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is, that, previous to that time, the Jews were wholly ignoTant of letters, and had no other books among them. I Verily believe that they knew nothing of letters before the Babylonish captivity, and that all their pretended Chronicles and History was founded upon tradition, or invented as fables during and subsequent to that period.
Your Preface and Introduction to “ Modern Religion,” induce me to think that you are a scientific man, and your making One God, without the mention of any Sons, Daughters, or Holy Ghosts, as connected with him, the ground work of your religious code, so far has my approbation: but I cannot approve of your mode of worship, near as it approacbes to what has been called Natural Religion. I discard altogether the word religion from my vocabulary, as a mischievous word—a word that means notbing, while it seems to mean a great deal. You call religion a science, the most poble and comprehensive! I can view the word but as a bugbear and a delusion. You profess a desire to connect all sects into one system of worship. I denounce every species of public and clamorous worsbip as hypocritical and mischievous. I am decidedly opposed even to an association of Deists, because, whilst even the belief in a God remains a metaphysical idea, Deists will be as likely as Christians to split into sects and dissensions. Lectures on science, as calculated to lead the mind to a study of "nature, are, in my opinion, the only justifiable ground for congregating bodies of people. I except, of course, politieal meetings for the exercise of the elective franchise, for the redress of grievances, or military exercises. I would further except bodies congregated for amusement and recre ation. I mean, that I would substitute lectures on science for religious assemblies, or assemblies for public worship. I would expel the whole order of priesthood, and fill their places with professors in the various departments of science.
Your “Modern Religion" proposes to keep up a system of priesthood, which shall never find my assent, even if they would make me a Bishop or a Pope. I consider the order of priesthood to be odious and abominable, and the curse and pest of mankind. It matters not of what sect they are, a Freethinking Priest, or a Unitarian Priest, or a Methodistical Priest, or a Calvinistical Priest, or a Catholic Priest, or & Jewish Priest, or a Mahometan Priest, or an Indian Priest or Brahmin, are all alike in my eye, and all equally odious: and should I ever meet a Deistical Priest I shall rank him with the rest. A priest in society, is what rest is in metal,
he corrupts and corrodes w bat is polished as well as what is unpolished. To use a vulgar comparison, a priest is a priest, all the world over, and in every age alike. Corruption and delusion are bis weapous: by which he combats the welfare of mankind.
Although it is evident that you possess some very sublime notions of the Deity, yet I cannot help saying that I never found any thing more fantastical and ridiculous than your religious code, and I will bere take a brief review of it to explain myself. For the information of others, who will read this letter, I will observe, that your little volume entitled “ Modern Religion,” contains a new system of worship, which you put forth as a proper one to unite all sects and parties in the mode of worshipping the Almighty Creator. I can say but little of the state of society in Canada, or in the United States, but this I can say, that from your propositions for forms of prayer and thanksgiving, I should think you had some idea of promulgating your new plan among the Indian nations. I can assure you that they are not at all adapted to the refined state of society in the great towns of this island, as some of your prayers seem adapted for the worship of Priapus, and I must confess, that I think the manner in wbich the pagan world personified the passions of mankind, and the productions of nature, far more refined and elegant than your proposed system of worshiping ove God. It must be confessed, that the enlightened and educated part of the pagan world held the same potions of an Almghty and Immortal Power as we bold, and their supposed emavaiions from that power were not more ridicudous in their history or idea, than the emanations which the Christian worships in the characier of Mother of God, Wife of God, Son of God, or Holy Ghosts, or the whole of the sanctified corps.
lu our metaphysical ideas we nearly agree. You retain the notion of a spirit living somewhere after the body dies, corrupts, and evaporates: I say, that the notion of a spirit which retains a form distinct from the body, and lives after the body, is idle and unfounded. Man has no such spirit. The life of man is the same as the life of every other animal or vegetable; his gift of speech, which arises from a peculiar organization, procures bim wbąt is called idea and reaSon. Man is but the chief of the animal and vegetable world, and when he can bring his mind to this, he will be a much nobler creature than at present. If we consider for a moment the number of buman beings wbo are born and die
daily, and then make a calculation of the number arithmetically for one thousand or ten thousand years, we shall soon drop the idea of the soul or spirit living as a distinct form after the death of the body. All space would bave been choked with spirits, ere this, unless they bad the faculty of destroying or eating each other. Priests have taught mankind to deity themselves: each human being fancies tòat creation exists but for him aloue: by his prayers be seems to think that the Deity is attentive to his particular cravings, and wishes to find it full employ in looking after his imaginary wants. Noihing can more fully display the ridiculous nature of prayer, than to consider for a moment the bundreds of inila lions of human beings who inhabit this globe, and who are all at the same moment engaged in praying to the Deity, to grant them ibeir several imaginary wants.
Some praying for health-some for riches--some for rain-some for fair weather--some for children-some for food-some for raiment--some for life-some for death; and some for what they call glory. What one prays for, may be in direct opposition to the prayer of bis neighbour. Imagine these praying inbabitants of the whole earth assembled together on one vast space of ground, and see them all with nplifted hands; then imagine the Deity looking down upon this confused and jarring multitude, and the only inference that can be drawn is, that prayer is habitual discontent, and not a worship of the Deity. I might illustrate tbis last assertion by the present political state of this country.
