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kind. My education, my former situation in life, my means were of that nature that debarred me from a study of the subject, and I am only now beginning to see my way well through it. On this ground I rejoice at my present situation as the best possible to advance my future welfare, and to enable me to combat effectually the remaining superstitions of the age. During my confinement I shall devote every hour to this object that I can spare from my coach, and whilst I go on occasionally to publish my sentiments I find it the best stimulus to study, and the best ground for selfinstruction: thus, in some measure, I am both a teacher aud a scholar at the same time. I begin to view it as my future business through life, and am far from viewing a competition with jealousy: I wish to see others embark in the same line, as a necessary stiinulus to emulation. I find that it excites my energies and attention more than any other object: but I should observe that I include the superstition of monarchy with all other superstitions. There
There is a political idolatry with as many gradations as that which may be termed religious idolatry: the oue is as mischievous to society as the other, and of both I am the enemy.
la recapitulating my Deistical principles I would first observe that the belief of a God, the great creator of all things we bebold, has been the first and sole object and origin of all religious worship. I will not here, at this moment, say any thing about those idly supposed emanations from this God or Great Creator, but I will shew as the ground-work of my Deistical opinions, and my reason for combating superstition, that all and every species of public religious worship or idolatry has arisen from one common error. I will shew that it is only by making a progress in science that we can perceive this error fully, that the present state of scientific knowledge is sufficient to authorize the rejection of all printed fables on the subject of religion; that the study of nature is the only theological duty of man, and this not to atone for any real or imaginary offences with the Deity, bat to make himself a moral and useful member of society.
To shew that all religion and public worship is idolatry I would thus begin :--Man, by his peculiar organization, is the chief of animals: although not superior in bulk to some, bis faculty of speech and reason, and his social connexion, render him superior to all, and by his intellectual powers he can make every other animal subservient to him by tuition or force, He can cage the lion and the tiger, though he durst not attack them in the forest. Thus he is rightly and fairly termed the chief of animals, and the sovereign of the soil which nourishes bim. He is the only animal that naturally walks erect, and if we examine the savage and ancivilized tribes of mankind, or even if we examine the uneducated and rustic part of mankind in this island, which is called civilized, we have demonstrable proofs that the faculty of reason which man possesses is the sole consequent of the faculty of speech. The faculty of reason is.cultivated solely by rational conversation, by education, and by study, for without these opportunities we find the sagacity of mankind nothing superior and scarcely equal to that of many dumb animals. I am of opinion that every animal would have the faculty of reason if he bad the faculty of speech. When a foreigner addresses us in a language we do not understand, we are just like dumb animals to each other, and all communication of ideas or desires must take place by dumb shew, as far as we can comprehend each other, a sort of language common to all aninals. Our reason avails us but little, particularly if the language of the foreigner has no assimilation to our own. A man uneducated and solely confined to the culture of the soil, has not the least idea of the nature and metbod of working.metals or wearing apparel, and the time it requires even under instruction to become masters of any particular art is a sure and satisfactory proof that our reason is acquired and not inherent, and proves that man is not more rational than any other animal, but that he is an animal capable of acquiring reason. Hence an inference might be drawn that reason is the source of our happiness and moral welfare, and that a perversion of reason must 08.
turally produce the contrary. And here I come to shew that all our ideas about God and religion are but a perversion of reason.
