Men, Women, And Gods
By Helen H. Gardner
After my lecture on Men, Women, and Gods, in Chicago, I was asked how it would be possible to train children to be good without a belief in the divinity of the Bible; how they could be made to know it is wrong to lie and steal and kill.
The belief that the Bible is the originator of these and like moral ideas, or that Christ was their first teacher, is far from the truth; and it is only another evidence of the duplicity or ignorance of the Church that such a belief obtains or that such a falsehood is systematically taught.
It is too easily forgotten that morals are universal, that Christianity is local, Practical moral ideas grow up very early, and develop with the development of a race. They are the response to the needs of a people, and when formulated have in several cases taken the shape of "commandments" from some unseen power. These necessary practical laws are by degrees attached to those of imaginary value, and all alike are held in esteem as of equal moral worth. By this means a fictitious standard of right and wrong becomes established, and a weakening of confidence in the valueless part results in damage to that portion which was originally the result of wise and necessary legislation. ["Durable morality had been associated with a transitory religious faith. The faith fell into intellectual discredit, and sexual morality shared its decline for a short season. This must always be the natural consequence of building sound ethics on the shifting sands and rotting foundations of theology. It is one of those enormous drawbacks that people seldom take into account when they are enumerating the blessings of superstition." -- Morley's "Diderot," p. 71.]
When children (of whatever age) do this or that "because God said so," the precepts taught on this basis, even though they are good, will have no hold upon the man who discovers that their origin was purely human. It is a dangerous experiment and depends wholly upon ignorance for its success. A firm basis of reason in this world is the only solid foundation of moral training.
My Chicago questioner proceeded upon the hypothesis that what of valuable morals are contained in the Bible were a "revelation" to one people, and that their value was dependent upon this origin. For the benefit of those who have been similarly imposed upon, I will cite a few facts in as short space as possible.
Brahmanism, with its two hundred millions of believers, and its Rig-Veda (Bible) composed two thousand four hundred years before Christ, has its rigid code of morals; its theory of creation; its teachings about sin its revelations its belief in the ability of the gods to forgive; [Professor Max Muller says that "the consciousness of sin is a leading feature in the religion of the Veda, so is likewise the belief that the gods are able to take away from man the heavy burden of his sins." its belief that its bible came from God; and its devotees who believe that an infinite God is pleased with the toys of worship, praise, and adulation of man. It has its prayers and hymns, its offerings and sacrifices. Corresponding with our "Trinity" idea the Brahmin has his three great gods; and in place of our "angels" he has his infinite number of little ones. [See Edward Clodd, F.R.A.S., "Childhood of Religions."]
Next, Zoroastrianism, certainly twelve hundred years older than Christ, its legends (quite as authentic as our own) of miracles performed by its founder and his followers; its Zend- Avesta (Bible); its "Supreme Spirit;" its belief in gods and demons who interfere with affairs in this world and who are ever at war with each other; its sacred fires; its Lord; its praise; and its pretence to direct communication in the past with spirits and with gods who gave their Prophet "Commandments." ["In the Gathas or oldest part of the Zend-Avesta, which contains the leading doctrines of Zoroaster, he asks Ormuzd [God] for truth and guidance, and desires to know what he shall do. He is told to be pure in thought, word and deed; to be temperate, chaste, and truthful; to offer prayer to Ormuzd and the powers that fight with him; to destroy all hurtful things; and to do all that will increase the well-being of mankind. Men were not to cringe before the powers of darkness as slaves crouch before a tyrant, they were to meet them upstanding, and confound them by unending opposition and the power of a holy life. 'Oh men if you cling to these commandments which Mazda has given, which are a torment to the wicked and a blessing to the righteous, then there will be victory through them.'" -- Max Muller.] It lacks none of the paraphernalia of a "divine institution" ready for business, and we are unable to discount it in either loaves or fishes. It also has its heaven and hell; ["In this old faith there was a belief in two abodes for the departed: heaven, the 'house of the abgels' hymns,' and hell, where the wicked were sent. Between the two there was a bridge." -- Ibid.] its Messiah or Prophet; its arch fiend or devil; its rites and ceremonies.
Professor Max Muller remarks: "There were periods in the history of the world when the worship of Ormuzd threatened to rise triumphant on the ruins of the temples of all other gods. If the battles of Marathon and Salamis had been lost and Greece had succumbed to Persia, the state religion of the empire of Cyrus, which was the worship of Ormuzd, might have become the religion of the whole civilized world."
in which case my Chicago friend would have asked, "If you destroy a belief in Ormuzd, and that he gave the only supernatural moral law to Zoroaster, how will children ever be taught what is right and what is wrong, and how can they ever know that it is not right to lie and kill and steal?"
