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Meditation 1094
Faith or Fact

Religion

by: Henry M. Taber

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RELIGION.

“                 In religion,
What damned error.”
–Merchant of Venice, iii, 2.

THERE is no necessary connection between the etymology of the word religion and the use it has been put to. It is derived from two Latin words, re and ligo, signifying to bind back. The latter Latin word is that from which the words ligature and ligament (binding together) are derived. So that its original meaning suggests association, compact, fraternity; not necessarily in matters of belief in certain creeds, but in any effort for good (or perhaps even for evil). Religion, as generally understood, lacks the essential element which the derivation of the word suggests and indicates. It does not bind heart to heart in the great brotherhood of mankind, in any comprehensive sense. As “Vindex” in October Magazine) says: “Religion is no bond of union, except between the members of a sect who all agree upon a dogmatic creed and form of worship.” Associations, such, for instance, as Prof. Felix Adler’s “Society for Ethical Culture,” or the “Manhattan Liberal Club,” are quite as truly religious as are Christianity or Buddhism. None of the believers in what are designated as the religions of the world, at least none of the “great” religions recognize this fact. They assume that there cannot be any religion unless it declares certain tenets which all who subscribe to are expected to accept with

“Unquestioned faith – unvitalized by thought.”

Such tenets are with reference to matters about which it is utterly impossible to ascertain anything, and yet the adherents of such religions have the same implicit belief in them as though they were demonstrated facts.

“All faiths are to their own believers just.”

Every religion is the result of environment and instruction. We take to our religion just as we adopt the customs and habits which prevail in the different countries in which our lot is cast. Gibbon says that “religion is a mere question of geography.”

There is no religion but what is founded in superstition, with an understratum of ignorance.

“The germ of all religions may be traced to human ignorance.”  – (Ingersoll.)

Superstition encourages fear, and the priesthood of every religion make the most of the ignorance and fear and credulity of those over whom these religious teachers are placed.

“By education most have been misled;
We so believe because we so are bred;
The priest continues what the nurse began,
And thus the boy imposes on the man.” – (Dryden.)

According to the late Rev. Roswell D. Hitchcock, D.D., there are one thousand religions in the world, every one of them teaching entirely different beliefs from the others, so that if one be true, then nine hundred and ninety-nine are (more or less) false; and yet there is a similarity between them. They all, or nearly all, profess belief in an (unknowable) God, and an (also unknowable) future state, But these beliefs must be subdivided, for there are believers in a God of personality, in a God of immanence, in a God of transcendence, and there is no harmony whatever in these respective beliefs. There are also believers in an eternal future, where the few pass to glory and happiness, and the many to misery and despair; in a modified future state, where punishment is limited; in universal salvation; in Nirvana, or an eternal sleep; in the transmigration of human souls to other human beings, and to lower animals. There are worshipers of the “sun-hero,” of the “moon-goddess,” of the four winds, of the cow, the crocodile, the snake, and of almost every other conceivable object of worship. There are Monotheists, Ditheists, Tritheists, Polytheists, Pantheists, Henotheists, Theanthropists, Spiritists, Quetists, and, in tine, every other variety of belief in super-naturalism, preter-naturalism, and un-naturalism.

There can, of course, be no consensus of opinion among the adherents of such extremely divergent beliefs.

A Chinese proverb says: “Religions are various, but reason is one, and we are all brothers.”

Some one has said:

“Religions are opinions – prove but one,
And all men mingle in a common faith.”

The intolerance manifested by the believers in the different religions, was aptly portrayed by the imaginary conference described in “Volney’s Ruins,” and is confirmed by the actual conference of the recent Congress of Religions at Chicago. In both the imaginary and actual congress is shown the persistence of each in the peculiar tenets of their respective religions. Each religion claims for itself entire truth, and for those who differ from it entire falsity. The Congress of Religions at Chicago has undoubtedly been productive of much good. It has shown to the adherents of the prevailing religion in this country-what they seemed to be utterly ignorant of before-that there is as much sincerity, as much honesty, as much morality, as much humanity, as much loving-kindness, and, indeed (if they are candid enough to admit it), as much truth, in every other religion, as there is in Christianity. Indeed, if Christians make a study of comparative religions, they will find that their religion lacks many of the features which make many other religions attractive. Certainly Christianity has been more intolerant, persecuting and cruel, than any religion which ever existed. So far from its being a religion of love, it has been one of hate. So far from its having been an aid to civilization and literature and science, it has been their most inveterate foe.

