Men, Women, And Gods
By Helen H. Gardner
1. "The writers of the Middle Ages are full of accounts of nunneries that were like brothels. ... The inveterate prevalence of incest among the clergy rendered it necessary again and again to issue the most stringent enactments that priests should not be permitted to live with their mothers or sisters. ... An Italian bishop of the tenth century epigrammatically described the morals of his tame, when he declared, that if he were to enforce the canons against unchaste people administering ecclesiastical rites, no one would be left in the Church except the boys." -- Lecky.
2. In the middle of the sixteenth century "the majority of the clergy were nearly illiterate, and many of them addicted to drunkenness and low vices. -- Hallam, "Const. Hist. of Eng."
3. "The clergy have ruined Italy." -- Brougham, "Pol. Phil."
4. It was a significant prudence of many of the lay Catholics, who were accustomed to insist that their priests should take a concubine for the protection of the families of the parishioners. ... It can hardly be questioned that the extreme frequency of illicit connections among the clergy tended during many centuries most actively to lower the moral tine of laity. ... An impure chastity was fostered, which continually looked upon marriage in its coarsest light. ... Another injurious consequence resulting, in a great measure, from asceticism, was a tendency to depreciate extremely the character and the position of woman." -- Lecky.
1. The great and main duty which a wife, as a wife, ought to learn, and so learn as to practice it, is to be subject to her own husband. ... There is not any husband to whom this honor of submission is not due; no personal infirmity, frowardness of nature; no, not even on the point of religion, doth deprive him of it." -- Fergusson on "the Epistles."
2. "The sum of a wife's duty unto her husband is subjection." -- Abernethy.
3. "We shall be told, perhaps, that religion imposes the duty of obedience [upon wives]; as every established fact which is too bad to admit of any other defense, is always presented to us as an injunction of religion. The Church, it is true, enjoins it in her formularies." -- Mill.
"The principle of the modern movement in morals and in polities, is that conduct, and conduct alone, entitles to respect: that not what men are, but what they do constitutes their claim to deference; that, above all, merit and not birth is the only rightful claim to power and authority." -- Ibid.
"Taking the care of people's lives out of their own hands and relieving them from the consequences of their own acts, saps the very foundation of the self-respect and self-control which are the essential conditions both of individual prosperity and of social virtue." -- Ibid.
"Inferior classes of men always, at heart, feel disrespect toward those who are subject to their power. -- Ibid.
4. "Among those causes of human improvement that are of most importance to the general welfare, must be included the total annihilation of the prejudices which have established between the sexes an inequality of right, fatal even to the party which it favors. In vain might we seek for motives to justify the principle, in difference of physical organization, of intellect, or of moral sensibility. It had at first no other origin but abuse of strength, and all the attempts which have since been made to support it are idle sophisms" -- "Progress of the Human Mind," Condorcet.
5. Notwithstanding the work of such men is the Encyclopedists of France and other liberal thinkers for the proper recognition of women, the Church had held her grip so tight that upon the passage of the bill, as late as 1848. giving to married women the right to own their own property, the most doleful prophesies went up as to the just retribution that would fall upon women for their wicked insubordination, and upon the men who had defied divine commands so far is to pass such a law. A recent writer tells us that Wm. A. Stokes, in talking to a lady whom he blamed for its passage, said: "We hold you responsible for that law, and I tell you now you will live to rue the day when you opened such a Pandora's box in your native State, and cast such an apple of discord into every family of the State."
And the sermons that were preached against it -- the prophecies of deacon and preacher -- were so numerous, so denunciatory, and so violent that they form a queer and interesting chapter in the history of the attitude of the Church toward women, and illustrate, in our own time, how persistent it has been in its efforts to prevent woman from sharing in the benefits of the higher civilization of the nineteenth century.
But fortunately for women, Infidels are more numerous than they ever were before, and the power of the Church is dying of dry rot, or as Col. Ingersoll wittily says, of the combined influence of softening of the brain and ossification of the heart.
"St. Gregory the Great describes the virtue of a priest, who through motives of piety had discarded his wife. ... Their wives, in immense numbers, were driven forth with hatred and with scorn. ... Pope Urban II. gave license to the nobles to reduce to slavery the wives of priests who refused to abandon them." -- Lecky.
