The Necessity of Atheism (Brooks)/Chapter VII
Now, when physiologists study the living brain of an ape, they have no grounds for supposing that they are dealing with a dual structure. The brain is not a tenement inhabited by a spirit or soul. The spirit or soul is but a name for the manifestations of the living brain. The leading neurologists of the world are agreed that the same is true of the human brain. It was only when they abandoned the dual conception—an inheritance from the dark ages of medicine—that they began to understand the disorders of man's mind and how to treat them.
Modern medicine thus strikes at the very root of Christian doctrine. For, if man is truly mortal, if death ends all, if the human soul is but the manifestation of the living brain, as light and heat are the manifestations of a glowing bar of steel, then there can be no resurrection of the dead. Man has the seeds of immortality in him, but the gift is for the race, not for the ndividual. Sir Arthur Keith
Medicine and religion have been closely associated from the most pristine time. Primitive medicine had its origin in conjunction with the most primitive of religious conceptions, namely, animism; an illusion that made primitive man recognize in all things, and everywhere, spirits such as his supposed spirit; a belief that the world swarms with invisible spirits which are the cause of disease and death. And thus primitive medicine is inseparable from primitive modes of religious belief. All these phenomena which we consider today natural—the rustling of leaves in a forest, the crash of thunder, the flash of lightning, winds, clouds, storms, and earthquakes—were to primitive man the outward and visible signs of angry gods, demons, and spirits. Similar spirits caused disease and death, and these evil spirits that produced disease and death were to be placated and cajoled by man, just as he did his other deities, by magic, by burnt offerings, and sacrifice.
The first holy man, the first priest, was the "shaman," and it was his duty not only to placate and cajole the spirits that were thought to control the physical well-being of the individual members of the tribe; but it was his duty also, by the exercise of his magic, to alleviate and cure illness by exorcism. The "shaman" was therefore the first medicine man, the first witch doctor, the first physician. He relied chiefly upon psychotherapy as does the modern witch doctor of Christian Science.
Medicine could not begin to be medicine until it was disassociated from magic, religion, and theology. This struggle has been going on from the time of the "shaman" to the present moment. Primitive medicine stands midway between magic and religion, as an attempt to safeguard health by control of so-called supernatural processes, and the warding off of evil influences by appeal to the gods.
In all primitive societies, priest, magician, and medicine man were one and the same; and medicine remained stationary until it could divorce itself completely from religion. Primitive medicine, then, springs from folklore, legends, credulity, and superstitions; the same forces that give rise to all forms of religious beliefs.
Huxley has stated, "Science commits suicide when, it adopts a creed," and from the earliest of times those men who had a scientific trend of mind realized this, however vaguely, and have attempted to divorce science from religion. The science of medicine has been divorced from superstition, but its twin brother religion lies as firmly bogged in the mire of superstition today as it did in the days of the incantations of the first theologist, the "shaman." And it is due to this close association of religion and medicine that ideas of the greatest scientific moment have been throttled at birth or veered into a blind alley through some current theological lunacy. Medicine has advanced through its disassociation with supernaturalism, while religion still remains the last refuge of human savagery.
And so it had been that throughout those long, sterile, and barbarous ages primitive man ascribed all diseases either to the wrath of God, or the malice of an Evil Being. With the rise of the Greek philosophers, the human mind for the first time began to throw off the fogs of superstition. In Greece, 500 years before Christ, Hippocrates developed scientific thought and laid the foundations of medical science upon observation, experience, and reason. Under his guidance, medicine for the first time was separated from religion. He relieved the gods of the responsibility for disease and placed it squarely upon the shoulders of man. His findings were passed on to the School of Alexandria, and there medical science was further, developed. At this stage of history all advances stopped, and for the following reason:
With the coming of Christianity this science, as well as all others, was stultified. A retrogression took place to the ideation of the most primitive of men, namely, the conception of physical disease as the result of the wrath of God, or the malice of Satan, or by a combination of both. The Old Testament attributes such diseases as the leprosy of Miriam and Uzziah, the boils of Job, the dysentery of Jehoram, the withered hand of Jeroboam, the fatal illness of Asa, and many other ills, to the wrath of God, or the malice of Satan. The New Testament furnishes such examples as the woman "bound by Satan," the rebuke of the fever, the casting out of the devil which was dumb, the healing of persons whom "the devil oftimes casteth into the fire," and various, other episodes. Christian theology then evolved theories of miraculous methods of cure, based upon modes of appeasing the divine anger, or of thwarting satanic malice. The curing of disease by the casting out of devils, by prayers, were the means of relief from sickness recognized and commanded, by the Bible. Thus Christianity perverted the beginning of a science of medicine to a system of attempted cure of disease by fraud.
