The Church and Human Progress:
The Convincing Witness of History
William Thur&on Brown
Principal "The Modem School"
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The Church and Human Progress:
The Convincing Witness of History
William Thurston Brown.
There are, 1 suppose, a good many sincere people in the world who cannot or do not understand why it is that so many radicals—socialists, anarchists, industrial workers, free thinkers and others—attack and even ridicule the Christian Church. To many sincere people it seems entirely unnecessary for anyone even to allude to the Church, much less attack it. I propose tonight to make plain the reason for this state of things—so plain that anyone can understand it easily.
It is true, of course, that some who call themselves socialists or radicals are not attacking the Church. Some of these call themselves Christian Socialists, and we shall see a little later why the Christian Socialists do not attack the Church, or at least do not attack the religion it stands for. Other- men who are holding offices or who hope to hold office or see prospect of getting an office are not attacking the Church. No man who is thinking about votes is going to attack anything very vigorously if by so doing he feels that he will get less votes. But practically all socialist speakers of any consequence
have at some time or other very frankly and even brutally attacked the Church. Indeed, the leading pioneers of the socialist movement, like Marx. Engels, Liebknecht, Bebel, Dietzgen, and others believed and taught that not only the great body of socialists, but the mass of intelligent proletarians were and are bound to be atheists, irreligious, opponents of the Church. And their forecast was correct. Pastor Kutter, one of the leading Christian socialists of Europe, frankly recognizes the fact that the great bulk of the social democracy of Germany, with its tremendous and growing strength at the ballot box, is atheistic. The socialists of Germany are not church members, as a rule. They have no use for the Church. And the same is true in every other country. The whole tendency of the labor movement, wherever it is at all intelligent or effective, is to become indifferent or hostile to the Church. Only that portion of it which is in open alliance with capitalism shows any respect even for the Church.
There is a reason for this state of things. It is an effect, it has a cause, as every effect has, and we are going to try to find that cause tonight. There is no way in which this reason can so clearly be seen as in a fair and impartial study of the history of human progress during the past nineteen hundred years, and of the relation of the Church as an institution to that progress— of the reason also for the relation which the Church has sustained toward that progress.
No thinking man will claim that the human race has made any great progress in morals or ethics during 1 he past two thousand years. The people of today are not a partiele kindlier, more generous, more merciful, more brotherly, more thoughtful of others than were they of the first century of this era. Aside from our undoubted advance in material things, though not in their fair or wise distribution, the only direction in which we have gone ahead is in knowledge. There is a greater dissemination of knowledge today than there was two thousand years ago. We have the means of knowing the facts about the world we live in which our remote predecessors did not have. All the real gains of the human race have been in the sphere of science and invention. And altogether the greatest struggle of our time is for the extension of science into spheres of human life and interest from which it has thus far been more or less barred. Science has explored the region of anatomy, physiology, hygiene, surgery, chemistry, sanitation, biology, and the like, and the result is that the world of today is far freer from disease, from pestilence, and from plague, than it was two thousand years ago. Science has been applied to natural phenomena of many kinds with the result of freeing the human mind from many harmful and degrading superstitions which cursed the world and made life a burden and a sorrow. But the struggle today, on its intellectual side, is for the application of the methods of science to the examination of economic, industrial, po-
litieal and social phenomena, in the belief that one result must surely he a greater freedom from economic, industrial, political and social oppression and misery than the world has ever known. And right here is a fact of profound significance; namely, that it is solely those men and women who are most seriously, earnestly, boldly ami persistently carrying on that struggle, who are attacking the Church. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that those who are not finding themselves in opposition to the Church are not really taking any important or vital part in this supreme struggle of our time. No one can take part in that struggle and not find the Church blocking his path. The Christian Church leaves to intelligent men who wish to devote themselves to the task of gaining a larger freedom and a richer life for themselves and others no alternative except that of fighting it and doing their utmost to remove its cumbering superstition from the earth.
If we want to know what to think regarding the Church, there is just one thing for us to do. and that is examine the facts. "Btv their fruits ye shall know them." From that principle there is no escape. Kvery-thing will have to be brought to that bar soon or late. If the Church is entitled to our confidence, the facts will show it plainly. Let us examine tonight the record of these last nineteen hundred years and see what part the Church has played in the only progress the world has made that amounts to anything: its progress in the knowledge of facts, of principles, of the meaning of life and of the world we live in.