"Their creed is of the simplest kind; it is to fear God, to live a life of pure thoughts, pure words, pure deeds, and to die in the hope of a world to come. It is the creed of those who have lived nearest to God and served him faithfullest in every age, and wherever they dwell who accept it and practice it, they bear witness to that which makes them children of God and brethren of the prophets, among whom Zoroaster was not the least. The Jews were carried away as captives to Babylon some 600 years before Christ, and during the seventy years of their exile there, they came into contact with the Persian religion and derived from it ideas about the immortality of the soul, which their own religion did not contain. They also borrowed from it their belief in a multitude of angels, and in Satan as the ruler over evil spirals." [So you see that even our devil is a borrowed one, and it now seems to be about time to return him with thanks.] "The case with which man believes in unearthly powers working for his hurt prepares a people to admit into its creed the doctrine of evil spirits, and although it is certain that the Jews had no belief in such spirits before their captivity in Babylon, they spoke of Satan (which means an adversary) as a messenger sent from God to watch the deeds of man and accuse them to Him for their wrong-doing. Satan thus becoming by degrees an object of dread, upon whom all the evil which befell man was charged, the maids of the Jews were ripe for accepting the Persian doctrine of Ahriman with his legions of devils. Ahriman became the Jewish Satan, a belief in whom formed part of early Christian doctrine, and is now but slowly dying out. What fearful ills it has caused, history has many a page to tell. The doctrine that Satan, once an angel of light, had been cast from heaven for rebellion against God, and had ever since played havoc among mankind, gave rise to the belief that he and his demons could possess the souls of men and animals at pleasure. Hence grew the belief in wizards and witches, under which millions of creatures, both young and old, were cruelly tortured and put to death. We turn over the smeared pages of this history in haste, thankful that from such a nightmare the world has wakened." [Clodd, F.R.A.S.]
The world has awakened, but the Church still snores on, confident and happy in the belief that she has a devil all her own, and that he is attending strictly to business.
Next we have Buddhism, which numbers more followers than any other faith. It is five hundred years older than Christianity. It has its prophet or Messiah who was exposed to a tempter, ["Afterward the tempter sent his three daughters, one a winning girl, one a blooming virgin, and one a middle-aged beauty, to allure him, but they could not. Buddha was proof against all the demon's arts, and his only trouble was whether it were well or not to preach his doctrines to men. Feeling how hard to gain was that which he had gained, and how enslaved men were by their passions so that they might neither listen to him nor understand him, he had well-nigh resolved to be silent, but, at the last, deep compassion for all beings made him resolve to tell his secret to mankind, that they too might be free, and he thus became the founder of the most popular religion of ancient or modern times. The spot where Buddha obtained his knowledge became one of the most sacred places in India." -- Clodd.] and overcame all evil; its fastings and prayers; its miracles and its visions. Of Buddha's teachings Prof. Max Muller tells us that he used to say, "Nothing on earth is stable, nothing is real. Life is as transitory as a spark of fire, or the sound of a lyre. There must be some supreme intelligence where we could find rest. If I attained it I could bring light to men. If I were free myself I could deliver the world."
Buddha, like Christ, wrote nothing, and the doctrines of the new religion were fixed and written by his disciples after his death. Councils were held afterwards to correct errors and send out missionaries. You will see, therefore, that even "revisions" are not a product of Christianity, and that "revelations" have always been subject to reform to fit the times. ["Two other councils were afterward held for the correction of errors that had crept into the faith, and for sending missionaries into other lands. The last of these councils is said to have been held 251 years before Christ, so that long before Christianity was founded we have this great religion with its sacred traditions of Buddha's words, its councils and its missions, besides, as we shall presently see, many things strangely like the rites of the Roman Catholic Church." -- Clodd.]
I will here give a few of the wise or kind or moral commands of Buddha. If the first were followed in Christian countries we should be a more moral and a less superstitious people than we are to-day.
"Buddha said: 'The succoring of mother and father, the cherishing of child and wife, and the following of a lawful calling, this is the greatest blessing.'
" 'The giving alms, a religious life, aid rendered to relations, blameless acts, this, is the greatest blessing.'
" 'The abstaining from sins and the avoiding them, the eschewing of intoxicating drink, diligence in good deeds, reverence and humility, contentment and gratefulness, this is the greatest blessing.'
" 'Those who having done these things, become invincible on all sides, attain happiness on all sides. This is the greatest blessing.'
" 'He who lives a hundred years, vicious and unrestrained, a life of one day is better if a man is virtuous and reflecting.'
" 'Let no man think lightly of evil, saying in his heart, it will not come near unto me. Even by the falling of waterdrops a water-pot is filled; the fool becomes full of evil if he gathers it little by little.'
" 'Not to commit any sin, to do good, and to purify one's mind, that is the teaching of the Awakened.' (This is one of the most solemn verses among the Buddhists).
" 'Lot us live happily then, not hating those who hate us Let us dwell free from hatred among men who hate!'
"After these doctrines there follow ten commandments, of which the first five apply to all people, and the rest chiefly to such as set themselves apart for a religious life. They are: not to kill; not to steal; not to commit adultery; not to lie; not to get drunk; to abstain from late meals; from public amusements; from expensive dress; from large beds; and to accept neither gold nor silver." [Clodd.]
Keep in mind that Buddhism lived more than 500 years before Christ.
"The success of Buddhism was in this: It was a protest against the powers of the priests; it to a large degree broke down caste by declaring that all men are equal, and by allowing any one desiring to live a holy life to become a priest. It abolished sacrifices; made it the duty of all men to honor their parents and care for their children, to be kind to the sick and poor and sorrowing, and to forgive their enemies and return good for evil; it spread a spirit of charity abroad which encompassed the lowest life as well as the highest." [Ibid.]
With these before him will a Christian suppose that morals are dependent upon our Bible?