The treatment of disease descended to the cures found in holy and healing wells, pools, and streams; in miracles and the efficacy that was to be found in the relics of saints. Instead of reliance upon observation, experience, and thought, attention was directed toward supernatural agencies. In contrast to the Greek physicians who were attempting to lay a scientific foundation, we have the Christian idea prevailing that the water in which a single hair of a saint had been dipped was to be used as a purgative; water in which St. Remy's ring had been dipped cured lunacy; oil of a lamp burning before the tomb of St. Gall cured tumors; wine in which the bones of a saint had been dipped cured fevers; St. Valentine cured epilepsy; St. Christopher cured throat disease; St. Eutropius, dropsy; St. Ovid, deafness; St. Vitus, St. Anthony, and a multitude of other saints, the maladies which bear their names.
"In the year 1585, in the town of Embrun, France, the male generative organ of St. Foutin was greatly revered. A jar was placed beneath his emblem to catch the wine with which it was generally anointed; the wine was left to sour, and then it was known as the 'Holy Vinegar’ The women drank it in order to be blessed with children." (Joseph Lewis, "Voltaire.")
Enormous revenues flowed into various monasteries and churches in all parts of Europe from relics noted for their healing powers. The ecclesiastics perceived that the physician would interfere with these revenues and gifts of the shrines, and deemed it the will of God to persecute and condemn physicians. St. Ambrose declared, "The precepts of medicine are contrary to celestial science, watching and prayer." St. Augustine declared, "All diseases of Christians are to be ascribed to these demons, chiefly do they torment fresh baptized Christians, yea, even the guiltless, new-born babe." Gregory of Nazianzus declared that bodily pains are provoked by demons, and that medicines are useless, but that they are often cured by the laying on of consecrated hands. St. Niles and St. Gregory of Tours gave examples to show the sinfulness of resorting to medicine instead of trusting to the intercession of saints.
Even as late as 1517, Pope Leo X, for a consideration, issued tickets bearing a cross and the following inscription, "This cross measured forty times makes the height of Christ in His humanity. He who kisses it is preserved for seven days from falling sickness, apoplexy, and sudden death."
The Council of Le Mons, in 1248, forbade monks to engage in surgery. At the beginning of the twelfth century, the Council of Rheims forbade monks to study medicine; and shortly after the middle of the twelfth century, Pope Alexander III forbade monks to study or practice medicine. In the thirteenth century, the Dominican Order forbade all ecclesiastics to have any connection with medicine; and when we remember that the policy of the Church had made it impossible for any learned man to enter any other profession, the only resource left for a scholar was the Church; so effectively did the Church kill all scientific endeavors.
The Reformation made no sudden change in the sacred theory of medicine. The Church of England accepted the doctrine of "royal touch," and in a prayer book of that period is found a service provided for that occasion which states that "They (the kings), shall lay their hands on the sick, and they shall recover."
Pestilences were taught to be punishments inflicted by God on society for its shortcomings. Modern man has no conception of the ravages of infections and epidemics that swept over Europe in the Middle Ages, and to a lesser extent, until less than fifty years ago. Tacitus described the plague in Rome thus: "Houses were filled with dead bodies, and the streets with funerals. ... Alike, slaves and plebeians were suddenly taken off amidst lamentations of their wives and children, who, while they mourned the dead, were themselves seized with the disease, and, perishing, were burned on the same funeral pyre."
