If we abandon myth and miracle, if we discard the supernatural and the scheme of redemption, how are we to civilize the world?
Is falsehood a reforming power? Is credulity the mother of virtue? Is there any saving grace in the impossible and absurd? Did wisdom perish with the dead? Must the civilized accept the religion of savages?
If we wish to reform the world we must rely on truth, on fact, on reason. We must teach men that they are good or bad for themselves, that others cannot be good or bad for them, that they cannot be charged with the crimes, or credited with the virtues of others. We must discard the doctrine of the atonement, because it is absurd and immoral. We are not accountable for the sins of "Adam" and the virtues of Christ cannot be transferred to us. There can be no vicarious virtue, no vicarious vice. Why should the sufferings of the innocent atone for the crimes of the guilty. According to the doctrine of the atonement right and wrong do not exist in the nature of things, but in the arbitrary will of the Infinite. This is a subversion of all ideas of justice and mercy.
An act is good, bad, or indifferent, according to its consequences. No power can step between an act and its natural consequences. A governor may pardon the criminal, but the natural consequences of the crime remain untouched. A god may forgive, but the consequences of the act forgiven, are still the same. We must teach the world that the consequences of a bad action cannot be avoided, that they are the invisible police, the unseen avengers, that accept no gifts, that hear no prayers, that no cunning can deceive.
We do not need the forgiveness of gods, but of ourselves and the ones we injure. Restitution without repentance is far better than repentance without restitution.
We know nothing of any god who rewards, punishes or forgives.
We must teach our fellow-men that honor comes from within, not from without, that honor must be earned. that it is not alms, that even an infinite God could not enrich the beggar's palm with the gem of honor.
Teach them also that happiness is the bud, the blossom and the fruit of good and noble actions, that it is not the gift of any god; that it must be earned by man--must be deserved.
In this world of ours there is no magic, no sleight-of-hand, by which consequences can be made to punish the good and reward the bad.
Teach men not to sacrifice this world for some other, but to turn their attention to the natural, to the affairs of this life. Teach them that theology has no known foundation, that it was born of ignorance and fear, that it has hardened the heart, polluted the imagination and made fiends of men.
Theology is not for this world. It is no part of real religion. It has nothing to do with goodness or virtue. Religion does not consist in worshiping gods, but in adding to the well- being, the happiness of man. No human being knows whether any god exists or not, and all that has been said and written about "our god," or the gods of other people, has no known fact for a foundation. Words without thoughts, clouds without rain.
Let us put theology out of religion.
Church and state should be absolutely divorced. Priests pretend that they have been selected by, and that they get their power from God. Kings occupy their thrones in accordance with the will of God. The pope declares that he is the agent, the deputy of God and that by right he should rule the world. All these pretensions and assertions are perfectly absurd and yet they are acknowledged and believed by millions. Get theology out of government and kings will descend from their thrones. All will admit that governments get their powers from the consent of the governed, and that all persons in office are the servants of the people. Get theology out of government and chaplains will be dismissed from Legislatures, from Congress, from the army and navy. Get theology out of government and people will be allowed to express their honest thoughts about "inspired books" and superstitious creeds. Get theology out of government and priests will no longer steal a seventh of our time. Get theology out of government and the clergy will soon take their places with augurs and soothsayers, with necromancers and medicine-men.
Get theology out of education. Nothing should be taught in a school that somebody does not know. There are plenty of things to be learned about this world, about this life. Every child should be taught to think, and that it is dangerous not to think. Children should not be taught the absurdities, the cruelties and imbecilities of superstition. No church should be allowed to control the common school, and public money should not be divided between the hateful and warring sects. The public school should be secular, and only the useful should be taught. Many of our colleges are under the control of churches. Presidents and professors are mostly ministers of the gospel and the result is that all facts inconsistent with the creeds are either suppressed or denied. Only those professors who are naturally stupid or mentally dishonest can retain their places. Those who tell the truth, who teach the facts, are discharged.
In every college truth should be a welcome guest. Every professor should be a finder, and every student a learner, of facts. Theology and intellectual dishonesty go together. The teacher of children should be intelligent and perfectly sincere.
Let us get theology out of education.
The pious denounce the secular schools as godless. They should be. The sciences are all secular, all godless. Theology bears the same relation to science that the black art does to chemistry, that magic does to mathematics. It is something that cannot be taught, because it cannot be known. It has no foundation in fact. It neither produces, nor accords with, any image in the mind. It is not only unknowable but unthinkable. Through hundreds and thousands of generations men have been discussing, wrangling and fighting about theology. No advance has been made. The robed priest has only reached the point from which the savage tried to start.
We know that theology always has and always will make enemies. It sows the seeds of hatred in families and nations. It is selfish, cruel, revengeful and malicious. It has heaven for the few and perdition for the many. We now know that credulity is not a virtue and that intellectual courage is. We must stop rewarding hypocrisy and bigotry. We must stop persecuting the thinkers, the investigators, the creators of light, the civilizers of the world.