« IndietroContinua »
The present age needed a few examples of sterling integrity and unflinching courage. SOUTHWELL and HOLYOAKE have furnished two, that will not soon be forgotten, and must fire every manly heart with a spirit of noble emulation. SOUTHWELL, single-handed, attacked the monster, superstition, in its very den. He challenged the big beast to mortal combat, and, though a prisoner, not a bone of his body is broken, not a drop of his blood chilled, and now, as at first, his resolution is to destroy or be destroyed. Imprisonment will but give him ample leisure to grind his weapons, and train his body for another and more decisive
It is well known that HOLYOAKE was a Theist when the Oracle was started, but he was not the man to see the truth, and hesitate to act upon it- he was not the man to coldly acknowledge the righteousness of a course, and leave others to pursue it he was not the man to prate about what ought to be done, but nobly did-and giving to the winds expediency, and its appendage of humbug and deception, without bargaining for safety, higgling for pelf, or pathetically whining about wife and family, insisted upon being the second to brave the religious monster's fury. Give me, said SOUTHWELL, before his trial, but twelve enthusiastic men, who will go all honourable lengths in the promulgation of sound philosophy, and I will speedily tame, if not annihilate, the spirit of persecution. Who can doubt that twelve such men as HoLYOAKE would accomplish that most glorious of all tasks? The reformers of our times don't deserve to be free, and, therefore, they are not so. Freedom is to be won by hard fighting, it never has yet, and never will, drop into men's mouths. It is not praying, nor talking, nor fine scribbling will obtain it-it is action-honest, determined action. He who prefers a prison with honour, to a palace with disgrace, is alone fit to lead others the dangerous path which ends in liberty and happiness. The half-starved scheming reformers, and forsaken "la ! la!" politicians, who now infest society, are its bane-its nuisance. The former class are always liberal enough to do what is right—when they can conveniently-but if offered a tolerable price for their honesty, they part with it toute suite, and, like the lean vender of poison in Romeo and Juliet, excuse themselves, by urging, that their poverty and not their will consents. The latter class, the dandy politicians, have commonly more money than brains, and more conceit than either. Their hobby is an affectation of all possible peculiarities, in the vain hope that eccentricity of language and conduct, will be mistaken for genius. They sweat with anxiety to write superfine, and ape a verbose obscurity, scarcely endurable in men of real genius, such as Kant, Fichte, and Schlegel. Plain truth they reject, with the same feelings of nausea and disgust as the sated epicure rejects plain wholesome food-and a homely exposition of principles, which ought to be brought home to men's business and bosoms, is no less awful to their moral optics, than would be the direct rays of a tropical sun to the diseased eyesight of an Albino. The reason is obvious, they care not one straw how little the people know, if they do but admire. Oh, 'tis disgusting to see would-be leaders of sects, trafficking in such vanities. We have hitherto been merciful to these political abortions, but let them look to themselves, and "put their houses in order," for our next volume will not spare them. Forbearance is sometimes a crime, and those writers or speakers whose ambition it is to benefit the human race, should allow no consideration for individuals make them desert the post of public duty. According to the cant of liberalism, we should always attack systems, not men-but honest philosophers will not hesitate to allow, that sometimes men should be exposed, as well as systems. It frequently happens, that systems can only be advantageously attacked through the sides of its champions-nor can we at all sympathise with the morbid sensitiveness, which shrinkers from personalities are so prone to display. No honest public man ought to dread truth-and when that is rigidly adhered to,
he can have no cause to complain. All good men have to fear is calumny, and never shall calumny or misrepresentation disgrace the Oracle's pages-but, we repeat, no quarter shall be given to rascally time-serving deceivers, be they priests or laymen-Whigs, Tories, Chartists, Socialists, or no ists at all-if they merit the lash, we will lay it on.
There are, besides schemers and fops, just alluded to, politicians who either can't or won't understand that freedom of thought must precede freedom of action, and real reform have sound knowledge for its basis. They talk loudly about reforming the Commons' House of Parliament, without offering any definite principles, the honest application of which would infallibly work out such reform. Now, we are prepared to maintain, that the commons' can only be reformed after the people have been reformed, and that it is impossible to reform any people, without thoroughly purging them of superstition. Superstition is the great evilall other evils, incidental or necessary to human society, are no match for it. It infects the life-blood of civilisation. Morals, politics, physical science-all are polluted by superstition. Nothing which concerns the highest interests of individual or aggregate man, can possibly escape its pestiferous influence. Its ministers have been, through all recorded time, and are, at this moment, from pole to pole, the legalised prime demoralisers of our species. They pour their poison of lies into the ear of cradled infancy--nay, they debauch reason in the very womb, and only in the grave can their multitudinous dupes find repose for their terrified and exhausted sensibilities. Superstition is the tyranny of tyrannies, and its priests the tyrants of tyrants. If every priest was at the bottom of the Red Sea, society would be infinitely more happy than it is at the present moment.
