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The Necessity of Atheism is an essay on atheism by Dr. D.M. Brooks.Plain speaking is necessary in any discussion of religion, for if the freethinker attacks the religious dogmas with hesitation, the orthodox believer assumes that it is with regret that the freethinker would remove the crutch that supports the orthodox. And all religious beliefs are "crutches" hindering the free locomotive efforts of an advancing humanity. There are no problems related to human progress and happiness in this age which any theology can solve, and which the teachings of freethought cannot do better and without the aid of encumbrances.
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THE NECESSITY OF ATHEISM
DR. D.M. BROOKS
Copyright © 2018 by Dr. D.M. Brooks.
All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations em- bodied in critical articles or reviews.
While every precaution has been taken in the preparation of this book, the publisher assumes no responsibility for errors or omissions, or for damages resulting from the use of the information contained herein.
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First Edition: March 2018
TABLE OF CONTENTS
JOSEPH LEWIS IN AMERICA
CHAPMAN COHEN IN ENGLAND
OF WHOM IT MAY BE SAID:
"How often it has happened that one man, standing at the right point of view, has descried the truth, and, after having been denounced and persecuted by all others, they have eventually been constrained to adopt his declarations!"--(DRAPER.)
For the old Gods came to an end long ago. And verily it was a good and joyful end of Gods!
They did not die lingering in the twilight--although that lie is told! On the contrary, they once upon a time laughed themselves to death!
That came to pass when, by a God himself, the most ungodly word was uttered, the word: "There is but one God! Thou shalt have no other Gods before me."
An old grim beard of a God, a jealous one, forgot himself thus.
And then all Gods laughed and shook on their chairs and cried: "Is Godliness not just that there are Gods, but no God?"
Whoever hath ears let him hear.
"Thus Spake Zarathrustra"--FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE
Plain speaking is necessary in any discussion of religion, for if the freethinker attacks the religious dogmas with hesitation, the orthodox believer assumes that it is with regret that the freethinker would remove the crutch that supports the orthodox. And all religious beliefs are "crutches" hindering the free locomotive efforts of an advancing humanity. There are no problems related to human progress and happiness in this age which any theology can solve, and which the teachings of freethought cannot do better and without the aid of encumbrances.
Havelock Ellis has stated that, "The man who has never wrestled with his early faith, the faith that he was brought up with and that yet is not truly his own--for no faith is our own that we have not arduously won--has missed not only a moral but an intellectual discipline. The absence of that discipline may mark a man for life and render all his work ineffective. He has missed a training in criticism, in analysis, in open-mindedness, in the resolutely impersonal treatment of personal problems, which no other training can compensate. He is, for the most part, condemned to live in a mental jungle where his arm will soon be too feeble to clear away the growths that enclose him, and his eyes too weak to find the light." The man who has allowed his mental capacities to clear his way through the dense underbrush of religious dogma finds that he has emerged into a purer and healthier atmosphere. In the bright light of this mental emancipation a man perceives the falsities of all religions in their historic, scientific, and metaphysical aspects. The healthier mental viewpoint holds up to scorn and discards the reactionary religious philosophy of morals, and the sum total of his conclusions must be that religion is doomed; and doomed in this modern day by its absolute irrelevance to the needs and interests of modern life. And this not only by the steadily increasing army of freethinkers, but by the indifference and neglect of those who still cling to the fast slipping folds of religious creeds--- the future freethinkers.
It was Spinoza who remarked that, "The proper study of a wise man is not how to die but how to live." Religious creeds can but teach how man should live, so that when he dies, he may be assured of salvation; and the important thing is not what he does to help his fellow men while he is living, but how closely he lives in conformity to a reactionary code of dogmas. Religion has always aimed to smooth the sufferer's passage to the next world, not to save him for this world.
Freethought has dethroned the gods from the pedestal, and has replaced, not an empty idol, but an ideal, the ideal of a man who is his own god.
It has become increasingly apparent that what men have hitherto attributed to the gods are nothing but the ideals they value and grope for in themselves. The ideal of the freethinker, the conception that places the supreme worth of human life in the expanding horizon of man's usefulness to man, is forever menaced by the supernaturalism of the theist which manifests itself in the multifarious religious sects that are the most active and constant menace to civilization and to mankind today. That religion in the past has produced suffering incalculable and has been the greatest obstacle in the advance of secular knowledge is a fact too well attested to by history to be denied by any sincere and unbiased intelligent man. That today it constitutes a cultural lag, an active menace to the best interests of humanity and the last refuge of human savagery, is the contention of the freethinker.
The conception of the God-idea as held by society in general stands in the same position as the vermiform appendix does to the anatomy of man. It may have been useful in some way thousands of years ago, but today it constitutes a detriment to the well-being of the individual without offering any compensatory usefulness. Agree or disagree with this contention you may, but only when you are made aware of the facts that can be brought to the aid of this conviction. Just as the fundamental principle of justice is outraged when a man or an institution is condemned by jurist or popular opinion when an opportunity is not given to present the facts on both aspects of the case, just so is no man justified in making a decision between theism and atheism until he becomes acquainted with both sides of the controversy. Freethought but asks a hearing and the exercise of the unbiased reason of the man who has not hitherto been made aware of its contentions.