1. "Hallam denies that respect for women is due to Christianity." -- Buckle.
2. "In England, wives are still occasionally led to the market by a halter around the neck to be sold by the husband to the highest bidder." -- Ibid.
"The sale of a wife with a halter around her neck is still a legal transaction in England. The sale must be made in the cattle market, as if she were a mare, all women being considered as mares by old English law, and indeed called 'mares' in certain counties where genuine old English law is still preserved." -- Borrow.
3. "Contempt for woman, the result of clerical teaching, is shown in myriad forms." -- Gage.
4. "The legal subordination of one sex to another is wrong in itself, and is now one of the chief hinderance to human improvement." -- John Stuart Mill.
5. "I have no relish for a community of goods resting on the doctrine, that what is mine is yours, but what is yours is not mine; and I should prefer to decline entering into such a compact with anyone, though I were myself the person to profit by it." -- Ibid.
It will take a long time for that sort of morality to filter into the skull of the Church, and when it does the skull will burst.
6. "Certain beliefs have been inculcated, certain crimes invented, in order to intimidate the masses. Hence the Church made free thought the worst of sins, and the spirit of inquiry the worst of blasphemies. ... As late as the time of Bunyan the chief doctrine inculcated from the pulpit was obedience to the temporal power. ... All these influences fell with crushing weight on woman." -- Matilda Joslyn Gage in "Hist. Woman Suffrage."
7. "Taught that education for her was indelicate and irreligious, she has been kept in such gross ignorance as to fall a prey to superstition, and to glory in her degradation. ... Such was the prejudice against a liberal education for women, that the first public examination of a girl in geometry (1829) created as bitter a storm of ridicule as has since assailed women who have entered the law, the pulpit, or the medical profession." -- Ibid.
1. "The five writers to whose genius we owe the first attempt at comprehensive views of history were Bolingbroke, Montesquieu, Voltaire, Hume, and Gibbon. Of these the second was but a cold believer in Christianity, if, indeed, he believed in it at all; and the other four were avowed and notorious infidels." -- Buckle.
2 "Here, then, we have the starting-point of progress -- skepticism. ... All, therefore, that men want is no hindrance from their political and religious rulers. ... Until common minds doubt respecting religion they can never receive any new scientific conclusion at variance with it -- as Joshua and Copernicus." -- Ibid.
3. "The immortal work of Gibbon, of which the sagacity is, if possible, equal to the learning, did find readers, but the illustrious author was so cruelly reviled by men who called themselves Christians, that it seemed doubtful if, after such an example, subsequent writers would hazard their comfort and happiness by attempting to write philosophic history. Middleton wrote in 1750. ... As long as the theological spirit was alive nothing could be effected." -- Ibid.
4. "The questions which presented themselves to the acuter minds of a hundred years ago were present to the acuter minds who lived hundreds of years before that. ... But the Church had known how to deal with intellectual insurgents, from Abelard in the twelfth century down to Bruno and Vanini in the seventeenth. They were isolated, and for the most part submissive; and if they were not, the arm of the Church was very long and her grasp mortal. ...
They [the thinkers] could have taught Europe earlier than the Church allowed it to learn, that the sun does not go round the earth, and that it is the earth which goes round the sun. ... After the middle of the last century the insurrection against the pretensions of the Church and against the doctrines of Christianity was marked in one of its most important phases by a new, and most significant, feature. ... It was an advance both in knowledge and in moral motive. ... The philosophical movement was represented by "Diderot" [leading the Encyclopaedist circle.] ... Broadly stated the great central moral of it was this: that human nature is good, that the world is capable of being made a desirable abiding-place. and that the evil of the world is the fruit of bad education and bad institutions. This cheerful doctrine now strikes on the ear as a commonplace and a truism. A hundred years ago in France it was a wonderful gospel, and the beginning of a new dispensation. ... into what fresh and unwelcome sunlight it brought the articles of the old theology. ... Every social improvement since has been the outcome of that new doctrine in one form or another. ... The teaching of the Church paints men as fallen and depraved. The deadly chagrin with which churchmen saw the new fabric rising was very natural. ... The new secular knowledge clashed at a thousand points, alike in letter and spirit, with the old sacred lore. ... A hundred years ago this perception was vague and indefinite, but there was an unmistakable apprehension that the Catholic ideal of womanhood was no more adequate to the facts of life, than Catholic views about science, or popery, or labor, or political order and authority." -- Morley.