Of Confucianism, believed by millions to be essential to their salvation, and one of the three state religions of China, Clodd says: "On the soil of this great country there is crowded nearly half the human race, the most orderly people on the globe. This man Confucius), who was reviled in life, but whose influence sways the hundreds of millions of China, was born 551 years before Christ. His nature was so beautifully simple and sincere that he would not pretend to knowledge of that which he felt was beyond human reach and thought,"
What an earthquake there would be if our clergymen where only to become inoculated with that sort of simple sincerity! His disciples and followers did that for him as has been done in most other cases.
"The sacred books of China are called the Kings, and are five in number, containing treatises on morals, books of rites, poems, and history. They are of great age, perhaps as old as the earliest hymns of the Rig-Veda, and are free from any impure thoughts. [Which is much more than can be said of our own sacred books, which are not so old.] In the Book of Poetry are three hundred pieces, but the design of them all may be embraced in that one sentence, 'Have no depraved thoughts.'
"At the time when Confucius lived, China was divided into a number of petty kingdoms whose rulers were ever quarrelling, and although he became engaged in various public situations of trust, the disorder of the State at last caused him to resign them, and he retired to another part of the country. He then continued the life of a public teacher, instructing men in the simple moral truths by which he sought to govern his own life. The purity of that life, and the example of veneration for the old laws which he set, gathered round him many grave and thoughtful men, who worked with him for the common good."
Confucius said among other wise and moral things: "Coarse rice for food, water to drink, the bended arm for a pillow -- happiness may be enjoyed even with these; but without virtue, both riches and honor seem to me like the passing cloud. ... Our passions shut up the door of our souls against God."
What we are pleased to call "the golden rule," and to look upon as purely Christian, he gave in these words 500 years before Christ was born: "Tsze-kung said, 'What I do not wish men to do to me, I also wish not to do to men.' The Master said, 'Yon have not attained to that.'
"Such is the power of words, that those uttered by this intensely earnest man, whose work was ended only by death, have kept alive throughout the vast empire of China a reverence for the past and a sense of duty to the present which have made the Chinese the most orderly and moral people in the world."
So much for the great religions that are older than our own and could not have borrowed from us. So much for the moral sentiments of the peoples who developed them, and who live and die happy with them today. It leaves only a small part of this globe and a comparatively small number of its inhabitants who believe in and are guided by the Bible, or by the morality which has grown side-by-side with it.
But there is one other great religion which is of interest to us: [See Appendix R.]
"And the value of Islam, the youngest of the great religions, is that we are able to see how its first simple form became overlaid with legend and foolish superstition, and thus learn how, in like manner, myth and fable have grown around more ancient religions (and around our own).
"For example although Mohammed came into the world like other children, wonderful things are said to have taken place at his birth.
"He never claimed to be a perfect man; he did not pretend to foretell events or to work miracles.
"In spite of all this, his followers said of him, while he was yet living, that he worked wonders, and they believed the golden vision, hinted at in Koran, to have been a real event, although Mohammed said over and over again that it was but a dream.
"This religion is the guide in life and the support in death of one hundred and fifty millions of our fellow creatures; like Christianity, it has its missionaries scattered over the globe, and offers itself as a faith needed by all men.
"The, success of Islam was great. Not one hundred years after the death of the prophet, it had converted half the then known world, and its green flag waved from China to Spain. Christianity gave way before it, and has never regained some of the ground then lost, while at this day we see Islam making marked progress in Africa and elsewhere. Travelers tell us that the gain is great when a tribe casts away its idols and embraces Islam. Filth and drunkenness flee away, and the state of the people is bettered in a high degree."
"Muslims have not treated Christ as we have treated Mohammed, for the devout among them never utter his name without adding the touching words, 'on whom be peace.'"
"Mohammed counseled men to live a good life, and to strive after the mercy of God by fasting, charity, and prayer, which he called 'the, key of paradise.'"
He abolished the frightful practice of killing female children, and made the family tie more respected."
He said: "A man's true wealth hereafter is the good he has done in this world to his fellow-men. When he dies, people will ask, What property has he left behind him? But the angels will ask, What good deeds has he sent before him?" [Which is a doctrine wholesome and just, so for as it applies to this world, and inculcates the right sort of morals.]
"Mohammed commanded his followers to make no image of any living thing, to show mercy to the weak and orphaned, and kindness to brutes; to abstain from gambling, and the use of strong drink.
"The great truth which he strove to make real to them was that God is one, that, as the Koran says, 'they surely are infidels who say that God is the third of three, for there is no God but one God.'"
He was the great original Unitarian.
"I should add that the wars of Islam did not leave waste and ruin in their path, but that the Arabs, when they came to Europe, alone held aloft the light of learning, and in the once famous schools of Spain, taught 'philosophy, medicine, astronomy, and the golden art of song.'"
We cannot speak so well of the "holy wars" of Christianity.
In speaking of the men who wrote our Bible, Clodd says:
"Nor is it easy to find in what they have said truths which in one form or another, have not been stated by the writers of some of the sacred books into which we have dipped."