In the religious revolution of this twentieth century, the battle ground is squarely seen to be between supernaturalism and secularism. Although the supernaturalists are well entrenched and fortified, it is well to remember that it is the man with vision who finally prevails. The time has passed when the freethinker could be held up to the community as an example of a base and degraded individual. No manner of pulpit drivel can delude even the unthinking masses to this misconception. The freethinker is today the one who beholds the vision, and this vision does not transcend the natural. It is a vision that is earth-bound; a vision it may be called, since it leaps the boundary of the present and infers for him what the future of a secular organization of the entire constituency of humanity will bring forth. This vision is but a product of his scientific armamentarium and is the means by which he is assured of victory over the well-entrenched and fortified position of the supernaturalists who are still creed-bound to use antiquated and useless weapons. The supernaturalist's armamentarium of God, Bible, Heaven, Hell, Soul, Immortality, Sin, The Fall and Redemption of Man, Prayer, Creed, and Dogma, leave as much impression on the mind of intelligent man as would an arrow against a battleship. And the comparison is apt, the supernaturalists have made full use of force, be it in physical warfare or in mental coercion. The freethinker has as much use for physical force and war as he has for mental coercion; both are abhorrent to him.
Supernaturalism vs. Secularism--that, and that alone is the field of argument. The supernaturalist, be he the fundamentalist of whatever denomination, or the more advanced modernist, is as tenaciously clinging to the transcendental, to revelation, to the infallibility of the Bible, if not in all respects at least in some (although this is a contradiction per se), to the interdisposition of a deity in the affairs of mankind, as were his ancestors of five hundred years ago. In these aspects as well as in the armamentarium enumerated above, the supernaturalists are agreed and are making their last stand.
The secularists, the opinion of the theists to the contrary, are also agreed. It matters not what a man calls his mental process; be he infidel, sceptic, rationalist, agnostic, or atheist; he is firm in the conviction that religions of all varieties are rapidly sinking into the limbo of all other ancient superstitions. To him it is but a matter of time for the inevitable crumbling and disappearance of these superstitions, and the time involved is directly proportional to the ease and rapidity with which scientific knowledge is disseminated to men who have the mental capacity to understand the value of this knowledge and its utter destruction of all forms of supernaturalism. When man becomes fully cognizant of the fact that all the knowledge acquired by the human race has been the result of human inquiry, the result of reasoning processes, and the exercise of mind alone, then secularism will have overcome the long night of supernaturalism. And it is this mental attitude of securalism that proceeds with an ever accelerated rapidity to overcome the problems that confront humanity by substituting human inquiry for divine revelation. Thus this attitude of man to proceed through life dependent only on his own resources will expand and strengthen his mentality by doing away with the inferiority complex of the God-idea. This vision of man, the master of his own destinies, the searcher for truth and the shaper of a better life for the only existence that he knows anything about, this reliance of man upon man, and without the supposed interference of any god, constitutes atheism in its broadest and true sense.
Science and reason, the constituents of secularism, are the mortal enemies of supernaturalism. Secularism, however, is at a disadvantage at this stage of our mental development, since it is approached only by the calm light of the intellect. And intellect can but make an appeal to reason. If the seeds of these appeals fall on the fertile minds of mentally advanced humanity, they will flourish; if they fall on the barren ground of creed-bound minds, they take no root. Recognition of facts and honest deductions are not natural to the human mind. As far as religious matters are concerned, the vast majority of men have not reached a mental maturity; they are still in the infantile state where they have not as yet learned that the sequences of events are not to be interrupted by their desires. The easier path lies in the giving way to the unstable emotions. The primitive instincts are for emotion and for loose imaginings, and these are the provinces of supernaturalism.
Supernaturalism arouses the stupid interests and the brutish passions, and from these are born the bitter fruits of ignorance and hatred. The secularist is one in whom the intellect is passionate, and the passions cold. The supernaturalist on the other hand reverses the order, and in him the passions are active and the intellect inert. In each man there dwells a tyrant who creates for him a deity materialized out of these factors of ignorance and fear. It is science and reason which must destroy for him this monstrous apparition. But, as yet, there is no indication that our mental development in relation to social progress has made the great strides that our purely material progress has made. The twentieth century man utilizes and enjoys the material benefits of his century, but his mental progress lies bound and drugged by the viewpoints of 2000 years ago.
Sir Leslie Stephen has declared, "How much intellect and zeal runs to waste in the spasmodic efforts of good men to cling to the last fragment of decaying systems, to galvanize dead formulæ into some dim semblance of life! Society will not improve as it might when those who should be leaders of progress are staggering backward and forward with their eyes passionately reverted to the past. Nay, we shall never be duly sensitive to the miseries and cruelties which make the world a place of torture for so many, so long as men are encouraged in the name of religion to look for a remedy, not in fighting against surrounding evils, but in cultivating aimless contemplations of an imaginary ideal. Much of our popular religion seems to be expressly directed to deaden our sympathies with our fellow men by encouraging an indolent optimism; our thoughts of the other world are used in many forms as an opiate to drug our minds with indifference to the evils of this; and the last word of half of our preachers is, 'dream rather than work.'"
There is always a great deal of discrepancy between that which is best for the gods and that which is best for the individual and for society in general. One cannot serve man perfectly and the traditional gods as well. It is, therefore, the contention of freethinkers that if man had given to the service of man all that he had given to the gods in the past, our present stage of civilization would be much in advance of where it is today.
