The more conscientious the Roman Catholic, and the more loyal to his Church, the more sincere and unqualified should be his acceptance of such conceptions. These conceptions have been recognized before by Roman Catholics as a potential obstacle to their participation in public office, Pope Leo XIII himself declaring, in one of his encyclical letters, that “it may in some places be true that for most urgent and just reasons it is by no means expedient for (Roman) Catholics to engage in public affairs or to take an active part in politics.”
The history of Christianity, crowded as it is with crimes of the most horrendous kind, provides a running commentary on the Christian doctrine. And the biggest share in Christian crimes down the centuries can safely be allotted to the Roman Catholic Church, its head, its hierarchy, its theologians, its religious orders, and its missionaries.
Religion is based, I think, primarily and mainly upon fear. It is partly the terror of the unknown, and partly, as I have said, the wish to feel that you have a kind of elder brother who will stand by you in all your troubles and disputes. Fear is the basis of the whole thing—fear of the mysterious, fear of defeat, fear of death.
The reader should remember that Jesus never wrote any book himself, as Plato, Philo, or Marcus Aurelius did; nor even, like Socrates, transmitted his teaching to educated men, but that he spoke to many uneducated men and only long after his death did people begin to write down what they had heard about him. The reader should remember that there were very many such accounts from among which the Churches selected first three Gospels and then one more, and that in selecting those best Gospels as the proverb,-'There is no stick without knots' says-they had to take in many knots with what they selected from the whole mass of writings about Christ, and that there are many passages in the canonical Gospels just as poor as in the rejected apocryphal ones.
This could not be so if Christ were God; nor even if Christ were not God, but merely a great teacher, is it possible that He failed to express Himself clearly. For a great teacher is great, just because he is able to express the truth so that it can neither be hidden nor obscured, but is as plain as daylight.
These men instituted a system of Persecution, with a special tribunal, special functionaries, special laws. They carefully elaborated, and developed, and applied it. They protected it with every sanction, spiritual and temporal. They inflicted, as far as they could, the penalties of death and damnation on everybody who resisted it.
The existence of the devil and hell are cardinal doctrinal tenets of almost all Christian creeds, and many fundamentalist preachers still openly resort to terrorizing their followers with lurid, sadistic portraits of the suffering of nonbelievers after death. This is not an attempt to convince through logic and reason; it is not an attempt to appeal to the better nature of individuals; rather, it is an attempt to whip the flock into line through threats, through appeals to a base part of human nature—fear and cowardice.
I am not interested in the theological Christ. Brilliant minds like Bauer, Strauss, Renan, Thomas Paine, and others refuted that myth long ago. I am even ready to admit that the theological Christ is not half so dangerous as the ethical and social Christ.
The system of the gospel, after the fate of other systems, is generally antiquated and exploded; and the mass or body of the common people, among whom it seems to have had its latest credit, are now grown as much ashamed of it as their betters: opinions, like fashions, always descending from those of quality to the middle sort, and thence to the vulgar, where at length they are dropped and vanish.
With regard to the language of Lucifer, it was difficult for me to make him talk like a clergyman upon the same subjects; but I have done what I could to restrain him within the bounds of spiritual politeness. If he disclaims having tempted Eve in the shape of the Serpent, it is only because the book of Genesis has not the most distant allusion to anything of the kind, but merely to the Serpent in his serpentine capacity.
A sub-mandarin said to the judge: “How long does your excellency wish them to be kept in prison?” “Until they agree,” said the judge. “Then,” said the sub-mandarin, “they are in prison for life.” “In that case,” said the judge, “until they forgive each other.” “They will never forgive each other,” said the other; “I know them.” “Then,” said the mandarin, “let them stop there until they pretend to forgive each other.
But, as they denied the existence of Purgatory, which it is not permitted to doubt, and which brought a considerable income to the monks; and as they did not venerate relics, which ought to be venerated, and which are a source of even greater profit—in fine, as they assailed much-respected dogmas, the only answer to them at first was to burn them.