I have quoted more fully than had been my intention simply to show the egotistic ignorance of the Christian's claim to possess a religion or a Bible which differs, in any material regard, from several others which are older, and to indicate that moral ideas, precepts, and practices are the property of no special people but are the inevitable result of continued life itself, and the evolution of civilizations however different in outward form and expression. They are the necessary results of human companionship and necessities, and not the fruits of any religion or the "revelation" from on high to any people. As William Kingdom Clifford, F.R.S., in his work on the "Scientific Basis of Morales," very justly says:
"There is more than one moral sense, and what I feel to be right another man may feel to be wrong.
In just the same way our question about the best conscience will resolve itself into a question about the purpose or function of the conscience -- why we have got it, and what it is good for.
"Now to my mind the simplest and clearest and most profound philosophy that was ever written upon this subject is to be found in the 2d and 3d chapters of Mr. Darwin's 'Descent of Man.' In these chapters it appears that just as most physical characteristics of organisms have been evolved and preserved because they were useful to the individual in the struggle for existence against other individuals and other species, so this particular feeling has been evolved and preserved because it is useful to the tribe or Community in the struggle for existence against other tribes, and against the environment as a whole. The function of conscience is the preservation of the tribe as a tribe. And we shall rightly train our consciences if we learn to approve these actions which tend to the advantage of the community.
The virtue of purity, for example, attains in this way a fairly exact definition: purity in a man is that course of conduct which makes him to be a good husband and father, in a woman that which makes her to be a good wife and mother, or which helps other people so to prepare and keep themselves. It is easy to see how many false ideas and pernicious precepts are swept away by even so simple a definition as that.
In urging the necessity of a more substantial basis of morals than one built upon a theory of arbitrary dictation, he says: "The worship of a deity who is represented as unfair or unfriendly to any portion of the community is a wrong thing, however great may be the threats and promises by which it is commended. And still worse, the reference of right and wrong to his arbitrary will as a standard, the diversion of the allegiance of the moral sense from the community to him, is the most insidious and fatal of social diseases. ... If I let myself believe anything on insufficient evidence, there may be no great harm done by the mere belief; it may be true after all, or I may never have occasion to exhibit it in outward acts. But I cannot help doing this great wrong toward man, that I make myself credulous. The danger to society is not merely that it should believe wrong things, though that is great enough; but that it should become credulous, and lose the habit of testing things and inquiring into them; for then it must sink back into savagery.
"The harm which is done by credulity in a man is not confined to the fostering of a credulous character in others, and consequent support of false beliefs. Habitual want of care about what I believe leads to habitual want of care in others about the truth of what is told to me. Men speak the truth to one another when each reveres the truth in his own mind and in the other's mind; but how shall my friend revere the truth in my mind when I myself am careless about it, when I believe things because I want to believe them, and because they are comforting and pleasant? Will he not learn to cry, 'Peace,' to me, when there is no peace? By such a course I shall surround myself with a thick atmosphere of falsehood and fraud, and in that I must live. It may matter little to the me, in my cloud-castle of sweet illusions and daring lies; but it matters much to Man that I have made my neighbors ready to deceive. The credulous man is father to the liar. ...
"We all suffer severely enough from the maintenance and support of false beliefs and the fatally wrong actions which they lead to; and the evil born when one such belief is entertained is great and wide. But a greater and wider evil arises when the credulous character is maintained and supported, when a habit of believing for unworthy reasons is fostered and made permanent. ...
"The fact that believers have found joy and peace in believing gives us the right to say that the doctrine is a comfortable doctrine, and pleasant to the soul; but it does not give us the right to say that it is true. ...
"And the question which our conscience is always asking about that which we are tempted to believe is not, 'is it comfortable and pleasant?' but, 'Is it true?'"
The sooner moral actions and the necessity of clean, helpful, and charitable living are put upon a basis more solid and permanent than theology the better will it be for civilization; and if this chapter shall, by its light style, attract the attention of those who are too busy, or are disinclined for any reason whatsoever, to collect from more profound works the facts here given, I shall be satisfied with the result, because I shall have done something toward the triumph of fact over fiction.
We cannot repeat too often nor emphasize too strongly this one simple fact, that we need all our energy and time to make this world fit to live in; to make homes where mothers are happy and children are glad -- homes where fathers hasten when their work is done, and are welcomed with a shout of joy.
- The toilers who wend up the hillside,
The toilers below in the mill
Alike are the victims of priestcraft,
They "do but the Master's will."
The Master's will! ah the cunning,
The bitterly cruel device,
To wring from the lowly and burdened
Submission at any price!
Submission to tyrants in Russia --
Submission to tyrants in Rome;
The throne and the altar have ever
Combined to despoil the home.
But the home is the heaven to live for,
And Love is the God sublime
who paints in tints of glory,
Upon the wings of Time
This legend, grand and simple,
And true as eternal Right --
No Justice e'er came, from Jury,
Whose verdict was based on might!
As high above earth as is heaven;
As high as the stars above
The Church, the chapel, the altar;
Is the home whose God is Love.
1. "For a species increases or decreases in numbers, widens or contracts its habitat, migrates or remains stationary, continues an old mode of life or falls into a new one, under the combined influence of its intrinsic nature and the environing actions, inorganic and organic.