Hon. Andrew D. White tells us how the Catholic universities of Europe excluded the Copernican and Newtonian demonstrations, and how “down to the present time the two great universities of Protestant England, and nearly all of her intermediate colleges, under clerical supervision, have excluded the natural and physical sciences as far as possible,” and “how the most careful modern thought is also excluded from probably nine-tenths of the universities and colleges of the United States.”

Christianity is the most narrow-minded, self-righteous, exclusive, and assertive, of all the religions of the world, While other religions, or many of them, are catholic in spirit, Christianity seems to pride itself in inculcating those precepts of the Bible which are found in passages which tell of the “few that are chosen,” of the “narrow path,” of the “straight gate,” and other quotations in so constant use by the pharisaical sect.

Comparison with other religions shows the spirit of Christianity in its true light. Compare it, for instance, with Buddhism.

Says Sir Lepel Griffin: “How poorly do the results of Christianity show by the side of even a negative creed like Buddhism.”

“Buddhism owes its success to its catholic spirit, and its beautiful morality.” – (Winwood Reade.)

“If ever beat upon this earth a heart which knew no bounds, it was that of Gautama, and his spirit has been that of his followers.” – (Rev. John W. Chadwick.)

“Buddhism never persecuted for opinion’s sake, never shed one drop of human blood.” – (Moncu–re D. Conway.)

“No Buddhist ever burned a fellow-being for heresy.” – (Rev. Theo. L. Williams.)

In comparing Christianity with Mohammedanism, we have the following testimony. Canon Taylor, of the Church of England, says: “Islamism has done more for civilization than Christianity has done or can do. Islamism is the most powerful total abstinence association in the world, whereas the extension of European trade means the extension of drunkenness and vice, and the degradation of the people. Islam introduces a knowledge of reading and writing, decent clothing, personal cleanliness, veracity, and self-respect. Its restraining and civilizing effects are marvelous. How little have we to show for the vast sums of money, and all the precious lives lavished upon Africa. Christian converts are recorded by thousands, Muslim converts by millions.”

“While the Christians in Europe were groveling in the utmost ignorance, holding fanatically to a geocentric and flat earth theory, the learned Saracens declared the world to be round, translated the writings of the Greek philosophers, encouraged the study of law, medicine, chemistry, geometry and astronomy, and established schools, hospitals and libraries.” – (Herbert Junius Hardwicke, M.D., F.R.C.S.)

“When Omar captured Jerusalem (637), every Christian life was spared. When Godfrey seized the Holy City, ten thousand Muslims were cruelly put to death.” – (Ibu Ishak, Arena, September, 1892.)

The discredit of destroying the Alexandrian libraries has usually been attributed to Mohammedanism. They were so destroyed in 640. But the Christians set the example by destroying one of them in 390.

T. W. Higginson tells us that a philanthropist goes to England to implore Christians not to teach young Hindoos the use of strong drink; and that in China “men interrupt the missionaries by asking them why, if these doctrines be true, a Christian nation forced opium upon a Pagan Emperor.”

Archdeacon Farrar says that “where the English have made one convert to Christianity, they have made one hundred drunkards.”

The Christian-at- Work says that where there has been one Christian convert, two hundred have become addicted to the opium habit.

Rev. A. H. Lewis, D.D., says: “When Pagans are told that England and the United States are “Christian” nations, they naturally conclude that whatever comes to them from these Christian lands represents Christianity. What wonder, then, that intelligent men refuse to accept a religion which forces the opium trade on China, and the rum traffic on Africa and elsewhere, under Christian flags, which carry now and then a stray missionary along with thousands of rum casks, and hundreds of drunken, licentious, Christian sailors, who go ashore to “paint red’ pagan cities, and indulge their beastly passions.”

O. D. Janes, in the American Non- Conformist, says: “The Church of England is an aristocracy that goes all over the world with the Bible in one hand, a sword in the other, and a baggage-train of opium and whisky.”

What can the disciples of Confucius think of Christianity, when a so-called Christian nation violates its treaties, and enacts the most unneighborly, unbrotherly, unjust, unfeeling and uncivilized laws for the purpose of excluding from our shores some of the most peaceful, sober and industrious people of the globe; and in which nations thousands of these unoffending Chinese have been most cruelly persecuted, and most brutally murdered. The misrepresentations made by Christians with regard to other religions, have received a decided check and a just rebuke, during the recent Congress of Religions at Chicago. As instances, the Buddhist priest, who there spoke, says : “ The story of Juggernaut, which Christian missionaries have, for so many years, retailed to their brethren at home, has no foundation whatever, in fact, A committee, composed of eminent Englishmen, has declared the Christian idea of Juggernaut a myth Death and blood are repulsive to our people. This Christian story is exploded and gone into oblivion.”