And it took the rising infidels to discover the fact. See Morley, "Diderot," p. 76.
"The greatest fact in the intellectual history of the eighteenth century is the decisive revolution that overtook the sustaining conviction of the Church. The central conception, that the universe was called into existence only to further its Creator's purpose toward man, became incredible [by the light of the new thought]. What seems to careless observers a mere metaphysical dispute was in truth. and still is, the decisive quarter of the great battle between theology and a philosophy reconcilable with science." -- Morley.
"The man who ventured to use his mind [Diderot] was thrown into the dungeon at Vincennes." -- Ibid.
5. "Those thinkers [Voltaire, Rousseau, and Diderot] taught men to reason; reasoning well leads to acting well; justness in the mind becomes justice in the heart. Those toilers for progress labored usefully. ... The French Revolution was their soul. It was their radiant manifestation. It came from them; we find them everywhere in that blest and superb catastrophe, which formed the conclusion of the past and the opening of the future. ... The new society, the desire for equality and concession, and that beginning of fraternity which called itself tolerance, reciprocal good-will the just accord of men and rights, reason recognized as the supreme law, the annihilation of prejudices and fixed opinions, the serenity of souls, the spirit of indulgence and of pardon, harmony, peace -- behold what has come from them!" -- Victor Hugo, "Oration on Voltaire."
"He [Mohammed] promulgated a mass of fables, which he pretended to have received from heaven. ... After enjoying for twenty years a power without bounds, and of which there exists no other example, he announced publicly, that, if he had committed any act of injustice, be was ready to make reparation. All were silent. ... He died; and the enthusiasm which he communicated to his people will be seen to change the face of three-quarters of the globe. ... I shall add that the religion of Mohammed is the most simple in its dogmas, the least absurd in its practices, above all others tolerant in its principles." --Condorcet.
The claim is so often and so boldly made that Infidelity produces crime, and that Christianity, or belief, or faith, makes people good, that the following statistics usually produce a rather chilly sensation in the believer when presented in the midst of an argument based upon the above mentioned claim. I have used it with effect. The person upon whom it is used will never offer that argument to you again. The following statistics were taken from the British Parliamentary reports, made on the instance of Sir John Trelawney, in 1873:ENGLAND AND WALES. Criminals in England and Wales in 1873 ............ 146,146 SECTARIAN AND INFIDEL POPULATION OF THE SAME. Church of England ..................................... 6,933,935 Dissenters ............................................ 7,235.158 Catholics ............................................ 1,500,000 Jews ..................................................... 57,000 Infidels .............................................. 7,000,000 RELIGIOUS PERSUASIONS OF CRIMINALS OF THE SAME. Church of England ......................................... 96,097 Catholics ................................................. 35,581 Dissenters ................................................ 10,648 Jews ......................................................... 256 Infidels ..................................................... 296 CRIMINALS TO 100,000 POPULATION. Catholics .................................................. 2,500 Church of England .......................................... 1,400 Dissenters ................................................... 150 Infidels ....................................................... 5
These statistics are taken from the report of the British Parliament, which, for learning and intelligence, as a deliberative body, has not its superior, if it has its equal, in the world, and it is surely a sufficiently Christian body to be accepted as authority in this matter, since a large number of its members are clergymen. These statistics hardly sustain the allegation that "Infidelity is coupled with impurity."
We are willing to stand upon our record. But, lest it be claimed that this is a British peculiarity, allow me to defer to the patriotic sentiment of my readers by one other little set of tables which, while not complete, is equally as suggestive.