In 80 A.D. an epidemic swept Rome causing 10,000 deaths daily. During the ages until the present century, wave after wave of pestilence swept over Europe. The plague in 1384 A.D. took no less than 60 million lives. It was estimated that twenty-five per cent, of the population of the then known world perished in that one epidemic. Between 1601 and 1603, 127,000 died of the plague in Moscow. The epidemic of 1630 took 500,000 lives in the Venetian republic; Milan alone lost 88,000. In 1605, London lost 69,000; 70,000 died in Vienna in 1679; the following year Prague lost 83,000, all from this disease. The horrors of such visitations are beyond description, and can scarcely be imagined. For a time, attempts were made to collect and bury the dead. Wagons would pass through the streets at night collecting the victims. The drivers, benumbed with drink, frequently failed to ascertain whether death had occurred. Living patients, desperately ill, were piled into the wagons with corpses beneath, about, and on them. These gruesome loads were dumped pell-mell into huge pits hastily dug for the purpose. In some instances, living victims crawled out of these pits and survived to tell the tale. As the epidemics progressed, attempts to dispose of the dead were abandoned. Putrefying bodies were everywhere. Whole cities were left desolate, the few survivors having fled.
It is not to be wondered at that such epidemics swept over Europe when it was taught that these were the vengeance of God. How could it be discovered that the real causes were the crowded conditions and bad sanitation of the cities, the squalor, the misrule, and gross immorality occasioned by the Holy Wars, when hordes of soldier-bandits plagued the countryside? The devout continued to live in their squalor, to trust in the Lord, and to die by the millions.
In all pestilences down to the present time, the Church authorities, instead of aiding and devising sanitary measures, have preached the necessity of immediate atonement for offenses against the Almighty. The chief cause of the immense sacrifice of lives in these plagues was of course the lack of hygienic precautions. But how could this be discovered when, for ages, living in filth was regarded by great numbers of holy men as an evidence of sanctity!
St. Hilarion lived his whole life long in utter physical uncleanliness. St. Athanasius glorifies St. Anthony because he had never washed his feet. St. Abraham's most striking evidence of holiness was that for fifty years he washed neither his hands nor his feet; St. Sylvia never washed any part of her body save her fingers; St. Euphraxia belonged to a convent in which the nuns religiously abstained from bathing; St. Mary of Egypt was eminent for filthiness; St. Simeon Stylites was in this respect unspeakable—the least that can be said is that he lived in ordure and stench intolerable to his visitors. For century after century the idea prevailed that filthiness was akin to holiness.
Another stumblingblock hindering the beginnings of modern medicine and surgery, was the theory regarding the unlawfulness of meddling with the bodies of the dead. The dissection of the human body was prohibited since the injury to the body would prevent its resurrection on the Last Day. Andreas Vesalius was the pioneer in the movement for increased knowledge of anatomy, and in 1543, when his work appeared, he was condemned to death by the Inquisition as a magician. He escaped this fate by undertaking a pilgrimage to Jerusalem only to be shipwrecked on the Island of Zante when he attempted to return, and there died in misery and destitution.
In the year 1853, cholera, after having committed serious ravages in many parts of Europe, visited Scotland. It was evident to most thinking people that, due, to the extreme poverty and squalor of most of the Scottish towns at that time, a great number of people would necessarily succumb to this disease unless stringent sanitary measures were instituted immediately. Instead, the Scotch clergy proposed to combat this scourge with prayer and fasting, which would have lowered the resistance to this disease by producing physical exhaustion and mental depression. They proposed the ordering of a national fast day in which the people were to sit the whole day without nourishment in their churches and retire to their beds at night weeping and starved. Then it was hoped that the Deity would be propitiated, and the plague stayed. To give greater effect to this fast day, they called upon England to help them, and the Presbytery of Edinburgh dispatched a letter to the English minister, requesting information as to whether the queen would appoint a national fast day. The English minister, to his credit, advised the Presbytery of Edinburgh that it was better to cleanse than to fast, and cleanse they must swiftly or else, in spite of all prayers and fastings of a united but inactive nation, the cholera would devastate them.
There are today, in this twentieth century, two pestilences which could be wiped from the face of the earth. "There are two pestilences which thus unfortunately involve moral conceptions. They are the plagues of Syphilis and Gonorrhea. Against them medicine has developed methods of control. They Could be eradicated, but as yet civilization has not advanced entirely beyond the ancient idea that disease is imposed by God as a measure of vengeance for our sins. It still rejects protection, when without it these plagues will continue to exact death and suffering on a scale which probably exceeds that of any one of the medieval plagues. Those who today look upon Syphilis and Gonorrhea as punishment for sin have not progressed beyond the ideas of medieval Europe.