Mar, feeling limself superior to all other animals- by his faculty of speech, vainly formed to himself the idea that be was created for some distinct purpose. He vainly fancied that there was something more in bis composition than in that of other animals, and in process of time this fanciful idea, this “airy nothing” was called a spirit, and had the honours of immortality attributed to it. The dread of dying, “ of falling into nought" soon made this soul or spirit the counterpart of the body; a something which elevated mankind also to immortality, under the idea that this spirit retained all the sensitive part of the body when sensation quitted that body, and that a recollection of all that bad transpired in this life, and a recognition of friends weuld be continued in some other sphere. Some other sphere was fixed upon because none of those fanciful spirits ever made their appearance after the death of the body, and hence the idea of that fanciful place called Heaven, Paradise, or Elysium. I boldly state, and I challenge all the priests and their followers on the face of the earth to shew me the contrary, that man has no more spirit in him than any other animal, and that he dies, rots, perishes, and passes like every other animal or vegetable substance. It might be fairly asked what'sort of sensation would those men feel in their spiritual state who had fallen into the hands of, and had been eaten by, cannibals? Millions of men have perished in this manner, and the act is still continued, perhaps on an average of some hundreds per day. The same observation applies to slares of all kinds ;; with what sensations would the slave and his cruel master meet each other in their spiritual state ? The idea is ridiculous. Man has no spirit or soul that lives distinct from the body, and where is the priest that durst argrie the question with me? if there be such let him stand forward, and let us treat the subject courteously, but boldly, honestly, and manfully.
The next point I have to consider is the various ideas that bave been formed upon the word God, and I shall shew that they are all wrong, and that we can form no correct idea of that power we call God, and consequently that as all worship is without any just-fouudation, it must be all idolatry, and altogether useless and unnecessary as a social institution. But very few societies of men have been found who bạd not formed some idea of a superior being to man, whom they have fancied must have been the creator of all things. As man has seen nothing, no visible object superior to himself in the animal world, we bas generally made his God the simile of himself. This was the case before the book called the Bible was in being; therefore the idea caunot bave been i borrowed from the book of Genesis, for the Grecians had statues to represent their Gods before the existence of that book. But the idea is monstrous to assimilate that great power which sways all nature to tbe puny and reptile figure of the human body! It is a singular fact that if the word blasphemy can have any distinct meaning or application, it must belong to those who are so much in the babit of tbroy. ing it of upon others, because they may dissent from a particular religion or from all religion. If the word blasphemy be a proper word for use, it must beloug to those who make the Deity such an oddity, by giving him the human shape and something worse than humau passions. It is monstrous to apply the word to me, because my whole and sole object bas been to elevate the mind of man, and to shew him that the God about which he talks so much and knows so little, is far above buman comprehension; therefore he should not be made the subject of any buman comparisons. I can say, what God is not, but I cannot say what God is. that all attempts to say what he is are preposterous, and that God is a power beyond the human ken and idea. When we can reach the true cause of our existence, then we sball be able to form some idea of the Creator of that cause, and pot: before. I boldly state that every thing which is written in books, in the name of God, or about God, is all fiction and
Vol. IV. No. 18.
I can say
founded in error. Man by his reasoning powers can trace many effects to their causes, but many remain which he has not traced, and this, in my opinion, is the proper business of man; after providing for his bodily wants he should employ himself to improve his reason, which can only be done by exercising it on proper objects. This can be the only true worship of any superior power, because this is the only true acknowledgment of that power. All religionists pre
scribe to their God or Gods a certain figure and certain attri· butes, generally making him or them the siinile of them
selves, and then they arrogantly assume the right to dictate to this God or Gods wbat is necessary to be done for the gra“ tification of their earthly desires! This is all idolatry, for it matters 'not whether we mould the figure of our God with our hands or in our mind. It is one and the same thing, and both are wrong. The great controuling power of nature is at present beyond our reach: science has not yet unfolded it to our minds: but it becomes our duty to make every possible search to know it; and this duty I take to be the only true religion: the only necessary system of worship. Again I challenge any priest or bis follower to shew me the contrary, and I will pledge myself to refute all the arguments he can advance. ' I come lastly to shew, that the present state of scientific knowledge is sufficient to anthorize the rejection of all those books which are called boly. Astronomy by the use of the telescope, has taught us that the globe of matter on which we exist, is but one ainong a million others, which are visible in the regions of space, and all apparently guided by the säme unerring laws. The old idea that the sun is a globe of fire is now rejected, and it is proved to a certainty, that its composition is the same as that of the earth, and all other orbs, and that it produces animal and vegetable substances in the same manner as 'all other orbs are believed to produce them. The cause of the light'and heat we derive from the sun is not yet discovered, but I venture to bazard an assertion, that it arises from the quantity of Galvanic or Elec