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The Profits of Religion by Upton Sinclair

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An Essay in Economic Interpretation


The Profits of Religion


This book is a study of Supernaturalism from a new point of
view--as a Source of Income and a Shield to Privilege. I have
searched the libraries through, and no one has done it before. If
you read it, you will see that it needed to be done. It has meant
twenty-five years of thought and a year of investigation. It
contains the facts.

I publish the book myself, so that it may be available at the
lowest possible price. I am giving my time and energy, in return
for one thing which you may give me--the joy of speaking a true
word and getting it heard.

The present volume is the first of a series, which will do for
Education, Journalism and Literature what has here been done for
the Church: the four volumes making a work of revolutionary
criticism, an Economic Interpretation of Culture under the
general title of "The Dead Hand."



Book One: The Church of the Conquerors
The Priestly Lie
The Great Fear
Salve Regina!
Fresh Meat
Priestly Empires
The Butcher-Gods
The Holy Inquisition

Book Two: The Church of Good Society
The Rain Makers
The Babylonian Fire-God
The Medicine-men
The Canonization of Incompetence
Gibson's Preservative
The Elders
Church History
Land and Livings
Graft in Tail
Bishops and Beer
Anglicanism and Alcohol
Dead Cats
"Suffer Little Children"
The Court-circular
Trinity Corporation
Spiritual Interpretation

Book Three: The Church of the Servant Girls
God's Armor
The Holy Roman Empire
Temporal Power
Knights of Slavery
Priests and Police
The Church Militant
The Church Triumphant
God in the Schools
The Menace
King Coal
The Unholy Alliance
Secret Service
Tax Exemption
Holy History
Das Centrum

Book Four: The Church of the Slavers
The Face of Caesar
Deutschland ueber Alles
Der Tag
King Cotton
Witches and Women
Moth and Rust
To Lyman Abbott
The Octopus
The Industrial Shelley
The Outlook for Graft
Clerical Camouflage
The Jungle

Book Five: The Church of the Merchants
The Head Merchant
"Herr Beeble"
Holy Oil
Rhetorical Black-hanging
The Great American Fraud
Riches in Glory
Captivating Ideals
Spook Hunting
Running the Rapids
Birth Control

Book Six: The Church of the Quacks
Tabula Rasa
The Book of Mormon
Holy Rolling
Bible Prophecy
Black Magic
Mental Malpractice
Science and Wealth
New Nonsense
"Dollars Want Me!"
Spiritual Financiering
The Graft of Grace

Book Seven: The Church of the Social Revolution
Christ and Caesar
Locusts and Wild Honey
Mother Earth
The Soap Box
The Church Machine
The Church Redeemed
The Desire of Nations
The Knowable
"Nature's Insurgent Son
The New Morality



Bootstrap-lifting? says the reader.

It is a vision I have seen: upon a vast plain, men and women are
gathered in dense throngs, crouched in uncomfortable and
distressing positions, their fingers hooked in the straps of
their boots. They are engaged in lifting themselves; tugging and
straining until they grow red in the face, exhausted. The
perspiration streams from their foreheads, they show every
symptom of distress; the eyes of all are fixed, not upon each
other, nor upon their boot-straps, but upon the sky above. There
is a look of rapture upon their faces, and now and then, amid
grunts and groans, they cry out with excitement and triumph.

I approach one and say to him, "Friend, what is this you are

He answers, without pausing to glance at me, "I am performing
spiritual exercises. See how I rise?"

"But," I say, "you are not rising at all!"

Whereat he becomes instantly angry. "You are one of the

"But, friend," I protest, "don't you feel the earth under your

"You are a materialist!"

"But, friend, I can see--"

"You are without spiritual vision!"

And so I move on among the sweating and groaning hordes. Being of
a sympathetic turn of mind, I cannot help being distressed by the
prevalence of this singular practice among so large a portion of
the human race. How is it possible that none of them should
suspect the futility of their procedure? Or can it really be that
I am uncomprehending? That in some way they are actually getting
off the ground, or about to get off the ground?

Then I observe a new phenomenon: a man gliding here and there
among the bootstrap-lifters, approaching from the rear and
slipping his hands into their pockets. The position of the
spiritual exercisers greatly facilitates his work; their eyes
being cast up to heaven, they do not see him, their thoughts
being occupied, they do not heed him; he goes through their
pockets at leisure, and transfers the contents to a bag he
carries, and then moves on to the next victim. I watch him for a
while, and finally approach and ask, "What are you doing, sir?"

He answers, "I am picking pockets."

"Oh," I say, puzzled by his matter-of-course tone. "But--I beg
pardon--are you a thief?"

"Oh, no," hie answers, smilingly, "I am the agent of the
Wholesale Pickpockets' Association. This is Prosperity."

"I see," I reply. "And these people let you--"

"It is the law," he says. "It is also the gospel."

I turn, following his glance, and observe another person
approaching--a stately figure, clad in scarlet and purple robes,
moving with slow dignity. He gazes about at the sweating and
grunting hordes; now and then he stops and lifts his hands in a
gesture of benediction, and proclaims in rolling tones, "Blessed
are the Bootstrap-lifters, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven."
He moves on, and after a bit stops and announces again, "Man doth
not live by bread alone, but by every word that cometh out of the
mouth of the prophets and priests of Bootstrap-lifting."

Watching a while longer, I see this majestic one approach the
agent of the Wholesale Pickpockets' Association. The agent greets
him as a friend, and proceeds to transfer to the pockets of his
capacious robes a generous share of the loot which he has
collected. The majestic one does not cringe, nor does he make any
effort to hide what is going on. On the contrary he cries aloud,
"It is more blessed to give than to receive!" And again he cries,
"The laborer is worthy of his hire!" And a third time he cries,
yet more sternly, "Render unto Caesar the things which are
Caesar's!" And the Bootstrap-lifters pause long enough to answer:
"Lord have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep this
law!" Then they renew their straining and tugging.

I step up, and in timid tones begin, "Reverend sir, will you tell
me by what right you take this wealth?"

Instantly a frown comes upon his face, and he cries in a voice of
thunder, "Blasphemer!" And all the Bootstrap-lifters desist from
their lifting, and menace me with furious looks. There is a
general call for a policeman of the Wholesale Pickpockets'
Association; and so I fall silent, and slink away in the throng,
and thereafter keep my thoughts to myself.

Over the vast plain I wander, observing a thousand strange and
incredible and terrifying manifestations of the Bootstrap-lifting
impulse. There is, I discover, a regular propaganda on foot; a
long time ago--no man can recall how far back--the Wholesale
Pickpockets made the discovery of the ease with which a man's
pockets could be rifled while he was preoccupied with spiritual
exercises, and they began offering prizes for the best essays in
support of the practice. Now their propaganda is everywhere
triumphant, and year by year we see an increase in the rewards
and emoluments of the prophets and priests of the cult. The
ground is covered with stately temples of various designs, all of
which I am told are consecrated to Bootstrap-lifting. I come to
where a group of people are occupied in laying the corner-stone
of a new white marble structure; I inquire and am informed it is
the First Church of Bootstrap-lifters, Scientist. As I stand
watching, a card is handed to me, informing me that a lady will
do my Bootstrap-lifting at five dollars per lift.

I go on to another building, which I am told is a library
containing volumes in defense of the Bootstrap-lifters, published
under the auspices of the Wholesale Pickpockets. I enter, and
find endless vistas of shelves, also several thousand current
magazines and papers. I consult these--for my legs have given out
in the effort to visit and inspect all phases of the
Bootstrap-lifting practice. I discover that hardly a week passes
that some one does not start a new cult, or revive an old one; if
I had a hundred life-times I could not know all the creeds and
ceremonies, the services and rituals, the litanies and liturgies,
the hymns, anthems and offertories of Bootstrap-lifting. There
are the Holy Roman Bootstrap-lifters, whose priests are fed by
Transubstantiation; the established Anglican Bootstrap-lifters,
whose priests live by "livings"; the Baptist Bootstrap-lifters,
whose preachers practice total immersion in Standard Oil. There
are Yogi Bootstrap-lifters with flowing robes of yellow silk;
Theosophist Bootstrap-lifters with green and purple auras; Mormon
Bootstrap-lifters, Mazdaznan Bootstrap-lifters, Spiritualist and
Spirit-Fruit, Millerite and Dowieite, Holy Roller and Holy
Jumper, Come-to-glory negro, Billy Sunday base-ball and Salvation
Army bass-drum Bootstrap-lifters. There are the thousand
varieties of "New Thought" Bootstrap-lifters; the mystic and
transcendentalist, Swedenborgian and Jacob Boehme
Bootstrap-lifters; the Elbert Hubbard high-art Bootstrap-lifters
with half a million magazinelets at two bits apiece; the "uplift"
and "optimist," the Ralph Waldo Trine and Orison Swett Marden
Bootstrap-lifters with a hundred thousand volumes at one dollar
per volume. There are the Platonist and Hegelian and Kantian
professors of collegiate metaphysical Bootstrap-lifting at
several thousand dollars per year each. There are the Nietzschean
Bootstrap-lifters, who lift themselves to the Superman, and the
art-for-art's-sake, neo-Pagan Bootstrap-lifters, who lift
themselves down to the Ape.

Excepting possibly the last-mentioned group, the priests of all
these cults, the singers, shouters, prayers and exhorters of
Bootstrap-lifting have as their distinguishing characteristic
that they do very little lifting at their own bootstraps, and
less at any other man's. Now and then you may see one bend and
give a delicate tug, of a purely symbolical character: as when
the Supreme Pontiff of the Roman Bootstrap-lifters comes once a
year to wash the feet of the poor; or when the Sunday-school
Superintendent of the Baptist Bootstrap-lifters shakes the hand
of one of his Colorado mine-slaves. But for the most part the
priests and preachers of Bootstrap-lifting walk haughtily erect,
many of them being so swollen with prosperity that they could not
reach their bootstraps if they wanted to. Their role in life is
to exhort other men to more vigorous efforts at self-elevation,
that the agents of the Wholesale Pickpockets' Association may ply
their immemorial role with less chance of interference.