Every Christian pulpit orator rises to unusual heights of eloquent indignation, condemnation and vituperation, in picturing to his credulous hearers the worship of images, the “bowing down to stocks and to stones” of the “heathen” Hindoo. In answer to this Christian calumny, hear what Vivekananda, a representative of Brahmanism (at the Congress of Religions), says: “No Indian idolator, as such, believes the piece of stone, metal or wood, before his eyes, to be his God in any sense of the word. He takes it only as a symbol of the all pervading Godhead and uses it as a convenient object for purposes of concentration, which being accomplished, he does not hesitate to throw it away.”

As illustrating the trouble, in foreign countries, caused by Christian missionaries, Bishop Shibata, of the Shinto sect from Japan, said: “In 1837 the Christian missionaries combined with their converts and caused a tragic and bloody rebellion against the country… Christianity has brought riot and bloodshed in its train. Verily, it has brought, instead of peace, a sword.”

The New York Herald, in giving an account of the above speech, adds: “ It was then that the audience of four thousand men and women – most of them Christians – rose to their feet and cried, ‘Shame, shame upon the missionaries.’”

This same audience was much moved by Mozoomdar, a Hindoo, who spoke of the beautiful humanity, the noble faith and gentle practices of the great sect to which he belonged. The newspaper reporter in closing an account of this speech, says: “The truth and beauty which he embodied in religions, heretofore practically unknown to the mass of Christendom, were laid bare to wondering, and almost reverential, eyes.”

The American Sentinel says of the Congress, that “it will certainly have a tendency to create the impression that one religion is about as good as another. Indeed it has done something in this direction already.”

The Protestant says the Romanist is superstitious, because the latter worships the “Virgin Mary,” bows to the crucifix and performs other irrational acts of devotion. The Romanist says the heathen are superstitious, because they worship other images. There is scarcely any difference between the superstitions of either of these classes of worshipers; the worship of one is equally as absurd as that of the other. The Protestant belief in a God of personality, or rather in three personalities; with the human, or rather inhuman, frailties which the Bible attributes to God; in a personality, also, of evil; in endless
torture ; are superstitions quite as much opposed to intelligent thought as are those of any other religionist in any part of the globe.

There is certainly little to choose, so far as the theology of the different religions are concerned, while the moral code, and the precepts in support of it, are found to be almost identical in every religion.

The great religions of the world differ in degree only, not in kind… There is not a lofty sentiment or a noble aspiration in the Bible which cannot be paralleled in the religious literature of China or India or Persia or Egypt or Greece or Rome.”  – Rev. John W. Chadwick.)

Buddha, Confucius, Lao-tse, Mencius, Zoroaster, Manu, and others, who lived, many of them centuries before Christ, taught the same moral precepts that Christ did.

“Do not to others what you would not that men should do to you.” – (Hillel.)
“Return good for evil.” – (Brahmin Text.)
“Whatever people may think of you, do that which you believe to be right.”  – (Pythagoras.)
“Overcome evil by good.” – (Buddhist Precept.)
“He is the greatest man who patiently endures injury.” – (Confucius.)
“Loving compassion is the noblest of qualities.” – (Lao-tse.)
“Keep pure in body and mind.” – (Zoroaster.)
“Holiness is the best of all good.” – (The Avesta.)
“A man who foolishly does me wrong, I will return to him the protection of an ungrudging love.” – (The Tripitaka.)
“Nothing is nobler than high-mindedness and gentleness and philanthropy and doing good.” – (Epictetus.)

Max Müller says: “ There is no religion which does not say, ‘do good and avoid evil.’”

The Chicago Times recently said: “The morals of civilization are not at all based on religion, certainly not on Christianity, since the so-called ‘golden rule” – the highest principle of morality – antedates Christianity a thousand years,”

This saying is well exemplified in the lives, at least, of Seneca, Pliny, Tacitus, Plutarch, Galen and Marcus Aurelius.

