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Dr. Gregory and Religion

A LETTER from Sir Richard Gregory, President of the British Association, has just come to hand, in which that genial personality discusses some of the points raised in a recent article of mine dealing with his book. Readers may recall that I criticized the work for its concessions to religion.


Dr. Gregory states that he wishes to be classed among the "freethinkers," even though he may not be, as he himself puts it, a "militant rationalist." In spite of all that can be said against religion, he still feels that something of "ethical" value may be salvaged from the wreck. This he would preserve by cultivating the "moral" teachings of our leading cults.


Dr. Gregory is not concerned, he says, with what men "worship" so long as it develops in them an appreciation of the virtues and strengthens their moral fiber. But is not this "appreciation" often developed in religionists at the expense of the intellect and by the sacrifice of that which is essential to the stability of character -- a regard for truth?


Our own concern in a particular creed is not whether it teaches a few moral platitudes, prates "goodness," or talks about loving one's neighbor, but whether it is, in its fundamental principles, true or false. A religion may have some good teachings in it and still be basically untrue and an influence for evil. Mohammedanism, for example, is against the drinking of intoxicating liquors (a moral teaching which Irish Catholics might profitably observe), but are its teachings on a hundred other questions anything but false and confusing to the intellect?


No end of examples may be found in which religious "morals" corrupt conduct. A Christian Scientist, for example, may be a "well-meaning" father, a kind husband, and a loyal friend, but what good does it do his stricken child if he abandons it to diphtheria because his "religious scruples" are against the employment of medical science? What benefit does the child derive from hearing that "God is Love" if it is neglected and left to the germs? Does not religious "morality" here result in a criminal act against the child?


Are there Christian teachings worthy of salvaging? There are precious few. For the most part Christian morality is perniciously false. The man who followed most of the preachments of Jesus would be a fool. Resist not evil. Take no thought for the morrow as to what you shall eat and what you shall wear. Sell all you have and give to the poor. If any man sue you at law and take away your coat, give him your trousers too. If smitten on one cheek, turn the other. Judge not, that you be not judged. Love your enemies. What man, professing these doctrines today, ever follows them? The simple fact is that they are not "moral" teachings but sanctified stupidities. They do not build character, they destroy it; and few Christians are such indolent dolts as to think of observing them. All the bland assurance we get about their lofty sentiments is pulpit rubbish.


Add to these the crazy notions of Jesus concerning demonology, hell-fire burnings and "gnashing of teeth," and blood-drinking rituals and you have a religion viler than voodoo itself. Strip Jesus, if you will, of his well-proved mythological character, and all you have left is a deluded and mentally sick man.


Can one say that the Christian religion, with all its infamous history, its sanguinary oppressions, and its nightmare theology has made the world finer? Dr. Gregory knows better. The groans from the Inquisition, the cries of tortured men and women, the butcheries of scientists and heretics belie that claim. Christianity has been tried -- and convicted by the decency of the world.


To sum up, no one has more aptly put the matter, in one sentence, than Dr. Gregory himself:


"Christian teachers claim that worship of a supernatural Being is essential to promote high ethical ideals, but I need scarcely say that I do not accept this view."


If morality, then, as Dr. Gregory maintains, is quite independent of a belief in God and can be practiced without it, why need we bother to retain religion? If the virtues can be sustained without the incubrances of superstition, why leave the religious structure standing as a perpetual eye-sore and disfigurement to civilization?

Friends and Colleagues