The reader, offended by this raillery, asks if I mean to impugn
the sincerity of all who preach the supremacy of the soul. No; I
admit the honesty of the heroes and madmen of history. All I ask
of the preacher is that he shall make an effort to practice his
doctrine. Let him be tormented like Don Quixote; let him go mad
like Nietzsche; let him stand upon a pillar and be devoured by
worms like Simeon Stylites--on these terms I grant to any dreamer
the right to hold himself above economic science.

Man is an evasive beast, given to cultivating strange notions
about himself. He is humiliated by his simian ancestry, and tries
to deny his animal nature, to persuade himself that he is not
limited by its weaknesses nor concerned in its fate. And this
impulse may be harmless, when it is genuine. But what are we to
say when we see the formulas of heroic self-deception made use of
by unheroic self-indulgence? What are we to say when we see
asceticism preached to the poor by fat and comfortable retainers
of the rich? What are we to say when we see idealism become
hypocrisy, and the moral and spiritual heritage of mankind
twisted to the knavish purposes of class-cruelty and greed? What
I say is--Bootstrap-lifting!

It is the fate of many abstract words to be used in two senses,
one good and the other bad. Morality means the will to
righteousness, or it means Anthony Comstock; democracy means the
rule of the people, or it means Tammany Hall. And so it is with
the word "Religion". In its true sense Religion is the most
fundamental of the soul's impulses, the impassioned love of life,
the feeling of its preciousness, the desire to foster and further
it. In that sense every thinking man must be religious; in that
sense Religion is a perpetually self-renewing force, the very
nature of our being. In that sense I have no thought of assailing
it, I would make clear that I hold it beyond assailment.

But we are denied the pleasure of using the word in that honest
sense, because of another which has been given to it. To the
ordinary man "Religion" means, not the soul's longing for growth,
the "hunger and thirst after righteousness", but certain forms in
which this hunger has manifested itself in history, and prevails
to-day throughout the world; that is to say, institutions having
fixed dogmas and "revelations", creeds and rituals, with an
administering caste claiming supernatural sanction. By such
institutions the moral strivings of the race, the affections of
childhood and the aspirations of youth are made the prerogatives
and stock in trade of ecclesiastical hierarchies. It is the
thesis of this book that "Religion" in this sense is a source of
income to parasites, and the natural ally of every form of
oppression and exploitation.

If by my jesting at "Bootstrap-lifting" I have wounded some dear
prejudice of the reader, let me endeavor to speak in a more
persuasive voice. I am a man who has suffered, and has seen the
suffering of others; I have devoted my life to analyzing the
causes of the suffering, to find out if it be necessary and
fore-ordained, or if by any chance there be a way of escape for
future generations. I have found that the latter is the case; the
suffering is needless, it can with ease and certainty be banished
from the earth. I know this with the knowledge of science--in the
same way that the navigator of a ship knows his latitude and
longitude, and the point of the compass to which he must steer in
order to reach the port.

Come, reader, let us put aside prejudice, and the terrors of the
cults of the unknown. The power which made us has given us a
mind, and the impulse to its use; let us see what can be done
with it to rid the earth of its ancient evils. And do not be
troubled if at the outset this book seems to be entirely
"destructive". I assure you that I am no crude materialist, I am
not so shallow as to imagine that our race will be satisfied with
a barren rationalism. I know that the old symbols came out of the
heart of man because they corresponded to certain needs of the
heart of man. I know that new symbols will be found,
corresponding more exactly to the needs of our time. If here I
set to work to tear down an old and ramshackle building, it is
not from blind destructfulness, but as an architect who means to
put a new and sounder structure in its place. Before we part
company, I shall submit the blue print of that new home of the


The Church of the Conquerors

I saw the Conquerors riding by
With trampling feet of horse and men:
Empire on empire like the tide
Flooded the world and ebbed again;

A thousand banners caught the sun,
And cities smoked along the plain,
And laden down with silk and gold
And heaped up pillage groaned the wain.

The Priestly Lie

When the first savage saw his hut destroyed by a bolt of
lightning, he fell down upon his face in terror. He had no
conception of natural forces, of laws of electricity; he saw this
event as the act of an individual intelligence. To-day we read
about fairies and demons, dryads and fauns and satyrs, Wotan and
Thor and Vulcan, Freie and Flora and Ceres, and we think of all
these as pretty fancies, play-products of the mind; losing sight
of the fact that they were originally meant with entire
seriousness--that not merely did ancient man believe in them, but
was forced to believe in them, because the mind must have an
explanation of things that happen, and an individual intelligence
was the only explanation available. The story of the hero who
slays the devouring dragon was not merely a symbol of day and
night, of summer and winter; it was a literal explanation of the
phenomena, it was the science of early times.

Men imagined supernatural powers such as they could comprehend.
If the lightning god destroyed a hut, obviously it must be
because the owner of the hut had given offense; so the owner must
placate the god, using those means which would be effective in
the quarrels of men--presents of roast meats and honey and fresh
fruits, of wine and gold and jewels and women, accompanied by
friendly words and gestures of submission. And when in spite of
all things the natural evil did not cease, when the people
continued to die of pestilence, then came the opportunity for
hysterical or ambitious persons to discover new ways of
penetrating the mind of the god. There would be dreamers of
dreams and seers of visions and hearers of voices; readers of the
entrails of beasts and interpreters of the flight of birds; there
would be burning bushes and stone tablets on mountain-tops, and
inspired words dictated to aged disciples on lonely islands.
There would arise special castes of men and women, learned in
these sacred matters; and these priestly castes would naturally
emphasize the importance of their calling, would hold themselves
aloof from the common herd, endowed with special powers and
entitled to special privileges. They would interpret the oracles
in ways favorable to themselves and their order; they would
proclaim themselves friends and confidants of the god, walking
with him in the night-time, receiving his messengers and angels,
acting as his deputies in forgiving offenses, in dealing
punishments and in receiving gifts. They would become makers of
laws and moral codes. They would wear special costumes to
distinguish them, they would go through elaborate ceremonies to
impress their followers, employing all sensuous effects,
architecture and sculpture and painting, music and poetry and
dancing, candles and incense and bells and gongs

And storied winnows richly dight,
Casting a dim religious light.
There let the pealing organ blow,
To the full-voiced choir below,
In service high and anthem clear,
As may with sweetness through mine ear
Dissolve me into ecstacies,
And bring all heaven before mine eyes.

So builds itself up, in a thousand complex and complicated forms,
the Priestly Lie. There are a score of great religions in the
world, each with scores or hundreds of sects, each with its
priestly orders, its complicated creed and ritual, its heavens
and hells. Each has its thousands or millions or hundreds of
millions of "true believers"; each damns all the others, with
more or less heartiness--and each is a mighty fortress of Graft.

There will be few readers of this book who have not been brought
up under the spell of some one of these systems of
Supernaturalism; who have not been taught to speak with respect
of some particular priestly order, to thrill with awe at some
particular sacred rite, to seek respite from earthly woes in some
particular ceremonial spell. These things are woven into our very
fibre in childhood; they are sanctified by memories of joys and
griefs, they are confused with spiritual struggles, they become
part of all that is most vital in our lives. The reader who
wishes to emancipate himself from their thrall will do well to
begin with a study of the beliefs and practices of other sects
than his own--a field where he is free to observe and examine
without fear of sacrilege. Let him look into Madame Blavatsky's
"Secret Doctrine", or her "Isis Unveiled"!--encyclopedias of the
fantastic inventions which terror and longing have wrung out of
the tortured soul of man. Here are mysteries and solemnities,
charms and spells, illuminations and transmigrations, angels and
demons, guides, controls and masters--all of which it is
permissible to refuse to support with gifts. Let the reader then
go to James Freeman Clarke's "Ten Great Religions", and realize
how many billions of humans have lived and died in the solemn
certainty that their welfare on earth and in heaven depended upon
their accepting certain ideas and practicing certain rites, all
mutually exclusive and incompatible, each damning the others and
the followers of the others. So gradually the realization will
come to him that the test of a doctrine about life and its
welfare must be something else than the fact that one was born to

The Great Fear

It was not the fault of primitive man that he was ignorant, nor
that his ignorance made him a prey to dread. The traces of his
mental suffering will inspire in us only pity and sympathy; for
Nature is a grim school-mistress, and not all her lessons have
yet been learned. We have a right to scorn and anger only when we
see this dread being diverted from its true function, a stimulus
to a search for knowledge, and made into a means of clamping down
ignorance upon the mind of the race. That this has been the
deliberate policy of institutionalized Religion no candid student
can deny.

The first thing brought forth by the study of any religion,
ancient or modern, is that it is based upon Fear, born of it, fed
by it--and that it cultivates the source from which its
nourishment is derived. "The fear of divine anger", says Prof.
Jastrow, "runs as an undercurrent through the entire religious
literature of Babylonia and Assyria." In the words of
Tabi-utul-Enlil, King of ancient Nippur:
Who is there that can grasp the will of the gods in heaven?
The plan of a god is full of mystery--who can understand it?
He who is still alive at evening is dead the next morning.
In an instant he is cast into grief, in a moment he is crushed.

And that cry might be duplicated from almost any page of the
Hebrew scriptures: the only difference being that the Hebrews
combined all their fears into one Great Fear. "The fear of the
Lord is the beginning of wisdom," we are told by Solomon of the
thousand wives; and the Psalmist repeats it. "Dominion and fear
are with Him," cries Job. "How then can any man be just before
God? Or how can he be clean that is born of a woman? Behold, even
the moon hath no brightness, and the stars are not pure in His
sight: How much less man, that is a worm? And the son of man,
which is a worm?" He goes on, in his lyrical rapture, "Sheol is
naked before Him, and Destruction hath no covering. . . . The
pillars of heaven tremble and are astonished at His rebuke. . . .
The thunder of His power who can understand?" That all this is
some of the world's great poetry does not in the least alter the
fact that it is an abasement of the soul, an hysterical
perversion of the facts of life, and a preparation of the mind
for the seeds of Priestcraft.