It is claimed for Christianity that it is an original religion. On the contrary, its same beliefs, dogmas and teachings, its same rites, ceremonies and customs, are to be found in nearly every religion which preceded it. The myths of creation, the fall of man, the deluge, the tower of Babel, those relating to Samson, Jonah and Jacob, of parthenogenesis, anthromorphism, the trinity, the atonement, eternal punishment, resurrection, ascension, God, Satan, angels, devils, heaven, and hell, are every one of them inculcated in religions older than Christianity. All are the outgrowth of-or evolution from what Christians call Pagan religions.

Says Rev. R. Heber Newton: “Tonsured head, and silvery bells, and swinging tenser; Christmas and Easter festivals; the sacramental use of bread, and of water, and of wine; the sign of the Cross; Holy Madonna and Child; are all ancient, human institutions, rites and symbols. Scratch a Christian and you come upon a Pagan. Christianity is re-baptized Paganism.”

“We find much Paganism, in Christianity, in its creed, practice and ceremonies.” – (Rev. Lyman Abbott, D.D.)
St. Augustine says: “The same thing which is now called Christian religion, existed among the ancients.”

Origen says: “Paganism and Christianity have a common origin, and are really one and the same religion.”

“The grave-clothes of Paganism became the swaddling-wraps of Christianity… It (Christianity) administered on the estate of Paganism, and appropriated most of the property to its own use.” – (Ingersoll.)

“There is not a rite, ceremony, or belief, we now practice, or profess, that cannot be traced to its origin in Chaldean idolatry, in Assyrian, Egyptian, or Roman mythology.” – (Eckler, Gibbon’s Christianity, p. 96.)

“The Christians of the second century adopted certain rites and ceremonies employed in what was known as the ‘Heathen Mysteries.’” – (Mosheim.)

One religion has evolved from another. The Encyclopædia Britannica says: “The religions of Asia and of Europe are the common offspring of one primitive religion.”

Each new religion is a branch, so to speak, of the tree of some older religion. The Buddhist religion is a product of the Brahmanistic religion. Roman mythology was derived from that of Greece. Christianity grew out of Judaism. Mohammedanism is an offshoot of Christianity, at least to the extent that Moses and Christ are recognized as prophets in the Mohammedan belief. Mormonism is grafted upon Christianity.

…  “religions take their turns:
‘Twas Jove’s – ‘tis Mahomet’s – and other creeds
Will rise with other years.” – Childe Harold.

While some religions are more peaceful, tolerant, humane and loving than others, religion in general has not practiced these virtues. The God of one religion being different, both in name and conception, from the God of every other religion, jealousy and rivalry is created among the various religions. Hence the persecutions and wars which have made the history of religion the saddest, the most cruel, and the bloodiest of all the histories of the world; for there is something in religion which seems to engender greater bitterness, to beget greater hatred, to stimulate to greater acts of cruelty, and to encourage greater sacrifice of human life, than is produced from any other single cause.

In Butler’s Hudibras we read of

“Such as do build their faith upon
The holy text of pike and gun;
Decide all controversies by
Infallible artillery;
And from their doctrine orthodox,
By apostolic blows and knocks,
Call fire and sword and desolation
A godly, thorough Reformation.”

M. Babcock says that “religion has filled the world with contentions, quarrels, wars and bloodshed… Men
have become deadly enemies to each other, when they should have remained friends and brothers. They have spilt each other’s blood, mutilated each other’s bodies, and made corpses of millions of their fellow-beings, while madly following the monsters of their own imagination, and have made demons of themselves. The worship of God has made devils of men.”

Voltaire illustrates the same thought:

“Religions raging with inhuman zeal
Nerves every arm and points the fatal steel:
Whatever names divine the parties claim,
In craft and fury they are all the same.”

The inconsistency – the cruelty, credulity and absurdity – of religion may, also, be illustrated by the following lines:

“I see ten thousand men advance
With musket, cannon, glave and lance:
They fight until the soil is red
And half have gone to meet the dead;
While in a village church not far away,
I hear the austere, bearded, preacher say,
‘Poor mortals here below
Praise God from whom all blessings flow.’”

When success had, at one time, attended one of the two Christian nations which were engaged in the fearful Franco-German conflict, a telegram, in substance, if not in the actual words, went from the Emperor William to the Empress Augusta :

“We laid ten thousand Frenchmen low.
Praise God from whom all blessings flow.”

Can it be possible that praise can be tendered, by the intelligent and the humane, to a being who could, and yet did not, prevent the strife of armies, the clash of arms, the slaughter of innocent men, the moans of the dying, the shrieks of the maimed, the woe in homes, the tears of widows, the cries of orphans, the destruction of property, the distress of communities, the ruin of nations?