We have to bear in mind I hat during nearly the whole of the past nineteen hundred years the Christian Church has been the sole teacher of Christendom, of all this western world, and for almost us long it has been almost the supreme power at least in Europe. For hundreds of years the priests of the Church were the only people who could read and write. There were kings and queens who could not write their own names, could only make their marks on official documents. Learning was a monopoly of the Church—and monopoly is never a good thing, always an evil thing. Not even a God can be permanently tolerable, if he is a monopolist. So the monopoly of learning was not a good thing. Hut that monopoly existed, and no monopolist ever tries to destroy his own monopoly. The Church didn't. Quite the contrary. The ideas which prevailed on all subjects came from the Church. The great text-book of the Church was the Bible. It was held to be the work of Goil himself, and therefore infallible. Since the book of Genesis was the first book in the Bible and claims to tell about the beginning of things—though we now know that it is made up wholly of myths and legends borrowed from the ancient Babylonians—the Church from the first built its theology on the insecure foundation of that book, which it accepted as authoritative. The book of Genesis declares that God made the world in six days and ere-ated man in his own image. The Church, sharing the ignorance of its age and believing in the literal inspiration of the Bible, lias taught and defended the most fantastic and sometimes the most cruel and fatal superstitions (he world has ever known.
Holding almost absolute power in Europe for centuries, the Church taught and defended errors regarding creation, the shape of the earth, the subject of astronomy, the meaning of comets and other phenomena of the heavens, the meaning and origin of fossils, the antiquity of man, the origin of the human race, the so-called fall of man, witchcraft, medicine, miracles, insanity, hysteria, the origin of language, and scores of other things. The records will show that the Church has been wrong on every single question it has ever considered, that it has blocked progress along every line of discovery, has placed the rack, the dungeon, the stake and the threat of eternal damnation across the path of any and every man who has discovered a new truth and tried to bring it into the world. And the one reason why this has been so has been the claim of infallibility or authority for the bible and for the Church.
The fathers of the Church believed that Genesis taught that the earth was made out of nothing. One of them, Tertullian, therefore threatened I lermongenes with the woe, "which impends on all who add to or take from the written word." Augustine took the same view, and the Fourth Lateran Council declared that God created
everything out of nothing. The syllabus of Pope Pius IX takes the same ground right down in the 19th century.
The next question was, How long time was occupied in the act of creation? Some said that creation occupied six days of 24 hours each. Others insisted that it must have been instantaneous. Both could furnish such convincing evidence from the bible, that both views were adopted! If you wonder why the Church should have been so insistent on its views concerning a question which clearly belongs to science, and not to religion at all, you have the answer in the words of Peter Martyr: "Were this article taken away there would be no original sin, the promise of Christ would become void, and all the force of our religion would be destroyed." And he was right, because the only basis that religion had to stand on was the infallibility of the bible. No other was claimed No other is claimed now. No other ever can be claimed. And that is the reason why there is no more life in the Christian Church today than in one of the mummies of. Egypt. Because the infallibility of the bible has gone for every human being who can think. But for nearly sixteen hundred years the authority of the Church was undisputed, and when the great naturalist, Buffon, in the middle of the 18th century expressed views which differed from the book of Genesis, he was forced b} Catholic authorities to recant and renounce views which every school boy in any civilized country today accepts
as beyond controversy. Buffon's words in recantation were: "I abandon everything in my book respecting the formation of the earth, and generally all that may be contrary to the narration of Moses." That recantation, with hundreds of others, be it remembered, was compelled by the Church. Honest students of nature were compelled to lie for the glory of God.
Says Andrew I). White, the first president of Cornell University and our ambassador to Germany and Russia: "The most naive of all survivals of the mediaeval idea of creation the present writer has ever seen was exhibited in 1894 on the banner of one of the guilds at the celebration of the 400th anniversary of the founding of the Munich Cathedral. Jesus of Nazareth, as a beautiful boy and with a nimbus encircling his head, was shown turning and shaping the globe on a lathe, which he keeps in motion with his foot. The emblems of the passion are about him, God the Father looking approvingly upon him from a cloud, and the dove hovering between the two. The date upon the banner was 1727.
"Thus, down to a period almost within living memory, it was held, virtually always, everywhere and by all, that the universe, as we now see it, was created literally out of nothing directly by the hands or voice of God or by both, in an instant or in six days or in both—about four thousand years before the Christian era, and for the convenience of the dwellers upon the earth, which was at the base and foundation of the whole structure."
"In one of the windows of the cathedral at l-lm a mediaeval glass-stainer has represented the Almighty as busily engaged in creating the animals, and there has just left his divine hands fin elephant, fully accoutered, with armor, harness and housings, ready for war." Further still, "the Almighty is shown as fashioning the first man from a hillock of clay ami extracting from his side, with evident effort, the first woman/' Indeed, the testimony of cathedral sculpture and painting all over Europe, created as they all were by the universal teaching of the Church and embodying the dominant conceptions of the Church, many of them having been executed under the direction and specific sanction of popes, is overwhelming that the men of those centuries, like the men of all other centuries, were creating their God in their own image. There is no objection to this at all. What we have a right to object to is that any institution should presume to force these ideas upon other people.