"Ignorance and bigotry are the twin allies of the plagues of Syphilis and Gonorrhea. Medicine and civilization advance and regress together. The conditions essential to advance are intellectual courage and a true love for humanity. It is as true today as always in the past that further advances or even the holding of what has already been won, depend upon the extent to which intellectual courage and humanity prevail against bigotry and obscurantism." (Haggard, "Devils, Doctors, and Drugs")
As a result of the lack of control of these plagues there are in the world at the present moment thousands of children suffering from congenital syphilis who would never have been born but for the desire of Christians to see sinners punished. With regard to the spread of sex knowledge, the clergy's attitude is dangerous to human welfare. The artificial ignorance of sex subjects which orthodox Christians attempt to enforce upon the young is extremely dangerous to mental and physical health. The young are much less likely to act wisely when they are ignorant, than when they are instructed.
These two venereal diseases are no more controlled under the moral standards of today than they were two centuries ago, and yet medical science offers for these diseases what it can offer for few others; both a prevention and a cure. And it is due to the ignorance and the bigotry of the theists that the spread of sex knowledge is hampered so that a sane conception of sex and the prevention of venereal disease does not eradicate these diseases. The theists have, therefore, without sense or justice, founded their morality on disease; neglecting the fact that all disease is immoral in the widest sense, since it is detrimental to the happiness of man, and that no one disease is more so than another. The morality of the body is health not disease. So much for the actual facts and reality. In passing to the theoretical, we again see the truth of the statement that religion is the last resort of human savagery.
To postulate that a supreme being is omnipotent, omniscient, and all-loving, and then to assume that he inflicts disease on his children as punishment for sin is a sadistic mental aberration. In his omniscience he full well knows beforehand what each of his children will do. He foreordains their sins and then punishes his children for sins that he wills them to commit. It is just as if a syphilitic father should punish his syphilitic child because the child has that congenital disease for which the father is responsible. If the theist insists that his deity is all that he claims him to be, then it is only logical that instead of man asking his god for forgiveness, what actually should be is that God should ask the forgiveness of man for his bungling and error.
Christianity has attempted from its inception to eradicate the sexual instinct and in so doing has antagonized an instinct that is as fundamental as that of self-preservation. All it has accomplished is a distortion. The church, by claiming that it alone was privileged to regulate sexual desires, has done one of two things to each of its adherents. It has either made him a hypocrite or driven him insane. Much of the insanity in this country could be overcome were religion and sex permanently divorced; and an immediate amount of inestimable good could be accomplished when one considers that fifteen per cent of all mental disease is caused by syphilis.
Physical disease having been considered as a malicious trick of Satan, it was but natural that the disease of the mind was also attributed to satanic intervention. The conception that insanity was a brain disease, and that gentleness and kindness were necessary for its treatment, was throttled by Christian theology for fifteen centuries. Instead the ecclesiastic burdened humanity with a belief that madness was largely possession by the Devil. Hundreds of thousands of men and women were inflicted with tortures both physical and mental. It was not until 1792 that the great French physician Periel, and William Tuke in England, placed the treatment of mental disease on a rational and scientific basis. And this, in spite of such ecclesiastical attacks as were seen in the Edinburgh Review of that period. These two men, Penel and Tuke, were the first acknowledged victors in a struggle of science for. humanity which lasted nearly two thousand years.
The clergy resisted Jenner when he introduced vaccination, and yet the application of this measure of defense against disease has probably saved more lives than the total of all the lives lost in all wars. The clergy maintained that "Smallpox is a visitation from God, and originates in man, but Cowpox is produced by presumptious, impious men. The former, heaven ordained, the latter is perhaps a daring and profane violation of our holy order."
In the seventeenth century, the Jesuit missionaries in South America learned from the natives the value of the so-called Peruvian Bark in the treatment of ague. In 1638, quinine, derived from this bark, was introduced into Europe as a cure for malaria. It was stigmatized as "an invention of the Devil." The ecclesiastical opposition to this drug was so strong that it was not introduced into England until 1653.