"Beginning with the extrinsic factors, we see that from the outset several kinds of them are variously operative. They need but barely enumerating. We have climate, hot, cold, or temperate, moist or dry, constant or variable. We have surface, much or little of which is available, and the available part of which is fertile in greater or less degree; and we have configuration of surface, as uniform or multiform. ... On these sets of conditions, inorganic and organic, characterizing the environment, primarily depends the possibility of social evolution." -- Spencer, "Principles of Sociology," Vol. 1, p. 10.
2. "These considerations clearly prove that of the two Primary causes of civilization, the fertility of the soil is the one which in the ancient world exercised most influence. But in European civilization, the other great cause, that is to say, climate, has been the most powerful.
"Owing to circumstances which I shall presently state, the only progress which is really effective depends, not upon the bounty of nature, but upon the energy of man. Therefore it is, that the civilization of Europe, which in its earliest stage, was governed by climate, has shown a capacity of development unknown to those civilizations which were originated by soil." -- Buckle.
"History of Civilization,"' vol. 1, p. 36-37. [I wish to state here that I had never read the above from Buckle, nor had I seen anywhere a statement so like my own, at the time mine was written. I read this for the first time while reading the proofs of this chapter, So much for what may appear plagiarism. -- H.H.G.]
1. "Napoleon himself was indifferent to Christianity, but he saw that the clergy were friends of despotism." -- Buckle.
2. "Thus it is that a careful survey of history will prove that the Reformation made the first progress not in those countries where the people were most enlightened, but in those countries where, from political causes, the clergy were least able to withstand the people." -- Buckle.
3. "Christian civilization in the twentieth century of its existence, degrades its women to labor fit only for beasts of the field; harnessing them with dogs to do the most menial labors; it drags them below even this, holding their womanhood up to sale, putting both Church and State sanction upon their moral death; which, in some places, as in the city of Berlin, so far recognizes the sale of woman's bodies for the vilest purposes as part of the Christian religion, that license for this life is refused until they have partaken of the Sacrament; and demands of the '10,000 licensed women of the town' of the city of Hamburg, certificates showing that they regularly attend church and also partake of the sacrament." -- Gage.
Even a lower depth than this is reached in England, France, Italy, Switzerland, and Germany, and nearly every country of Europe, says the same writer, "a system of morality which declares 'the necessity' of woman's degradation, and annually sends tens of thousands down to a death from which society grants no resurrection." -- Gage.
1. "Sappho flourished B.C. 600, and a little later; and so highly did Plato value, her intellectual, as well as her imaginative endowments, that he assigned her the honors of sage as well as poet; and familiarly entitled her the 'tenth muse.'" -- Buckle.
2. "Wilkinson says among no ancient people had women such influence and liberty as among the ancient Egyptians." Buckle.
3. "The Americans have in the treatment of women fallen below, not only their own democratic principles, but the practice of some parts of the Old World." -- Harriet Martineau.
4. "Mr. F. Newman denies that Christianity has improved the position of women; and he observes that, 'with Paul, the sole reason for marriage is, that a man may, without sin, vent his sensual desires. He teaches that, but for this object, it would be better not to marry;' and he takes no notice of the social pleasures of marriage. Newman says: 'In short, only in countries where Germanic sentiment has taken root do we see marks of any elevation of the female sex superior to that of Pagan antiquity.'" -- Buckle.
5. "Female voices are never heard in the Russian churches; their place is supplied by boys; women do not yet stand high enough in the estimation of the churches. ... to be permitted to sing the praises of God in the presence of men." -- Kohl.
6. "Christianity diminished the influence of women." -- Neander, "Hist. of the Church."
Within the reign of the present sovereign Mrs. Gage tells us of a young girl being ordered by the Petty Sessions Bench back to the "service" of a landlord, from whom she had run away because such service meant the sacrifice of her honor. She refused to go and was put in jail.
1. "Women were taught by the Church and State alike, that the Feudal Lord or Seigneur had a right to them, not only against themselves, but as against any claim of husband or father. The law known as Marchetta, or Marquette, compelled newly-married women to a most dishonorable servitude. They were regarded as the rightful prey of the Feudal Lord from one to three days after their marriage, and from this custom, the oldest son of the serf was held as the son of the lord, 'as perchance it was he who begat him' From this nefarious degradation of woman, the custom of Borough-English arose, in which the youngest son became the heir. ... France, Germany, Prussia, England, Scotland, and all Christian countries where feudalism existed, held to the enforcement of Marquette. The lord deemed this right as fully his as he did the claim to half the crops of the land, or to half the wool of the sheep. More than one reign of terror arose in France from the enforcement of this law, and the uprisings of the peasantry over Europe during the twelfth century, and the fierce Jacquerie, or Peasant Wars, of the fourteenth century in France owed their origin, among other causes, to the enforcement of these claims by the lords upon the newly- married wife. The edicts of Marly transplanted that claim to America when Canada was under the control of France. To persons not conversant with the history of feudalism, and of the Church for the first fifteen hundred years of its existence, it will seem impossible that such foulness could ever have been part of Christian civilization. That the crimes they have been trained to consider the worst forms of heathendom could have exist in Christian Europe, upheld by both Church and State for more than a thousand five hundred years, will strike most people with incredulity. Such, however, is the truth; we can but admit well- attested facts of history, how severe a blow they strike our preconceived beliefs.