The Book of Job has been called a "Wisdom-drama": and what is the
denouement of this drama, what is ancient Hebrew wisdom's last
word about life? "Wherefore I abhor myself," says Job, "and
repent in dust and ashes." The poor fellow has done nothing; we
have been told at the beginning that he "was perfect and upright,
and one that feared God, and eschewed evil." But the Sabeans and
the Chaldeans rob him, and "the fire of God" falls from heaven
and burns up his sheep and his servants, and "a great wind from
the wilderness" kills his sons and daughters; and then his body
becomes covered with boils--a phenomenon caused in part by worry,
and the consequent nervous indigestion, but mainly by excess of
starch and deficiency of mineral salts in the diet. Job, however,
has never heard of the fasting cure for disease, and so he takes
him a potsherd to scrape himself withal, and he sits among the
ashes--a highly unsanitary procedure enforced by his religious
ritual. So naturally he feels like a worm, and abhors himself,
and cries out: "I know that Thou canst do all things, and that no
purpose of Thine can be restrained." By which utter, unreasoning
humility he succeeds in appeasing the Great Fear, and his friends
make a sacrifice of seven bullocks and seven rams--a feast for a
whole templeful of priests--and then "the Lord gave Job twice as
much as he had before. . . . And after this Job lived an hundred
and forty years, and saw his sons and his sons' sons, even four

You do not have to look very deeply into this "Wisdom-drama" to
find out whose wisdom it is. Confess your own ignorance and your
own impotence, abandon yourself utterly, and then we, the sacred
Caste, the Keepers of the Holy Secrets, will secure you pardon
and respite--in exchange for fresh meat. Here are verses from a
psalm of the ancient Babylonians, which "heathen" chant is
identical in spirit and purpose with the utterances of Job:

The Sin that I have wrought, I know not;
The unclean that I have eaten, I know not;
The offense into which I have walked, I know not....
The lord, in the wrath of his heart, hath regarded me;
The god, in the anger of his heart, hath surrounded me;
A goddess, known or unknown, hath wrought me sorrow....
I sought for help, but no one took my hand;
I wept, but no one harkened to me....
The feet of my goddess I kiss, I touch them;
To the god, known or unknown, I utter my prayer;
O god, known or unknown, turn thy countenance, accept my
O goddess, known or unknown, look mercifully on me! accept
my sacrifice!

Salve Regina!

And now let the reader leap three thousand years of human
history, of toil and triumph of the intellect of man; and instead
of a Hebrew manuscript or a Babylonian brick there confronts him
a little publication, printed on a modern rotary press in the
capital of the United States of America, bearing the date of
October, 1914, and the title "Salve Regina". In it we find "a
beautiful prayer", composed by the late cardinal Rampolla; we are
told that "Pius X attached to it an indulgence of 100 days, each
time it is piously recited, applicable to the souls in

O Blessed Virgin, Mother of God, cast a glance from Heaven, where
thou sittest as Queen, upon this poor sinner, your servant.
Though conscious of his unworthiness.... he blesses and exalts
thee from his whole heart as the purest, the most beautiful and
the most holy of creatures. He blesses thy holy name. He blesses
thy sublime prerogatives as real Mother of God, ever Virgin,
conceived without stain of sin, as co-Redemptress of the human
race. He blesses the Eternal Father who chose you, etc. He
blesses the Incarnate Word, etc. He blesses the Divine Spirit,
etc. He blesses, exalts and thanks the most august Trinity, etc.
O Virgin, holy and merciful . . . be pleased to accept this
little homage of your servant, and obtain for him also from your
divine Son pardon for his sins, Amen.

And then, looking more closely, we discover the purpose of this
"beautiful prayer", and of the neat little paper which prints it.
"Salve Regina" is raising funds for the "National Shrine of the
Immaculate Conception", a home for more priests, and Catholic
ladies who desire to collect for it may receive little books
which they are requested to return within three months. Pius X
writes a letter of warm endorsement, and sets an example by
giving four hundred dollars "out of his poverty"--or, to be more
precise, out of the poverty of the pitiful peasantry of Italy.
There is included in the paper a form of bequest for "devoted
clients of Our Blessed Mother", and at the top of the editorial
page the most alluring of all baits for the loving hearts of the
flock--that the names of deceased relatives and friends may be
written in the collection books, and will be transferred to the
records of the Shrine, and these persons "will share in all its
spiritual benefits". In the days of Job it was with threats of
boils and poverty that the Priestly Lie maintained itself; but in
the case of this blackest of all Terrors, transplanted to our
free Republic from the heart of the Dark Ages, the wretched
victims see before their eyes the glare of flames, and hear the
shrieks of their loved ones writhing in torment through uncounted
ages and eternities.

Fresh Meat

In the days when I was experimenting with vegetarianism, I sought
earnestly for evidence of a non-meat-eating race; but candor
compelled me to admit that man was like the monkey and the pig
and the bear--he was vegetarian when he could not help it. The
advocates of the reform insist that meat as a diet causes muddy
brains and dulled nerves; but you would certainly never suspect
this from a study of history. What you find in history is that
all men crave meat, all struggle for it, and the strongest and
cleverest get it. Everywhere you find the subject classes living
in the midst of animals which they tend, but whose flesh they
rarely taste. Even in modern America, sweet land of liberty, our
millions of tenant farmers raise chickens and geese and turkeys,
and hardly venture to consume as much as an egg, but save
everything for the summer-boarder or the buyer from the city. It
would not be too much to say of the cultural records of early man
that they all have to do, directly or indirectly, with the
reserving of fresh meat to the masters. In J. T. Trowbridge's
cheerful tale of the adventures of Captain Seaborn, we are told
by the cannibal priest how idol-worship has ameliorated the
morals of the tribe--

For though some warriors of renown
Continue anthropophagous,
'Tis rare that human flesh goes down
The low-caste man's aesophagus!

I suspect that we should have to go back to the days of the
cave-man to find the first lover of the flesh-pots who put a
taboo upon meat, and promised supernatural favors to all who
would exercise self-control, and instead of consuming their meat
themselves, would bring it and lay it upon the sacred griddle, or
altar, where the god might come in the night-time and partake of
it. Certainly, at any rate, there are few religions of record in
which such devices do not appear. The early laws of the Hebrews
are more concerned with delicatessen for the priests than with
any other subject whatever. Here, for example, is the way to make
a Nazarite:

He shall offer his offering up to the Lord, one he lamb of the
first year without blemish for a burnt offering, and one ewe lamb
of the first year without blemish for a sin offering, and one ram
without blemish for peace offerings, and a basket of unleavened
bread, cakes of fine flour mingled with oil, and wafers of
unleavened bread anointed with oil, and their meat offerings.

And the law goes on to instruct the priests to take certain
choice, parts and "wave them for a wave offering before the Lord:
this is holy for the priest." What was done with the other
portions we are not told; but earlier in this same "Book of
Numbers" we find the general law that

Every offering of all the holy things of the children of Israel,
which they bring unto the priest, shall be his. And every man's
hallowed things shall be his: whatsoever any man giveth to the
priest, it shall be his.

In the same way we are told by Viscount Amberley that the priests
of Ceylon first present the gifts to the god, and then eat them.
Among the Parsees, when a man dies, the relatives must bring four
new robes to the priests; if they do this, the priests wear the
robes; if they fail to do it, the dead man appears naked before
the judgment-throne. The devotees are instructed that "he who
performs this rite succeeds in both worlds, and obtains a firm
footing in both worlds." Among the Buddhists, the followers give
alms to the monks, and are told specifically what advantages will
thereby accrue to them. In the Aitareyo Brahmairiarn of the
Rig-Veda we read

He who, knowing this, sacrifices according to this rite, is born
from the womb of Agni and the offerings, participates in the
nature of the Rik, Yajus, and Saman, the Veda (sacred knowledge),
the Brahma (sacred element) and immortality, and is absorbed into
the deity.

Among the Parsees the priest eats the bread and drinks the haoma,
or juice of a plant, considered to be both a plant and a god.
Among the Episcopalians, a contemporary Christian sect, the
sacred juice is that of the grape, and the priest is not allowed
to throw away what is left of it, but is ordered "reverently to
consume it." In as much as the priest is the sole judge of how
much good sherry wine he shall consecrate previous to the
ceremony, it is to be expected that the priests of this cult
should be lukewarm towards the prohibition movement, and should
piously refuse to administer their sacrament with unfermented and
uninteresting grape-juice.

Priestly Empires

In every human society of which we have record there has been one
class which has done the hard and exhausting work, the "hewers of
wood and drawers of water"; and there has been another, much
smaller class which has done the directing. To belong to this
latter class is to work also, but with the head instead of the
hands; it is also to enjoy the good things of life, to live in
the best houses, to eat the best food, to have choice of the most
desirable women; it is to have leisure to cultivate the mind and
appreciate the arts, to acquire graces and distinctions, to give
laws and moral codes, to shape fashions and tastes, to be revered
and regarded--in short, to have Power. How to get this Power and
to hold it has been the first object of the thoughts of men from
the beginning of time.

The most obvious method is by the sword; but this method is
uncertain, for any man may take up a sword, and some may succeed
with it. It will be found that empires based upon military force
alone, however cruel they may be, are not permanent, and
therefore not so dangerous to progress; it is only when
resistance is paralyzed by the agency of Superstition, that the
race can be subjected to systems of exploitation for hundreds and
even thousands of years. The ancient empires were all priestly
empires; the kings ruled because they obeyed the will of the
priests, taught to them from childhood as the word of the gods.

Thus, for instance, Prescott tells us:

Terror, not love, was the spring of education with the Aztecs....
Such was the crafty policy of the priests, who, by reserving to
themselves the business of instruction, were enabled to mould the
young and plastic mind according to their own wills, and to train
it early to implicit reverence for religion and its ministers.

The historian goes on to indicate the economic harvest of this

To each of the principal temples, lands were annexed for the
maintenance of the priests. The estates were augmented by the
policy or devotion of successive princes, until, under the last
Montezuma, they had swollen to an enormous extent, and covered
every district of the empire.

And this concerning the frightful system of human sacrifices,
whereby the priestly caste maintained the prestige of its

At the dedication of the temple of Huitzilopochtli, in 1486, the
prisoners, who for some years had been reserved for the purpose,
were ranged in files, forming a procession nearly two miles long.
The ceremony consumed several days, and seventy thousand captives
are said to have perished at the shrine of this terrible deity.