"In sixty-six different prisons, jails, reformatories, refuges, penitentiaries, and lock-ups there for the years given in reports, 41,335 men and boys, women and girls, of the following religious sects:Catholics ......................................... 16,431 Church of England .................................. 9,975 Eighteen other Protestant denominations ........... 14,811 Universalists .......................................... 5 Jews, Chinese, and Mormons ........................... 110 Infidels (two so-called, one avowed) ................... 3
These included the prisons of Iowa, Michigan, Tennessee, New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Indiana, Illinois, and Canada."
Present these two tables to those who assure you that crime follows in the wake of Infidelity, and you will have time to take a comfortable nap before your Christian friend returns to the attack or braces up after the shock sustained by his sentiments and inflicted by these two small but truly suggestive tables.
One cold fact like this will inoculate one of the faithful with more modesty than an hour of usual argument based upon the assumptions of the clergy and the ignorance of his hearers.
Infidels are not perfect. Many of them need reconstruction sadly, but the above data seem to indicate that they compare rather favorably with their fellow-men in the matter of good citizenship.
Moreover, as Goethe has already shown, the celebrated Mosaic moral precepts, the so-called Ten Commandments, were not upon the tables upon which Moses wrote the laws of the covenant which God made with his people.
"Even the extraordinary diversity of the many religions diffused over the surface of the earth suffices to show that they can stand in no necessary connection with morals, as it is well known that wherever tolerably well-ordered political and social conditions exist, the moral precepts in their essential principles are the same, whilst when such conditions are wanting, a wild and irregular confusion, or even an entire deficiency of moral notions is met with. ["In China, where people are, as is well-known, very indifferent or tolerant in religions matters, this fine proverb is current: Religions are various, but reason is one, and we are all brothers."] History also shows incontrovertibly that religion and morality have by no means gone hand in hand in strength and development, but that even contrariwise the most religious times and countries have produced the greatest number of crimes and sins against the laws of morality, and indeed, as daily experience teaches, still produce them. The history of nearly all religions is filled with such horrible abominations, massacres, and boundless wickedness of every kind that at the mere recollection of them the heart of a philanthropist seems to stand still, and we turn with disgust and horror from a mental aberration which could produce such deeds. If it is urged in vindication of religion that it has advanced and elevated human civilization, even this merit appears very doubtful in presence of the facts of history, and at least as very rarely or isolatedly the case. In general, however, it cannot be denied that most systems of religion have proved rather inimical than friendly to civilization. For religion, as already stated, tolerates no doubt, no discussion, no contradiction, no investigations, by those eternal pioneers of the future of science and intellect! Even the simple circumstance that our present state of culture has already long since left far behind it all and even the highest intellectual ideals established and elaborated by former religions may show how little intellectual progress is influenced by religion. Mankind is perpetually being thrown to and fro between science, and religion, but it advances more intellectually, morally and physically in proportion as it turns away from religion and to science.
It is therefore clear that for our present age and for the future a foundation must be sought and found for culture and morality, different from that which can be furnished to us by religion. It is not the fear of God that acts amelioratingly or ennoblingly upon manners, of which the middle ages furnish us with a striking proof; but the ennobling of the conception of the world in general which goes hand in hand with the advance of civilization. Let us then give up making a show of the profession of hypocritical words of faith, the only purpose of which seems to be that they may be continually shown to be lies by the actions and deeds of their professors! The man of the future will feel far more happy and contented when he has not to contend at every step of his intellectual forward development with those tormenting contradictions between knowledge and faith which plague his youth, and occupy his mature age unnecessarily with the slow renunciation of the notions which he imbibed in his youth. What we sacrifice to God, we take away from mankind, and absorb a great part of his best intellectual powers in the pursuit of an unattainable goal. At any rate, the least that we can expect in this respect from the state and society of the future is a complete separation between ecclesiastical and worldly affairs, or an absolute emancipation of the state and the school from every ecclesiastical influence. Education must be founded upon knowledge, not upon faith; and religion itself should be taught in the public schools only as religious history and as an objective or scientific exposition of the different religious systems prevailing among mankind. Any one who, after such an education, still experiences the need of a definite law or rule of faith may then attach himself to any religious sect that may seem good to him, but cannot claim that the community should bear the cost of this special fancy!
