Canterbury Freethought Association.
Bennet's Prayer to the Devil.
h Lucifer, thou Son of the Morning, Prince of the Air; thou Sulphureous Majesty known also as Beelzebub, Apollyon, Satan, the Power of Darkness, the Evil One, and Monarch of the nether regions; we would address ourselves to thee. We know not when[unclear: ce] thou art nor whither thou goest; and in an under-tone we would say, we seriously doubt thy existence as a personage; but having heard much of thee, we would approach thee respectfully. As much as is thought to be understood of thee, as many as think they have been annoyed by thy presence, little or nothing is absolutely known of thee. Thou art said to have a frightful visage, with horns on thy head, a cloven foot and a long barbed tail, but there is not a being alive who hath ever seen thee, and the word of those who, in former times claimed to have had a glimpse of thy person, is not worthy of credit.
He who hath told us most of thee, giving us thy early history and exploits, was John surnamed Milton. He described thy tall, majestic form and thy imposing presence. He narrated most eloquently, and in sublime verse, thy prowess and valor in thy terrible contest with the King of Heaven, and his superior forces commanded by his Lieutenant-General Michael, in which grand contest rocks and mountains and thunderbolts were fiercely hurled, and luckily no one killed. If it was thy unfortunate fate to be beaten in that bloodless conflict and to lose a subordinate position in Heaven, thou hast ever since been the victor, and has ruled solely, in Hell, and without successful opposition on earth. Howbeit, John was a poet and dwelt so completely in an imaginary world, that his descriptions of thee must be viewed in that light, though they have been the basis of the theological views, concerning thee.
The class of men called priests have much to say of thee, and claim to have derived great information concerning thee from an old book written by unknown persons and which itself sadly needs confirmation.
From all that we can learn of thee, by this record, and what its expounders say of thee, thou hast been greatly slandered and maligned. Thou art called a liar, the father of liars, the source of all evil and the cause of all the trouble and unhappiness the world has known. We believe this unjust and unfounded. In that "snake story," when thou persuadest our first mother to eat a fine apple thy antagonist had created, it is held thou didst act very badly, but we cannot see wherein; the fruit did open her eyes and the eyes of her husband, to know good and evil, and when thou saidst to her in the day they ate thereof, they should not surely die, thou toldest no lie, but the truth, for they lived nine hundred years thereafter. If it was wrong for thee to induce them to partake of such beautiful fruit that was within their reach, was it not more wrong to create such a dangerous temptation and place it in their sight?
In that friendly tilt thou hadst with thy competitor, the Son, otherwise known as the carpenter of Nazareth, and who said that he and the father were one, when thou carriedest page 2 him to the top of a mountain so exceedingly high, that thou couldst show him all the kingdoms of the earth, including not only those on the side towards thee, but those on the opposite side as well;* and when thou takedest him to the pinnacle of the temple to show him the surrounding country, thou at least proved thy superior physical power, and if thou offeredest him all the kingdoms of the earth for a certain consideration, tho' thy enemies would disparage thee for this, and say thou didst not own them, it would seem thou didst, by the right of conquest; and that at all events, thou hadst the right to execute a quitclaim deed if thou choscst.
That little affair with Job, when thou afflictedest him so sadly and covered him with boils, was really a little shabby, and, most assuredly, an act no gentlemanly devil would want to be guilty of, but it seems it was a special arrangement which thou enteredest into with thy antagonist, as a matter of experiment, and if thou were culpable, he certainly was no less so, for it was he that first named Job to thee. In fact it was a discreditable piece of business for both thee and him.
Though the little experiment here alluded to was not worthy, a great being, justice impels us to say that for many centuries thereafter thou wast not known to be guilty of any reprehensible act, whilst thy opponent was guilty of much cruel, merciless conduct, causing the death of hundreds of thousands of his creatures and inciting numerous wars, in which millions of his own peculiar nation and other nations were killed. While he has thus caused the death of untold numbers of human beings, while he acknowledged himself the cause of the evil that exists, while he admits that he caused the prophets to he and be false; notwithstanding all the charges of iniquity and crime that has been brought against thee, and all the opprobrium that has been cast upon thy name, no priest can point to a single instance where thou hast told a falsehood, where thou hast been guilty of theft, or where thou hast ever caused the death of a single human being. In this respeet thou art immensely superior to thy antagonist, who, is said, daily, hourly and momentarily to cause the death of old and young, and who has in so many instances led his chosen people to falsehood, theft, robbery and murder.