There would be no relevance in referring to the teaching of the Church on these subjects, if the Church had not uniformly insisted that these all belonged to the domain of religion. The greatest theologian the Christian Church produced was Augustine, and he set the standard for the whole Church in his famous phrase: "Nothing is to be accepted save on the authority of scripture, since greater is that authority than all the powers of the human mind." That is still the position of the Church, and that position makes the Church everywhere the enemy of human progress.
From the very first, it should be remembered, the Church invaded the sphere of natural science and presumed to speak on all questions with the voice of infallibility. And we shall see how dangerous she made it for all who opposed her dictum in that sphere, in which she had no business to be at all. After the publication of Darwin's "Descent of Man" in J871, for example, the eminent French Catholic physician, Dr. Constantin James, published a book entitled, "On Darwinism or the Man Ape," pouring contempt upon Darwin. Here was a golden opportunity for the Church to keep out of the sphere of science and attend strictly to what, it regards its own business. This is how it proceeded. The Cardinal Archbishop of Paris assured the author that the book had become his spiritual reading and begged him to send a copy to the pope. That was in 1877. His Holiness, Pope Pius IX, acknowledged the gift in a remarkable letter. Tie thanked his dear son, the writer, for the book in which he "refutes so well the aberrations of Darwinism." "A system," His Holiness adds, "which is repugnant at once to history, to the traditions of all peoples, to exact science, to observed facts, and even to Reason herself, would seem to need no refutation, did not alienation from God and the leaning toward materialism, due to depravity, eagerly seek a support in all this tissue of fables. But the corruption of the age, the machinations of the perverse, the danger of the simple, demand that such fancies, altogether absurd though they are. should—since they borrow the mask of science—be refuted by true science."
That was a pretty bad break for an infallible pope, for the book which he was praising so highly has become a source of mortification and shame to the Catholic Church itself, while the system which Pope Pius IX thus brands as repugnant to history, to exact science and to observed facts, and which he calls a tissue of fables, has become the foundation of modern scientific learning in Catholic universities as well as in all others. An authority eminent among American Catholics declares that, "the doctrine of evolution is no more in opposition to the doctrine of the Catholic Church than is the Copernican theory or that of Galileo." It may be possible for the illiterate and the bigoted to believe that a church which has proved itself so absurdly wrong on matters of science, which it claimed to belong to the sphere of religion, is infallible, but among all who have the modern mind the doctrine of infallibility is as dead and obsolete as the Ptolemaic Astronomy, which the Church so long defended against the discoveries of Copernicus and Galileo.
The Church early took its position most tenaciously on the subject of astronomy. The book of Genesis tells of a "firmament"—that is, a solid vault. That is what the writer of the biblical myth believed the sky to be. The Church, holding the scripture infallible, diligently taught that notion, and whoever ventured to offer any other theory did so at his peril. St. Philastrius, in his famous treatise on heresies, pronounced it a heresy to deny that the stars are brought out by God from his treasure-house and hung in the sky every evening; any other view he declared "false to the Catholic faith." St. Isidore, the greatest, leader of orthodox thought in his century, affirms that since the fall of man, and on account of it, the sun and moon shine with a feebler light. Peter Lombard, a great church theologian about the middle of the 12th century, taught that the earth is the center of the universe. St. Thomas Aquinas carried the same theory to its culmination, and Dante built his great epic upon it. In that conception is the "God Triune," seated on his throne upon the circle of the heavens, as real as the pope seated in the chair of St. Peter; the seraphim, cherubim, and thrones, surrounding the Almighty, as real as the cardinals surrounding the pope; and the whole system of spheres, each revolving within the one above it, arid all moving about the earth." Below the earth was hell.
We know today that these views were erroneous, that it is no heresy to believe that the sun, and not the earth, is the center of this system. But in the 18th century any such view was heretical, and a man took his life in his hand if he held that view. The power of the Church was practically supreme in a large part of Europe. It. was inevitable that men outside the priesthood would make new discoveries, would find out new facts about astronomy. And that is exactly what happened. But. those new facts and discoveries were treated as deadly heresies by
THE CHURCH AXI) HUMAN PROGRESS
the Church, and those holding them were subjected to the cruellest treatment. Copernicus was one case. lie was a devout member of the Church. His name today is one of the most illustrious in all the history of mankind, as the man who first discovered the real facts regarding the solar system. Never having been a priest, he did not know that it was a deadly sin to discover a new fact or truth, and inspired by his discoveries, full of reverence and joy that he should be the medium of such knowledge, he published a book on "Revolution of Ihe Heavenly Bodies" and dedicated it to the pope himself. But so dangerous was it to publish any new view on a purely .scientific subject, that he dared not to have it printed until he was himself at death's door. The book was placed in his hand only a short time before he died. "Thus," says White, "was the greatest and most ennobling, perhaps, of scientific truths forced in coming before the world, to sneak and crawl." Why? Because the Christian Church insisted then as now that any scientific theory, any new view of things, was an invasion of the sphere over which the Church had supreme authority. This book of Copernicus was put under the ban by the Church, and was still under the ban as late as 1835. And when, in May, 1829. a multitude assembled at Warsaw to honor the memory of Copernicus by unveiling a statue of l*im. no priest of that or any other community took part in the celebration. The ban of the Church was still on Copernicus nearly three centuries after his death.
