insnared, deceived, and mentally bound in a labyrinth of falsehood and error, by a designing knave, who established a new religion and a new order of priesthood by imposing on their ignorance and credulity.The history of the origin of one supernatural religion will, with slight alterations, serve to describe them all. Their claim to credence rests on the exhibition of so-called miracles—that is, on a violation of the laws of nature,—for, if religions were founded on the demonstrated truths of science, there would be no mystery, no supernaturalism, no miracles, no skepticism, no false religion. We would have only verified truths and demonstrated facts for the basis of our belief. But this simple foundation does not satisfy the unreasoning multitude. They demand signs, portents, mysteries, wonders and miracles for their faith and the supply of prophets, knaves and impostors has always been found ample to satisfy this abnormal demand of credulity.Designing men, even at the present day, find little difficulty in establishing new systems of faith and belief. Joseph Smith, who invented the Mormon religion, had more followers and influence in this country at his death, than the Carpenter's Son obtained centuries ago from the unlettered inhabitants of Palestine; and yet Smith achieved his success among educated people in this so-called enlightened age, while Jesus taught in an age of semi-barbarism and faith, when both Jews and Pagans asserted and believed that beasts, birds, reptiles and even fishes understood human language, were often gifted with human speech, and sometimes seemed to possess even more than ordinary human intelligence.They taught that the serpent, using the language of sophistry, beguiled Eve in Eden, who in turn corrupted Adam, her first and only husband. At the baptism of Jesus by John in the river Jordan, the voice of a dove resounded in the heavens, saying, quite audibly and distinctly, "Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased." Balaam disputed with his patient beast of burden, on their celebrated journey in the land of Moab, and the ass proved wiser in the argument that ensued than the inspired prophet who bestrode him, The great fish Oannes left his native element and taught philosophy to the Chaldeans on dry land. One reputable woman, of Jewish lineage,—the mother of an interesting family—was changed to a pillar of salt in Sodom while another female of great notoriety known to fame as the celebrated "Witch of Endor," raised Samuel from his grave in Ramah. Saint Peter found a shilling in the mouth of a fish which he caught in the Sea of Galilee, and this lucky incident enabled the impecunious apostle to pay the "tribute money" in Capernaum. Another famous Israelite,—so it is said,—broke the record of balloon ascensions in Judea, and ascended into heaven in a chariot of fire.In an age of ignorance wonders abound, prodigies occur, and miracles become common, The untaught masses are easily deceived, and their unreasoning credulity enables them to proudly boast of their unquestioning faith. When their feelings are excited and their passions aroused by professional evangelists, they even profess to believe that which they cannot comprehend; and, in the satirical language of Bulwer, they endeavor to "assist their ignorance by the conjectures of their superstition."Among the multitudes of diverse and opposing religions which afflict mankind, it is self-evident that but one religion may justly claim the inspiration of truth, and it is equally evident to all reasoning minds that that religion is the religion of kindness and humanity,—the religion of noble thoughts and generous deeds,—which removes the enmities of race and creed, and "makes the whole world kin!" And which, in its observance is blessed with sympathy, friendship, happiness and love.This religion needs no creed, no profession of faith, no incense, no prayer, no penance, no sacrifice. Its whole duty consists in comforting the afflicted, assisting the unfortunate, protecting the helpless, and in honestly fulfilling our duties to our fellow mortals. In the language of Confucius, the ancient Chinese Sage, it is simply "to behave to others as I would require others to behave to me.""Do unto others as you would they should do unto you," says Jesus; and in the Epistle of James, we are told that "Pure Religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world."The same benign and generous conduct is commended in even grander and nobler language in the lectures to the French Masonic Lodges: "Love one another, teach one another, help one another. That is all our doctrine, all our science, all our law."It is believed that the learned dissertation of Lord Brougham on the Origin of Evil, which is annexed to this work, will need no commendation to ensure its careful perusal.

THE FALLEN STAR, or, THE HISTORY OF A FALSE RELIGION

by E. L. Bulwer

AN ALLEGORY OF THE STARS.

And the Stars sat, each on his ruby throne, and watched with sleepless eyes upon the world. It was the night ushering in the new year, a night on which every star receives from the archangel that then visits the universal galaxy, its peculiar charge.

The destinies of men and empires are then portioned forth for the coming year, and, unconsciously to ourselves, our fates become minioned to the stars.

