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Whitewashing The Infamous

A NUMBER of lectures delivered by Sir. Richard Gregory during his recent visit to this country have been incorporated in a book entitled "Religion in Science and Civilization". As works from Dr. Gregory's pen are deserving of serious attention, I procured the volume, .anticipating that it would measure up to the high standard of his studies in pure science. It did--in all respects save in those portions which treat of the conflict between science and religion. Here, unfortunately, the author loses the historical perspective.


The book, for the most part, in dealing with religion, takes a conciliatory attitude. It is written more in the "appeasement" tempo of a Chamberlain than in the vigorous manner of a Churchill telling the enemy where to get off. Unconsciously, perhaps, though nevertheless with fatal concessions to reactionary beliefs, Dr. Gregory engages in dainty flirtations with the forces of regression; for some unaccountable reason, he hopes to save Christianity from the stigma of being opposed to science.


"The mistake has been, and still is," says Dr. Gregory, "to make the conflict between Christianity and science instead of between obscurantism and enlightenment.


The mistake here is in thinking of Christianity as anything but obscurantism at its worst. If science is opposed to "obscurantism" (as Dr. Gregory holds it is), then science is in deadly conflict with Christianity. Nothing can nullify the fact that without the miracles of Jesus, the claim that he was the Son of God, that he died for men's sins, that he raised persons from the dead, and that only he can salvage us from damnation, the Church is meaningless. Science is in conflict with these ideas as clearly as it is with the claim that Father Divine is God or that the Pope is "infallible".


What is Christianity, in substance, but the reputed doctrines of Jesus? Jesus, if the Gospel stories are true, rose from the dead and ascended to heaven. Is there anything in science today, as known to Dr. Gregory, to support these fantastic teachings? Positively not; Dr. Gregory is aware, as an astronomer and a physicist, that they clash with science; he need only note that they are Christian doctrines hopelessly in conflict with biological and astronomical knowledge.


Works such as Draper's "History of the Conflict Between Science and Religion" and White's "A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom" says Dr. Gregory, "are melancholy reading today, for they are largely concerned with problems and influences which no longer exist, though at the time they evoked bitter discussion."


It will be time enough to talk about these books being out of date when the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England go out of business. If there is "melancholy reading today", it is furnished by that type of writer who is blissfully unaware of the mountainous mass of nonsense preached in Christian churches and of the singular devotion which thousands of our clergy display in their work of muddling science.


Dr. Gregory clearly recognizes the fact that "crude and cruel conceptions of religion" are still held by large Christian communities; and are believed to be justified by literal interpretations of Biblical texts." This being so, how can he contend that these are not Christian doctrines or that they are not in conflict with science? It is just here that ill-considered thought leads him to the conclusion that the battle is over, that the works of Draper and White, depicting the struggle, are antiquated and unworthy of consideration at this time. Quite the opposite is true; seldom has there been greater need to emphasize the fact that Christianity and science are irreconcilable enemies, that a Munich peace-pact is out of the question, and that war must go on until one side or the other is vanquished.


The "crude and cruel teachings" against which Dr. Gregory protests are accepted today because they are found in the Bible and form a part of Christian church dogma. Hell is as hot a place today in Roman Catholic theology as ever before; if it simmers in Church of England circles, it is because some churchmen are becoming ashamed of the "gnashing-of-teeth" doctrine taught by the Hell-teaching Jesus. The Church of Rome still employs its purgatory racket over vast areas of the earth; Protestant Christianity still mulcts the public with the idea that it possesses a book of divine "revelation" and has something to offer in the way of personal "salvation" beyond the grave. The swindle goes on in all branches of the Christian Church.


"The tendency among enlightened leaders in the Church of England," writes Dr. Gregory, "is to ask for nothing more than belief in a Supreme Being.... These are advanced views, and professing Christians condemn them as almost blasphemous."


There is the rub; it is precisely because "advanced views" are condemned by "professing Christians" that we have the conflict.


Who but "professing Christians" today fight evolution and the Darwinian doctrine of our monkey descent? I can assure Dr. Gregory, on the best of authority, that a delegation of Catholic priests once called at the American Museum of Natural History, in New York, to protest against its exhibit in the Hall of the Age of Man. It was a Christian attempt to intimidate its officials into withdrawing the exhibit.