Even in the enlightened to-day is being carried on the same fierce wars, the same frightful carnage, by Christians, Mohammedans, Hindoos, and other religious sects, and all with the same fanatical zeal, the same delusive superstition, the same ignorant faith. What wonder that religious people are more bitter, intolerant, persecuting and cruel than others, when they regard as authority the creeds in which they profess to believe. For example, take the revolting creed or doctrine formulated in the Westminster Confession of Faith. It has been repudiated by very many of the communion who apparently accept it, and it has forced from some of its more liberal and kindly members expressions of contempt and disgust. Rev. Dr. Parkhurst, of the Madison Square Presbyterian Church, in New York City, speaking of it, says: “It is a horrible doctrine.”

Some one has said: “History shows that religion has been more relentless under the auspices of the Christian theology, than under those of all the other theologies of the world combined… It is the only one in the universe cruel enough to burn a man to death for merely holding an opinion.”

Shelley portrays it thus:

“Prolific fiend,
Who peoplest earth with demons, hell with men,
And heaven with slaves.”

But we are not left to the alternative of selecting such a religion, or of being altogether without one (if one is deemed necessary.) Even in the Bible, with all its unreasonable and inhuman teachings and doctrines, can be found some of the ingredients of a true religion. In the Epistle of James we read that “pure and undefiled religion is to visit the widow and the fatherless in their affliction, and to keep one’s self unspotted from the world.” How transcendently superior is this to the usual dogmas taught in orthodox churches. In the October number of the Freethinker’s Magazine, “Vindex” says that “the Church never was Christian.” No more truthful saying was ever uttered. Nothing (or almost nothing) Christ-like, is taught from any of the so-called Christian pulpits. What is there taught is the theology founded-not by Christ, but by Paul, and the superstructure of which is the work of Athanasius, Augustine, Gregory “the Great,” John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, Joseph Cook, and others of like sacerdotal fame?

Lincoln said that when he found a Church whose only creed was the “Golden Rule,” he would join that Church.

Professor Felix Adler has established just such a Church, or, rather, association, known as the “Society for Ethical Culture, in New York City,”

“A temple, neither pagod, mosque, nor church.”

Its only creed, or tenet, or teaching, is that of duty each to the other, and its only belief is in beneficence-in deeds of love. His audiences, every Sunday morning, are far in excess of any of the Christian churches. He represents the religion of Christ far more than does Cardinal Gibbons, Bishop Potter, Rev. John Hall, D.D., or any other representative of pseudo-Christianity. The congregations of these (falsely called) Christian churches are in perfect similitude to that pharisaical sect which Christ so earnestly and so constantly rebuked. Rev. Carlos Martyn, D.D., says: “Pharisaism is resurrected and baptized with a Christian name.” It is these same Christian Pharisees who continually sneer at what they choose to call “mere morality.”

Bishop Latimer said: “Religion, pure religion, standeth not in the wearing of a monk’s cowl ; but in righteousness, justice and well-doing.”

“The one religion, pure and perfect, is fidelity to all the relations in which we are placed to one another.” – (Rev. Dr. Furness.)

“True religion is a matter of heart and conduct.” – (Rev. Dr. Alfred Momerie.)

“There is but one religion – the religion of truth.” – (Dr. Paul Carus, President Congress of Religions.)

A religion that is broad, rational, practical, humane, ennobling, sympathetic, ethical, philanthropic, altruistic; which substitutes Amo for Credo; which subjects faith to reason; which puts natural law in the place of miracle; which subordinates tradition, legend and fable to history, reality and fact; which regards truth as authority (and not “authority as truth;“) which disowns superstition and disclaims dogmatism; which revolts at the suppression of inquiry; which rejects the astronomical, geological and biological absurdities taught in the Book of Genesis ; but, rather, which invites investigation into every new avenue of thought, which is in harmony with the latest discoveries of science; and which, in fine, insists upon, and will ever persist in demanding, the most comprehensive and complete mental freedom ; is a religion such as is in accord with the spirit of the age, and finds constantly increasing adherents among the intelligent, the benevolent, and the truth-loving. Such a religion finds expression in the lines of Pope:

“To no creed confined,
The world our home, our brothers all mankind;
Do good, love truth, be just and fair withal;
Exalt the right – though every ism fall.”

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