The same system appears in Professor Jastrow's account of the
priesthood of Babylonia and Assyria:

The ultimate source of all law being the deity himself, the
original legal tribunal was the place where the image or symbol
of the god stood. A legal decision was an oracle or omen,
indicative of the will of the god. The power thus lodged in the
priests of Babylonia and Assyria was enormous. They virtually
held in their hands the life and death of the people.

And of the business side of this vast religious system:

The temples were the natural depositories of the legal archives,
which in the course of centuries grew to veritably enormous
proportions. Records were made of all decisions; the facts were
set forth, and duly attested by witnesses. Business and marriage
contracts, loans and deeds of sale were in like manner drawn up
in the presence of official scribes, who were also priests. In
this way all commercial transactions received the written
sanction of the religious organization. The temples
themselves--at least in the large centres--entered into business
relations with the populace. In order to maintain the large
household represented by such an organization as that of the
temple of Enlil of Nippur, that of Ningirsu at Lagash, that of
Marduk at Babylon, or that of Shamash at Sippar, large holdings
of land were required which, cultivated by agents for the
priests, or farmed out with stipulations for a goodly share of
the produce, secured an income for the maintenance of the temple
officials. The enterprise of the temples was expanded to the
furnishing of loans at interest--in later periods, at 20%--to
barter in slaves, to dealings in lands, besides engaging labor
for work of all kinds directly needed for the temples. A large
quantity of the business documents found in the temple archives
are concerned with the business affairs of the temple, and we are
justified in including the temples in the large centres as among
the most important business institutions of the country. In
financial or monetary transactions the position of the temples
was not unlike that of national banks. . . .

And so on. We may venture the guess that the learned professor
said more in that last sentence than he himself intended, for his
lectures were delivered in that temple of plutocracy, the
University of Pennsylvania, and paid out of an endowment which
specifies that "all polemical subjects shall be positively


These priestly empires exist in the world today. If we wish to
find them we have only to ask ourselves: What countries are
making no contribution to the progress of the race? What
countries have nothing to give us, whether in art, science, or

For example, Gervaise tells us of the Talapoins, or priests of
Siam, that "they are exempted from all public charges, they
salute nobody, while everybody prostrates himself before them.
They are maintained at the public expense." In the same way we
read of the negroes of the Caribbean islands that "their priests
and priestesses exercise an almost unlimited power." Miss
Kingsley, in her "West African Studies", tells us that if we
desire to understand the institutions of this district, we must
study the native's religion.

For his religion has so firm a grasp upon his mind that it
influences everything he does. It is not a thing apart, as the
religion of the Europeans is at times. The African cannot say,
"Oh, that is all right from a religious point of view, but one
must be practical." To be practical, to get on in the world, to
live the day and night through, he must be right in the religious
point of view, namely, must be on working terms with the great
world of spirits around him. The knowledge of this spirit world
constitutes the religion of the African, and his customs and
ceremonies arise from his idea of the best way to influence it.

Or consider Henry Savage Landor's account of Thibet:

In Lhassa and many other sacred places fanatical pilgrims make
circumambulations, sometimes for miles and miles, and for days
together, covering the entire distance lying flat upon their
bodies.... From the ceiling of the temple hang hundreds of long
strips, katas, offered by pilgrims to the temple, and becoming so
many flying prayers when hung up--for mechanical praying in every
way is prominent in Thibet.... Thus instead of having to learn by
heart long and varied prayers, all you have to do is to stuff the
entire prayer-book into a prayer-wheel, and revolve it while
repeating as fast as you can four words meaning, "O God, the gem
emerging from the lotus-flower.". . . . The attention of the
pilgrims is directed to a large box, or often a big bowl, where
they may deposit whatever offerings they can spare, and it must
be said that their religious ideas are so strongly developed that
they will dispose of a considerable portion of their money in
this fashion.... The Lamas are very clever in many ways, and have
a great hold over the entire country. They are ninety per cent of
them unscrupulous scamps, depraved in every way and given to
every sort of vice. So are the women Lamas. They live and sponge
on the credulity and ignorance of the crowds; it is to maintain
this ignorance, upon which their luxurious life depends, that
foreign influence of every kind is strictly kept out of the

The Butcher-Gods

In this last sentence we have summed up the fundamental fact
about institutionalized religion. Wherever belief and ritual have
become the means of livelihood of a class, all innovation will of
necessity be taken as an attack upon that class; it will be
literally a crime--robbing the priests of their age-long
privileges. And of course they will oppose the robber--using
every weapon of terrorism, both of this world and the next. They
will require the submission, not merely of their own people, but
of their neighbors, and their jealousy of rival priestly castes
will be a cause of wars. The story of the early days of mankind
is a sickening record of torture and slaughter in the name of ten
thousand butcher-gods.

Thus, for example, we read in the Hebrew religious records how
the priests were engaged in establishing the prestige of a fetish
called "the ark"; and how the people of one tribe violated this
fetish and wakened the wrath of Jehovah, the god.

And he smote the men of Beth-shemesh, because they had looked
into the ark of the Lord, even he smote of the people fifty
thousand and three score and ten men; and the people lamented,
because the Lord had smitten many of the people with a great
slaughter. And the men of Beth-shemesh said, Who is able to stand
before this holy Lord God?

This terrible old Hebrew divinity said of himself that he was "a
jealous god". Throughout the time of his sway he issued through
his ministers precise instructions for the most revolting
cruelties, the extermination of whole nations of men, women and
children, whose sole offense was that they did not pay tribute to
Jehovah's priests. Thus, for example, the chief of his prophets,
Moses, called the people together, and with all solemnity, and
with many warnings, handed down ten commandments graven upon
stone tablets; he went on to set forth how the people were to set
upon and rob their neighbors, and gave them these blood-thirsty

When the Lord thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou
goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee,
the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the
Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the
Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou; And when
the Lord thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite
them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with
them, nor shew mercy unto them: ... But thus shall ye deal with
them; ye shall destroy their altars, and break down their images,
and cut down their groves, and burn their graven images with
fire. For thou art a holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lord
thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself,
above all people that are upon the face of the earth.

The records of this Jehovah are full of similar horrors. He sent
his chosen people out to destroy the Midianites, and they slew
all the males, but this was not sufficient, and Moses was wroth,
and commanded them to kill all the married women, and to take the
single women "for themselves". We are told that sixteen thousand
single women were spared, of whom "the Lord's tribute was thirty
and two!" In the Book of Joshua we read that he had an interview
with a supernatural personage called "the captain of the Lord's
host", and how this captain had given to him a magic spell which
would destroy the city of Jericho. The city should be accursed,
"even it and all that are therein, to the Lord"; every living
thing except one traitor-harlot was to be slaughtered, and all
the wealth of the city reserved to the priestly caste. This was
carried out to the letter, except that "Achan, the son of Carmi,
the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took
of the accursed thing"--that is, he hid some gold and silver in
his tent; whereupon the army met with a defeat, and everybody
knew that something was wrong, and Joshua rent his clothes and
fell to the earth upon his face before the ark of the Lord, and
got another message from Jehovah, to the effect that the guilty
man should be burned with fire, "he and all that he hath."

And Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah,
and the silver, and the garment, and the wedge of gold, and his
sons, and his daughters, and his oxen, and his asses, and his
sheep, and his tent, and all that he had: and they brought them
unto the Valley of Achor. And Joshua said, Why hast thou troubled
us? the Lord shall trouble thee this day. And all Israel stoned
him with stones, and burned them with fire, after they had stoned
him with stones.

We have no means of knowing what was the character of the
unfortunate inhabitants of the city of Jericho, nor of the
Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and all the rest of
the victims of Jehovah. To be sure, we are told by the Hebrew
priests that they sacrificed their children to their gods; but
then, consider what we should believe about the Hebrew religion,
if we took the word of rival priestly castes! Consider, for
example, that in this twentieth century we saw an orthodox Jew
tried in a Russian court of law for having made a sacrifice of
Christian babies; nevertheless we know that the Jews represent a
considerable part of the intelligence and idealism of Russia. We
know in the same way that the Moors had most of the culture and
all of the scientific knowledge of Spain; that the Huguenots had
most of the conscience and industry of France; and we know that
they were massacred or driven out to death by the priestly castes
of the Middle Ages.

The Holy Inquisition

Let us have one glimpse of the conditions in those mediaeval
times, so that we may know what we ourselves have escaped. In the
fifteenth century there was established in Europe the cult of a
three-headed god, whose priests had won lordship over a
continent. They were enormously wealthy, and unthinkably corrupt;
they sold to the rich the license to commit every possible crime,
and they held the poor in ignorance and degradation. Among the
comparatively intelligent and freedom-loving people of Bohemia
there arose a great reformer, John Huss, himself a priest,
protesting against the corruptions of his order. They trapped him
into their power by means of a "safe-conduct"--which they
repudiated because no promise to a heretic could have validity.
They found him guilty of having taught the hateful doctrine that
a priest who committed crimes could not give absolution for the
crimes of others; and they held an auto de fe--which means a
"sentence of faith." As we read in Lea's "History of the

The cathedral of Constance was crowded with Sigismund (the
Emperor) and his nobles, the great officers of the empire with
their insignia, the prelates in their splendid robes. While mass
was sung, Huss, as an excommunicate, was kept waiting at the
door; when brought in he was placed on an elevated bench by a
table on which stood a coffer containing priestly vestments.
After some preliminaries, including a sermon by the Bishop of
Lodi, in which he assured Sigismund that the events of that day
would confer on him immortal glory, the articles of which Huss
was convicted were recited. In vain he protested that he believed
in transubstantiation and in the validity of the sacrament in
polluted hands. He was ordered to hold his tongue, and on his
persisting the beadles were told to silence him, but in spite of
this he continued to utter protests. The sentence was then read
in the name of the council, condemning him both for his written
errors and those which had been proven by witnesses. He was
declared a pertinacious and incorrigible heretic who did not
desire to return to the Church; his books were ordered to be
burned, and himself to be degraded from the priesthood and
abandoned to the secular court. Seven bishops arrayed him in
priestly garb and warned him to recant while yet there was time.
He turned to the crowd, and with broken voice declared that he
could not confess the errors which he never entertained, lest he
should lie to God, when the bishops interrupted him, crying that
they had waited long enough, for he was obstinate in his heresy.
He was degraded in the usual manner, stripped of his sacerdotal
vestments, his fingers scraped; but when the tonsure was to be
disposed of, an absurd quarrel arose among the bishops as to
whether the head should be shaved with a razor or the tonsure be
destroyed with scissors. Scissors won the day, and a cross was
cut in his hair. Then on his head was placed a conical paper cap,
a cubit in height, adorned with painted devils and the
inscription, "This is the heresiarch."