The medieval Christians saw in childbirth the result of a carnal sin to be expiated in pain as defined in Genesis. Accordingly the treatment given the child-bearing woman was vastly worse than the mere neglect among the primitive peoples. Her sufferings were augmented by the fact that she was no longer a primitive woman and childbearing had become more difficult. In these "Ages of Faith" which could be better called the "Ages of Filth," nothing was done to overcome the enormous mortality of the mother and child at birth. Attempts, however, were made to form intra-uterine baptismal tubes by which the child, when it was locked by some ill chance in its mother's womb, could be baptized and its soul saved before the mother and child were left to die together. But nothing was done to save their lives. No greater crimes were ever committed in the name of civilization, religious faith, and smug ignorance than the sacrifice of the lives of countless mothers and children in the first fifteen centuries after Christ among civilized mankind.
Approaching our own time, we have the example of Dr. James. Y. Simpson, professor of obstetrics at the University of Glasgow about 1850, first administering an anesthetic to alleviate the pain of childbirth. He was bitterly opposed by the clergy on the ground that it was impious to attempt to escape from the curse pronounced against all women in Genesis. It was Dr. Simpson who, in defending this humanitarian practice, asserted that opposition, particularly on theological grounds, had been presented against every humane innovation in the past.
When Paul Ehrlich, in 1910, announced his discovery of salvarsan for the treatment of syphilis, the clergy again were horror-struck that man should interfere with a visitation of the, Lord.
The resistance to the spread of information concerning contraception, commonly known as birth control, is an example of the Church's dominance of government today; and yet this information is as vital to the welfare of humanity as is the control of cancer.
In 1926, our newspapers carried conspicuous headlines, "Episcopal Church Joins Catholic to Gag Birth Control"; four years later, 320 bishops of the Episcopal Church met in London, and by a majority of 3 to 1 voted in favor of contraception when "there is morally sound reason for avoiding complete abstinence." The bishops had by this time become well aware of the insistence of secular opinion towards this movement, and having done their best to prevent this progressive movement for the past one hundred years, they finally accepted defeat, proving once again that religion has never accepted anything that science has shown to be a fact or of benefit to humanity until it was compelled to do so to save its face. The infallible Church, however, still persists in its opposition and in the Encyclical of Pope Pius XI, published in January, 1931, it is said, "The conjugal act is destined primarily by nature for the begetting of children. Those who, in exercising it, deliberately frustrate its natural power, and purpose, are against nature and commit a deed which is shameful and intrinsically vicious." So speaks the infallible Pope, but the great majority of physicians hold that there are few things more perilous to mental health, intellectual efficiency, moral equanimity, and physical well-being than prolonged denial of the sex urge for the average, normal human being. Every physician can furnish numerous case histories to substantiate the statement that continual sexual abstinence is prejudicial to the health and happiness of the man and woman, and is the causation of hundreds of semiderelicts and psychoneurotics. Furthermore, the rising tide of insanity in this country would be stemmed were religion and sex permanently divorced.
Today the modern clergy still endeavor to explain natural phenomena by supernatural theories, and while they do not assign preternatural powers to witches and demons, they yet persist in attempting to pervert facts of science, and delude themselves with faith in some supernatural force. The clergy state that the physician cures disease through the mediation of God, the physician merely playing the part of the agent of God, through whom the real cure is effected. Is anything more ridiculous and at the same time more contradictory, than to suppose that an all-powerful god should have to appoint an intermediary to perform his work? And if it is only by God's will and aid that a cure takes place, then it follows that God must be willing for the individual to be cured; why in the name of reason, did He not prevent the initial step, the contracting of the disease? What a mass of suffering, of mental anguish might thus have been spared us! Thus, this omnipotent being either did not desire to spare us this misery and suffering, in which case he must surely be a monster incarnate; or, on the other hand, he is powerless to halt it, and thus cannot be omnipotent.
