Page:Charles Bradlaugh Humanity's Gain from Unbelief.djvu/13

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HUMANITY'S GAIN FROM UNBELIEF.

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agency through the medium of witchcraft grotesquely ridiculous". He admits that "for more than 1500 years the belief in witchcraft was universal in Christendom", and that "the public mind was saturated with the idea of Satanic agency in the economy of nature". He adds: "If we ask why the world now rejects what was once so unquestioningly believed, we can only reply that advancing knowledge has gradually undermined the belief".

In a letter recently sent to the Pall Mall Gazette against modern Spiritualism, Professor Huxley declares,

"that the older form of the same fundamental delusion—the belief in possession and in witchcraft—gave rise in the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries to persecutions by Christians of innocent men, women, and children, more extensive, more cruel, and more murderous than any to which the Christians of the first three centuries were subjected by the authorities of pagan Rome."

And Professor Huxley adds:

"No one deserves much blame for being deceived in these matters. We are all intellectually handicapped in youth by the incessant repetition of the stories about possession and witchcraft in both the Old and the New Testaments. The majority of us are taught nothing which will help us to observe accurately and to interpret observations with due caution."

The English Statute Book under Elizabeth and under James was disfigured by enactments against witchcraft passed under pressure from the Christian churches, which Acts have only been repealed in consequence of the disbelief in the Christian precept, "thou shalt not suffer a witch to live". The statute 1 James I, c. 12, condemned to death "all persons invoking any evil spirits, or consulting, covenanting with, entertaining, employing, feeding, or rewarding any evil spirit", or generally practising any "infernal arts". This was not repealed until the eighteenth century was far advanced. Edison's phonograph would 280 years ago have insured martyrdom for its inventor; the utilisation of electric force to transmit messages around the world would have been clearly the practice of an infernal art. At least we may plead that unbelief has healed the bleeding feet of science, and made the road free for her upward march.