These are not crude or peculiar notions. The wisest men of all climes and parties have protested against the vices--the horrors of superstition! But then, unfortunately, the majority of these wise men, while denouncing the superstitions of others, cling fast to their own. They see clearly the mote in their neighbour's eye, without dreaming of the beam in their own-and thus may everywhere be noted the painfully ludicrous spectacle, of all men sneering at or pitying the superstitious, and almost all supporting and lauding superstition. The Protestant despises the superstitious Catholic-the Catholic wonders at the spiritual blindness of her irreverent offspring-the Dissenter is ashamed of both Catholic and Protestant superstition-while the Deist is astonished that people can be so mad, as not to acknowledge the simplicity and grandeur of pure belief in one infinite, eternal, glorious, marvellous, creator and preserver of the universe. Every one must know, there are at least as many kinds of christianity as days in the year, and as many sorts of faith as conventicles. Of course, all the various interpreters of genuine religion, stigmatise every interpretation, save their own, as ungenuine, and the interpreters thereof gross and diabolical superstitionists. If disposed to write a lengthy preface, we could introduce to the reader a roll of true religions, each claiming to be of divine origin, that would fill a score pages; nor do we comprehend why the supernaturalism of China, of India, or of Arabia, may not have as good a claim to divine character as the supernaturalism of Europe. Every section of supernaturalists, or, as they call themselves, true religionists, differs from every other section of true religionists. They laugh at each other, of course (would that they never did more than laugh), and Atheists laugh at them all. Atheists reject supernaturalism in toto, as a principle and a thing—holding deism to be just as much a rank superstition, as any other form of supernaturalism.
Wild and most mischievous notions about supernatural beings and supernatural agency, constitute the very essence of all superstitions, deism included. Deists are only the more contemptible, because they affect the language, while they ruthlessly sacrifice the only admissible principles, of philosophy. It is obvious,
there can be no halting between naturalism and supernaturalism- -as Chalmers expresses it, the knowable and the unknowable-and all who pretend to the character of reasonable men, are imperatively called upon to choose their ground, for take their stand they must upon one, and one only, of these grounds.
Every religion now taught, every religion that has been taught, was invented by men. They all bear incontestable marks of a human origin. The monstrous absurdity, that a being, eternally existing, created, in time, the universe, and governed it by a posse of angels, devils, and other superior intelligences-was early taught by crafty men, perhaps with a view to benefit their species, perhaps to benefit themselves. They personified their own imagination of what might be, and called their random notions Jupiter, Apollo, Bacchus, Brahma, Jehovah, and other names, to be found in dictionaries by the score. Having "invented most serious names to hide their ignorance," nothing more was necessary, than to repeat them incessantly, and with great show of solemnity, to the crowd of fools-as it is well known, that what uninstructed men hear or see, at regular and oft recurring intervals, however absurd or revolting in itself, soon ceases to amuse or offend. Habit, in this sense, is stronger than nature, and Addison was not very wide of the true mark, when he said, "tell a man anything, however absurd, every morning, before breakfast, and rely upon it, he will believe you in the long run."
Now, atheism, or anti-supernaturalism (for both terms mean precisely the same thing), is, in our view, the only consistent, the only useful, and the only justifiable conclusion, to which those who take reason for their guide can arrive at and we are of opinion, that in the volume of the Oracle of Reason, now submitted to the investigation of all, who dare to read and think, there are arguments against the existence of superuatural being or agency, that may safely defy, and will ultimately bear down, all opposition. That the clergy are of this opinion, is manifest, from their desperate exertions to crush us, as they always conscientiously abstain from meddling with periodicals not likely to do them any mischief. When the clergy make a stir, and persecution follows upon the heels of persecution, then the people may conclude there is cheap and sound sense in the market. Had our Oracles of Reason not gone, to use a Cameronian phrase, "to the root of the matter "—had they temporised, and given to the multitude the milk-andwater, namby-pamby infidelity, to which they have so long been accustomed, neither SOUTHWELL nor HOLYOAKE would now be enjoying lodgments, provided at the state's charge, in the gaols of Bristol and Gloucester. Only the writers or speakers of really dangerous truths, are thus carefully provided for by christian authorities. This volume of Reason's Oracles is studded with such truths, hence the terror-the rage of priests, who well know, that every truth popularised, is just so much subtracted from their power—who feel, and thoroughly understand, that the most dangerous of all truths, is the truth of atheism, which none, save the Oracles of Reason, have dared plainly, honestly, and consistently to pronounce.