A hushed and solemn night is that in which the dark gates of time open to receive the ghost of the dead year, and the young and radiant stranger rushes forth from the clouded chasms of eternity. On that night, it is said that there are given to the spirits that we see not, a privilege and a power; the dead are troubled in their forgotten graves, and men feast and laugh, while demon and angel are contending for their doom.

It was night in heaven; all was unutterably silent, the music of the spheres had paused, and not a sound came from the angels of the stars; and they who sat upon those shining thrones were three thousand and ten, each resembling each.

Eternal youth clothed their radiant limbs with celestial beauty, and on their faces was written the dread of calm, that fearful stillness which feels not, sympathizes not with the dooms over which it broods.

War, tempest, pestilence, the rise of empires, and their fall, they ordain, they, compass, unexultant and uncompassionate. The fell and thrilling crimes that stalk abroad when the world sleeps—the parricide with his stealthy step, and horrent brow, and lifted knife; the unwifed mother that glides out and looks behind, and behind, and shudders, and casts her babe upon the river, and hears the wail, and pities not—the splash, and does not tremble!

These the starred kings behold—to these they lead the unconscious step; but the guilt blanches not their lustre, neither doth remorse wither their unwrinkled youth.

Each star wore a kingly diadem; round the loins of each was a graven belt, graven with many and mighty signs; and the foot of each was on a burning ball, and the right arm dropped over the knee as they bent down from their thrones; they moved not a limb or feature, save the finger of the right hand, which ever and anon moved slowly, pointing, and regulated the fates of men as the hand of the dial speaks the career of time.

One only of the three thousand and ten wore not the same aspect as his crowned brethren; a star, smaller than the rest, and less luminous. The countenance of this star was not impressed with the awful calmness of the others; but there were sullenness and discontent upon his mighty brow.

And this star said to himself—"Behold, I am created less glorious than my fellows, and the archangel apportions not to me the same lordly destinies. Not for me are the dooms of kings and bards, the rulers of empires, or, yet nobler, the swayers and harmonists of souls. Sluggish are the spirits and base the lot of the men I am ordained to lead through a dull life to a fameless grave. And wherefore?—Is it mine own fault, or is it the fault which is not mine, that I was woven of beams less glorious than my brethren? Lo! when the archangel comes, I will bow not my crowned head to his decrees. I will speak, as the ancestral Lucifer before me: he rebelled because of his glory, I because of my obscurity; he from the ambition of pride, and I from its discontent."

And while the star was thus communing with himself, the upward heavens were parted as by a long river of light, and adown that stream swiftly, and without sound, sped the archangel visitor of the stars; his vast limbs floated in the liquid lustre, and his outspread wings, each plume the glory of a sun, bore him noiselessly along; but thick clouds veiled his lustre from the eyes of mortals, and while above all was bathed in the serenity of his splendor, tempest and storm broke below over the children of the earth:

"He bowed the heavens and came down, and darkness was under his feet."

And the stillness on the faces of the stars became yet more still, and the awfulness was humbled into awe. Right above their thrones paused the course of the archangel; and his wings stretched from east to west, overshadowing with the shadow of light the immensity of space. Then forth in the shining stillness, rolled the dread music of his voice: and, fulfilling the heraldry of god, to each star he appointed the duty and the charge, and each star bowed his head yet lower as he heard the fiat, while his throne rocked and trembled at the majesty of the word. But at last, when each of the brighter stars had, in succession, received the mandate, and the viceroyalty over the nations of the earth, the purple and diadems of kings—the archangel addressed the lesser star as he sat apart from his fellows.

"Behold," said the archangel, "the rude tribes of the north, the fishermen of the river that flows beneath, and the hunters of the forests, that darken the mountain-tops with verdure! these be thy charge, and their destinies thy care. Nor deem thou, O star of the sullen beams, that thy duties are less glorious than the duties of thy brethren; for the peasant is not less to thy master and mine than the monarch; nor doth the doom of empires rest more upon the sovereign than on the herd. The passions and the heart are the dominion of the stars—a mighty realm; nor less mighty beneath the hide that garbs the shepherd, than the jewelled robes of eastern kings."