"Marquette was claimed by the Lords Spiritual, ["In days to come people will be slow to believe that the law among Christian nations went beyond anything decreed concerning the olden slavery; that it wrote down as an actual right the most grievous outrage that could ever wound man's heart. The Lords Spiritual (clergy) had this right no less than the Lords Temporal. The parson, being a lord, expressly claimed the first fruits of the bride, but was willing to sell his right to the husband. The Courts of Berne openly maintain that this right grew up naturally." -- Michelet, "La Sorcerie," p. 62.] as well as by the Lords Temporal. The Church, indeed, was the bulwark of this base feudal claim. With the power of penance and excommunication in its grasp, this demand could neither have originated nor been sustained unless sanctioned by the Church. ... These customs of feudalism were the customs of Christianity during many centuries. (One of the Earls of Crawford, known as the 'Earl Brant,' in the sixteenth century, was probably among the last who openly claimed by right the literal translation of droit de Jambage.) These infamous outrages upon woman were enforced under Christian law by both Church and State.
"The degradation of the husband at this infringement of the lord spiritual and temporal upon his marital right, has been pictured by many writers, but history has been quite silent upon the despair and shame of the wife. No hope appeared for woman anywhere. The Church. ... dragged her to the lowest depths, through the vileness of its priestly customs. ... We who talk of the burning of wives upon the funeral pyres of husbands in India, may well turn our eyes to the records of Christian countries." -- Matilda Joslyn Gage in "Woman, Church, and State."
2. From this point Mrs. Gage calls attention to the various efforts to throw off this degrading custom. The women held meetings at night, and among other things travestied the celebration of Mass and other Church customs; but the end and aim of these meetings being a protest and rebellion against Marquette, the clergy called those who took part in them "witches;" ["There are few superstitions which have been so universal as a belief in witchcraft. The severe theology of paganism despised the wretched superstition, which has been greedily believed by millions of Christians." -- Buckle.] and then and there began the persecution which the Church carried on against women under this disguise (under Catholic and Protestant rule alike), which extended down to the latter part of the last century, with its list of horrors and indignities extending over all Christian countries and blossoming in all their vigor in our own eastern States, upheld by Luther, John Wesley, and Baxter, who unfortunately had not at that time entered into the everlasting rest of the Saints. And, true to these noble and wise leaders, the Churches which they founded are to-day expressing the same sentiments (in principle) in regard to the honor and dignity and position of woman. The arguments of the Rev. Dr. Craven, the prosecutor in the famous Presbyterian trial of 1876, which are given by Mrs. Gage, together with numerous other similar ones, fully establish the fact that woman is to the Church what she always was -- so far as secular law will permit. And numerous instances (such as the Buckley exhibition at the last Methodist Conference, in which he was sustained by the Conference) prove that they have learned nothing since 1876.
3. I wish I might copy here the sermon to women which the Rev. Knox-Little, the well-known High-Church clergyman of England, preached when in this country in 1880, in which he said, "There is no crime which a man can commit which justifies his wife in leaving him. It is her duty to subject herself to him always, and no crime that he can commit can justify her lack of obedience." Although a little balder in statement than are most utterances of orthodox clergymen in this age, yet in sentiment and in the reason given for it the echo of "Amen" comes from every pulpit where a believer in original sin, vicarious atonement, or the inspiration of the Bible has a representative and a voice. If self-respect or honor is ever to be the lot of woman, it will not be until her foot is on the neck of orthodoxy, and when the Bible ranks where it belongs in the field of literature.
1. "The French government, about the middle of the eighteenth century, seems to have reached the maturity of its wickedness, allowing if not instigating religious persecutions of so infamous a nature that they would not be believed if they were not attested by documents of the courts in which the sentences were passed." -- Buckle.
2. Of Louis XV., the eminently Christian king of France, Buckle says: "His harem cost more than 100,000,000 francs, and was composed of little girls. He was constantly drunk," and "turned out his own illegitimate children to prostitute themselves."
3. "It will hardly be believed that, when sulfuric ether was first used to lessen the pains of childbirth, it was objected to as 'a profane attempt to abrogate the primeval curse pronounced upon woman. ... The injury which the theological principle has done to the world is immense. It has prevented men from studying the laws of nature." -- Buckle.
1.The narrow range of their sympathies [the clergy's], and the intellectual servitude they have accepted, render them peculiarly unfitted for the office of educating the young, which they so persistently claim, and which, to the great misfortune of the world, they were long permitted to monopolize. ... The almost complete omission from female education of those studies which most discipline and strengthen the intellect, increases the difference, while at the same time it has been usually made a main object to imbue them with a passionate faith in traditional opinions, and to preserve them from all contact with opposing views. But contracted knowledge and imperfect sympathy are not the sole fruits of this education. It has always been the peculiarity of a certain kind of theological teaching, that it inverts all the normal principles of judgment and absolutely destroys intellectual diffidence. On other subjects we find, if not a respect for honest conviction, at least some sense of the amount of knowledge that is requisite to entitle men to express an opinion on grate controversies. A complete ignorance of the subject-matter of a dispute restrains the confidence of dogmatism; and an ignorant person who is aware that, by much reading and thinking in spheres of which he has himself no knowledge, his educated neighbor has modified or rejected opinions which that ignorant person had been taught, will, at least if he is a man of sense or modesty, abstain from compassionating the benighted condition of his more instructed friend. But on theological questions this has never been so.