We say, then, to those reformers who seek to establish political justice, without striving or caring to destroy every vestige of superstition-you must fail. It is idle to dream of arresting the course of political or moral corruption, while superstition, which is the source of all corruption, lords it over human destiny. No nation under the domination of priests can be free. Such shallow talkers about human regeneration, remind us of the sapient official, who, when James the First smelt gunpowder, was ordered to search the vaults beneath the houses of parliament, and having done so, reported that he found there twenty-five barrels of the explosive material, ten barrels of which he had prudently removed, leaving fifteen barrels, adding, that he sincerely hoped they would not do any harm. The wisdom of this prudent official, is just the sort of wisdom displayed by many of our leading politicians. They carefully carry away from the vaults of popular prejudices some superstitious errors, and leave the rest to explode ad libitum, no doubt hoping, like their prudent prototype, they won't do any harm. The project of a certain Duchess de Maine, to stay a famine, by buns, was notable, but the project of our political wiseacres, to annihilate slavery, without first annihilating supernaturalism, beats that of La Duchesse, all the world to nothing. A famine might be stayed by buns-for a superstitious people to be free, is impossible.
In conclusion, we will observe, that the many blemishes a critical eye cannot fail to discover in this volume, hardly call for apology on our part, under the peculiar and difficult circumstances connected with its publication. Before the fifth number had gone to press, SOUTHWELL, its first editor, was suddenly arrested, and hurried to prison. The christians forgot not the text, "smite the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered." They chuckled over the delightful idea of stopping the Oracle, by an unexpected seizure of its editor. In this, however (the present volume proves), they were doomed to experience disappoint
ment-and truth demands that we should here state, that if SOUTHWELL could
A voice from Chelt. gaol
A scourge for god-mongrs.346 Disinterested prayer, a.. 328
65 Addison's death
80 Brutal persecutions
425 Dickens's creator
176 First epistle to secd. priest 86
195 Christian ignorance, 278, 287 God worshipping
201 Christian religion, the.. 235 Good Sense
240 Counter march of intellect,392 Humanising effets. christy. 88
A few words from one willing Christian charity
A note from the third prst 325 Design, on
417 Report of lord's committ. 304
155, National Ass. Gazette.. 267 Stray thoughts
250, Notes on Gloster. prose. 307 Style and thought
370, Oriental greatness 111 Southwell
IS THERE A GOD?-2, 11, New argument a posteriori,'
Our commercial article.. 369 Scientific men, cowardice 193
100 POLICY versus PRINCIPLE. Socratical disputation 209
-To the Socialists, 33, 41, Sunday
49, 57, 73, 89, 107, 116, Seeking the lord
131, 147, 153, 178
316, 332, 338, 366, 373,403 Persecution v. prosecution 68 Spider god of Hindostan 306
113 Suggestion to dean of Glos.392
375 Persecutors' pleadings.. 125 Soul and brain, the
392 Principles of socialism137,161 THEORY OF
225134, 161, 157,165, 173,190,
277, 294, 347, 356, 363,
of some use
The banner of faith .. 344 Theological syllogism 120
Votaries of nature 368 The two circles..
Hollowness of the world 376 Trial, the
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR. Articles ch. of England
Investigator 100 R. R. A new doxolgy
309 382, 396
C.Dent 224; G.J. Harney Prison thoughts..
231; W. 234; H. R. 238; Pseudo-atheism..
J. M,Cullough 299; W. Prosecution v. principle. 431 Utility of inquiry
B. C. 301; W. Baker 323; Qualification for the suff.
R. Carlile 374, 400, 407; Religion
R.N.K 391; James Monk, Roland for an Oliver, a..
391; John Ransom 407; H. Report of protec. com... 71 Words
Religious honesty 200 Watch argument, the 160
Mr. Owen's addresses.. 97 Riddles for relgs. 168,208,264 WHY AND BECAUSE.-230,
chal.212,230 REVIEWS.-Strauss' Life of What is god, 315, 337, 379,
New Testament 239: The Why are we Atheists, 318,
Healthian 352; Cerebral 328, 341, 359
Physiology & Materialism What benefit is civiliza. 390
345; Colloquies on Religion You will injure our cause, 254,