While the clergy maintain that a cure is only effected by God's will, the physician knows otherwise. The physician accomplishes his cures alone, and definitely cures and saves the lives of human beings by his own skill, intelligence, and application of methods which have been developed by the exercise of secular knowledge, not theological nonsense. When man is so unfortunate as to contract an infection of the appendix, and that inflammation succeeds to pus-formation so that this diseased and nonessential part of the human anatomy is on the point of rupturing and causing a fatal peritonitis, it is not by God's will and intervention that a cure is effected, but by the intervention of the surgeon who removes the diseased part. If man depended upon God's will to save him, as he did in the past, the appendix would rupture, peritonitis would set in, and despite prayers and sacrificial offerings, the Deity would exact his life.
When an innocent infant, in the first few weeks of life, develops an intussusception (an infolding of the bowel which causes an acute obstruction), the prayers and supplication of the parents avail not a particle; if the surgeon did not save the infant's life by operating and removing the obstruction, the benevolent being would allow the child to die.
The adult who develops a hernia, which is due to a defect in the construction of the human body, which is assigned to an omniscient being who still persists in forming bodies that are defective, and this hernia becomes strangulated (twisted), the deity sits calmly by in omnipotent inaction, while the prompt interference of the surgeon saves the individual's life.
When the surgeon observes a superficial cancerous growth, or an internal growth which can be removed in its entirety, does he trust to the Lord to halt this pernicious development? No, the surgeon does not consult God, but resorts to his own knowledge and skill to save a human life.
The diphtheritic child who is strangling to death with a diphtheritic membrane in its throat is not permitted by the physician to be left to the benevolent being's will, nor to the prayers of the parents. The physician's prayer is the diphtheria antitoxin, which in his hands is the lifesaving device.
When the physician administers quinine for malaria, or salvarsan for syphilis, he effects cures for these diseases by using agents to. which the clergy strenuously objected "when they were first introduced. And when the ecclesiastic attributes to the Deity whatever laws man has been able to evolve out of his own experience and wisdom, he establishes, fallaciously, the corollary that if "God is responsible for the cures, He is also responsible for the non-cures. Then what of the countless number that died of disease before man evolved those cures, and what of the wholesale murder of His children in the past ages?
Do certain diseases still baffle the physician? Surely it is less often than the pestilences of old which baffled sacrifice and prayer. The cruelest laws ever devised by man have more equity and benevolence in them than the appalling and irrational jurisprudence of the Deity.
Do certain diseases as yet remain to plague man? Then it is only because religion has for the past 2000 years been the greatest obstacle in the development of cures for these diseases. Every single individual, in the past 2000 years, who has succumbed to a disease, for which medical science has no cure, has died directly at the hands of religion. The obstruction which religion has placed on the development of medical science has laid at its feet the responsibility for the deaths of countless millions throughout the ages.
The religionist replies that man's mind cannot fathom the will of God. Which is an irrational statement for it is a well established fact, and indeed, a criterion of insanity, that when the deranged are confronted with facts which are conclusive and with creations of the imagination, they cannot differentiate fact from fancy, and maintain, instead, that fancy is the real fact. The religionists are guilty of the same breach of reason. They suffer with what may be termed, "dementia religiosa." The remarkable feature of the latter disease is its wide prevalence.
Dr. Haggard in his book, "Devils, Drugs, and Doctors," declares, "The early and Medieval Christians accepted the doctrine of the power of demons in the lives of men; they saw this power particularly in the demoniac production of diseases. They believed in miracles and especially in the miraculous healing of diseases. The demonological belief of the Christians was inherited from the doctrine of the Jews, who were believers in demons and the 'possession by the devil.' Jesus himself cured by casting out of devils. Following his example, Christians everywhere became exorcists. Jewish demonology was continued among Christian converts, and the belief in supernatural interpositions in human affairs was widely accepted. Nothing has retarded the growth of scientific medicine during the past 2000 years so much as the iron grip of theology in maintaining practices based on belief in this supernatural origin of disease." The fabled curing of disease by casting out devils, and the New Testament recordings of Jesus's conviction that disease was caused by evil spirits, have had an inestimable detrimental result on the development of medical science. The fact that Jesus believed in the demoniacal production of diseases and cured them by exorcism was deemed so important by the author of the Gospel according to Mark that he has actually recorded the Aramaic words Jesus was reported to have used in addressing his patients. In Mark V:41, Jesus is reported to have given the command "Talitha cumi" to a little Jewish girl whom her parents believed dead. In Mark VII:34, Jesus is reported as uttering the magical word "Ephphatha," as he "put his fingers into his ears, and he spit, and touched his tongue" in behalf of "one that was deaf, and had an impediment in his speech."