If there is anything in the discussion to follow that may seem irreverent to the reader, the author wishes to call attention that he has but presented well substantiated facts. It is not only his opinion that he is voicing, but it is the facts as he has found them recorded in the researches of numerous sincere men. Finally, it is the conviction of all freethinkers that, as Professor James H. Leuba has stated, "It is, furthermore, essential to intellectual and moral advances that the beliefs that come into existence should have free play. Antagonistic beliefs must have the chance of proving their worth in open contest. It is this way scientific theories are tested, and in this way also, religious and ethical conceptions should be tried. But a fair struggle cannot take place when people are dissuaded from seeking knowledge, or when knowledge is hidden."
The cultivation of the intellect is a duty that is imposed on all men. Even those who still cling to the dying beliefs must admit the force of what Winwood Reade said, "To cultivate the intellect is therefore a religious duty; and when this truth is fairly recognized by men, the religion which teaches that the intellect should be distrusted and that it should be subservient to faith, will inevitably fall."
When the principles of freethought shall have dispelled the intellectual cloud of the God-idea and the vanishing dream of a heaven which has too long drawn men's eyes away from this earth, then, and then only, will these words of Cicero have widespread meaning:
"Men were born for the sake of men, that each should assist the others."
THE EVOLUTION OF RELIGIOUS BELIEFS
To early man, the gods were real in the same sense that the mountains, forests, or waterfalls which were thought to be their homes were real. For a long time the spirits that lived in drugs or wines and made them potent were believed to be of the same order of fact as the potency itself. But the human creature is curious and curiosity is bold. Hence, the discovery that a reported god may be a myth.
MAX CARL OTTO.
The geologists estimate that the age of the earth is somewhere between 80 and 800 millions of years; that the Neanderthal race existed for more than 200,000 years; that between 40,000 and 25,000 years ago, as the Fourth Glacial Period softened towards more temperate conditions, a different human type came upon the scene and exterminated Homo Neanderthalensis. These first "true men" descended from some more ape-like progenitors and are classed by ethnologists with the same species as ourselves, and with all human races subsequent to them under one common, specific term, Homo Sapiens.
The age of cultivation began with the neolithic phase of human affairs about 10,000 or 12,000 years ago; about 6000 or 7000 years ago men began to gather into the first towns and to develop something more than the loose-knit tribes which had hitherto been their highest political organization. Altogether, there must have elapsed about 500,000 years from the earliest ape-like human stage of life on this planet to the present time.
It necessarily follows that the age of our present civilization is by no means that which the Bible stipulates, but is merely an atom in the vast space-time of this earth. The reason for this disparity is that with the development of the mind of man throughout the ages there was conceived also his self-made religious systems, based on a subjective interpretation of the universe, and not on an objective one, devoid of emotional bias.
"Primitive man did not understand the natural cause of shadows, echoes, the birth and death of vegetable and animal organisms. Of this ignorance religion was born, and theology was evolved as its art of expression." (Draper.)
Our story takes us back some twelve thousand years to neolithic man. Squatting in his rude hovel or gloomy cave, he listens to the sounds of a storm without. The howling of the wind, the flashes of lightning, and crashing of thunder give rise to that elemental emotion--fear. Fear was always with him, as he thought of the huge stones that fell and crushed him, and the beasts which were so eager to devour him. All things about him seemed to conspire for his death: the wind, lightning, thunder, rain and storm, as well as the beasts and falling trees; for in his mind he did not differentiate animate from inanimate objects. Slowly, through his groping mind there evolved the thought, due to past experience, that he could not contend with these things by physical force, but must subdue them with magic; his magic consisted of the beating of crude drum-like instruments, dances, and the mumbling of words.
Upon falling asleep he dreams, and awakening, he finds that he is still in the same place where he had lain the night before. Yet, he is certain that during the night he had traveled to his favorite wood and killed an animal whose tender flesh he was still savoring. Since the conception of a dream was as yet foreign to him, the logical conclusion he arrived at was that he had both a body and a spirit. If he possessed a body and a spirit, then all things about him, he reasoned, must likewise possess a similar spirit. Some spirits, he felt, were friendly; some, hostile to him. The hostile spirits were to be feared; but that powerful factor, "hope," had at last entered into his mind, and he hoped to be able to win them over to the camp of friendly spirits.
In this manner, man passed from the stage of contending against the spirits to one of placating them. It was believed that certain men carried more favor with the spirits than others, and these became the original priests, called the "Shamans."
Another expedient for warding off evil spirits was by means of the fetish. The primitive fetish was an object containing an active friendly spirit, which, if worn by the individual, protected him from the evil spirits. In a short while the manufacture of fetishes became a sacred profession, and the men who were thought to fashion the best ones became the professional holy men of the period, the priests.
At first, idols were used to drive away the evil spirits, and then, the conception changed to one of attracting the good spirits to man. From the individual fetish man passed to tribal ones, which in their first form were huge boulders and trees.
As the primitive mind gained cunning, it slyly smeared the surface of the idol with oily substances, hoping that the spirit, like some wild beast, would come and lick, be gratified, and remain in the idol. When some favorable signs denoted that a good spirit had entered into the idol, it was regularly smeared with oils and then blood, in the hope that the spirit would be pleased sufficiently to remain there permanently. As time went on, it became a custom, a rite, and the spirit having performed to the satisfaction of the tribe, ways were invented to manifest their gratitude. Instead of smearing the idol with blood, it was thought more fitting that an animal be killed and offered to the good spirit contained within the idol. In this manner arose the beginning of "sacrifice." It was at this time, when man began to persuade the idols or spirits to do things for his benefit that religion began.