The place of execution was a meadow near the river, to which he
was conducted by two thousand armed men, with Palsgrave Louis at
their head, and a vast crowd, including many nobles, prelates,
and cardinals. The route followed was circuitous, in order that
he might be carried past the episcopal palace, in front of which
his books were burning, whereat he smiled. Pity from man there
was none to look for, but he sought comfort on high, repeating to
himself, "Christ Jesus, Son of the living God, have mercy upon
us!" and when he came in sight of the stake he fell on his knees
and prayed. He was asked if he wished to confess, and said that
he would gladly do so if there were space. A wide circle was
formed, and Ulrich Schorand, who, according to custom, had been
providently empowered to take advantage of final weakening, came
forward, saying, "Dear sir and master, if you will recant your
unbelief and heresy, for which you must suffer, I will willingly
hear your confession; but if you will not, you know right well
that, according to canon law, no one can administer the sacrament
to a heretic." To this Huss answered, "It is not necessary: I am
not a mortal sinner." His paper crown fell off and he smiled as
his guards replaced it. He desired to take leave of his keepers,
and when they were brought to him he thanked them for their
kindness, saying that they had been to him rather brothers than
jailers. Then he commenced to address the crowd in German,
telling them that he suffered for errors which he did not hold,
and he was cut short. When bound to the stake, two cartloads of
fagots and straw were piled up around him, and the palsgrave and
vogt for the last time adjured him to abjure. Even yet he could
save himself, but only repeated that he had been convicted by
false witnesses on errors never entertained by him. They clapped
their hands and then withdrew, and the executioners applied the
fire. Twice Huss was heard to exclaim, "Christ Jesus, Son of the
living God, have mercy upon me!" then a wind springing up and
blowing the flames and smoke into his face checked further
utterances, but his head was seen to shake and his lips to move
while one might twice or thrice recite a paternoster. The tragedy
was over; the sorely-tried soul bad escaped from its tormentors,
and the bitterest enemies of the reformer could not refuse to him
the praise that no philosopher of old had faced death with more
composure than he had shown in his dreadful extremity. No
faltering of the voice had betrayed an internal struggle.
Palsgrave Louis, seeing Huss's mantle on the arm of one of the
executioners, ordered it thrown into the flames lest it should be
reverenced as a relic, and promised the man to compensate him.
With the same view the body was carefully reduced to ashes and
thrown into the Rhine, and even the earth around the stake was
dug up and carted off; yet the Bohemians long hovered around the
spot and carried home fragments of the neighboring clay, which
they reverenced as relies of their martyr. The next day thanks
were returned to God in a solemn procession in which figured
Sigismund and his queen, the princes and nobles, nineteen
cardinals, two patriarchs, seventy-seven bishops, and all the
clergy of the council. A few days later Sigismund, who had
delayed his departure for Spain to see the matter concluded, left
Constance, feeling that his work was done.


If such a scene could be witnessed in the world today, it would
only be in some remote and wholly savage place, such as the
mountains of Hayti, or the Solomon Islands. It could no longer
happen in any civilized country; the reason being, not any
abatement of the pretensions of the priesthood, but solely the
power of science, embodied in the physical arm of a secular
State. The advance of that arm the church has fought
systematically, in every country, and at every point. To quote
Buckle: "A careful study of the history of religious toleration
will prove that in every Christian country where it has been
adopted, it has been forced upon the clergy by the authority of
the secular classes." The wolf of superstition has been driven
into its lair; but it has backed away snarling, and it still
crouches, watching for a chance to spring. The Church which
burned John Huss, which burned Giordano Bruno for teaching that
the earth moves round the sun--that same church, in the name of
the same three-headed god, sent out Francesco Ferrer to the
firing-squad; if it does not do the same thing to the author of
this book, it will be solely because of the police. Not being
allowed to burn me here, the clergy will vent their holy
indignation by sentencing me to eternal burning in a future world
which they have created, and which they run to suit themselves.

It is a fact, the significance of which cannot be exaggerated,
that the measure of the civilization which any nation has
attained is the extent to which it has curtailed the power of
institutionalized religion. Those peoples which are wholly under
the sway of the priesthood, such as Thibetans and Koreans,
Siamese and Caribbeans, are peoples among whom the intellectual
life does not exist. Farther in advance are Hindoos, and Turks,
who are religious, but not exclusively. Still farther on the way
are Spaniards and Irish; here, for example, is a flashlight of
the Irish peasantry, given by one of their number, Patrick

The merchant was a great friend of the parish priest, who always
told the people if they did not pay their debts they would burn
for ever and ever in hell. "The fires of eternity will make you
sorry for the debts that you did not pay," said the priest. "What
is eternity?" he would ask in a solemn voice from the altar
steps. "If a man tried to count the sands on the sea-shore and
took a million years to count every single grain, how long would
it take him to count them all? A long time, you'll say. But that
time is nothing to eternity. Just think of it! Burning in hell
while a man, taking a million years to count a grain of sand,
counts all the sand on the sea-shore. And this because you did
not pay Farley McKeown his lawful debts, his lawful debts within
the letter of the law." That concluding phrase, "within the
letter of the law," struck terror into all who listened, and no
one, maybe not even the priest himself, knew what it meant.

There is light in Ireland to-day, and hope for an Irish culture;
the thing to be noted is that it comes from two movements, one
for agricultural co-operation and the other for political
independence--both of them definitely and specifically
non-religious. This same thing has been true of the movements
which have helped on happier nations, such as the republics of
France and America, which have put an end to the power of the
priestly caste to take property by force, and to dominate the
mind of the child without its parents' consent.

This is as far as any nation has so far gone; it has apparently
not yet occurred to any legislature that the State may owe a duty
to the child to protect its mind from being poisoned, even though
it has the misfortune to be born of poisoned parents. It is still
permitted that parents should terrify their little ones with
images of a personal devil and a hell of eternal brimstone and
sulphur; it is permitted to found schools for the teaching of
devil-doctrines; it is permitted to organize gigantic campaigns
and systematically to infect whole cities full of men, women and
children with hell-fire phobias. In the American city where I
write one may see gatherings of people sunk upon their knees,
even rolling on the ground in convulsions, moaning, sobbing,
screaming to be delivered from such torments. I open my morning
paper and read of the arrest of five men and seven women in Los
Angeles, members of a sect known as the "Church of the Living
God", upon a charge of having disturbed the peace of their
neighbors. The police officers testified that the accused claimed
to be possessed of the divine spirit, and that as signs of this
possession they "crawled on the floor, grunted like pigs and
barked like dogs." There were "other acts, even more startling",
about which the newspapers did not go into details. And again, a
week or two later, I read how a woman has been heard screaming,
and found tied to a bedpost, being whipped by a man. She belonged
to a religious sect which had found her guilty of witchcraft.
Another woman was about to shoot her, but this woman's nerve
failed, and the "high priest" was called in, who decreed a
whipping. The victim explained to the police that she would have
deserved to be whipped had she really been a witch, but a mistake
had been made--it was another woman who was the witch. And again
in the Los Angeles "Times" I read a perfectly serious news item,
telling how a certain man awakened one morning, and found on his
pillow where his head had lain a perfect reproduction of the head
of Christ with its crown of thorns. He called in his neighbors to
witness the miracle, and declared that while he was not
superstitious, he knew that such a thing could not have happened
by chance, and he knew what it was intended to signify--he would
buy more Liberty Bonds and be more ardent in his support of the

And this is the world in which our scientists and men of culture
think that the battle of the intellect is won, and that it is no
longer necessary to spend our energies in fighting "Religion!"


The Church of Good Society

Within the House of Mammon his priesthood stands alert
By mysteries attended, by dusk and splendors girt,
Knowing, for faiths departed, his own shall still endure,
And they be found his chosen, untroubled, solemn, sure.

Within the House of Mammon the golden altar lifts
Where dragon-lamps are shrouded as costly incense drifts--
A dust of old ideals, now fragrant from the coals,
To tell of hopes long-ended, to tell the death of souls

The Rain Makers

I begin with the Church of Good Society, because it happens to be
the Church in which I was brought up. Reading this statement,
some of my readers suspected me of snobbish pride. I search my
heart; yes, it brings a hidden thrill that as far back as I can
remember I knew this atmosphere of urbanity, that twice every
Sunday those melodious and hypnotizing incantations were chanted
in my childish ears! I take up the book of ritual, done in
aristocratic black leather with gold lettering, and the old worn
volume brings me strange stirrings of recollected awe. But I
endeavor to repress these vestigial emotions and to see the
volume--not as a message from God to Good Society, but as a
landmark of man's age-long struggle against myth and dogma used
as a source of income and a shield to privilege.

In the beginning, of course, the priest and the magician ruled
the field. But today, as I examine this "Book of Common Prayer",
I discover that there is at least one spot out of which he has
been cleared entirely; there appears no prayer to planets to
stand still, or to comets to go away. The "Church of Good
Society" has discovered astronomy! But if any astronomer
attributes this to his instruments with their marvelous accuracy,
let him at least stop to consider my "economic interpretation" of
the phenomenon--the fact that the heavenly bodies affect the
destinies of mankind so little that there has not been sufficient
emolument to justify the priest in holding on to his job as

But when you come to the field of meteorology, what a difference!
Has any utmost precision of barometer been able to drive the
priest out of his prerogatives as rainmaker? Not even in the most
civilized of countries; not in that most decorous and dignified
of institutions, the Protestant Episcopal Church of America! I
study with care the passage wherein the clergyman appears as
controller of the fate of crops. I note a chastened caution of
phraseology; the church will not repeat the experience of the
sorcerer's apprentice, who set the demons to bringing water, and
then could not make them stop! The spell invokes "moderate rain
and showers"; and as an additional precaution there is a
counter-spell against "excessive rains and floods": the
weather-faucet being thus under exact control.