As much as thou hast been slandered and abused by those who esteem themselves godly, thou hast never co-habited with a young maiden; thou has never committed adultery with the older sisters; thou hast never seduced an unprotected female; thou hast not indulged in drunkenness, nor made wine for (hose already drunk; thou hast not yielded to anger; thou hast not sought to deprive others of their dues; thou hast not descended to back-biting or slander, and, so far as we are able to learn, thou hast always conducted thyself like a gentleman, and in all these regards has acquitted thyself far more creditably than thy antagonist or his priests.
Of a truth, thou hast proved thyself a fast friend to the human race. Thou hast fostered science and education; thou hast promoted inventions and improvements of all kinds tending to increase the knowledge and happiness of man. It was thee, it was asserted, who first taught Copernicus and Galileo that the earth is round; that it revolves every twenty-four hours, and makes its yearly journey round the sun. It was thee who taught them of the countless worlds which float in space. It is well thou didst tins, for it seems thy antagonist nor his Son knew aught of it; or if they did, they deigned not to say a word of it in their book or in their teachings; and though the Church came near taking the lives of those two worthies for telling the world what thou taughtest them, we are left to conclude thou didst protect and befriend them.
It was thee who was said to have taught Faust and Guttenberg the art of all arts—printing—and one or both were cast into prison for their supposed intercourse with thee in the matter; and since that day pious men of the Church have repeatedly denounced the printing press as the greatest of evils—an invention directly from thee, and bound ultimately by the dissemination of light and knowledge, to overthrow the Church of God.
The great inventions of the application of steam, the telegraph, railroads, steamboats lightning-rods, friction-matches and the thousands of other useful inventions, have been denounced by thy enemies as thy work, and has having been incited by thee. The pious Presbyterians of Scotland even claimed fanning-mills to be an invention of thine, and denounced those who employed them for cleaning their oats and rye with using "the Devil's wind," and thought they ought to be cursed of Heaven therefor. It is not a little curious that thine enemies, after denouncing all these inventions named, with many others page 3 is thy productions, after man has used them and found great utility in them, and elevated the race thereby, should turn and try to claim them as the result of their religion, and to endeavour to establish its proof by their existence?
Few among thy enemies are men of science, and they advocate nothing which tends to impair their old system of theology. They still insist that it is thou who leads these scientific, learned men to discover truths in Nature which disprove the idle tales of ignorance found in that old book. Humboldt, Lyell, Darwin, Huxley, Wallace, Farraday, Tyndall, Draper and all that class of scholars, are denounced by the Church as thy servants—-led and incited by thee; and the brave advocates of mental liberty and freedom of opinion, regardless of priestcraft and false theology, are a till more denounced and maligned. They are called children of thine own begetting; so that by the showing of priests, ignorance, superstition, mental slavery and fogyism belong to their side, while science, learning, invention, innovation, enterprise, mental freedom, and human progression, belong to thy kingdom, and are the measures of thy founding. We pray, then, that thy influence may increase in the world, while that of thy antagonist is bound to decrease.
In the matter of prowess and generalship much injustice is intentionally done thee. Thy antagonist is called all-mighty, and is said to be so powerful that naught can stand before him. But according to the confessions of thy enemies this is untrue. In every contest since thy expulsion from Paradise thou hast beaten. In the game for the great stake which thou and thy opponent have been playing for—-mankind—thou hast held the trumps and won by far the larger share—-say twenty to his one. He had greatly the advantage to begin with. He made everything just to suit himself, and had the fixing of conditions precisely as he wished, in peopling the world, when thou steppedest in, and with little effort or bluster, quickly swept the board. If he drowned the race of man to get rid of thy influence; if he caused nation after nation to be butchered and exterminated to get an advantage over thee; if he even sent his beloved son to be sacrificed and cruelly to be put to death to make a point on thee, and gain human souls to himself, it all seemed of no avail, for thou worsted him in every contest, thou hast come off victorious in every encounter and drawest still, a retinue of followers after thee, immensely more numerous than the sparse number of bigots and old fogies that he induces to follow him.
