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By the Report of Las Casas, the authenticity of which is not doubted, Bonaparte, who, whatever may be thought of his goodness, is allowed by all to be a great man, made the following remarks on religion. “Every thing proclaims the existence of a God; that cannot be questioned; but all religions are evidently the work of men. Why are there so many? Why has not ours always existed? Why does it consider itself exclusively the right one? What becomes, in that case, of all the virtuous men who have gone before us? Why does these religions oppose and exterminate one another ? Why has this been the case ever and every where ? Because men are ever men; because priests have ever and every where introduced fraud and falsehood.” He said, “ that his incredulity did not proceed from perverseness or from licentiousness of mind, but from the strength of his reason. Yet,” added he,'" no man can answer for what will happen, particularly in his last moments. At present, I certainly believe that I shall die without a confessor. I am assuredly very far from being an atheist, but I cannot believe all that I am taught in spite of my reason, without being false and a hypocrite."
The bare mention of the possibility that he might, before he died, confess his sins, with a view of obtaining pardon from a frail mortal like himself, was unworthy of the character of Bonaparte. But it exemplifies in the strongest manner the almost unconquerable power of habits and prejudices acquired in early life. If, at the time the above expressions were made, there still remained in the great mind of Bonaparte some lirgering vestiges of the contemptible prejudices which he had imbibed from his nurse and father confessor in childhood, what can be expected from the multitude who never think? How important then is it, that the minds of youth should be properly directed ;-that they should be taught their true condition in nature ;—that their present and future happiness depends, not on confessions to a priest, but on uniform practice of moral virtue. If confessions are depended on, we may be assured, that morals will be neglected.
The following opinion of the manner in which mankind will be judged in a future state must be concurred in by every rational being, not under clerical influence. It is extracted from the speech of the famous Irish barrister, Erskine, on the liberty of the press, in the trial of Stockdale for an alleged libel against the parliament.
Every human tribunal ought to take care to administer justice, as we look hereafter to have justice administered to ourselves. Upon the principles on which the Attorney-General prays sentence upon my client—God have mercy upon us !--For which of us can present, for omniscient examination, a pure, unspotted, and faultless course. But I humbly expect that the benevolent author of our being will judge us as I have been pointing out for your example. Holding up the great volume of our lives in his hands, and regarding the general scope of them. If he discovers benevolence, charity and good will to man beating in the heart, where he alone can lonk ;if he finds that our conduct, though often forced out of the path by our infirmities, has been in general well directed; his all-searching eye will assuredly never pursue us into those little corners of our lives, much less will his justice select them for punishment, without the general context of our existence, by which faults may be sometimes found to have grown out of virtues, and very many of our heaviest offences to have been grafted by human imperfection upon the best and kindest of our affections. No, believe me, this is not the course of divine justice. If the general tenor of a man's conduct be such as I have represented it, he may walk through the shadow of death, with all bis faults about him, with as much cheerfulness as in the common paths of life; because he knows, that instead of a stern accuser to expose before the Author of his nature those frail passages, which like the scored matter in the book before you, chequers the volume of the brightest and best spent lise, his mercy will obscure them from the eye of his purity, and our repentance blot them out for ever.
MR. OWEN. This gentleman is not so universally known as to render his opinions so imposing as those already quoted, but he has acquired such celebrity for philanthropy 10 his extraordinary exertions to meliorate the condition of the poor, in which charitable work he is now zealously engaged, that I am induced to give his rational views respecting religion, in answer to a correspondent of the Limerick Chronicle.
“For nearly forty years," he says, “ I have studied the religious systems of the world, with the most sincere desire to discover one that was devoid of error; one to which my mind and soul could consent; but the more I have examined the faiths and practices which they have produced, the more error in each has been made manifest to me, and I am now prepared to say that all, without a single exception, contain too much error to be of any utility in the present advanced state of the human mind. There are truths in each religion, as well as errors in all, but if I have not been too much prejudiced by early education and surrounding circumstances, to judge impar. tially between them, there are more valuable truths in the Christian Scriptures than in others—but a religion to be pure and undefiled, and to produce the proper effect upon the life and conduct of every human being, and to become universal, must be so true, that all who run may read, and so reading may fully comprehend. A religion of this character must be devoid of forms, ceremonies and mysteries, for these constitute the errors of all the existing systems, and of all those which have hitherto crealed anger, and produced violence and bloodshed throughout society. A religion devoid of error will not depend for its support upon any name whatever. No name, not even Deity itself, can make troth into falsehood.-A pure and genuine religio therefore, will not require for its support, or for its uniyersal promulgation by the human race, any name whatever, nor ought, except the irresistible truth which it shall contain. Such religion will possess whatever is valuable in each, and exclude whatever is erroneous in all, and in due time, a religion of this character, freed from every inconsistency, shall be promulgated. Then will the world be in possession of principles which, without any exception, produce corresponding practices, then all shall see, face to face, clearly and distinctly, and no longer through a glass, darkly. In the mean time, however, while the dangers shall be gradually working in the minds of those who have been compelled to receive error mixed with truth, it is intended that no violence shall be offered to the conscience of any one, and that in the proposed new villages, full provisions shall be made for the performance of religious worship, according to the practice of the country in which the villages shall be situated.