I turn the pages of this "Book of Common Prayer", and note the
remnants of magic which it contains. There are not many of the
emergencies of life with which the priest is not authorized to
deal; not many natural phenomena for which he may not claim the
credit. And in case anything should have been overlooked, there
is a blanket order upon Providence: "Graciously hear us, that
those evils which the craft or subtilty of the devil or man
worketh against us, be brought to nought!" I am reminded of the
idea which haunted my childhood, reading fairy-stories about the
hero who was allowed three wishes that would come true. I could
never understand why the hero did not settle the matter once for
all--by wishing that everything he wished might come true!

Most of these incantations are harmless, and some are amiable;
but now and then you come upon one which is sinister in its
implications. The volume before me happens to be of the Church of
England, which is even more forthright in its confronting of the
Great Magic. Many years ago I remember talking with an English
army officer, asking how he could feel sure of his soldiers in
case of labor strikes; did it never occur to him that the men had
relatives among the workers, and might some time refuse to shoot
them? His answer was that he was aware of it, the military had
worked out its technique with care. He would never think of
ordering his men to fire upon a mob in cold blood; he would first
start the spell of discipline to work, he would march them round
the block, and get them in the swing, get their blood moving to
military music; then, when he gave the order, in they would go. I
have never forgotten the gesture, the animation with which he
illustrated their going--I could hear the grunting of bayonets in
the flesh of men. The social system prevailing in England has
made necessary the perfecting of such military technique; also,
you discover, English piety has made necessary the providing of a
religious sanction for it. After the job has been done, and the
bayonets have been wiped clean, the company is marched to church,
and the officer kneels in his family pew, and the privates kneel
with the parlor-maids, and the clergyman raises his hands to
heaven and intones: "We bless thy Holy Name, that it hath pleased
Thee to appease the seditious tumults which have been lately
raised up among us!"

And sometimes the clergyman does more than bless the killers--he
even takes part in their bloody work. In the Home Office Records
of the British Government I read (vol 40, page 17) how certain
miners were on strike against low wages and the "truck" system,
and the Vicar of Abergavenny put himself at the head of the
yeomanry and the Greys. He wrote the Home Office a lively account
of his military operations. All that remained was to apprehend
certain of the strikers, "and then I shall be able to return to
my Clerical duties." Later he wrote of the "sinister influences"
which kept the miners from returning to their work, and how he
had put half a dozen of the most obstinate in prison.

The Babylonian Fire-god

So we come to the most important of the functions of the tribal
god, as an ally in war, an inspirer to martial valour. When in
ancient Babylonia you wished to overcome your enemies, you went
to the shrine of the Firegod, and with awful rites the priest
pronounced incantations, which have been preserved on bricks and
handed down for the use of modern churches. "Pronounce in a
whisper, and have a bronze image therewith," commands the ancient
text, and runs on for many strophes in this fashion:

Let them die, but let me live!
Let them be put under a ban, but let me prosper!
Let them perish, but let me increase!
Let them become weak, but let me wax strong!
O, fire-god, mighty, exalted among the gods,
Thou art the god, thou art my lord, etc.

This was in heathen Babylon, some three thousand years ago. Since
then, the world has moved on--

Three thousand years of war and peace and glory,
Of hope and work and deeds and golden schemes,
Of mighty voices raised in song and story,
Of huge inventions and of splendid dreams--

And in one of the world's leading nations the people stand up and
bare their heads, and sing to their god to save their king and
punish those who oppose him--

O Lord our God, arise, Scatter his enemies,
And make them fall;
Confound their politics,
Frustrate their knavish tricks,
On him our hopes we fix,
God save us all.

Recently, I understand, it has become the custom to omit this
stanza from the English national anthem; but it is clear that
this is because of its crudity of expression, not because of
objection to the idea of praying to a god to assist one nation
and injure others; for the same sentiment is expressed again and
again in the most carefully edited of prayer-books:

Abate their pride, assuage their malice, and confound their
Defend us, Thy humble servants, in all assaults of our enemies.
Strengthen him (the King) that he may vanquish and overcome
all his enemies.
There is none other that fighteth for us, but only Thou, O God.

Prayers such as these are pronounced in every so-called civilized
nation today. Behind every battle-line in Europe you may see the
priests of the Babylonian Fire-god with their bronze images and
their ancient incantations; you may see magic spells being
wrought, magic standards sanctified, magic bread eaten and magic
wine drunk, fetishes blessed and hoodoos lifted, eternity
ransacked to find means of inciting soldiers to the mood where
they will "go in". Throughout all civilization, the phobias and
manias of war have thrown the people back into the toils of the
priest, and that church which tortured Galileo in the dungeons of
the Inquisition, and shot Ferrier beneath the walls of the
fortress of Montjuich, is rejoicing in a "rebirth of religion".

The Medicine-men

Andrew D. White tells us that

It was noted that in the 14th century, after the great plague,
the Black Death, had passed, an immensely increased proportion of
the landed and personal property of every European country was in
the hands of the Church. Well did a great ecclesiastic remark that
"pestilences are the harvests of the ministers of God."

And so naturally the clergy hold on to their prerogative as
banishers of epidemics. Who knows what day the Lord may see fit
to rebuke the upstart teachers of impious and atheistical
inoculation, and scourge the people back into His fold as in the
good old days of Moses and Aaron? Viscount Amberley, in his
immensely learned and half-suppressed work, "The Analysis of
Religious Belief", quotes some missionaries to the Fiji
islanders, concerning the ideas of these benighted heathen on the
subject of a pestilence. It was the work of a "disease-maker",
who was burning images of the people with incantations; so they
blew horns to frighten this disease-maker from his spells. The
missionaries undertook to explain the true cause of the
affliction--and thereby revealed that they stood upon the same
intellectual level as the heathen they were supposed to instruct!
It appeared that the natives had been at war with their
neighbors, and the missionaries had commanded them to desist;
they had refused to obey, and God had sent the epidemic as
punishment for savage presumption!

And on precisely this same Fijian level stands the "Book of
Common Prayer" of our most decorous and cultured of churches. I
remember as a little child lying on a bed of sickness, occasioned
by the prevalence in our home of the Southern custom of hot bread
three times a day; and there came an amiable clerical gentleman
and recited the service proper to such pastoral calls: "Take
therefore in good part the visitation of the Lord!" And again,
when my mother was ill, I remember how the clergyman read out in
church a prayer for her, specifying all sickness, "in mind, body
or estate". I was thinking only of my mother, and the meaning of
these words passed over my childish head; I did not realize that
the elderly plutocrat in black broadcloth who knelt in the pew in
front of me was invoking the aid of the Almighty so that his
tenements might bring in their rentals promptly; so that his
little "flyer" in cotton might prove successful; so that the
children in his mills might work with greater speed.

Somebody asked Voltaire if you could kill a cow by incantations,
and he answered, "Yes, if you use a little strychnine with it."
And that would seem to be the attitude of the present-day
Anglican church-member; he calls in the best physician he knows,
he makes sure that his plumbing is sound, and after that he
thinks it can do no harm to let the Lord have a chance. It makes
the women happy, and after all, there are a lot of things we
don't yet know about the world. So he repairs to the family pew,
and recites over the venerable prayers, and contributes his mite
to the maintenance of an institution which, fourteen Sundays
every year, proclaims the terrifying menaces of the Athanasian

Whoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he
hold the Catholick faith. Which faith, except one do keep whole
and undefiled; without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.

For the benefit of the uninitiated reader, it may be explained
that the "Catholick faith" here referred to is not the Roman
Catholic, but that of the Church of England and the Protestant
Episcopal Church of America. This creed of the ancient
Alexandrian lays down the truth with grim and menacing
precision--forty-four paragraphs of metaphysical minutiae,
closing with the final doom: "This is the Catholick faith: which
except a man believe faithfully, he cannot be saved."

You see, the founders of this august institution were not content
with cultured complacency; what they believed they believed
really, with their whole hearts, and they were ready to act upon
it, even if it meant burning their own at the stake. Also, they
knew the ceaseless impulse of the mind to grow; the terrible
temptation which confronts each new generation to believe that
which is reasonable. They met the situation by setting out the
true faith in words which no one could mistake. They have
provided, not merely the Creed of Athanasius, but also the
"Thirty-nine Articles"--which are thirty-nine separate and
binding guarantees that one who holds orders in the Episcopal
Church shall be either a man of inferior mentality, or else a
sophist and hypocrite. How desperate some of them have become in
the face of this cruel dilemma is illustrated by the tale which
is told of Dr. Jowett, of Balliol College, Oxford: that when he
was required to recite the "Apostle's Creed" in public, he would
save himself by inserting the words "used" between the words "I
believe", saying the inserted words under his breath, thus, "I
used to believe in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost."
Perhaps the eminent divine never did this; but the fact that his
students told it, and thought it funny, is sufficient indication
of their attitude toward their "Religion." The son of William
George Ward tells in his biography how this leader of the
"Tractarian Movement" met the problem with cynicism which seems
almost sublime: "Make yourself clear that you are justified in
deception; and then lie like a trooper!"

The Canonization of Incompetence

The supreme crime of the church to-day is that everywhere and in
all its operations and influences it is on the side of sloth of
mind; that it banishes brains, it sanctifies stupidity, it
canonizes incompetence. Consider the power of the Church of
England and its favorite daughter here in America; consider their
prestige with the press and in politics, their hold upon
literature and the arts, their control of education and the minds
of children, of charity and the lives of the poor: consider all
this, and then say what it means to society that such a power
must be, in every new issue that arises, on the side of reaction
and falsehood. "So it was in the beginning, is now, and ever
shall be," runs the church's formula; and this per se and a
priori, of necessity and in the nature of the case.