In view of these facts the injustice which has been done thee by thy enemies is most apparent. If thy antagonist is called the "mighty one" thou shouldst be called the "most mighty one." If, in memory of what he has done in the world, he should be called kind and benevolent, how much more shouldst thou be styled great, magnanimous, powerful and supergood! How wrong that the firm, including the father, and son, and the other individual, each holding a third interest, should exclude the greatest and best of the four, simply because of his excessive modesty, and on whom so much depends, even in the system that has been devised in their interest. Without thee what would their whole stock in trade be worth? Without thee what would become of the millions of priests that have cried aloud in then name? Without thee their whole system, their grand cathedrals, their elegant churches, their sonorous organs, their modest chapels, their monasteries, their nunneries, their seminaries, their colleges, their rites and ceremonies, their countless millions in tithes and exactions; and even the source of all their terror and fears would have no existence. In view of all this, we exclaim, how shabbily hast thou been treated! Thou hast been kicked out of the firm which should have contained a quartette, with thyself not farther back than second. It might, with propriety have read, Father, Devil, Son" and Ghost.
Another great injury we feel has been done thee, by the circulation of the report that thou art engaged in a never-endying contract, by the firm aforesaid, to do their dirty work for them—to keep up, without cessation, the sulphureous fires in the nether regions to a white heat, and therein with pitchforks and other cruel implements of torture, thee and thy sub devils to forever pitch and punch, to the latest moments of eternity, ninety-nine one-hundredths of the entire unfortunate human race! We cannot believe this of thee. It is all a priestly lie. Nothing in thy character, so far as known, justifies the horrible conclusion that thou wouldst ever engage in an employment so repulsive, and so execrable. As we said, thou hast ever shown thyself a friend to the human race, and hast rarely done an unkind act to any individual, and we feel assured that thou wouldst never be so base, so heartless, so inconceivably cruel, as to torture thus, countless millions of poor, weak, ignorant, helpless mortals through endless ages, for the trifling offences of a short earthly life, and just to please thy old antagonists—the firm of Father, Son and Co. We believe. Uncle Nicholas, if they wanted thee to do this work for them, that thou wouldst immediately spurn the idea, and bid them do it themselves.page 4
No, no; imperious Lucifer, we can believe nothing of this cruelty of thee; the idea is too monstrous to attach to any being, god or demon, much less to a character so amiable as thou hast thus far shown thyself to be. The good and benevolent, the free, the wise the intelligent, the learned, the scientific, and the lovers of liberty, all follow in thy wake. As thou hast heretofore treated them well, thou doubtless will continue to do so. We much prefer to train in thy band with such men as Socrates, Plato, Copernicus, Galileo, Spinoza, Goethe, Schiller, Shakespeare, Byron, Humboldt, Volney, Paine, Franklin, Jefferson, Lincoln, and all such men, than to be numbered with the priests, the zealots, the hypocrites the bigots and the murderers, which make up the other crowd. We fear not to trust ourselves with thee and thy companions.
We would not deceive thee in the least; we have, as we said, grave doubts of thy existence as a person, but believe in thee just as firmly as we do in the existence of thy antagonist. Both stand on an equality in this respect. We regard you both as figments of the brains of ignorant superstitious nations, which intelligence and reason will ultimately drive from the earth.
Prince Lucifer, thou spirit of the air; we say then, speed the day—hasten on the time when truth and knowledge will rule supreme in all the earth; when popes, cardinals, bishops, priests, pastors and elders can be dispensed with; when the ignorance they have fastened on the race will give way; when all men can exclaim in truth, "we have knowledge, we have light, we are our own priests, we walk in Nature's lovely path, and none can make us afraid."
Printed at the Caxton Printing Works, Manchester Street, Christchurch.
* Query.—How tall a mountain would it require in our country, to enable a man to get a good view of Egypt, India, China, and Australia?