But it was Galileo who occasioned one of the most disastrous blows by the Church against its own doctrine of infallibility and against its reputation as a teacher of truth or a friend of progress. Galileo took the theory of Copernicus out of the list of hypotheses and placed i!. before the world as a demonstrated truth. Against him the whole power of the Church was arrayed. Galileo was thi' first to make use of the telescope to prove his theories. But professors in Catholic universities at Pisa, lnnspruck, Louvain, Donav, Salamanca, and elsewhere were forbidden to make known to their students the facts revealed by the telescope. For teaching the theories of Copernicus, Giordano Bruno was seized by the Church authorities, imprisoned in the dungeons of the Inquisition at Rome for six years, and then burned alive and his ashes scattered to the winds. It wasn't safe to incur the enmity of Rome, and it isn't now where that Church has power.
When Galileo asked his priestly critics to look through the telescope for themselves, they either declared it. impious to do so. or denounced whaJ they saw as illusions of the devil. Good Father Clavius said that "to see satellites of Jupiter, men would have to make an instrument that would create them." The opponents of Galileo quoted scripture to prove him a heretic. Did not the bible say "the foundations of the earth are fixed that they cannot be moved" and that the sun "runneth from one end of the heavens to the other?" That settled it. Whoever said differently contradicted scripture and so was an enemy of religion. Father Lorini proved that
Galileo's doctrine was not only here'ical, but '4atheistic," and besought the Inquisition to intervene. The Inquisition, by the way, was the strongest argument the Church ever had, an argument used to prove heresy and punish h:ret-ics. By long imprisonment and fearful tortures it was possible often to convince people that they were wrong and induce them to confess all kinds of things of which they had not been guilty. On account of the advance of science—and on that account alone—this argument of the Church can no longer be used.
The opponents of Galileo declared that Galileo's "pretended discovery vitiates the whole Christian plan of salvation." And that is perfectly true. Two popes were immediately involved in the attack on Galileo; Paul V and Urban VIII. In 1615, Galileo was summoned before the Inquisition. The unanimous decision of the Council dealing with the case, after a month's deliberation, was as follows: "The first proposition, that the sun is the center and does not revolve about the earth, is foolish, absurd, false in theology and heretical, because expressly contrary to Holy Scripture;" and "the second proposition, that the earth is not the center but revolves about the sun, is absurd, false in philosophy and, from a theological point of view at least, opposed to the true faith."
Cardinal Bellarmine commands Galileo "in the name of His Holiness, the Pope, the whole congregation of the Holy Office, to relinquish altogether the opinion that the sun is the center of the world and immovable, and that the earth moves, nor henceforth to hold, teach or defend it in any way whatsoever, verbally or in writing." That was February 26, l(>lf>. About a fortnight later the Congregation of the Index, moved thereto, as the letters and documents now brought to light show, by Pope Paul V, solemnly rendered a decree that "the doctrine of the double motion of the earth about its axis and about the sun is false, and entirely contrary to Holy Scripture,'' and that this opinion must neither be taught nor advocated. The same decree condemns all writings of Copernicus and "all writings which affirm the motion of the earth." The condemnations were inscribed in the Index, and finally, the papacy committed itself as an infallible judge and teacher by prefixing the usual pipal bull giving its monitions the most solemn papal sanction. To teach or even to rend the words denounced or passages condemned was to risk persecution in this world and damnation in the next.
Of course, a Church which rests solely upon the basis of infallibility would be compelled to give up that doctrine or else try to lie out of its difficult position. The Church has accepted the latter of these alternatives. The attempt has been made to fasten responsibility on the persons involved as individuals—a perfectly ridiculous evasion, since their work was sanctioned by the highest, church authority and required to be accepted universally by the Church. Eleven different editions of the Index in Mr. White's possession prove this. Nearly all of them declare on their title pages that they are issued by the pontiff of the period, and each is prefaced by a special bull or letter.