Turn over the pages of history and read the damning record of the
church's opposition to every advance in every field of science,
even the most remote from theological concern. Here is the
Reverend Edward Massey, preaching in 1772 on "The Dangerous and
Sinful Practice of Inoculation"; declaring that Job's distemper
was probably confluent small-pox; that he had been inoculated
doubtless by the devil; that diseases are sent by Providence for
the punishment of sin; and that the proposed attempt to prevent
them is "a diabolical operation". Here are the Scotch clergy of
the middle of the nineteenth century denouncing the use of
chloroform in obstetrics, because it is seeking "to avoid one
part of the primeval curse on woman". Here is Bishop Wilberforce
of Oxford anathematizing Darwin: "The principle of natural
selection is absolutely incompatible with the word of God"; it
"contradicts the revealed relation of creation to its creator";
it "is inconsistent with the fulness of His glory"; it is "a
dishonoring view of nature". And the Bishop settled the matter by
asking Huxley whether he was descended from an ape through his
grandmother or grandfather.

Think what it means, friends of progress, that these
ecclesiastical figures should be set up for the reverence of the
populace, and that every time mankind is to make an advance in
power over Nature, the pioneers of thought have to come with
crow-bars and derricks and heave these figures out of the way!
And you think that conditions are changed to-day? But consider
syphilis and gonorrhea, about which we know so much, and can do
almost nothing; consider birth-control, which we are sent to jail
for so much as mentioning! Consider the divorce reforms for which
the world is crying--and for which it must wait, because of St.
Paul! Realize that up to date it has proven impossible to
persuade the English Church to permit a man to marry his deceased
wife's sister! That when the war broke upon England the whole
nation was occupied with a squabble over the disestablishment of
the church of Wales! Only since 1888 has it been legally possible
for an unbeliever to hold a seat in Parliament; while up to the
present day men are tried for blasphemy and convicted under the
decisions of Lord Hale, to the effect that "it is a crime either
to deny the truth of the fundamental doctrines of the Christian
religion or to hold them up to contempt or ridicule." Said Mr.
justice Horridge, at the West Riding Assizes, 1911: "A man is not
free in any public place to use common ridicule on subjects which
are sacred."

The purpose, as outlined by the public prosecutor in London, is
"to preserve the standard of outward decency." And you will find
that the one essential to prosecution is always that the victim
shall be obscure and helpless; never by any chance is he a duke
in a drawing-room. I will record an utterance of one of the
obscure victims of the British "standard of outward decency", a
teacher of mathematics named Holyoake, who presumed to discuss in
a public hall the starvation of the working classes of the
country. A preacher objected that he had discussed "our duty to
our neighbor" and neglected "our duty to God"; whereupon the
lecturer replied: "Our national Church and general religious
institutions cost us, upon accredited computation, about twenty
million pounds annually. Worship being thus expensive, I appeal
to your heads and your pockets whether we are not too poor to
have a God. While our distress lasts, I think it would be wise to
put deity upon half pay." And for that utterance the unfortunate
teacher of mathematics served six months in the common Gaol at

While men were being tried for publishing the "Free-thinker", the
Premier of England was William Ewart Gladstone. And if you wish
to know what an established church can do by way of setting up
dullness in high places, get a volume of this "Grand Old Man's"
writings on theological and religious questions. Read his
"Juventus Mundi", in the course of which he establishes, a mystic
connection between the trident of Neptune and the Christian
Trinity! Read his efforts to prove that the writer of Genesis was
an inspired geologist! This writer of Genesis points out in
Nature "a grand, fourfold division, set forth in an orderly
succession of times: First, the water population; secondly, the
air population; thirdly, the land population of animals;
fourthly, the land population consummated in man." And it seems
that this division and sequence "is understood to have been so
affirmed in our time by natural science that it may be taken as a
demonstrated conclusion and established fact." Hence we must
conclude of the writer of Genesis that "his knowledge was
divine"! Consider that this was actually published in one of the
leading British monthlies, and that it was necessary for
Professor Huxley to answer it, pointing out that so far is it
from being true that "a fourfold division and orderly sequence"
of water, air and land animals "has been affirmed in our time by
natural science", that on the contrary, the assertion is
"directly contradictory to facts known to everyone who is
acquainted with the elements of natural science". The
distribution of fossils proves that land animals originated
before sea-animals, and there has been such a mixing of land, sea
and air animals as utterly to destroy the reputation of both
Genesis and Gladstone as possessing a divine knowledge of

Gibson's Preservative

I have a friend, a well-known "scholar", who permits me the use
of his extensive library. I stand in the middle and look about
me, and see in the dim shadows walls lined from floor to ceiling
with decorous and grave-looking books, bound for the most part in
black, many of them fading to green with age. There are literally
thousands of such, and their theme is the pseudo-science of
"divinity". I close my eyes, to make the test fair, and walk to
the shelves and put out my hand and take a book. It proves to be
a modern work, "A History of the English Prayer-book in Relation
to the Doctrine of the Eucharist". I turn the pages and discover
that it is a study of the variations of one minute detail of
church doctrine. This learned divine--he has written many such
works, as the advertisements inform us--fills up the greater part
of his pages with foot-notes from hundreds of authorities,
arguments and counter-arguments over supernatural subtleties. I
will give one sample of these footnotes--asking the reader to be

I add the following valuable observation, of Dean Goode: ("On
Eucharist", II p 757. See also Archbishop Ware in Gibson's
"Preservative", vol X, Chap II) "One great point for which our
divines have contended, in opposition to Romish errors, has been
the reality of that presence of Christ's Body and Blood to the
soul of the believer which is affected through the operation of
the Holy Spirit notwithstanding the absence of that Body and
Blood in Heaven. Like the Sun, the Body of Christ is both present
and absent; present, really and truly present, in one sense--that
is, by the soul being brought into immediate communion with--but
absent in another sense--that is, as regards the contiguity of
its substance to our bodies. The authors under review, like the
Romanists, maintain that this is not a Real Presence, and
assuming their own interpretation of the phrase to be the only
true one, press into their service the testimony of divines who,
though using the phrase, apply it in a sense the reverse of
theirs. The ambiguity of the phrase, and its misapplication by
the Church of Rome, have induced many of our divines to repudiate
it, etc."

Realize that of the work from which this "valuable observation"
is quoted, there are at least two volumes, the second volume
containing not less than 757 pages! Realize that in Gibson's
"Preservative" there are not less than ten volumes of such
writing! Realize that in this twentieth century a considerable
portion of the mental energies of the world's greatest empire is
devoted to that kind of learning!

I turn to the date upon the volume, and find that it is 1910. I
was in England within a year of that time, and so I can tell what
was the condition of the English people while printers were
making and papers were reviewing and book-stores were
distributing this work of ecclesiastical research. I walked along
the Embankment and saw the pitiful wretches, men, women and
sometimes children, clad in filthy rags, starved white and frozen
blue, soaked in winter rains and shivering in winter winds,
homeless, hopeless, unheeded by the doctors of divinity,
unpreserved by Gibson's "Preservative". I walked on Hampstead
Heath on Easter day, when the population of the slums turns out
for its one holiday; I walked, literally trembling with horror,
for I had never seen such sights nor dreamed of them. These
creatures were hardly to be recognized as human beings; they were
some new grotesque race of apes. They could not walk, they could
only shamble; they could not laugh, they could only leer. I saw a
hand-organ playing, and turned away--the things they did in their
efforts to dance were not to be watched. And then I went out into
the beautiful English country; cultured and charming ladies took
me in swift, smooth motor-cars, and I saw the pitiful hovels and
the drink-sodden, starch-poisoned inhabitants--slum-populations
everywhere, even on the land! When the newspaper reporters came
to me, I said that I had just come from Germany, and that if ever
England found herself at war with that country, she would regret
that she had let the bodies and the minds of her people rot; for
which expression I was severely taken to task by more than one
British divine.

The bodies--and the minds; the rot of the latter being the cause
of the former. All over England in that year of 1910, in
thousands of schools, rich and poor, and in the greatest centres
of learning, men like Dean Goode were teaching boys dead
languages and dead sciences and dead arts; sending them out to
life with no more conception of the modern world than a monk of
the Middle Ages; sending them out with minds, made hard and
inflexible, ignorant of science, indifferent to progress,
contemptuous of ideas. And then suddenly, almost overnight, this
terrified people finds itself at war with a nation ruled and
disciplined by modern experts, scientists and technicians. The
awful muddle that was in England during the first two years of
the war has not yet been told in print; but thousands know it,
and some day it will be written, and it will finish forever the
prestige of the British ruling caste. They rushed off an
expedition to Gallipoli, and somebody forgot the water-supply,
and at one time they had ninety-five thousand cases of dysentery!

They always "muddle through", they tell you; that is the motto of
their ruling caste. But this time they did not "muddle
through"--they had to come to America for help. As I write, our
Congress is voting billions and tens of billions of dollars, and
a million of the best of our young manhood are being taken from
their homes--because in 1910 the mind of England was occupied
with Dean Goode "On Eucharist", and the ten volumes of Gibson's

The Elders

What the Church means in human affairs is the rule of the aged.
It means old men in the seats of authority, not merely in the
church, but in the law-courts and in Parliament, even in the army
and navy. For a test I look up the list of bishops of the Church
of England in Whitaker's Almanac; it appears that there are 40 of
these functionaries, including the archbishops, but not the
suffragans; and that the total salary paid to them amounts to
more than nine hundred thousand dollars a year. This, it should
be understood, does not include the pay of their assistants, nor
the cost of maintaining their religious establishments; it does
not include any private incomes which they or their wives may
possess, as members of the privileged classes of the Empire. I
look up their ages in Who's Who, and I find that there is only
one below fifty-three; the oldest of them is ninety-one, while
the average age of the goodly company is seventy. There have been
men in history who have retained their flexibility of mind, their
ability to adjust themselves to new circumstances at the age of
seventy, but it will always be found that these men were trained
in science and practical affairs, never in dead languages and
theology. One of the oldest of the English prelates, the
Archbishop of Canterbury, recently stated to a newspaper reporter
that he worked seventeen hours a day, and had no time to form an
opinion on the labor question.

And now--here is the crux of the argument--do these aged
gentlemen rule of their own power? They do not! They do literally
nothing of their own power; they could not make their own
episcopal robes, they could not even cook their own episcopal
dinners. They have to be maintained in all their comings and
goings. Who supports them, and to what end?