Slowly, slowly, down through the ages, as the mind of man progressed, his self-made religious conceptions advanced. He now worshiped idols, and these idols were his gods. The Celts, the Babylonians, the Greeks, the Romans, all had their idols. All were certain that their gods were the true ones, and that the others were all inferior and even false gods. But, is the modern worshipper who is contemptuous of the ancients very different from them?
The centuries pass by, and in their wake is man's self-conceived religion. Now, some men take the prerogative in the manufacture of religion, and there evolve Brahmanism, Jainism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Taoism, and Zoroastrianism, all inspired, all supernatural, and with their myriads of followers who believed and still believe that theirs is the only true creed.
Very recently, in the time-scale of our development, man adopted the methods of "Big Business," and the religion of many gods and idols, polytheism, has given way to one Supreme God, monotheism. Man found that it made for simplicity and saved his valuable time if he worshiped one god, instead of obeying the hitherto many. The "Chosen People" took it upon themselves to bring the next divinely concocted conception of a Supreme God, and they manufactured the creed of Judaism.
After many years, a rift arose among the Jews, and the sectarians were defeated and expelled. Foiled in their first object, they cast aside the laws of Moses and offered the Hebrew religion without the Hebrew ceremonies to the Greek and Roman world. Jesus was the man who prepared the way for this remarkable event.
When Mohammed conceived the divine conception that he would follow in the footsteps of his brother-prophets, Moses and Jesus, the latest of the major religions was revealed.
At the present time, the Hebrews and Christians, although worshiping the same Jehovah, are disputing with each other, and indeed, amongst themselves, with regard to the various attributes, amorous pursuits, and lineal descendants of the Godhead. Jehovah himself appears to be on the decline and his unity is steadily disintegrating into a paradoxical trinity. But we are progressing, for in 1300 years no new prophet has arisen, and no new divine revelation is perturbing our race; the old ones, however, are causing quite enough disturbance.
It would be of value for the modern religionist who believes that the worship of a deity in our own age is far removed from the worship of an idol by our savage ancestors, to retrace his steps and compare the savage mind worshiping his particular idol and a so-called civilized mind of today worshiping his deity.
The savage prayed to his idol, that is, he begged. He begged the idol to watch over his flock or his fields. The modern prays, that is he begs of his idol, his deity, to prosper his business, to guard his life, and, as one of my "super-devout" acquaintances recently informed me, on the eve of an important golf match, for the Deity to give him endurance; in other words, "to cut down his golf score."
The savage voiced his incantations; the modern sings hymns, that is he flatters. There is still a great deal of the charlatanry of the magician in the construction of the houses of prayer, with the sunlight shut out and only filtering through the leaded and multi-colored panes, the semidarkness, the solemnity, the rise and swell of the organ; all things combined to overcome the senses, to play upon the emotions, and to subdue the reason.
The savage made sacrifices to his idols, that is, he paid tribute, chiefly out of fear, but partly in the hope of getting something better in return. The modern does not offer human or animal sacrifice, it is true; but it must be borne in mind that the wealth of the savage consisted of his sheep, oxen, oils, and wines, not money. Today, the devout offer a sacrifice of money to the Deity. We are all familiar with the requests of religious institutions for gifts, which nearly always finish with the phrase, "And the Lord will repay you many fold." In other words, sacrifice part of your worldly goods to the idol, and he will repay with high interest. He will give in return long life and much riches. The savage was afraid to utter the real name of his god, it was taboo. The modern says, "Take not the name of the Lord in vain." Even today, the followers of Moses consider it taboo to utter the name of Jehovah except in prayer.
The present-day methods of worship are no different from those of the savage; the method of supplication has changed with the advance of the years, but the fundamental ideas at the base of all worship are just as crude today as they were 4000 years ago. Primitive man was no more a fetishist than is the modern Catholic. The latter still wears medals and images suspended from the neck and pinned to the inner clothing.
Moreover, a survey of the various religions extant indicates that the religious factor is no less prevalent today than it was in primitive societies.
In Greenland, one finds, that through nearly all of its vast area religion has no place, but that is chiefly the result of its being largely uninhabited. In Alaska, the population is for the most part Catholic, although the natives are animists. In Canada, 33 per cent are Catholic, the rest are mainly Protestant. In the United States, 20 per cent are Catholic, 3.5 per cent are Jewish, and the remainder are Protestants. Mexico, Central and South America, are almost entirely Roman Catholic. In Europe, Russia was until recently dominantly Greek Orthodox; the Scandinavian peninsula, the English Isles, and Central Europe are dominantly Protestant, while France, Portugal, Spain, Italy, and the rest of the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea are Catholic. The rest of the continent is divided between Jews and Mohammedans. In Asia, the entire vast area of Siberia is only sparsely settled and its religions include Animism, Taoism, and Christianity. In China, we find the land of three truths, Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism. India, Tibet, and Burma are dominated by Hinduism and Buddhism; Arabia, Persia, and the rest of the continent are Mohammedan. In Japan, there are the Shintoists. The East Indies, where the population is native, are Animistic. In Australia, the dominant religion is Protestantism. In North Africa, the west coast inhabitants are Mohammedans, while the Abyssinians are Christians. There are some Coptic Christians, in Egypt, while in the Congo and South African countries down to the Cape Settlements, the natives are Animists. The Cape Settlements themselves are Protestants.