The world should not be allowed to forget exactly what the Church did in this matter. Here was one of her own devout sons, Galileo, a student, a thinker, a scientist. He had made a discovery which the world has welcomed, which has greatly enriched mankind for all time, which added wonderfully to human knowledge, the wide acceptance of which or the wide understanding of which would have advanced the world a hundred years in its progress. But because it was conceived by an ignorant Church to conflict with its own interpretation of a certain book, that Church compelled this man, Galileo, to make a recantation of his own honest belief, forced him, on pain of the extreme punishment of the Inquisition, which he well understood from the fate of hundreds of others, to lie. This was the recantation : "I. Galileo, being in my seventieth year, being a prisoner and on my knees, and before your Eminences, having before my eyes the Holy Gospel, which I touch with my hands, adjure, curse, and detest the error and the heresy of the movement of the earth." In other words, the Church compelled this old man to deny the truth of a proposition which no human being today inside or outside the Church questions. To complete his dishonor he was compelled to swear that he would denounce to the Inquisition any other man of science whom he should discover to be supporting the "heresy of the motion of the earth." Such is the logic of any and every so-called infallible church. But those "Eminences" before whom Galileo was forced to make his recantation have forever lost their so-called eminence, and above them all towers, the man whom they that day so cruelly violated. The doctrine of infallibility has been shattered beyond repair.
That you may measure the intellectual caliber of those representatives of the infallible Church, listen to their arguments against Galileo. The following sentences are taken from a mass of books which appeared under the auspices of the Church immediately after the condemnation of Galileo, for the purpose of rooting out every vestige of the hated Copernican theory from the minds of men. "Animals," said one of these .books, "which move have limbs and muscles; the earth has no limbs or muscles, therefore it does not move. It is angels who make Saturn, Jupiter, the sun, &c., turn round. If the earth revolves, it must have an angel in the center to set it in motion; but only devils live there; it would therefore be a devil who would impart motion to the earth."
"The sun, planets, the fixed stars, all belong to one species—namely, that of stars. It seems therefore a grievous wrong to place the earth, which is a sink of iniquity, among these heavenly bodies, which are pure and divine things."
For generations, the Catholic Church has attempted to crawl out of its dilemma by whatever lie seemed most plausible. But in 1870, a Roman Catholic priest in England, the Rev. Mr. Roberts, published a book entitled "The Pontifical Decrees against the Earth's Movement" and in this exhibited the incontrovertible evidences that the papacy had committed itself and its infallibility fully against the movement of the earth. This Catholic priest showed from the original record that Pope Paul V had presided over the tribunal condemning the doctrine of the earth's movement and ordering Galileo to give up his opinion, lie showed that Pope Urban VIII, in 1633, pressed on, directed and promulgated the final condemnation, making himself in all these ways responsible for it, and that Pope Alexander VII, in 1664, by his bull attached to the Index, condemning 4'All books which affirm the motion of the earth" had absolutely pledged the papal infallibility against the earth's movement. Father Roberts also confessed that under the rules laid down by the highest authorities in the Church, and especially by Sixtus V and Pius IX, there was no escape from this conclusion.
If these priests and prelates of the infallible Church could have had their way, they would have strangled all research, blocked all intellectual progress, and transformed the race of men into contemptible worms, pusillanimous cowards.
The Catholic Church taught for centuries that comets were a sign of divine wrath or of the agency of devils. Pope Calixtus III 4'decreed several days of prayer for averting the wrath of God, and that whatever calamity impended might be turned from the Christian and against the Turks." The midday Angelus was established at that time that good Catholics might say prayers against the powers of evil. It cannot be said that this prayer was very effective, for the Turks still hold Constantinople over 500 years afterwards.
It must not be supposed that Catholics had a monopoly of superstition. All churches are fundamentally alike. And the Protestant churches have upheld every error and superstition they have had a chance to uphold. Luther declared that "the heathen write that the comet may arise from natural causes, but God creates not one that does not foretell a sure calamity." Again he said: "Whatever moves in the heaven in an unusual way is certainly a sign of God's wrath." Another distinguished Protestant theologian explains the comet in this way: "The thick smoke of human sins, rising every day. every hour, every moment. full of stench and horror, before the face of God become gradually so thick as to form a comet, with curled and plaited tresses, which at last is kindled by the hot and fiery anger of the Supreme Heavenly Judge."
The certain effect of all these absurd superstitions among ignorant people was to paralyze the instinct of self-help, to arouse fanaticism, and to strengthen ecclesiastical and political tyranny. These are seen throughout the ages, says Mr. White. "At. the appearance of a comet we constantly see all Christendom, from pope to peasant, instead of striving to prevent war by wise statesmanship, instead of trying to avert pestilence by observation and reason, instead of trying to avert famine by skillful economy, whining before fetiches, trying to bribe them to remove these signs of God's wrath, and planning to wreak this supposed wrath of god upon misbelievers."