"Unfaltering belief being taught as the first of duties, and all doubt being usually stigmatized as criminal or damnable, a state of mind is formed to which we find no parallel in other fields. Many men and most women, though completely ignorant of the very rudiments of biblical criticism, historical research, or scientific discoveries, though they have never read a single page, or understood a single proposition of the writings of those whom they condemn, and have absolutely no rational knowledge either of the arguments by which their faith is defended, or of those by which it has been impugned, will nevertheless adjudicate with the utmost confidence upon every polemical question, denounce, hate, pity, or pray for the conversion of all who dissent from what they have been taught, assume, as a matter beyond the faintest possibility of doubt, that the opinions they have received without inquiry must be true, and that the opinions which others have arrived at by inquiry must be false, and make it a main object of their lives to assail what they call heresy in every way in their power, except by examining the grounds on which it rests. It is possible that the great majority of voices that swell the clamor against every book which is regarded as heretical, are the voices of those who would deem it criminal even to open that book, or to enter into any real, searching, and impartial investigation of the subject to which it relates. Innumerable pulpits support this tone of thought, and represent, with a fervid rhetoric well fitted to excite the nerves and imaginations of women, the deplorable condition of all who deviate from a certain type of opinions or emotions; a blind propagandism or a secret wretchedness penetrates into countless households, poisoning the peace of families, chilling the mental confidence of husband and wife, adding immeasurably to the difficulties which every searcher into truth has to encounter, and diffusing far and wide intellectual timidity, disingenuousness, and hypocrisy." -- Lecky.
2. "The clergy, with a few honorable exceptions, have in all modern countries been the avowed enemies of the diffusion of knowledge, the danger of which to their own profession they, by a certain instinct, seem always to have perceived." -- Buckle.
3. "In the fourth century there arose monarchism, and in the sixth century the Christians succeeded in cutting off the last ray of knowledge, and shutting up the schools of Greece. Then followed a long period of theology, ignorance, and vice." -- Buckle.
4. Contempt for human sciences was one of the first features of Christianity. It had to avenge itself of the outrages of philosophy; it feared that spirit of investigation and doubt, that confidence of man in his own reason, the pest alike of all religious creeds. The light of the natural sciences was ever odious to it, and was ever regarded with a suspicious eye, as being a dangerous enemy to the success of miracles; and there is no religion that does not oblige its sectaries to follow some physical absurdities. The triumph of Christianity was thus the final signal of the entire decline both of the sciences an of philosophy." -- "Progress of the Human Mind," Condorcet.
"Accordingly it ought not to astonish us that Christianity, though unable in the sequel to prevent their reappearance in splendor after the invention of printing, was at this period sufficiently powerful to accomplish their ruin." -- Ibid.
"In the disastrous epoch at which we are now arrived, we shall see the human mind rapidly descending from the height to which it had raised itself. ... Everywhere was corruption, cruelty, and perfidy. ... Theological reveries, superstitions, delusions, are become the sole genius of man, religious intolerance his only morality; and Europe, crushed between sacerdotal tyranny and military despotism, awaits in blood and in tears the moment when the revival of light shall restore it to liberty, to humanity, and to virtue. ... The priests held human learning in contempt. ... Fanatic armies laid waste the provinces. Executioners, under the guidance of legates and priests, put to death those whom the soldiers had spared. A tribunal of monks was established, with power of condemning to the stake whoever should be suspected of making use of his reason. ... All sects, all governments, every species of authority, inimical as they were to each other in every point else, seemed to be of accord in granting no quarter to the exercise of reason. ... Meanwhile education, being everywhere subjected [to the clergy], had corrupted everywhere the general understanding, by clogging the reason of children with the weight of the religious prejudices of their country. ... In the eighth century an ignorant pope had persecuted a deacon for contending that the earth was round, in opposition to the opinion of the rhetorical Saint Austin. In the fifteenth, the ignorance of another pope, much more inexcusable, delivered Galileo into the hands of the inquisition, accused of having proved the diurnal and annual motion of the earth. The greatest genius that modern Italy has given to the sciences, overwhelmed with age and infirmities, was obliged to purchase his release from punishment and from prison, by asking pardon of God for having taught men better to understand his works." -- Ibid.
1. Fenelon, a celebrated French clergyman and writer of the seventeenth century, discouraged the acquisition of knowledge by women. -- See Hallam's. "Lit. of Europe."
2. "Perhaps it is to the spirit of Puritanism that we owe the little influence of women, and the consequent inferiority of their education." -- Buckle.
3. "In England (1840) a distrust and contempt for reason prevail's amongst religious circles to a wide extent; many Christians think it almost a matter of duty to decry the human faculties as poor, mean, and almost worthless; and thus seek to exalt piety at the expense of intelligence." -- Morell's "Hist. of Speculative Phil."
4. "That woman are more deductive than men, because they think quicker than men, is a proposition which some people will not relish, and yet it may be proved in a variety of ways. Indeed nothing could prevent its being universally admitted except the fact that the remarkable rapidity with which women think is obscured by that miserable, that contemptible, that preposterous system, called their education, in which valuable things are carefully kept from them, and trifling things carefully taught to them, until their fine and nimble minds are too often irretrievably injured." -- Buckle.