More concretely, it is estimated that 10.7% of the inhabitants of the globe are Protestants; 16.2% are Catholics; 7.1% are Greek Orthodox; 10% are Animists; 1.4% are Shintoists; 18.2% are Confucians and Taoists; 12.8% are Hindus; 8.4% are Buddhists; 13.4% are Moslems; and 1.8% are Hebrews and unclassified sects. Truly, a religious babel! and 10% of all the inhabitants of the globe, about the same number of people who profess to Protestantism, are Animists. This is the lowest stage of primitive religion, and millions of humans are still quagmired in the sloth of a primitive faith which once must have been the faith of all human beings.
The Mohammedan, the Jew, the Christian, will readily agree that the animism, the fetishism, and idolatry of the savage were man-made foolish beliefs. They can readily perceive that there was nothing supernatural, nothing revealed, in such beliefs; but they do not realize that to him, in his infantile development, the fetish and the idol were just as supernatural and superior as the modern conception of a Supreme Being. In each age man creates his god, in his own image, and within the confines of his own mental development. The mind of man has expanded so that it has conquered more and more of his environment; it has grown and wrested from nature those secrets which constitute his civilization. Along with this has progressed the conception of a deity, but only to a certain extent. The mind has embellished the outward appearance of its gods, consolidated them, and built upon them intricate systems of theology, upon which feed vast hordes of clergy; but the basic conception, the fundamental principle, that there must be something supernatural to explain something which we cannot explain at the present moment, that conception still drugs the mind of man. Primitive man did not understand the meaning of lightning, thunder, shadows, echoes, etc., and he placed these among the supernatural phenomena. The modern mind explains these phenomena, understands the laws governing their production. Yet, it is this same modern mind which persists in going back to our savage ancestors and their mental sloth, by attributing the myriads of phenomena which still elude its present stage of mental development, to a particular idol, this time, a Supreme Being. Brahmanism, Jainism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Taoism, Zoroastrianism, Hebrewism, Mohammedanism, Christianity--which is the true religion?
Let us suppose for a moment that an inhabitant of Mars, if there be such, were by a "miracle" to be transported to this earth and endowed with the mental capacity of the average inhabitant of the earth (a thing which perhaps would not be so flattering to our guest), were to be approached by a zealot of each one of these faiths, who hoped to convert this stranger to its ranks. Since the factor of coercion by force of environment to which each of these earthlings was subject would naturally be absent, the Martian would be in a position to make a fair choice. How much would the visitor be impressed by the statements of the Christian, Mohammedan, or Jew, when advised that unless he embraced their particular creed, he would be damned to eternal torture in their particular Hell?
If a Christian were to accost him and endeavor to put the fear of God into him, and if our visitor, being from Mars, already knew that of the world's population, only about 27 per cent are Christians, and the other 73 per cent are Non-Christians, is it logical to suppose that he would ever be convinced that an omniscient, omnipotent, benevolent, Supreme Being would select only one quarter of his children whom he had created for redemption, with the infallible knowledge that nearly three-quarters of them would be confined to Hell for not believing what He could have made them believe if He were truly omnipotent, omniscient, and benevolent? Would he not rather reply that on his planet such a "Father" who would select some of his children for rewards, and maliciously torture his other children, would not be designated as a God but a Devil? Were the Martian to be further informed that each one of God's children was represented in actual figures by hundreds of millions and that these have been living on the planet Earth for hundreds of thousands of years, and were the visitor to contemplate the vast incomprehensible number of souls that have been confined to Hell by such a father, might he not cut his visit short? He would be apt to repeat with James Mill, "Think of a being who would make a Hell, who would create the human race with the infallible foreknowledge and therefore with the intention that the great majority of them should be consigned to horrible and everlasting torment." I believe that our guest would assert that if such a Being actually existed and demanded worship, he would certainly have revealed his true belief to the first man Adam, and therefore saved his children an inestimable amount of suffering.
Were the visitor to be further pressed by the zealot with the vision of eternal hell, I believe he would retort that there is no reason for God to punish those who doubt or deny faith in His existence, since it is His own doing; and if He desired each one of His children to worship Him according to the precepts of a certain creed, He surely would have instilled that creed into man's make-up together with the rest of his characteristics. Undoubtedly, He would not esteem any creed which damned the human intellect by cursing the doubts which are the necessary consequence of its exercise, or the creed which cursed the moral faculty by asserting the guilt of honest error.
If our visitor would but glance at the history, the evolution, of religious beliefs, he would realize and soundly assert that all religions are human in their origins, erroneous in their theories, and ridiculous in their threats and rewards.
THE KORAN AND THE OLD AND NEW TESTAMENTS
The Jews emerge into history, not a nation of keen spiritual aspirations and altruistic ethics, but that pagan people, worshipping rocks, sheep and cattle, and spirits of caves and wells, of whom the Old Testament, tending towards its higher ideal, gives fragmentary but convincing evidence.
JAMES T. SHOTWELL.
Consider Jahveh. Cruel god of a horde of nomadic invaders settling in a land of farmers, he had his images, ranging in elaboration from an uncut mazzebah or asherah, to a golden bull. He was plural by place and tribe and function. What did the prophetic movement do with his sacred powers? It identified his taboos with a written constitution.