"As regards Christianity, or the Paulinism which is falsely called Christianity, it stands, by its dogmatic portion or contents, in such striking and irreconcilable, nay absolutely absurd contradiction with all the acquisitions and principles of modern science that its future tragical fate can only be a question of time. But even its ethical contents or its moral principles are in no way essentially distinguished above those of other peoples, and were equally well and in part better known to mankind even before its appearance. Not only in this respect, but also in its supposed character as the world-religion, it is excelled by the much older and probably most widely diffused religious system in the world, the celebrated Buddhism, which recognizes neither the idea of a personal God, nor that of a personal duration, and nevertheless teaches an extremely pure, amiable, and even ascetic morality. The doctrine of Zoroaster or Zarathrustra also, 1800 years B.C., taught the principles of humanity and toleration for those of different modes of thinking in a manner and purity which were unknown to the Semitic religions and especially to Christianity. Christianity originated and spread, as is well-known, at a time of general decline of manners, and of very great moral and national corruption; and its extraordinary success must be partly explained by the prevalence of a sort of intellectual and moral disease, which had overpowered the spirits of men after the fall of the ancient civilization and under the demoralizing influence of the gradual collapse of the great Roman empire. But even at that time those who stood intellectually high and looked deeply to things recognized the whole danger of this new turn of mind, and it is very remarkable that the best and most benevolent of the Roman emperors, such as Marcus Aurelius, Julian, etc., were the most zealous persecutors of Christianity, whilst it was tolerated by the bad ones, such as Commodus, Heliogabalus, etc. When it had gradually attained the superiority, one of its first sins against intellectual progress consisted in the destruction by Christian fanaticism of the calibrated Library of Alexandria, which contained all the intellectual treasures of antiquity -- an incalculable loss to science, which can never be replaced. It is usually asserted in praise of Christianity that in the middle ages the Christian monasteries were the preservers of science and literature, but even this is correct only in a very limited sense, since boundless ignorance and rudeness generally prevailed in the monasteries, and innumerable ecclesiastes could not even read. Valuable literary treasures on parchment contained in the libraries of the monasteries were destroyed, the monks when they wanted money selling the books as parchment, or tearing out the leaves and writing psalms upon them. Frequently they entirely effaced the ancient classics, to make room for their foolish legends and homilies; nay, the reading of the classics, such as Aristotle for example, was directly forbidden by papal decrees.
"In New Spain Christian fanaticism immediately destroyed whatever of arts and civilization existed among the natives, and that this was not inconsiderable is shown by the numerous monuments now in ruins which place beyond a doubt the former existence of a tolerably high degree of culture. But in the place of this not a trace of Christian civilization is now to be observed among the existing Indians, and the resident Catholic clergy keep the Indians purposely in a state of the greatest ignorance and stupidity (see, Richthofen, Die Zustande der Republic Mexico, Berlin, 1854).
"Thus Christianity has always acted consistently in accordance with the principles of one of the fathers of the Church, Tertullian, who says: 'Desire of knowledge is no longer necessary since Jesus Christ, nor is investigation necessary since the Gospel.' If the civilization of the European and especially of Christian Nations has notwithstanding made such enormous progress in the course of centuries, an unprejudiced consideration of history can only tell us that this has taken place not by means of Christianity, but in spite of it. And this is a sufficient indication to what an extent this civilization must still be capable of development when once it shall be completely freed from the narrow bounds of old superstitious and religious embarrassments!"
"We must therefore endeavor to form convictions which are not to stand once and for all, as philosophers and theologians usually do, but such as may change and become improved with. the advance of knowledge. Whoever does not recognize this and gives himself up once for all to a belief which he regards as final truth, whether it be of a theological or philosophical kind, is of course incapable of accepting a conviction supported upon scientific grounds. Unfortunately our whole education is founded upon an early systematic curbing and fettering of the intellect in the direction of dogmatic (philosophical or theological) doctrines of faith, and only a comparatively small number of strong minds succeed in after years in freeing themselves by their own powers from these fetters, whilst the majority remain captive in the accustomed bonds and form their judgment in accordance with the celebrated saying of Bishop Berkeley: 'Few men think; but all will have opinions.'" -- Buchner, Man in the Past, Present, and Future."