Elias Hicks, a celebrated Quaker preacher, at New-York, in a letter addressed to the Rev. Dr. Shoemaker, dated 3d mo. 31, 1823, speaking of the atonement, and those who believe in it, writes, “Surely, is it possible that any rational being, that has any right sense of justice and mercy, would be willing to accept forgiveness of his sins on such terms ? Would he not go forward, and offer himself wholly up, to suffer all the penalties due to his crimes, rather than the innocent should suffer? Nay, was he so hardy as to acknowledge a willingness to be saved through such a medium, would it not prove that he stood in direct opposition to every principle of justice and honesty; of mercy and love, and show himself a poor selfish creature, unworthy of notice ?" Towards the conclusion of his letter, he says, “ I may now recommend thee to shake off all traditional views that thou hast imbibed from external evidence, and turn thy mind to the light within, as the only true teacher; and wait patiently for its instructions, and it will teach thee more than men or books can do, and lead thee to a clearer sight and sense of what thou desirest to know, than I have words clearly coʻconvey to thee.”
In his discourses the following sentiments have been noted and published ; " That the death of Jesus Christ was no more to us than the death of any other good man ; that he merely performed his part on earth as a faithful son, just as any other man had done; that he did not believe any thing contained in the Scriptures merely be cause it was in them; that although the miracles might have been a proof to those who saw them, yet they could be no proof to us who did not see them. Is it possible, said he, that there is any person so ignorant or superstitious, as to believe, that there ever was on earth such a place as the garden of Eden, or that Adam and Eve were really put into it, and turned out of it for eating an apple? My friends, it is all an allegory.”
Mr. Hicks, I understand, is far advanced in life, and is a great favourite, as a preacher, not only among his own sect, but with others of different denominations
He is said to be a man of the strictest morals. His doctrine is void of trifling pueril. ities, and disgusting hypocrisy, the greatest impediment to human improvement. It is plain, honest, common sense. Such as one would suppose would be adopted by all people, not burdened with an expensive priesthood.-Hired priests, no doubt, consider themselves in a measure bound to deal out to their hearers a great deal of school divinity, consisting of perplexing metaphysics, in order to convince them that they get the worth of their money: Plain morality would not command a high price among those who are in search of mysteries, miracles and spiritual nonentities.
Religionists seem to think that there can be no religion unattended with mystery and miracle. They require a name to uphold their religion ; and the person who bears it mast have performed miracles to entitle him to their respect.
The simple principles of moral virtue have no charms for them. Their religion must be involved in clouds and darkness, to make it difficult to be understood, in order to enhance the merit of believing it. Such a scheme, as they call it, of religion is well adapted to priestcraft, because it gives the high priests of the establishment an opportunity to play off a sort of necromancy to deceive and gull the multitude. It would require no ministers, with high salaries, to explain the plain creed of Dr. Franklin. "It does not require, like complicated and mysterious religions to be taught, as a school boy is taught grammar.
The morality contained in what is called the gospel, unconnected with the Old Testament, is unexceptionable. It is the doctrine of Deism ; as Dr. Tindal has shown, in his work, entitled, “ Christianity as old as the Creation, or the Gospel a republication of the religion of nature.” The same sentiments, however, had been promulgated long before the gospel had existence. CONFUCIUS, the Chinese phlosopher, who was born 551 years before Christ, said, “ Human nature came to us from heaven pure and perfect; but in process of time, ignorance, the passions, and evil examples have corrupted it.-All consists in restoring it to its primitive beauty ; and to be perfect, we must reascend to that point we have fallen from. Obey heaven, and follow the orders of Him who governs it. Love your neighbour as yourself; let your reason, and not your senses be the rule of your conduct ; for reason will teach you to think wisely, to speak prudently, and to behave yourself worthily on all occasions. Do to another what you would he should do unto you; and do not unto another what you would should not be done unto you; thou only needest this law alone; it is the foundation and principle of all ine rest.
“ Desire not the death of thine enemy; thou wouldst desire it in vain ; his life is in the hands of Heaven.