The Church insisted with great zeal that the fossil remains found in the earth are either the results of Noah's
Deluge or else models which the Almighty made and cast aside when he was creating the world. When hones of a mastodon were found. Chureh authorities accepted them as proving the existence of a race of giants mentioned in the bible. The Church made it a sin not to believe that creation took place about four thousand years before Christ. That the Church upheld belief in diabolic powers as the cause of storms is shown by their numerous formulas for the exorcising of such evil spirits, some of which are so foul in their language as to be unprintable. All sorts of amulets and similar agencies for warding off evil spirits were put in circulation by the Church. Highest in repute for centuries was the Agnus Dei, a piece of wax blessed by the Pope's own hand, and stamped with the well-known device representing "the lamb of God." Its powers were so marvelous that Pope I'rban thought three of these cakes a fitting gift from himself to the Greek Emperor. Much stress was laid on its power in dispelling thunder. It was considered a most potent means of dispelling hail, pestilence, storms, conflagrations, and enchantments. The manufacture and sale of this fetich was. by papal bull of 1471, reserved for the pope himself, and he only performed the required ceremony in the first and seventh year of his pontificate.
Another agency for warding off the evil powers of the air was the ringing of consecrated bells. Pope John XIII gave this notion the highest ecclesiastical sanction by himself baptizing the great bell of his cathedral church, the Lateran, and christening it with his own name. Mul-titmles of church towers throughout Europe have these bells. One at Basel bears the inscription: "For driving off demons." Another in Lugano declares "The sound of this bell vanquishes tempests, repels demons, and summons men." Another, at the cathedral of Erfurt, declares that it can "ward off lightning and malignant demons." The renowned Bishop Binsfield, of Treves, in his noted treatise on the credibility of the confessions of witches, gave an entire chapter on the effect of bells in calming atmospheric disturbances.
One of the saddest chapters in the history of superstition is that which relates to witchcraft. Since the infallible bible, the immediate word of the all-wise God, had solemnly said: "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live," the infallible Church naturally had t<> carry out that decree. "In 1437, Pope Eugene IV, by virtue of the teaching power conferred <>n him by the Almighty, and under the divine guarantee against any possible error in the exercise of it, issued a bull exhorting the inquisitors of heresy and witchcraft to use greater diligence against, the human agents of the Prince of Darkness, and especially against those who have the power to produce bad weather. In 1445 Pope Eugene again issued instructions on the same subject. On the 7th of December, 1484, Pope Innocent VIII sent forth his bull. Of all documents ever issued from Rome, says Mr. White, imperial or papal, this has doubtless, first and last, cost the greatest shedding of innocent blood. Pope Innocent exhorted the clergy of Germany to leave no means untried to detect sorcerers, and especially those who by evil weather destroy vineyards, gardens, meadows and growing crops. These precepts were based on various texts of scripture, and to carry them out, witch-finding inquisitors were authorized by the pope to scour Europe, especially Germany, and a manual was prepared for their use—the Witch-IIammer. In this manual, which was revered for centuries both in Catholic and Proteslant countries, as almost divinely inspired, the doctrine of Satanic agency in atmospheric phenomena was further developed, and various means of detecting and punishing it were dwelt upon.
The means of detecting witches was the application of torture—the "third degree' which has now become the exclusive property of our modern police system. It was not difficult by skillful application of torture, such as the infallible church had wide experience in, to extract exactly the kind of confessions desired. During hundreds of years, by the direction of tin; Church authorities, this awful tragedy was enacted, and thousands of people, especially women and children, were put to death. Jean Bodin, a Catholic scholar of the 16th century, published a book in which he showed that "both the veracity of sacred scripture and the infallibility of a long line of popes were pledged to the doctrine of witchcraft," and in an eloquent passage he warned rulers and judges against any mercy to witches—citing the example of King Ahab, condemned by the prophet to die for having pardoned a man worthy of death, and pointing significantly to King Charles IX of France, who, having pardoned a sorcerer, died soon afterward. Men who attempted to oppose this madness of superstition were themselves condemned and put to death by the authorities. Bishop Binsfield of Treves wrote a book to prove that everything confessed by the witches under torture, especially the raising of storms and the general controlling of the weather, was worthy of belief. On the title page he boasts that within fifteen years he had sent nine hundred persons to death for this imaginary crime.