"And here it may be remarked, once for all, that no man who has subscribed to creeds and formulas, whether in theology or philosophy, can be an unbiased investigator of the truth or an unprejudiced judge of the opinions of others. His sworn preconceptions warping his discernment, adherence to his sect or party engenders intolerance to the honest convictions of other inquirers. Beliefs we may and must have, but a belief to be changed with new and advancing knowledge impedes no progress, while a creed subscribed to as ultimate truth, and sworn to be defended, not only puts a bar to further research, but as a consequence throws the odium of distrust on all that may seem to oppose it.
"Even when such odium cannot deter, it annoys and irritates; hence the frequent unwillingness of men of science to come prominently forward with the avowal of their beliefs.
"It is time this delicacy were thrown aside, and such theologians plainly told that the skepticism and Infidelity -- if skepticism and Infidelity there be -- lies all on their own side.
"There is no skepticism so offensive as that which doubts the facts of honest and careful observation: no Infidelity so gross as that which disbelieves the deductions of competent and unbiased judgments." -- David Page, "Man," etc., Edinburgh, 1867.
Since I have recorded this incident of my lecture in Chicago, it is peculiarly fitting and pleasant to be able to give the following extract from the review of the first edition of this book printed in the Chicago Times. No great daily paper would have dared to print such a comment a few years ago. To-day it is stated as a matter quite beyond controversy:
"She takes considerable pains to show what one would think need scarcely be insisted upon in our day, that the morals of civilization -- morals in general, indeed -- are not at all based in or dependent upon religion, certainly not on Christianity, since the so-called 'golden rule,' the highest principle of morality, antedates Christianity a thousand years."
ADDRESS TO THE CLERGY AND OTHERS
Up to the present time I have tried to reply personally to each one who has favored me with a letter of thanks, criticism, or praise of the little book, Men, Women, and Gods, and Other Lectures," just published, but I find that if I continue, to do this I shall have but little time for anything else.
The very unexpected welcome which the book has received prompts me to take this plan and means of replying to many who have honored me by writing me personal letters. First, permit me to thank those, who have written letters of praise and gratitude, and to say that, although I may be unable to reply in a private letter, I am not indifferent to these evidences of your interest, and am greatly helped in my work by your sympathy and encouragement. I have also received most courteous letters from various clergymen who, disagreeing with me, desire to convert me either by mail or personal (private) interviews.
It is wholly impossible for me to grant these requests, since my time and strength are demanded in other work, but I wish to say here what I have written to several of my clerical correspondents, and desire to say to them all.
Although I cannot enter into private correspondence with, nor grant personal interviews to, such a number of our body, I am entirely willing to respond in a public way to any replies to my arguments which come under the following conditions:
1. On page fourteen of the introduction to my book Col. Ingersoll says: "No human being can answer her arguments. There is no answer. All the priests in the world cannot explain away her objections. There is no explanation. They should remain dumb unless they can show that the impossible is the probable, that slavery is better than freedom, that polygamy is the friend of woman, that the innocent can justly suffer for the guilty, that to persecute for opinion's sake is an act of love and worship."
Now, whenever any one of these gentlemen who wish to convert me will show that the Colonel is wrong in this brief paragraph; whenever they will, in print or in public, refute the arguments to which he refers, and to which they object, I shall not be slow to respond.
2. It must be argument, not personal abuse, and it must be conducted in a courteous manner and tone.
3. It must proceed upon the basis that I am as honest, as earnest, and as virtuous in my motives and intentions as they are in theirs.
Now, surely these gentlemen cannot object to these simple requirements; and since some of them are men whose names are proceeded by a title and followed by several capital letters from D.D. to O.S.F. -- (which last I, in my ignorance, guess at as meaning Order of St. Francis, but shall like to be corrected if I am wrong) they must believe that to answer the arguments themselves is both simple and easy.
If they do not so believe they surely have no right to occupy the positions which they do occupy. If they do so believe it will do much more good to answer them publicly, since they have been made publicly, and are already in the hands of several thousand people, who could not be reached by any amount of eloquence poured out on my devoted head in the privacy of ny own parlor (or writing- desk).