Then the star lifted his pale front from his breast, and answered the archangel:

"Lo!" he said, "ages have past, and each year thou hast appointed me to the same ignoble charge. Release me, I pray thee, from the duties that I scorn; or, if thou wilt that the lowlier race of men be my charge, give unto me the charge not of many, but of one, and suffer me to breathe into him the desire that spurns the valleys of life, and ascends its steeps. If the humble are given to me, let there be amongst them one whom I may lead on the mission that shall abase the proud; for, behold, O Appointer of the Stars, as I have sat for uncounted years upon my solitary throne, brooding over the things beneath, my spirit hath gathered wisdom from the changes that shift below. Looking upon the tribes of earth, I have seen how the multitude are swayed, and tracked the steps that lead weakness into power; and fain would I be the ruler of one who, if abased, shall aspire to rule."

As a sudden cloud over the face of noon was the change on the brow of the archangel.

"Proud and melancholy star," said the herald, "thy wish would war with the courses of the invisible destiny, that, throned far above, sways and harmonizes all; the source from which the lesser rivers of fate are eternally gushing through the heart of the universe of things. Thinkest thou that thy wisdom, of itself, can lead the peasant to become a king?"

And the crowned star gazed undauntedly on the face of the archangel, and answered:

"Yea!—grant me but one trial!"

Ere the archangel could reply, the farthest centre of the heaven was rent as by a thunderbolt; and the divine herald covered his face with his hands, and a voice low and sweet, and mild with the consciousness of unquestionable power, spoke forth to the repining star:

"The time has arrived when thou mayest have thy wish. Below thee, upon yon solitary plain, sits a mortal, gloomy as thyself, who, born under thy influence, may be moulded to thy will."

The voice ceased, as the voice of a dream. Silence was over the seas of space, and the archangel, once more borne aloft, slowly soared away into the farther heaven, to promulgate the divine bidding to the stars of far-distant worlds.

But the soul of the discontented star exulted within itself; and it said, "I will call forth a king from the valley of the herdsmen, that shall trample on the kings subject to my fellows, and render the charge of the contemned star more glorious than the minions of its favored brethren; thus shall I revenge neglect—thus shall I prove my claim hereafter to the heritage of the great of earth!"

At that time, though the world had rolled on for ages, and the pilgrimage of man had passed through various states of existence, which our dim traditionary knowledge has not preserved, yet the condition of our race in the northern hemisphere was then what we, in our imperfect lore, have conceived to be among the earliest.

FORMING A NEW RELIGION.

By a rude and vast pile of stones, the masonry of arts forgotten, a lonely man sat at midnight, gazing upon the heavens. A storm had just passed from the earth—the clouds had rolled away, and the high stars looked down upon the rapid waters of the Rhine; and no sound save the roar of the waves and the dripping of the rain from the mighty trees, was heard around the ruined pile: the white sheep lay scattered on the plain, and slumber with them. He sat watching over the herd, lest the foes of a neighboring tribe seized them unawares, and thus he communed with himself:

"The king sits upon his throne, and is honored by a warrior race, and the warrior exults in the trophies he has won; the step of the huntsman is bold upon the mountain-top, and his name is sung at night round the pine-fires, by the lips of the bard; and the bard himself hath honor in the hail. But I, who belong not to the race of kings, and whose limbs can bound not to the rapture of war, nor scale the eyries of the eagle and the haunts of the swift stag; whose hand cannot string the harp, and whose voice is harsh in the song; I have neither honor nor command, and men bow not the head as I pass along; yet do I feel within me the consciousness of a great power that should rule my species—not obey. My eye pierces the secret hearts of men—I see their thoughts ere their lips proclaim them; and I scorn, while I see, the weakness and the vices which I never shared. I laugh at the madness of the warrior—I mock within my soul at the tyranny of kings. Surely there is something in man's nature more fitted to command—more worthy of renoun, than the sinews of the arm, or the swiftness of the feet, or the accident of birth!"

As Morven, the son of Osslah, thus mused within himself, still looking at the heavens, the solitary man beheld a star suddenly shooting from its place, and speeding through the silent air, till it as suddenly paused right over the midnight river, and facing the inmate of the pile of stones.

As he gazed upon the star strange thoughts grew slowly over him. He drank, as it were, from its solemn aspect, the spirit of a great design. A dark cloud rapidly passing over the earth, snatched the star from his sight; but left to his awakened mind the thoughts and the dim scheme that had come to him as he gazed.

When the sun arose one of his brethren relieved him of his charge over the herd, and he went away, but not to his father's home. Musingly he plunged into the dark and leafless recesses of the winter forest; and shaped out of his wild thoughts, more palpably and clearly, the outline of his daring hope.