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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 48


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Ladies and Gentlemen,—

Fear is the dungeon of the mind, and superstition is a dagger with which hypocrisy assassinates the soul. Courage is liberty. I am in favor of absolute freedom of thought. In the realm of the mind everyone is a monarch; everyone is robed, sceptred, and crowned—everyone wears the purple of authority. (Applause.) I belong to the republic of intellectual liberty, and only those are good citizens of that republic who depend upon reason and upon persuasion; and only those are traitors who resort to brute force. Now, I beg of you all to forget just for a few moments that you are Methodists, or Baptists, or Catholics, or Presbyterians, and let us for an hour or two remember only that we are men and women. (Applause.) And here allow me to say, man and woman are the highest titles that can be bestowed upon humanity. Man and woman! And let us, if possible, banish all fear from the mind. Don't imagine there is some being in the infinite expanse who is not willing that every man and woman should think for him or herself. (Applause.) Don't imagine that there is any being who would give to his children the holy torch of reason, and then damn them for following where the sacred light may lead. (Applause.) Let us have courage. Priests have invented a crime called blasphemy, and behind that crime hypocrisy has crouched for thousands of years. There is but one blasphemy, and that is injustice. There is but one worship, and that is justice. (Applause.) You need not fear the anger of a God whom you cannot injure. Rather fear to injure your fellow-man. (Applause.) Don't be afraid of the crime that you cannot commit. Rather be afraid of the one that you may commit. There was a Jewish gentleman who went into a restaurant to get his dinner, and the devil of temptation whispered in his ear, "Eat some bacon." (Laughter.) He knew that if there was anything in the universe calculated to excite the wrath of the Infinite Being who made every shining star, it was to see a gentleman eat bacon. (Laughter.) He knew it (laughter), and he knew this Infinite Being was looking (laughter), and that he was the infinite eavesdropper of the universe. (Great laughter.) But his appetite got the better of his conscience, as it often does with us all, and he ate that bacon. (Great laughter.) He knew it was wrong. When he went into that restaurant, the weather was delightful,—the air was as blue as June,—and when he came out, the sky was covered with angry clouds, the lightning leaping from one to the other, and the earth shook beneath the voice of thunder. And he went back into that restaurant with a face as white as milk, and he said to one of the keepers, My God, did you ever hear such a fuss about a little bit of bacon?" (Great laughter.) As long as we harbour such opinions of infinity—as long as we imagine the heavens to be filled with such tyranny—so long the sons of men will be cringing, intellectual cowards. (Applause.) Let us think, and let us honestly express our thought. Do not imagine for a moment that I think the people who disagree with me are bad people. I admit, and I cheerfully admit, that a very large proportion of mankind—a very large majority, a vast number—are reasonably honest. I believe that most Christians believe what they teach—that most ministers are endeavouring to make this world better. I do not pretend to be better than they are. It is an intellectual question. It is a question, first, of intellectual liberty, and after that a question to be settled at the bar of human reason. I do not pretend to be better than they are. Probably I am a good deal worse than many of them. But that isn't the question. The question is, bad as I am, have I a right to think? And I think I have, for two reasons: First, I can't help it (laughter), and secondly, I like it. (Laughter.) And the whole question is right at a point. If I have not the right to express my thought, who has? "Ah," they say, "we'll allow you to think; we'll not burn you." How kind! Why won't you burn me? page 4 "Because we think a decent man will allow others to speak and express his thought." Then the reason