Therefore, gentlemen, permit me to say to you all that which I have already written to several of you personally -- that Col. Ingersoll's paragraph, quoted above, expresses my own views and those of a great many other people, and will continue so to do so long as your efforts to show that he is wrong are only whispered to me behind a fun, or in the strict seclusion of a letter marked "private and personal."
The arguments I have given against the prevailing Christian dogmas and usages, which you uphold, are neither private nor personal, nor shall I allow them to take that phase. Life is too short for me to spend hours day after day in sustaining, in private, a public argument which has never been (and, in my opinion, never will be) refuted. And it would do no good to the thousands whom you are pleased to say you fear will be led astray by my position. You have a magnificent opportunity to lead them back again by honest public letters, or lectures, or sermons, not by an afternoon's chat with me.
And, while I recognize the courtesy of your pressing requests (made, without exception, in the most gentlemanly terms) to permit you to meet me personally and refute my arguments, I feel compelled to say that, unless you are willing to show the courage of your convictions, and the quality of your defense, to the public, I fear they would have no weight with me, and I should have wasted your precious time as well as my own, which I should feel I had no right to do, nor to allow you to do, without this frank statement of the case.
Now, do not suppose that I have the slightest objection to meeting the clergy personally and socially. Upon the contrary, many of my friends are clergymen -- even bishops -- but candor compels me, to state that up to the present time not one of them has (either privately or otherwise) been able to answer either of the first two lectures in that little book, and as to the third one, no one of them, in my opinion, will ever try to answer it.
Time will show whether I am right in this.
In the mean time accept my thanks for your interest, and believe me.
HELEN H. GARDENER.
LETTER TO THE CLEVELAND CONGRESS OF FREETHINKERS, OCTOBER, 1885
I send my greetings to the Congress of Freethinkers assembled at Cleveland, and regret, more than I can express that I am unable to be there and hear the all the good things you will hear, and see all the earnest workers you will see.
The Freethinkers of America ought to be a very proud and enthusiastic body, when they have in their presidential chair the ablest orator of modern times, and the broadest, bravest, and most comprehensive intellect that has ever been called "Mr. President" in this land of bravery and presidents. Washington was a patriot of whom we are all justly proud. He was liberal in his religion and progressive in his views of personal rights. And yet he had his limitations. To him liberty and personal rights were modified by the words, "free white, adult, males." He got no farther. He who fought for freedom upheld slavery! And yet we are all proud and glad to pay honor and respect to the memory of Washington.
Abraham Lincoln we place still higher on the roll of honor; for, added to his still more liberal religious views, in his conceptions of freedom and justice he had at least two fewer limitations than had the patriot of 1776. He, struck both "free" and "white" from his mental black list, and gave once more an impulse to the human race.
But what shall we say of our president -- Ingersoll? A man who in ten short years has carried mental liberty into every household in America -- who is without limitations in religion, and modifies justice with no prefix. A man who, with unequaled oratory, champions Freedom -- not the, "free white, adult, male freedom of Washington. A man who has breasted a whirlwind of destruction and abuse for Justice -- not the "male, adult" justice of Lincoln, but the freedom and justice, without limitation, for man, woman, and child."
With such a leader, what should not be achieved? With such a champion, what cause could fail? If the people ever place such a man in the White House, the nations of this earth will know, for the first time, the real meaning of a free government under secular administration.
"A government of the people, for the people, by the people," will be more than simply a high-sounding phrase, which, read by the light of the past, was only a bitter mockery to a race in chains; and, read by the light of the present, is a choice bit of grim humor to half of a nation in petticoats. But so long as the taste of the voter is such that he prefers to place in the executive chair a type of man so eminently fitted for private life that when you want to find him you have to shake the chair to see if he is in it, just so long will there be no danger that the lightning will strike so as to deprive the Freethinkers of one man in America who could fill the national executive chair full, and strain the back and sides a little getting in.
Once more I send greetings to the Convention, with the hope that you may have as grand a time as you ought to have, and that Freethought will receive a new impulse from the harmony and enthusiasm of this meeting.
HELEN H. GARDENER
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