In 1752, Franklin made his great discovery, which was destined to destroy forever this old Christian superstition about the Prince of the Power of the Air. The invention of the lightning rod showed that men could control this awful power. Scores of churches and cathedrals in Europe had been injured by lightning. But so deep-seated was the superstition among them that they would not make use of that "heretical rod," as they called it, for protection. For example, in Austria, the church of Rosen-Imrg was struck so frequently and with such loss of life that the peasants at last feared to attend services. Three times was the spire rebuilt, and it was not until 1776—26 years after Franklin's discovery—that the authorities permitted a rod to be attached. Then the trouble ceased. The tower of St. Mark's in Venice was shattered or consumed by lightning no less than nine times, but not till 1766—fourteen years after Franklin's discovery—was a lightning rod placed upon it; and it has never been struck since. Franklin, by the way, was not a believer in Christianity at all. Incidents of this kind, showing the deep-seated superstition upheld and fostered by the Church, could be multiplied almost indefinitely.
Mankind has made no progress during the past nineteen hundred years that is more significant or perhaps more salutary than in the understanding and treatment of disease. But it has made this advance against the opposition of the Church, not by its support. The Church held for centuries that disease is merely the result of evi} spirits. If the New Testament is true. Jesus believed that. Even popes taught that it was possible to swallow the devil on a piece of lettuce or in other food. Augustine, the greatest teacher the Church produced, said : "All diseases of Christians are to be ascribed to demons." Gregory of Nazianzus declared that bodily pains are provoked by demons, and that medicines are useless, but that they are often cured by the laying on of consecrated hands. Out of this teaching of the great Fathers of the Church grew the superstition that: bones of some old saints can cure disease, and hundreds of churches and cathedrals had what they claimed were the bones of various saints. That is true to this day, and the same old claims arc made for them by the priests. Millions of wealth have been realized out of this silly old imposture. The walls of the Church of St. Ursula, in Cologne, were covered with bones taken from an old cemetery and claimed to be the bones of St. Ursula and her eleven thousand virgin martyrs. The fact that many of them, as anatomists now declare, are the bones of men, does not appear in the Middle Ages to have diminished their power of competing with the relics at other shrines in healing efficiency.
"When Professor Buckland, the eminent osteologist -ind geologist, discovered that the relics of St. Rosalia at Palermo, which has for ages cured diseases and warded off epidemics, were the bones of a goat, this fact caused not the slightest diminution in their miraculous power."
. It is almost incredible to what extremities of ignorance the theological mind went in its attitude towards disease and its cure. Patients were directed by these priestly doctors to swallow various kinds of manure, with such medicines as the liver of toads, the blood of frogs and rats, fibers of the hangman's rope, and ointments made from the bodies of gibbeted criminals. As a salve against "nocturnal goblin visitors" the following prescription was offered by the church-inspired physicians of ancient times: "Take hop plant, wormwood, bishop wort, lupine, ash-throat, henbane, harewort, viper's bugloss, heathberry plant, cropleek, garlic, grains of hedgerife and fennel. Put these worts into a vessel, set them under the altar, sing over them nine masses, boil them in butter and sheep's grease, add much holy salt, strain through a cloth, throw the worts into running water. If any ill tempting occur to a man, or an elf or goblin night visitors come, smear his body with this salve, and put it on his eyes, and cense him with incense, and sign him frequently with the sign of the cross. His condition will soon be better."
Believing that any abasement of the body helped to exalt the soul, and because the whole thought and care of the Church were centered on some future life where bodies were not needed, it became a sign of especial sanctity in priests and nuns never to wash. St. Jerome and the Breviary of the Roman Church dwelt with unction on the fact that St. Hilarion lived his whole life long in utter physical uncleanliness; St. Athanasius glorifies St. Anthony because he never washed his feet; St. Sylvia never washed any part of her body save her fingers; St. Euphraxia belonged to a convent in which nuns religiously abstained from bathing; St. Mary of Egypt was eminent for filthi-ncss; St. Simon Stylites was in this respect unspeakable— the least that can be said is that he lived in ordure and stench intolerable to his visitors. The "Lives of the Saints" dwells with complacency on the statement that, when sundry Eastern monks showed a disposition to wash themselves, the Almighty manifested his displeasure by drying up a neighboring stream until the bath which it had supplied was destroyed.
You may remember that the daily papers of Portland reported in their news columns during the Gipsy Smith meetings in this city that the great evangelist stopped in the midst of his preaching and prayed that the rain might stop, because it was interfering with his sermon. And the report stated that it stopped. But while this is perfectly characteristic of the theological mind, there were men in other days who could greatly surpass our modern evangelist. For the great St. Ambrose tells us of a priest, who, while saying mass, was disturbed by the croaking of frogs in a neighboring marsh; that he exorcised them and so stopped their noise. Belter still, we are told that St. Bernard was interrupted while preaching by a cloud of flies; but he used the formula of excommunication, and the flies fell dead upon the pavement in heaps and were cast out with shovels. In the fifteenth century a certain bishop excommunicated all the May-bugs in his diocese. As late as 1892—20 years ago—the Capuchin Father Au-relius in southern Germany, claiming that a boy in hysterics was possessed or bewitched, charged a peasant's wife with bewitching him on evidence that would have cost the woman her life in the seventeenth century. The woman's husband sued the priest for slander. The priest urged that the boy was possessed by an evil spirit if ever any one was. and that all he had done was in accord with the rules and regulations of the Church, as laid down in decrees, formulas and rituals sanctioned by popes, councils, and innumerable bishops during centuries. All in vain. The court condemned the good father to fine and imprisonment. And so f4hell was dismissed, with costs."
