Atheists: Making Sense, Even in 1860

If you’re not a fan of Robert Green Ingersoll, you should be.

The Government of the United States is secular. It derives its power from the consent of man. It is a Government with which God has nothing whatever to do — and all forms and customs, inconsistent with the fundamental fact that the people are the source of authority, should be abandoned. In this country there should be no oaths — no man should be sworn to tell the truth, and in no court should there be any appeal to any supreme being. A rascal by taking the oath appears to go in partnership with God, and ignorant jurors credit the firm instead of the man. A witness should tell his story, and if he speaks falsely should be considered as guilty of perjury. Governors and Presidents should not issue religious proclamations. They should not call upon the people to thank God. It is no part of their official duty. It is outside of and beyond the horizon of their authority. There is nothing in the Constitution of the United States to justify this religious impertinence.

For many years priests have attempted to give to our Government a religious form. Zealots have succeeded in putting the legend upon our money: “In God We Trust;” and we have chaplains in the army and navy, and legislative proceedings are usually opened with prayer. All this is contrary to the genius of the Republic, contrary to the Declaration of Independence, and contrary really to the Constitution of the United States. We have taken the ground that the people can govern themselves without the assistance of any supernatural power. We have taken the position that the people are the real and only rightful source of authority. We have solemnly declared that the people must determine what is politically right and what is wrong, and that their legally expressed will is the supreme law. This leaves no room for national superstition — no room for patriotic gods or supernatural beings — and this does away with the necessity for political prayers.

The government of God has been tried. It was tried in Palestine several thousand years ago, and the God of the Jews was a monster of cruelty and ignorance, and the people governed by this God lost their nationality. Theocracy was tried through the Middle Ages. God was the Governor — the pope was his agent, and every priest and bishop and cardinal was armed with credentials from the Most High — and the result was that the noblest and best were in prisons, the greatest and grandest perished at the stake. The result was that vices were crowned with honor, and virtues whipped naked through the streets. The result was that hypocrisy swayed the sceptre of authority, while honesty languished in the dungeons of the Inquisition.

The government of God was tried in Geneva when John Calvin was his representative; and under this government of God the flames climbed around the limbs and blinded the eyes of Michael Servetus, because he dared to express an honest thought. This government of God was tried in Scotland, and the seeds of theological hatred were sown, that bore, through hundreds of years, the fruit of massacre and assassination. This government of God was established in New England, and the result was that Quakers were hanged or burned — the laws of Moses re-enacted and the “witch was not suffered to live.”

The result was that investigation was a crime, and the expression of an honest thought a capital offence. This government of God was established in Spain, and the Jews were expelled, the Moors were driven out, Moriscoes were exterminated, and nothing left but the ignorant and bankrupt worshipers of this monster. This government of God was tried in the United States when slavery was regarded as a divine institution, when men and women were regarded as criminals because they sought for liberty by flight, and when others were regarded as criminals because they gave them food and shelter. The pulpit of that day defended the buying and selling of women and babes, and the mouths of slave-traders were filled with passages of Scripture, defending and upholding the traffic in human flesh.

We have entered upon a new epoch. This is the century of man. Every effort to really better the condition of mankind has been opposed by the worshipers of some God. The church in all ages and among all peoples has been the consistent enemy of the human race. Everywhere and at all times, it has opposed the liberty of thought and expression. It has been the sworn enemy of investigation and of intellectual development. It has denied the existence of facts, the tendency of which was to undermine its power. It has always been carrying fagots to the feet of Philosophy. It has erected the gallows for Genius. It has built the dungeon for Thinkers. And to-day the orthodox church is as much opposed as it ever was to the mental freedom of the human race. Of course, there is a distinction made between churches and individual members. There have been millions of Christians who have been believers in liberty and in the freedom of expression — millions who have fought for the rights of man — but churches as organizations, have been on the other side. It is true that churches have fought churches — that Protestants battled with the Catholics for what they were pleased to call the freedom of conscience; and it is also true that the moment these Protestants obtained the civil power, they denied this freedom of conscience to others.

After reading something like this, it’s astonishing to think that this guy was almost president of the United States. Can you imagine a politician saying this in a public forum?

Glenn Beck would have a stroke.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s