HORACE M. KALLEN.
The mental attitude of these priest-dominated ancestors of ours is amazing. They were like children in the hands of unscrupulous teachers. In reading these old chronicles it is impossible not to be shocked by the incongruity ever arising out of the juxtaposition of theory and practice.
Our Martian visitor, having withstood the blasts of the Zealot, is approached by a Mohammedan who places in his hands the Koran and tells him that it is a divinely inspired revelation, as revealed by Allah through his prophet, Mohammed. Having already had some experience with earthly religionists, the Martian is disposed to avail himself of the historical evidence regarding the life of Mohammed.
He finds that Mohammed, from all accounts, was a demagogue, a charlatan, and a victim of mental disease. It strikes him strangely that such an individual should be chosen by Allah as his disciple on earth to make known his commands. He notes Mohammed's appearance on earth in 600 A.D. and wonders why the Creator should have procrastinated for such a long time; but decides to read the revelations anyhow.
He discovers that "from the literary point of view, the Koran has little merit. Declamation, repetition, puerility, a lack of logic, and incoherence strike him at every turn. He finds it humiliating to the human intellect to think that this mediocre literature has been the subject of innumerable commentaries and that millions of men are still wasting time in absorbing it."
A Hebrew next takes his turn at this obstinate guest and sets before him the Old Testament. Again, the Martian is informed that it is an inspired book actuated by God.
In his attempt to find the historical evidence corroborating this book, the Martian finds that authentic history begins for the Israelites with the constitution of Saul's monarchy about 1100 B.C. All that precedes this--the deluge, the dispersal of mankind, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, the captivity in Egypt, Moses, Joshua, and the conquest of Canaan, is more or less mythical.
In the Old Testament, our Martian reads the first chapter, glances at the chronology, and is immediately bewildered since he has a fair knowledge of our scientific advances. As he reads on, he becomes aware of a host of errors, contradictions, and manifest absurdities. When he questions the zealous Hebrew, he comes in contact with what he is informed is Concordism, which he perceives is a false science that consists in determining, at any cost, a perfect harmony between modern science and the knowledge possessed by God's people. He is thus told that the days of creation were not days at all, but periods; although the Bible mentions the morning and evening of each day. Delving further in this most holy of revelations, he learns that God is represented in a manner most unworthy of what such a being should be represented. He finds the Lord walking in the cool of the evening, showing his hind quarters to Moses, ordering abominable massacres, and punishing chiefs who had not killed enough people. On further perusal, there is revealed, "A great deal of Oriental bombast, incoherence and absurdity, that the marvels recounted are often ludicrous or grotesque."
In a chance moment, when the Hebrew had relaxed his hold for a second, a vile heretic points out to the visitor (Exodus XXII, 18): "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live!" and explains the witchcraft delusion to him.
From a comparison between Exodus XXXIV and Exodus XX, he is at a loss to decipher which are the true commandments that the Lord gave to Moses. The first five books of the Pentateuch, he finds, are attributed to Moses, although they contain the account of the latter's death. On inquiry, he learns that this is still maintained by the synagogue. His Martian intellect is unable to comprehend the logic of a God who would demand human and animal sacrifice, and the story of Abraham about to sacrifice his son Isaac fills him with disgust. His estimate of the mentality of Jehovah receives a severe jolt when he reads in Leviticus XVI, "Herewith shall Aaron come unto the holy place with a young bullock for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. He shall put on the holy linen coat, and he shall have the linen breeches upon his flesh, and he shall be girded with the linen girdle, and with the linen mitre shall he be attired; they are the holy garments; and he shall bathe his flesh in water and put them on. And he shall take of the congregation of the children of Israel two he-goats for a sin offering, and one ram for a burnt offering. And Aaron shall present the bullock of the sin offering, which is for himself, and he shall make atonement for himself and for his houses. And he shall take the two goats and set them before the Lord at the door of the tent of the meeting."
Our visitor reads on to Leviticus XVIII, after which he must stop to question the Hebrew, for here he finds, "None of you shall approach to any that is near of kin to him, to uncover their nakedness; I am the Lord. The nakedness of thy father, even the nakedness of thy mother, shalt thou not uncover; she is thy mother; thou shalt not uncover her nakedness. The nakedness of thy father's wife shalt thou not uncover; it is thy father's nakedness. The nakedness of thy sister, the daughter of thy father, or daughter of thy mother, whether she be born at home, or abroad, even their nakedness thou shalt not uncover. The nakedness of thy son's wife--the nakedness of the wife of thy father--the nakedness of thy father's sister, thy mother's sister, the nakedness of thy daughter-in-law, thy brother's wife, the nakedness of a woman and her daughter, thou shalt not uncover. And unto a woman separated by her uncleanliness thou shalt not approach to uncover her nakedness. Thou shalt not be carnally with thy neighbor's wife, to defile thyself with her. Thou shalt not be with mankind as with womankind. And thou shalt not be with any beast to defile thyself thereto; neither shall any woman stand before a beast to lie down thereto; it is confusion."
The Martian, totally aghast, is constrained to exclaim that he cannot believe that a Deity should find it necessary to place this in a divine revelation. The Hebrew Zealot relents somewhat to explain that perhaps this was not revealed, but found its way into the divine text as a moral lesson to the primitive tribes for which it was written. To this, our guest counters with the remark that if this be a parable of manners and morals, then, from what he observes on the earth, we, Earthlings, have certainly outgrown the need for such coarse and obscene statements made some 2000 years ago; and that on Mars, although the inhabitants are not blessed with such divine revelations, common sense and reason have taught their most primitive men the same lessons in morality while they were yet in their infancy.
