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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 48

The Church Was Ignorant, Bloody, and Relentless

The Church Was Ignorant, Bloody, and Relentless.

In Scotland the "kirk" was at the summit of its power. It was a full sister of the Spanish Inquisition. It waged war upon human nature. It was the enemy of happiness, the hater of joy, and the despiser of liberty. It taught parents to murder their children rather than to allow them to propagate error, if the mother held opinions of which the infamous "kirk" disapproved, her children were taken from her arms, her babe from her very bosom, and she was not allowed to see them or write them a word. It would not allow shipwrecked sailors to be rescued from drowning on Sunday.

Oh, you have no idea what a muss it kicks up in heaven to have anybody swim on Sunday. It fills all the wheeling worlds with sadness to see a boy in a boat, and the attention of the recording secretary is called to it. In a voice of thunder they say "Upset him."

It sought to annihilate pleasure, to pollute the heart by filling it with religious cruelty and gloom, and to change mankind into a vast horde of pious, heartless fiends. One of the most famous Scotch divines said—"The kirk holds that religious toleration is not far from blasphemy." And this same Scotch kirk denounced beyond measure the man who had the moral graudeur to say—" The world is my country, and to do good my religion." And this same kirk abhorred the man who said—"Any system of religion that shocks the mind of a child cannot be a true system."

At that time nothing so delighted the Church as the beauties of endless torment, and listening to the weak wailing of damned infants struggling in the slimy coils and poison folds of the worm that never dies.

About the beginning of the eighteenth century a boy by the name of Thomas Aikenhead was indicted and tried at Edinburgh for having denied the inspiration of the Scriptures, and for having on several occasions, when cold, wished himself in hell that he might get warm. Notwithstanding the poor boy recanted and begged for mercy, he was found guilty and hanged. His body was thrown in a hole at the foot of the scaf- page 9 fold and covered with stones; and though his mother came with her face covered with tears, begging for the corpse, she was denied and driven away in the name of charity. That is religion; and in the velvet of their politeness there lurk the claws of a tiger. Just give them the power, and see how quick I would leave this part of the country. They know I am going to be burned for ever; they know I am going to hell; but that don't satisfy them. They want to give me a little foretaste here.

Prosecutions and executions like these were common in every Christian country, and all of them based upon the belief that an intellectual conviction is a crime.

No wonder the Church hated and traduced the author of the "Age of Reason."

England was filled with Puritan gloom and Episcopal ceremony. The ideas of crazy fanatics and extravagant poets were taken as sober facts. Milton had clothed Christianity in the soiled and faded finery of the gods—had added to the story of Christ the fables of mythology. He gave to the Protestant Church the most outrageously material ideas of the Deity. He turned all the angels into soldiers, made Heaven a battle-field, put Christ in uniform, and described God as a militia general. His works were considered by the Protestants nearly as sacred as the Bible itself; and the imagination of the people was thoroughly polluted by the horrible imagery, the sublime absurdity, of the blind Milton. Heaven and hell were realities—the judgment day was expected—books of account would be opened. Every man would hear the charges against him read. God was supposed to sit upon a golden throne, surrounded by the tallest angels, with harps in their hands and crowns on their heads. The goats would be thrust into eternal fire on the left, while the orthodox sheep on the right were to gambol on sunny slopes for ever and for ever. So all the priests were willing to save the sheep for half the wool.

The nation was profoundly ignorant, and consequently extremely religious so far as belief was concerned.

In Europe liberty was lying chained in the Inquisition, her white bosom stained with blood. In the new world the Puritans had been hanging and burning in the name of God, and selling white Quaker children into slavery in the name of Christ, who said—"Suffer little children to come unto Me."

Under such conditions progress was impossible.