Acknowledge thy benefits by the return of other benefits, but never revenge injuries.”
In the precepts of PHOCYLIDES, written 540 years before Christ, we find the following : “ Let no favour or affection bias thy, judgment; reject not the poor; nor judge any man rashly; for if thou doest, God will judge thee hereafter.” « Give not thy alms to the poor with grudging, nor put him off till to
morrow; have compassion on the man that is banished, and be eyes to the blind.”
“Show mercy to those that are shipwrecked; for the sea, like fortune, is a fair, but fickle mistress. Comfort the man that is dejected ; and be a friend to him that has no one to help him. We are all liable to misfortunes, up to day, and down tomorrow.
In what are called the Golden Verses of PYTHAGORAS, who died 497 years before Christ, we read as follows, “Do not an ill thing, either in company, or alone; but of all respect yoarself first; that is, first pay the duty which is due to yourself, to your honour and to your conscience ; nor let any foreign regard make you deviate from this faith.”
“ Presume not to sleep till you have thrice ran over the actions of the past day. Examine yourself, where have I been? What have I done? Have I omitted an good action? Then weigh all, and correct yourself for what you have done amiss, and rejoice in what you have done well.”
“ Whatever evils thou mayest undergo, bear them patiently, endeavoring to discover a remedy. And let this reflection console thee, that fate does not distribute much of evil to good men.
“ Men apply the art of reasoning to good and bad purposes ; listen, therefore, with caution, and be not hasty to admit or reject. If any one assert an untruth, arm thyself with patience, and be silent.
“When this habit has become familiar to thee, thou wilt perceive the constitution of the immortal Gods, and of mortal men ; even the great extent of being, and in
what manner it exists. Thou wilt perceive that nature in her operations is uniform,
etly pursues them, which they neither endeavor to subdue, nor yield to
“ Great Jove! Father of Men ! O free them from those evils, or discover to them the demon they employ! But be of good cheer, for the race of man is divine. Na. ture discovers to them her hidden mysteries, in which if thou art interested, and attain this knowledge, thou wilt obtain with ease, all I enjoin ; and having healed thy soul, thou wilt preserve it from evil.
“ Abstain, moreover, from those unclean and foul meats, which are forbidden, keeping thy body pure, and thy soul free.
“ Consider all things well, governing thyself by reason, and settling it in the uppermost place. And when thou art divested of thy mortal body, and arrived in the most pure ather, thou shalt be exalted among the immortal Gods, be incor. ruptible, and never more know death."
Laurence Sterne, in his Coran, says, " I had conceived, that to love our enemies was a tenet peculiar to the Christian religion, till I stumbled upon the same idea in the writings of that rogue Plato." And it seems that the rogue Pythagoras, as well as Plato and others, taught the doctrine of immortality long before its promulgation in the gospel, although the merit of it is ascribed exclusively to Jesus by many of his followers.
Quotations to the same effect might be made from the writings of Socrates, Plato, Cicero, and others, who lived anterior to the time of Jesus Christ. In fact, it seems apparent, that the moral sentiments contained in the gospel, have been derived from philosophers who lived at periods remote from the time of its promulgation. The morals of Epictetus, Seneca, and Antoninus, whom christians call heathens, are not inferior to those of the gospel. ANTONINUS observes, “ It is the peculiar excellence of man to love even those who have offended him. This you will be disposed to do, if you reflect that the offender is allied to you ; that he did it through ignorance, and, perhaps involuntarily; and, moreover, that you will both soon go peaceably to your graves. But above all, consider, that he has not really injured you, as he could not render your mind, or governing part, the worse for his offence.
“A man may be more expert than you in the gymnastic exercises; be it so; yet he is not superior to you in the social virtues, in generosity, in modesty, in patience under the accidents of life, or lenity towards the foibles of mankind.”
Moral principles are the same in all countries, and at all times. Neither time nor place can change them.
Although sects were formed under the names of some of the ancient philosophers, which caused great disputations among the disciples of the respective leaders, it does not appear that they were carried on with such rancor towards each other, as those which have distinguished the followers of men who have given names to various denominations of christians. Among these, at least, reason has been perverted by a blind zeal to support the favourite dogmas of spiritual guides, and christendom has been kept in turmoil, for 1800 years, by the ranglings and persecutions of sectarians.
When philosophers speak favourably of the morality of the gospel, they are far from vindicating the cruelties committed in the name of its founder, or the arrogant pretensions of its ministers. In fact, they evidently do it as a salvo against persecution for their unbelief in its divinity, and their disapprobation of the vindictive spirit of its supporters.