Reflecting on this maze of contradictions, the Martian determines to analyze the Old Testament and the Hebrew religion in the same manner that he would investigate any other problem presented to him.
Thirty-five hundred years ago, the Hebrews were a pastoral, primitive people inhabiting the wilderness known today as the Arabian Desert. Their religion was that of all other primitive peoples--Animism, an illusion which made primitive man recognize everywhere spirits similar to his own spirit. They worshiped the spirits of the sun and the moon, the mountains and rocks, as well as the spirits of the dead.
It appears certain that the barrenness of this desert land necessitated these wandering tribes to migrate to adjacent areas of greater fertility. To the north lay the fertile valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates and the coast of the Mediterranean Sea; to the west lay the land of the Egyptians. Time and time again, these Bedouin tribes hurled themselves against the inhabitants of the northern fertile valleys. Babylonia, to the northeast, was the first country to be invaded, and later Canaan to the northwest. Successful at times in establishing themselves in Babylonia and Canaan, they were at other times driven back into the desert when the native inhabitants in turn attacked the invaders. Migrating into Egypt in search of food, they were made a captive nation and escaped again into the desert when the Egyptians were engaged in fighting the savage invaders from Libya.
The leader of this flight from Egypt was the prophet Moses. The Martian decides to investigate the character and deeds of this influential figure at another time. It is probable that the exodus gave the proper stimulus for the beginnings of a distinctive Hebrew religion, and was the reason for their finally establishing themselves in Canaan, with Jehovah as their chief deity. It has often been proclaimed that the value of Judaism has been in first establishing a religion of monotheism; but it must not be forgotten that centuries before the Hebrews escaped into the desert, the Egyptians were tending to monotheism. It is known that one god was exalted over all the rest in Egypt, and that as far back as 1375 B.C. King Ikhnaton made the religion of Egypt an absolute monotheism. The Hebrews, in proclaiming their Yahveh as the one and supreme deity, were but following what they had assimilated from the Egyptians. The faith of these desert marauders, at the time of their entrance into Canaan, was as crude and savage as the Hebrews themselves. Brought into contact with the gods of the Phoenicians and Babylonians, their Yahveh underwent a change, as have all other creeds since that time when brought into contact with another creed. The final idea of Yahveh accepted by the Hebrews was not the product of a sudden revelation but of a gradual evolution.
The Hebrews, about the twelfth century B.C., gained access into Canaan, and at first were successful in warfare, so that under King David they presented the aspect of a united nation. However, following the extravagant reign of King Solomon, the nation was embroiled in a revolution, and the land was divided into two kingdoms--Israel in the north, Judah in the south. These two tiny kingdoms were habitually at war with each other and, finally, in 722 B.C. Israel was conquered, while in 586 B.C., Judah was defeated and its population either scattered or taken into captivity.
In 538 B.C., Cyrus of Persia conquered Babylonia and set the exiles free. Returning to their own land, the exiles took back with them the law code which the priests had manufactured for them. Then began a period of priestly domination and corruption, a period of subjugation to Rome, of insurrection against Rome, and the capture and destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. With the capture of Jerusalem, the Hebrew nation was finally dispersed.
Just as the Martian was able to trace the evolution of the Hebrews from the stage of the marauding tribes of the Arabian desert who wandered into Egypt, Canaan, and Babylonia, and finally established a kingdom for themselves which was dispersed by Rome; just so could he trace the evolution of their religious beliefs from their incipient crudities to their not too great refinement at 70 A.D. This evolution of the Hebrew religion is best exemplified by an analysis of the Old Testament itself.
There are several canons, or official collection of books which comprise the Old Testament. The Jews and Protestants accept fewer books than the Roman Catholics. The Jewish Canon consists of those so-called sacred books of which the Synagogue possessed Hebrew texts about a century before the Christian era. "About 150 B.C. the sacred books of the Jews were translated into Greek for the use of those Egyptian Jews who could not read Hebrew. This translation is called the Septuagint, from a tradition that seventy or seventy-two translators had worked upon it." (Salomon Reinach, "Orpheus.") The earliest manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible date only from the tenth century A.D., but there are very much older manuscripts of the Greek and Latin translations in existence. At the time of Jesus Christ, three divisions of the Old Testament were recognized. These were, the Law, the Prophets, and the other Scriptures. The first five books, Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy, are known as the Pentateuch, and are attributed to Moses himself; although, as has been noted, they contain the account of his death. This conception of the Mosaic origin of the Pentateuch was accepted by the Israelites as early as the fifth century B.C. and has been maintained by the Synagogue since that time. Following the example of the Hebrews, the Christian Churches accepted this version as to origin, and the Roman Catholic Church still upholds this view. The Jewish Synagogue and the various Christian Churches further hold that the Old Testament is a collection of works inspired or dictated by God. Even as late as 1861, the famous Dean Burgon, in a sermon preached at Oxford University, declared, "The Bible is none other than the voice of Him that sitteth upon the throne. Every book of it, every chapter of it, every verse of it, every syllable of it, every letter of it, is the direct utterance of the Most High. The Bible is none other than the Word of God, not some part of it more, some part of it less, but all alike the utterance of Him who sitteth upon the throne, faultless, unerring, supreme." The Martian compared this statement with the words of the scholar Loisy, "If God himself wrote the Bible, we must believe Him to be either ignorant or untruthful."