1. "The Roman [Pagan] religion was essentially domestic, and it was a main object of the legislator to surround marriage with every circumstance of dignity and solemnity. Monogamy was from the earliest times, strictly enjoined, and it was one of the great benefits that have resulted from the expansion of Roman power, that it made this type dominant in Europe. In the legends of early Rome we have ample evidence both of the high moral estimate of women, and of their prominence in Roman life. The tragedies of Lucretia and of Virginia display a delicacy of honor, a sense of the supreme excellence of unsullied purity which no Christian nation could surpass." -- Lecky, "European Morals," Vol. I., p. 316.
2. "Marriage [under Christian rule] was viewed in its coarsest and most degraded form. The notion of its impurity took many forms, and exercised for some centuries an extremely wide influence over the Church. -- Ibid,, p. 343.
1. "We are continually told that civilization and Christianity have restored to the woman her just rights. Meanwhile the wife is the actual bond-servant of her husband; no less so, as far as legal obligation goes, than slaves commonly so called. She vows a lifelong obedience to him at the altar, and is held to it all through her life by law. Casuists may say that the obligation of obedience stops short of participation in crime, but it certainly extends to everything else. She can do no act whatever but by his permission, at least tacit. She can acquire no property but for him; the instant it becomes hers even if by inheritance, it becomes ipso facto his. In this respect the wife's position under the common law of England is worse than that of slaves in the laws of many countries; by the Roman law, for example, a slave might have peculium, which, to a certain extent, the law guaranteed him for his exclusive use." -- Mill.
2. Speaking of self-worship which leads to brutality toward others, Mill says "Christianity will never practically teach it" (the equality of human beings) "While it sanctions institutions grounded on an arbitrary preference for one human being over another."
"The morality of the first ages rested on the obligation to submit to power; that of the ages next following, on the right of the weak to the forbearance and protection of the strong. How much longer is one form of society and life to content itself with the morality made for another? We have had the morality of submission, and the morality of chivalry and generosity; the time is now come for the morality of justice." -- Ibid.
"Institutions, books, education, society all go on training human beings for the old, long after the new has come; much more when it is only coming." -- Ibid.
There have been abundance of people, in all ages of Christianity, who tried ... to convert us into a Sort of Christian Mussulmans, with the Bible for a Koran, prohibiting all improvement; and great has been their power, and many have had to sacrifice their lives in resisting them. But they have been resisted, and the resistance has made us what we are, and will yet make us what we are to be." -- Ibid.
In this tendency [to depreciate extremely the character and position of woman] we may detect in part the influence of the earlier Jewish writings, in which it is probable that most impartial observers will detect evident traces of the common oriental depreciation of women. The custom of money-purchase to the father of the, bride was admitted. Polygamy was authorized, and practiced by the wisest men on an enormous scale. A woman was regarded as the origin of human ills. A period of purification was appointed after the birth of every child; but, by a very significant provision, it was twice as long in the case of a female as of a male child (Levit. xii. 1-5). The badness of men, a Jewish writer emphatically declared, is better than the goodness of women Ecclesiastics xlii. 14). The types of female excellence exhibited in the early period of Jewish history are in general of a low order, and certainly far inferior to those of Roman history or Greek poetry; and the warmest eulogy of a woman in the Old Testament is probably that which was bestowed upon her who, with circumstances of the most exaggerated treachery, had murdered the sleeping fugitive who had taken refuge under her roof." -- Lecky, "European Morals," vol. 1, p. 357.
1. "Mr. F. Newman, who looks on toleration as the result intellectual progress, says Nevertheless, not only does the Old Testament justify bloody persecution, but the New teaches that God will visit men with fiery vengeance for holding an erroneous creed." -- Buckle.
2. "The first great consequence of the decline of priestly influence was the rise of toleration. ... I suspect that the impolicy of persecution was perceived before its wickedness." -- Ibid.
3. "While a multitude of scientific discoveries, critical and historical researches, and educational reforms have brought thinking men face to face with religious problems of extreme importance, women have been almost absolutely excluded from their influence." -- Lecky.
4. "The domestic unhappiness arising from difference of belief was probably almost or altogether unknown in the world before the introduction of Christianity. ... The deep and widening chasm between the religious opinions of most highly educated men, and of the immense majority of women is painfully apparent. Whenever any strong religious fervor fell upon a husband or a wife, its first effect was to make a happy union impossible." -- Ibid.
5. "The combined influence of the Jewish writings [Old Testament) and of that ascetic feeling which treated woman as the chief source of temptation to man, caused her degradation. ... In the writings of the Fathers, woman was represented as the door of hell, as the mother of all human ills. She should be ashamed at the very thought that she is a woman. She should live in continual penance, on account of the curse she has brought into the world. She should be ashamed of her dress and especially ashamed of her beauty." -- Ibid.
If you have anything you would like to
submit to this site, or any comments,
email me at:
CLICK HERE FOR EMAIL ADDRESS.
Back to "Painful Truth" Contents Page.
The content of this site, including but not limited to the text and images herein and their arrangement, are copyright (c) 1997-1999 by The Painful Truth. All rights reserved.
Do not duplicate, copy or redistribute in any form without the prior written consent.