Again, I can assure Dr. Gregory that, at Christmas time each year, the mythical "Star of Bethlehem" is played, up in an imbecilic exhibit at our Planetarium in New York, against the better judgment of its officials. Christians "like" it---and flock to get in. They cannot distinguish between stars shown in juxtaposition, shining brightly as a single Star, and the fake luminary in the Bible.that "went before them" and "stood over" a stable. The teachings of Jewish folklore still have most of our Christian population gaping at the stars with the intelligence of Cows.


It is useless to point out that some high-ups in the Church of England would be satisfied with just a simple faith in God on the part of their congregations. If they were, what would become of all the religious trappings, the mystical pomp, the anointing with oil, the miraculous element in Church rituals? Whatever may be the private beliefs of high churchmen concerning the Fall, the Virgin Birth, the Redemption, the Resurrection and the Ascension of Jesus; it is the Church which is responsible for indoctrinating the multitude with these silly beliefs; it is too late now for the clergy to pull from under; they must ride along on the wave of infantile belief which Christianity is responsible for and which now, as before, constitutes the rank-and-file faith of those who looked to them for cultural leadership. Having filled them with superstition, the Church can survive only by keeping them that way; it will collapse like a house of cards once the people learn that they have been grossly deceived by Bible legends and mythology.


My learned friend Dr. M. Davidson of London, who reviews the book in "The Journal of the British Astronomical Association," very aptly observes, "It is difficult to see how Christianity could build a civilization and culture full of material wealth and rich in scientific attainments; it has never been able to do so, and there are good reasons for the view that the spread of Christianity undermined the foundations of the old Roman Empire."


There is no question that Dr. Davidson is right. The downfall of pagan Rome was followed by a thousand years or more of Christian "civilization," the like of which the World may hope never to see again. It was an era of moral debasement and intellectual coma in which the human animal reached an all-time low in cultural prostration. From the days of Constantine to the time it burned Vanini at the stake, Christianity marks the most brutalized period in the history of the world.


Christianity gave us the Dark Ages and the honors of the Holy Inquisition. If all "the loving kindness" which the pulpit prates about as of Christian origin could be put in a balance, it would weigh as nothing against the abysmal ignorance and stark brutality engendered by the Church. Who, by searching history, can find a glimmer of satisfaction in the dark days of Christianity's "triumph," with its bestial autos-da-fe, its witchcraft epidemics, its unspeakable atrocities?


In educated circles, Christianity is doomed. In the inner sanctum of scholarship it has failed to withstand even the serious onslaught of critical churchmen. Its doctrines have been riddled by science. On every side, it has been battered to a pulp by historical criticism. Those who wish to snatch a few crumbs of comfort from the debacle, can do so only by stooping intellectually, by truckling to the gutter level of popular ignorance. Only the political vote-snatcher and the tent revivalist will sink that low.


Christianity has never ceased to be an impediment to the world, fighting every advance in science and still standing as a recrudescence of crass superstition. The Bible still teaches the same nonsense it did in the days of Draper and White. Whether it is believed in today as much as it was before, is beside the point: the lip-service still goes on and it is this lip-service that makes for substantial opposition to the teachings of science. The obsession of Bible worship and Jesus adoration still has many of our professors frozen in their chairs; they dare not treat it, at least in public, with anything but Obsequious flattery or fawning servility.


Fundamentalism, both Catholic and Protestant, still exerts an enormous pressure on public and press. It is a bold editor or a careless politician who will utter a peep against entrenched Christianity. In spite of cultural progress, the rabble rules. Legislation is frequently enacted in deference to the mob. In some states of the Union it is illegal to teach the evolution of man in our public schools.


The conflict between religion and science is as deadly today as ever before. Tell the average group of Christians that they are descended from an ape, and see how far you get; they will deny their animal ancestry with more vehemence than if they are told they are descended from barbarians, or that their grandparents were horse-thieves. No one knows this better than our American paleontologist, Dr. W. K. Gregory, "Imagine the effect," says he, "of telling one-hundred-percent Americans that they are not the descendants of the god-like Adam but are sons and daughters of Dryopithecus, or of some nearly allied genus of anthropoid apes that lived in the Miocene age; --and that before that they had long tails and ate grubs and beetles !"