As he delves further into the intricacies of the construction of the Bible, our visitor perceives that the Old Testament gradually evolved from the tenth century to the second century B.C., and in its present form is mainly a fifth century compilation, so distorting the facts that it has taken scholars one hundred and fifty years to get them straight. "It may rightly be said that there is not a single book in the Bible which is original in the sense of having been written by one man, for all the books are made up of older documents or pre-existing sources which were combined with later materials, undergoing, in this way, several revisions and editions at the hands of different scribes or compilers. Deep traces have therefore been left upon the text of the Bible by these several stages of expansions, additions, modifications, revisions, and incorporations--they appear to the scholar of biblical literature much like the striations grooved in the rocks by large glaciers to the student of Geology." (Trattner, "Unravelling the Book of Books.")
The Martian ascertains that to most thinking men it has become very obvious that the Bible is the work of man, and not the inspiration of a god; that an increasing number of liberal theologians are discarding the theory of the divine inspiration of the Bible. He likewise clearly perceives that there are as yet many men that have given this matter but little thought; with the Divine inspiration looming up as a corner stone in the Hebrew faith he realizes that it behooves him to carry his investigations further.
The Christians, accepting the Old Testament as a book dictated by God, had fixed the age of the earth as 4004 B.C. The harm done by the Christian ecclesiastics in attempting to force science to conform to the ridiculous concept of the construction of the universe as contained in the Bible, and as interpreted by the Church, the Martian considers in a further chapter. Scientists incline to the view that the earth has existed as a separate planet for something like two thousand million years (2,000,000,000). The rocks give a history of 16,000,000,000. Just as in the study of the origin of primitive beliefs, one finds that man made his gods and invented all that they are reported to have said, so a study of the Old Testament reveals that the ancient Hebrew invented his God, and manufactured the vast mass of myth and fable that are recorded as the words and deeds of God. Throughout the ages, the words of these ancient Hebrews have been taken as the words of a god.
"Everything goes to show that the Hebrew literature was produced like other literatures. Hebrews were not the first to tell tales. When they did come to write 'for our learning' they borrowed from other people. The only reason why anything more than a literary attention is paid to these old Jewish writings is that Jesus was a Jew. When Christianity was founded--a difficult date to fix--there was no such thing as a Bible. The old Brahmans and Buddhists had Holy Scriptures; the Egyptians had a Book of the Dead, and the Sayings of Khuenaten; the Persians had the Zend-Avesta; the Chinese had sacred books. They were all as sacred as the Jewish books. Priests made them sacred. Priests generally rewrote and edited them, even if they had not originally imagined them. There is nothing to guide the man of common sense save knowledge and reason. Every priest swears his religion and his scriptures are true. But they cannot all be true. If the first are true, then the Jews are past further consideration, for they were not the first in the field with sacred writings.... Holy scriptures are merely Jewish classics. We have had to accept these old writings of the Hebrews as holy and inspired because the priests said so, and for no other reason whatsoever. There is no other reason." Assuming the existence of a deity, a man exercising his common sense would be compelled to deny that the Old Testament is inspired of God, because it abounds in stupidities and errors such as no god could inspire. "But because the Jews accumulated these writings, the subsequent adopters of Christianity, realizing that Jesus was a Jew, and had been a professing Jew, promptly annexed these tales of fancy and of fear, of muddled, sensual, silly things and said they must be accepted with the teachings of Jesus. And in the course of time, people had to believe these old Jewish writings were the Word of God." (W. H. Williamson, "Thinker or Believer.")
The Hebrews had as one of their gods, Yahveh, whom they endowed with their qualities; qualities inherent in a primitive people: jealousy and might, trickery and fickleness. They evolved a worship that contained in a modified form many of the ceremonials that they witnessed when they came into contact with the Babylonians and Phoenicians. Their Bible they maintained to be a collection of books which appeared at intervals, with divine inspiration, during a thousand years of Jewish history. Similarly, they insisted that Moses wrote the Pentateuch, that Judges, Kings, and Chronicles go back to the times they describe, that the prophecies were added from the ninth century onward, and so on.
The Martian found that not a single book of the Old Testament is older than the ninth century B.C. and that in the fifth century B.C. all the older books and fragments were combined together into the Old Testament as we have it, and were drastically altered so as to yield a version of early Jewish history which is not true. The manipulation of the Hebrew writings by the Jewish priests had for its object to represent the Jewish priesthood, and its rights and customs, as having been established in the days of Moses. Deuteronomy and Leviticus have been classed as priestly forgeries. Nearly every occurrence, from the creation of the world to the death of Moses, is related twice and, in some cases, three times; and as the Pentateuch is supposed to have been written by Moses one must assume that Moses had double and triple vision.
Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah are impudent forgeries of the fourth century, giving a totally false version of the events. The Martian finds that the terms used for these fabrications are "redaction" or "recension," but, in his understanding, he finds the word most descriptive of the process to be forgery. "The main point is that practically all the experts assure you that in scores of material points the Old Testament history has been discredited, and has only been confirmed in a few unimportant incidental statements; and that the books are a tissue of inventions, expansions, conflations, or recensions dating centuries after the event."
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