The roots of the English Church are in the English land system,
which is one of the infamies of the modern world. It dates from
the days of William the Norman, who took possession of Britain
with his sword, and in order to keep possession for himself and
his heirs, distributed the land among his nobles and prelates. In
those days, you understand, a high ecclesiastic was a man of war,
who did not stoop to veil his predatory nature under pretense of
philanthropy; the abbots and archbishops, of William wore armor
and had their troops of knights like the barons and the dukes.
William gave them vast tracts, and at the same time he gave them
orders which they obeyed. Says the English chronicler, "Stark he
was. Bishops he stripped of their bishopricks, abbots of their
abbacies". Green tells us that "the dependencie of the church on
the royal power was strictly enforced. Homage was exacted from
bishop as from baron." And what was this homage? The bishop knelt
before William, bareheaded and without arms, and swore: "Hear my
lord, I become liege man of yours for life and limb and earthly
regard, and I will keep faith and loyalty to you for life and
death, God help me."

The lands which the church got from William the Norman, she has
held, and always on the same condition--that she shall be "liege
man for life and limb and earthly regard". In this you have the
whole story of the church of England, in the twentieth century as
in the eleventh. The balance of power has shifted from time to
time; old families have lost the land and new families have
gotten it; but the loyalty and homage of the church have been
held by the land, as the needle of the compass is held by a mass
of metal. Some two hundred and fifty years ago a popular song
gave the general impression--

For this is law that I'll maintain
Until my dying day, sir:
That whatsoever king shall reign
I'll still be vicar of Bray, sir!

So, wherever you take the Anglican clergy, they are Tories and
Royalists, conservatives and reactionaries, friends of every
injustice that profits the owning class. And always among
themselves you find them intriguing and squabbling over the
dividing of the spoils; always you find them enjoying leisure and
ease, while the people suffer and the rebels complain. One can
pass down the corridor of English history and prove this
statement by the words of Englishmen from every single
generation. Take the fourteenth century; the "Good Parliament"
declares that

Unworthy and unlearned caitiffs are appointed to benefices of a
thousand marks, while the poor and learned hardly obtain one of
twenty. God gave the sheep to be pastured, not to be shaven and

And a little later comes the poet of the people, Piers Plowman--

But now is Religion a rider, a roamer through the streets, A
leader at the love-day, a buyer of the land, Pricking on a
palfrey from manor to manor, A heap of hounds at his back, as
tho he were a lord; And if his servant kneel not when he brings
his cup, He loureth on him asking who taught him courtesy.
Badly have lords done to give their heirs' lands Away to the
Orders that have no pity; Money rains upon their altars. There
where such parsons be living at ease They have no pity on the
poor; that is their "charity". Ye hold you as lords; your lands
are too broad, But there shall come a king and he shall shrive
you all And beat you as the bible saith for breaking of your

Another step through history, and in the early part of the
sixteenth century here is Simon Fish, addressing King Henry the
Eighth, in the "Supplicacyon for the Beggars", complaining of the
"strong, puissant and counterfeit holy and ydell" which "are now
increased under your sight, not only into a great nombre, but
ynto a kingdome."

They have begged so importunatly that they have gotten ynto their
hondes more than a therd part of all youre Realme. The goodliest
lordshippes, maners, londes, and territories, are theyres.
Besides this, they have the tenth part of all the come, medowe,
pasture, grasse, wolle, coltes, calves, lambes, pigges, gese and
chikens. Ye, and they looke so narowly uppon theyre proufittes,
that the poore wyves must be countable to thym of every tenth eg,
or elles she gettith not her rytes at ester, shal be taken as an
heretike. . . . Is it any merveille that youre people so
compleine of povertie? The Turke nowe, in your tyme, shulde never
be abill to get so moche grounde of christendome . . . And whate
do al these gredy sort of sturdy, idell, holy theves? These be
they that have made an hundredth thousand idell hores in your
realme. These be they that catche the pokkes of one woman, and
here them to an other.

The petitioner goes on to tell how they steal wives and all their
goods with them, and if any man protest they make him a heretic,
"so that it maketh him wisshe that he had not done it". Also they
take fortunes for masses and then don't say them. "If the Abbot
of westminster shulde sing every day as many masses for his
founders as he is bounde to do by his foundacion, 1000 monkes
were too few." The petitioner suggests that the king shall "tie
these holy idell theves to the cartes, to be whipped naked about
every market towne till they will fall to laboure!"

Church History

King Henry did not follow this suggestion precisely, but he took
away the property of the religious orders for the expenses of his
many wives and mistresses, and forced the clergy in England to
forswear obedience to the Pope and make his royal self their
spiritual head. This was the beginning of the Anglican Church, as
distinguished from the Catholic; a beginning of which the
Anglican clergy are not so proud as they would like to be. When I
was a boy, they taught me what they called "church history", and
when they came to Henry the Eighth they used him as an
illustration of the fact that the Lord is sometimes wont to
choose evil men to carry out His righteous purposes. They did not
explain why the Lord should do this confusing thing, nor just how
you were to know, when you saw something being done by a
murderous adulterer, whether it was the will of the Lord or of
Satan; nor did they go into details as to the motives which the
Lord had been at pains to provide, so as to induce his royal
agent to found the Anglican Church. For such details you have to
consult another set of authorities--the victims of the

When I was in college my professor of Latin was a gentleman with
bushy brown whiskers and a thundering voice of which I was often
the object--for even in those early days I had the habit of
persisting in embarrassing questions. This professor was a devout
Catholic, and not even in dealing with ancient Romans could he
restrain his propaganda impulses. Later on in life he became
editor of the "Catholic Encyclopedia", and now when I turn its
pages, I imagine that I see the bushy brown whiskers, and hear
the thundering voice: "Mr. Sinclair, it is so because I tell you
it is so!"

I investigate, and find that my ex-professor knows all about King
Henry the Eighth, and his motives in founding the Church of
England; he is ready with an "economic interpretation", as
complete as the most rabid muckraker could desire! It appears
that the king wanted a new wife, and demanded that the Pope
should grant the necessary permission; in his efforts to browbeat
the Pope into such betrayal of duty, King Henry threatened the
withdrawal of the "annates" and the "Peter's pence". Later on he
forced the clergy to declare that the Pope was "only a foreign
bishop", and in order to "stamp out overt expression of
disaffection, he embarked upon a veritable reign of terror".

In Anglican histories, you are assured that all this was a work
of religious reform, and that after it the Church was the pure
vehicle of God's grace. There were no more "holy idell theves",
holding the land of England and plundering the poor. But get to
know the clergy, and see things from the inside, and you will
meet some one like the Archbishop of Cashell, who wrote to one of
his intimates:

I conclude that a good bishop has nothing more to do than to eat,
drink and grow fat, rich and die; which laudable example I
propose for the remainder of my days to follow.

If you say that might be a casual jest, hear what Thackeray
reports of that period, the eighteenth century, which he knew
with peculiar intimacy:

I read that Lady Yarmouth (my most religious and gracious King's
favorite) sold a bishopric to a clergyman for 5000 pounds. (She
betted him the 5000 pounds that he would not be made a bishop,
and he lost, and paid her.) Was he the only prelate of his time
led up by such hands for consecration? As I peep into George II's
St. James, I see crowds of cassocks pushing up the back-stairs of
the ladies of the court; stealthy clergy slipping purses into
their laps; that godless old king yawning under his canopy in his
Chapel Royal, as the chaplain before him is discoursing.
Discoursing about what?--About righteousness and judgment? Whilst
the chaplain is preaching, the king is chattering in German and
almost as loud as the preacher; so loud that the clergyman
actually burst out crying in his pulpit, because the defender of
the faith and the dispenser of bishoprics would not listen to

Land and Livings

And how is it in the twentieth century? Have conditions been much
improved? There are great Englishmen who do not think so. I quote
Robert Buchanan, a poet who spoke for the people, and who
therefore has still to be recognized by English critics. He
writes of the "New Rome", by which he means present-day England:

The gods are dead, but in their name
Humanity is sold to shame,
While (then as now!) the tinsel'd priest
Sitteth with robbers at the feast,
Blesses the laden, blood-stained board,
Weaves garlands round the butcher's sword,
And poureth freely (now as then)
The sacramental blood of Men!

You see, the land system of England remains--the changes having
been for the worse. William the Conqueror wanted to keep the
Saxon peasantry contented, so he left them their "commons"; but
in the eighteenth century these were nearly all filched away. We
saw the same thing done within the last generation in Mexico, and
from the same motive--because developing capitalism needs cheap
labor, whereas people who have access to the land will not slave
in mills and mines. In England, from the time of Queen Anne to
that of William and Mary, the parliaments of the landlords passed
some four thousand separate acts, whereby more than seven million
acres of the common land were stolen from the people. It has been
calculated that these acres might have supported a million
families; and ever since then England has had to feed a million
paupers all the time.

As an old song puts the matter:

Why prosecute the man or woman
Who steals a goose from off the common,
And let the greater felon loose
Who steals the common from the goose?

In our day the land aristocracy is rooted like the native oak in
British soil: some of them direct descendants of the Normans,
others children of the court favorites and panders who grew rich
in the days of the Tudors and the unspeakable Stuarts. Seven men
own practically all the land of the city and county of London,
and collect tribute from seven millions of people. The estates
are entailed--that is, handed down from father to oldest son
automatically; you cannot buy any land, but if you want to build,
the landlord gives you a lease, and when the lease is up, he
takes possession of your buildings. The tribute which London pays
is more than a hundred million dollars a year. So absolute is the
right of the land-owner that he can sue for trespass the driver
on an aeroplane which flies over him; he imposes on fishermen a
tax upon catches made many hundred of yards from the shore.

And in this graft, of course, the church has its share. Each
church owns land--not merely that upon which it stands, but farms
and city lots from which it derives income. Each cathedral owns
large tracts; so do the schools and universities in which the
clergy are educated. The income from the holdings of a church
constitutes what is called a "living"; these livings, which vary
in size, are the prerogatives of the younger sons of the ruling
families, and are intrigued and scrambled for in exactly the
fashion which Thackeray describes in the eighteenth century.

About six thousand of these "livings" are in the gift of great
land owners; one noble lord alone disposes of fifty-six such
plums; and needless to say, he does not present them to clergymen

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