The people have been urged to pray and petition the king and Parliament to grant them a variety of reliefs, and to give them a reformed Parliament. The only answer they get (which is a very natural one when the quarter wbence it comes is considered) is, that they are discontented and disaffected. If we wili make fools of ourselves, we must expect to be treated as fools. Praying or petitioning is a disgrace to men who are honest, and wish to be free, whether it be to a heavenly or an earthly king. What we pray to beaven for, we might obtain by our own natural powers, if we would but exert them and regulate then weil; and in the same manner, we might obtain what we pray for to our earthly king. The only way to rise above want, is to make exertion when the body is free and has the power of action; and the only way to get political grievances redressed, is to display a power that shall demand them. If we cannot do this we deserve to suffer. Were, the United States of America, was Spain, was Naples, was Portugal, was St. Domingo, revolutionized by
petitioning ? Neither will the people of this Island obtain a representative system of government unless they can so organize themselves to display something different from a petitioning attitude. Petition and prayer betokens discontent, rather than just claim, and is a disgrace to mankind, or those who wish to rise above slavery, and put in force their na
I never prayed, I never will pray to any body; what I enjoy I am thankful for, and what I wish to enjoy, I will strive manfully to obtain, and after obtaining it I shall feel grateful and content. Your “ Modern Religion” is a mixture of prayer and thanksgiving: the first I deem unnecessary, the second, to be genuine, must, in my opinion, be silent. All formal ceremony soon loses sight
of its professed object, and engenders hypocrisy and false - pretence.
I approve your system of inculcating rewards and punishments for actions done in this life; for to talk of future rewards and punishments, when we cannot form one solid idea of a future state is ridiculous. Your maxim is founded in nature: vice and virtue carry their punishment and reward with them.' Nothing restrains our passions but the desire of inaking the most reputable appearance possible in society. The common thief thinks of infamy a hundred times where he does not think of hell once: and the death-bed-repentance system is the sure promoter and encourager of vice and wickedness,
Your propositions for making oaths of abstinence from certain vices, convince me that you have studied metaphysics more than you have studied buman nature, or the natural dispositions of man and womankind. - Christians make a fuss about their oaths, and say that the affairs of a society could not be managed without the assistance of oaths, and that oaths would not be binding unless a belief in a future state and future rewards and punishments be kept up. To this I would answer, that oaths lead to nothing but immorality; and by our priests and judges known and avowed perjury is countenanced. For instance, every man wbo wishes to become a priest in the Established Church, is obliged to
perjuse himself before the bishop, and to swear that he does ; Dot seek the office for the sake of lucre, but is impelled thereto
by the Holy Ghost! so that there is not a priest in the whole of the Established Church, but he is a perjured man! Our Judges will countenance what is called Jew-bail in the same manner. Wbilst they are sitting at their chambers at Serjeant's Inn, there is a lot of fellows at the entrance, who stand to
Vol. IV. No. 17.
bire themselves for bail; that is, if a man is arrested for debt, and will fee the officers and a couple of those persons as bail, they are sure to be accepted. These creatures, who hire themselves for bail, will charge a guinea, sometimes less, sometimes more, according to the amount of the debt, and then go before the judge and swear themselves to be housekeepers and persons of property sufficient to cover the debt, whilst the judge knows their real character as well as the tipstaves, and that the men are beggars and thieves and not worth a farthing!
The practice of oath-making is altogether unnecessary under the following idea, that a good and moral man will feel himself equally bound by his word as his oath, and the bad and immoral man will not feel himself bound by bis word or his oath. It is by no means effectual to procure the ends of justice. If lying and falsehood received the same punishment as perjury, which ought to be the case, for in morals the offence is the same, the practice of oath-making might well be dispensed with and much hypocrisy omitted. Some persons are scrupulous in making oaths, even in cases of truth; but this is not my case, for if I knew I was about to speak the truth, I would kiss the Bible, the Cross, the Koran, or any thing else, which custom might require. Speaking the truth is the first and most important object, and making the oath but secondary or altogether useless. Since I have openly avowed my belief and firm conviction that the Bible is a book of lies and blasphemy, I have sworn two affidavits upon it.
The last was since I have been confined in this gaol. Dr. England, the Archdeacon of Dorset, one of the visiting magistrates of this gaol, came into my room, and I told him I wanted to swear an affidavit; he courteously assented to perform his part, and asked me if I had a Bible: I produced my interleaved Bible, which I had prepared for my defence and had in Court, and which had some of
my denunciations written in it. The Doctor took up the huge book, and presented it to me in a very grave manner, and I kissed the paper cover with a corresponding gravity, and so the ceremony ended! If the Doctor had asked me whether I was a Christian, and believed in the Bible, I should have answered him in the affirmative, and with a good conscience too, for I believe the Bible to be a compilation of fables, and that is believing in it; and as to being a Christian, I anoint my face and hands with soap every morning, and very often the whole body; so that, as the word Christian has no other real signification than being anointed, I