The record of the Christian Church in its support and teaching of error and superstition fills libraries—large libraries—and it is impossible more than to touch the fringe of the subject in a lecture. And let. it be borne in mind, too, that the Church has surrendered any of its untenable positions ONLY WHEN IT HAS BEEN COMPELLED TO DO SO. Over and over again, century after century, this struggle of science against the power of the Christian Church of whatever name, Catholic and Protestant alike, has passed through three distinct stages. First, the Church has persecuted or killed the man of science. Then, after the new truth has won its battle, as it always has and always will, (he Church begins a policy of compromise. It tries to hedge, to show that after all the new truth is not opposed to the teaching of the Church, and finally the third stage is reached, in which the Church denies that it had ever opposed the truth at all. The Church has opposed the socialist movement, for example, from the very beginning. Most of the Church is opposing it now. It has no use for freedom. It cannot tolerate liberty. Hut socialism is growing all over the world. Every year, almost every day, witnesses some forward step which that movement takes. The beginning of the second stage in the attitude of the Church toward the Socialist movement is already here—in what is called Christian Socialism. There is no more reason for Christian Socialism than there is for Christian Geology, or Christian Chemistry, or Christian Biology, or Christian Anthropology, or Christian Atheism. Christianity and Socialism will not mix. There is absolutely nothing in common between them. The one rests on primitive ignorance, on the guess-work of savages, on myths and legends and documents which have been proved void of authenticity or. historic value. The other rests upon observed facts and demonstrated truths. . The philosophy of the Christian Church and the philosophy of the Socialist movement are as unlike as night and day. There can be no compromise between them. It is no more possible fo? the Socialist philosophy to be taught or the movement upheld without incurring the opposition and misrepresentation and persecution of the Church, than it was possible for Newton, or Bacon, or Bruno, or Copernicus, or Galileo, or Darwin, or a multitude of other men of scientific minds to proclaim the truths of their time, which have now become a part of the world's accepted thought, without meeting the hostility and persecution of this same great claimant of infallibility. Just as long as ignorance remains, as long as this capitalist system makes it impossible for millions of wage-slaves to learn the facts of history and science, just so long will the Church be able to block and oppose and delay the inevitable progress of mankind toward higher planes of living. And just as every advance step in the past has been attended by pain, and suffering, and often by terrible bloodshed, because the priests of the infallible Church have considered every new idea an invasion of the domain of religion, so we may expect that similar suffering, even beyond what now exists, will be the lot of those who are now organizing the wage-slaves of the world for their freedom. As long as the millions can be kept in poverty, there is some hope of maintaining the power of the Church. With the enlightenment of the working class, the power of this fearful incubus will be broken, and a new chapter—a new epoch—in the life of the race will begin. The first necessity of the workers of the world is economic power in order to economic freedom and the ending of capitalism and the wage-system once and forever. Therein lies their only hope of anything above the lot of beasts. And the rallying cry for the workers is not and never can be: "Come to Jesus. Join the Church. Believe the Bible. Listen to the preacher and the priest." The one motto for the working class is the motto of the Communist Manifesto: "Workers of all countries, unite. You have nothing but your chains to lose, and a world to gain."
Published Lectures by William Thurston Brown;
Will You Have War or Pcacet A Plain Question to
Capitalist Society ................................32pp. 10c
Is Humanity Hungering for God? The Answer of History ami Social Science ...........................32pp. 10c
Wliat Socialism Means as a Philosophy and as a Movement ............................................32pp. 10c
Walt Whitman: Poet of the Human Whole............32pp. 15c
■ Socialism and the Individual..........................32pp. 15c
The Church and Human Progress.....................32pp. 10c
The Hell of War: Who Pays the Bills.................32pp. 10c
The Revolutionary Proletariat. (In preparation)......32pp. 10c
Love and Marriage Series: "
I. The Evolution of Sexual Morality.............32pp. 15c
II. Love's Freedom and Fulfilment..............32pp. 15c
III. Tho Moral Basis of the Demand for Free Divorce ....................................32pp. 15c
IV. Economic and Ethical Conditions of Marital Happiness. (In preparation) ................32pp. 15c
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