Every Catholic today is taught by his Church to believe that evolution is false. In its article on "Adam," the Catholic Encyclopaedia (Vol. 1, Rev. ed., 1936) teaches that the first man was created in an adult state. This is good biblical doctrine--and in conflict with science.


Dr. Gregory is as much interested in the social sciences as in the science of the stars. In what way, then, can the teachings of Jesus lead to the betterment of the world? Where would we be today if we followed the maudlin dictum of Jesus: "Resist not evil"? Our pacifists, our turn-the-other-cheekers, and our sentimental poltroons would have us face the aggressions of Hitler with the Christian doctrine of non-resistance. In judicial affairs, too, where would Christianity lead? No judge, sitting on the bench, could mete but justice if he took Jesus seriously, for fear of the teaching: "Judge not, that ye be not judged." No society, believing in Divine Providence and the crazy Jesus teaching of "take no thought for your life, what ye shall.eat or what ye shall drink" could survive for long. Such a teaching, if put into practice, would reduce a country to impecunious vagrants and tramps. Of what use is it to teach people to pray for what they want, on the promise that their prayers will be answered or that they will be clothed like the lilies of the field ?


The historian Buckle well recognized the futility of prayer, "We still see," said he, "the extraordinary spectacle of prayers offered up in our churches for dry weather or for wet weather; a superstition which to future ages will appear as childish as the feelings of pious awe with which our fathers regarded the presence of a Comet, or the approach of an eclipse."


Has the Church of England improved since Buckle wrote It has not. Its clergy still call for national days of prayer for the winning of the war, when every thoughtful Englishman knows the absurdity of prayer; yet the hypocrisy goes on as if the repetition of the act will in some way alter events. Only the final campaign, of course, will determine which side wins the conflict. Yet what would the Archbishop of Ganterbury do, for his £15,000 per year, if prayer were ditched?


Our medicine-men in America are not different from their British brethren of the cloth, Here prayers are offered up with the same degree of silly genuflection for the triumph of our arms; our last prayers for Peace were immediately followed by the Pearl Harbor disaster and the loss of Manila. Yet we are asked to assume a respectful attitude toward the leaders of the Church and of an institution whose charlatanism and appeal to magic belong to a medieval age.


Dr. Gregory commands an influential and honored position in the world of science. All the greater, therefore, is his obligation to make clear the attitude of science in relation to Christianity. Surely, as an Honorary Associate of the Rationalist Press Association of England, he is conversant with the literature of rationalism and of the tremendous part it has played in the long-drawn-out struggle between science and religion. He cannot, by any conceivable intent, wish to palliate, much less conceal, the debasing influence that Christianity has exerted in its befuddlement of the world and its enslavement of mankind. Yet his disposition, here and there, to defend the.indefensible, or to look the other way while the battle is on, is hardly in accordance with his own standards of scientific precision.


Dr. John W. Draper (whose book Dr. Gregory feels is tragically out of date) fully realized the struggle that is before us--a struggle that must enlist the very finest fiber of intellectual soldiery. And, no one, by natural endowment, belongs more fully to that army than Dr. Gregory himself.


"As to the issue of the coming conflict," wrote Dr. Draper, "can any one doubt? Whatever is resting on fiction and fraud will be overthrown. Institutions that organize impostures and spread delusions must show what right they have to exist. Faith must render an account of herself to Reason. Mysteries must give plate to facts. Religion must relinquish that imperious, that domineering position which she has so long maintained against Science. There must be absolute, freedom of thought."


These are the words of one whose intellectual vision permitted him to see the conflict as a whole a conflict that is still with us, and which by the spread of culture, can end only in the demolition of Christianity.


Years ago, writing in the "Fortnightly Review", Viscount Morley stated the outcome with singular precision :-


"You have so debilitated the minds of men and women that many a generation must come and go before Europe can throw off the yoke of your superstition. But we promise you they shall be years of strenuous battle . . . The great ship of your church, once so stout and fair, has become a skeleton ship; it is a phantom hulk with warped planks and sere canvas; and you who work it are not more than the ghosts of dead men; and at the hour when you seem to have reached the bay, down your ship will sink like lead or stone to the deepest bottom."

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