The following are the only books of note which are esteemed by the various nations
Shu-King, or sacred book, of the Chinese.
Which of these contain the best or most practical system of morals it might be difficult to determine. But, as the cause of cruelties in the destruction of the human species, I will venture to say, that the Bible stands pre-eminent and unrivalled. Millions have been sacrificed, under both the Jewish and Christian economy, with the false and wicked pretext of honouring the Deity by the inforcement of ridiculous creeds, rights and ceremonies. In the trifling and foolish affair of the molten calf alone, as recorded in the 32d chap. of Exodus, about three thousand men are said to have been
pat to death to appease the pretended jealousy of the Supreme Creator of the Universe. This, and hundreds of other passages that might be cited from the Bible, form a striking contrast with that tolerant spirit of the Koran, in which it is said, “ If God had pleased, he had surely made you one people ; but he hath thought fit to give you different laws, that he might try you in that which he hath given you respectively. Therefore strive to excel each other in good works; unto God shall you all return, and then will he declare unto you that concerning which ye have differed.”--Koran, chap. 5.
I will here insert a concise history of occurrences under the gospel dispensation in Spain, as a sample of what has, and ever will take place, wherever ministers of religion bear sway in government. This I take from a statement, which has recently appeared, of the number of victims to that terrible engine of superstition, cruelty and death, the Inquisition; the bare recital of which chills the blood, and fills the mind with horrid images of suffering humanity under the most excrutiating tortures, wbich awful depravity, disguised in the robes of religion, could invent. The table is extracted from a Critical History of that dreadful tribunal, by J. A. Lorente, one of its late secretaries, and may therefore be considered as indisputably authentic. lt exhibits a detailed list of the respective numbers who have suffered various kinds of punishment and persecution in the Peninsula alone, independent of those who have been its victims in other parts of the world, for a period of 356 years, viz. from 1452 to 1808, during which the Inquisition has existed, under the administration of 44 Inquisitors General. Within that term it appears that in Spain have been burnt 31,718, died in prison or escaped by flight and were burnt in effigy, 174,111, and suffered other punishments, such as whipping, imprisonment, &c. 287,522, making a grand total of 336,651. The greatest number of victims under any administration, was in that of Torquemada, the first Inquistor General, who presided from 1452 to 1499, a ong and bloody reign of 47 years, during which 8,800 victims were burnt, 6,400 died or escaped by flight, and 90,094 suffered various other punishments ; being in the whole, 105,294, or 2,240 per annum !
The use of this horrid instrument of slaughter was abolished by the Cortes ; but is about to be reinstated under the rule of the heaven-born Ferdinand. The consequences of which may be anticipated by the tenor of the following Decree, issued at Madrid, Oct. 13, 1823.
“In casting my eyes (says his Majesty) on the Most igh who had 'deigned to deliver me from so many dangers, and to lead me back as it were by the hand among my faithful subjects, I experience a feeling of horror when I recollect all the sacrifices, all the crimes which the impious have dared to commit against the Sovereign Creator of the Universe.
“The Ministers of Religion have been persecuted and sacrificed—the venerable successor of St. Peter has been insulted—the temples of the Lord profaned and destroyed—the Holy Gospel trodden under foot-lastly, the inestimable inheritance which Jesus Christ left us, the right of his Holy Supper, to assure us of his love, and of our eternal felicity, the sacred Hosts, have been trampled under foot. My soul cannot be at rest till united to my beloved subjects, we shall offer to God pious sacrifices that he may deign to purify by his grace the soil of Spain from so many stains. In order that objects of such importance should be attained, I have resolved that in all places in my dominion, the tribunals, the Juntas, and all public bodies, shall implore the clemency of the Almighty favour the nation, and that the Archbishops, Bishops and Capitular Vicars of vacant Sees, the Priors of Orders, and all those who exercise ecclesiastical jurisdiction, shall prepare missions, which shall exert themselves to destroy erroneous, pernicious, and heretical doctrines, and shut up in the monasteries, of which the rules are the most rigid, those ecelesiastios, who have been the agents of an impious faction.
“ Sealed by my Royal hand !” A Royal hand bathed in blood; the witness of innumerable perjuries. The pious sacrifices to be offered to God are human victims: the best blood of Spain-Riego, &c. Good heavens! is it possible that the enlightened reason of man will long submit to be imposed upon by the canting of such vile, infamous wretches as Ferdinand the Seventh ?
In the opinion of such blotches on the human character, the belief in mysteries and miracles, and the performance of the idle ceremonies ordained by the Church, are sufficient to atone for all sins, and that morals, in comparison, are of no value.