An excellent and timely illustration of what occurs when secular, knowledge has not yet replaced ecclesiastical ignorance and bigotry, particularly in the field of medicine, is furnished by an article from one of Philadelphia's leading newspapers, The Evening Bulletin, of December 23, 1932. We quote it verbatim:
"Faith Healers Arrested ; Two Charged with Choking to Death 5-Year-Old Girl, Linden, Texas, Dec. 23, 1932. Despite a purported confession, officers to-day continued an investigation of the death of a five-year-old girl, allegedly at the hands of two itinerant preachers who sought to 'drive out the devil' they believed responsible for her partial paralysis. Murder charges were filed against Paul Oaks and his brother, Coy Oaks, and precautions taken to prevent possible mob vengeance. Sheriff Nat Curtright said the accused men admitted they had choked the child to death in an attempt to cure her. Officers said the preachers had been conducting meetings in rural communities and had preached on the subject of faith healing. George Wilson, a neighbor, officers said, found the two men kneeling over the prostrate form of the child. They ordered him to leave, declaring he was a 'devil.' He said the child's father was in the room."
Medieval exorcism still practised in one of the leading nations of the world! In America, which prides itself on its scientific advances, towards whom the rest of the world looks for guidance in scientific discoveries and practices!
To have retarded the growth of medicine for the past 2000 years! Think of the strides made in medicine in the past hundred years, and dwell on the comfort humanity derives from it, in contrast to the filth, misery, and pestilences of the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth centuries. Would so much progress have been possible had man still persisted in the belief that disease was due to demoniac intervention, and that the sum total of all knowledge humanly possible was contained in the Bible?
It is no longer necessary for children to choke to death with diphtheria. Yellow fever, and small pox in civilized countries are, or could be, wiped from the face of the earth. Malaria is controlled; tuberculosis will shortly be a rarity; typhoid fever and cholera have been eradicated wherever there is sanitation; erysipelas can be controlled; hydrophobia prevented; childbirth fever has lost its tremendous mortality; tetanus can be checked; syphilis and gonorrhea can be controlled; diabetes and pernicious anemia can be controlled; surgery is reclaiming vast multitudes and restoring to useful and happy lives thousands who would have hitherto died. So much has been done; but it is especially true that there is as much, at least, yet to be done. But all this has been achieved so recently. What might not have been won had not the minds of men been polluted from infancy, warped by the first professional holy men, the religionists, the priests? Had the idea of a supernatural force been allowed to die in the Dark Ages, as it surely would have, as man's mind expanded and developed, humanity would today find itself more advanced on the road to progress. But as it was, the myth of religion was foisted on the superstitious brain, and man resigned himself to his fate, and lived in such a manner as to please this hypothetical supernatural being. The inevitable result was the abject misery, both material and spiritual, of Europe during the period when the Church was in absolute control.
If this myth and mystification had died with the dead ages, as it should have done, what a fitter place to live in this world would be today! Consider the needless misery and the agony of those who died of the various plagues; and think of the advanced stage of medicine of Alexandria, three hundred years before the Christian era, where the physicians were welcomed to the famous library by the emperors. The state gave them their livelihood and their duties were to advance medicine by study and research. Anatomy was studied and dissection was allowed. With the coming of Christianity, the remnants of this library were destroyed, and with them went all progress in that field. If such had been the enlightened state in Egypt three hundred years before Christianity appeared, then why had not science made the same progress then as it does now? Because, to the knowledge stored in the library at Alexandria had not been added a progression of learning, a continued process of research; if this had not been halted by Christianity, how much vaster would our achievements be today?
It was not necessary for all of those millions to have been the victims of plagues, of inquisitions, of witchcraft burnings, of religious persecutions and wars. The sorrow and pain brought to untold numbers throughout the centuries could have been prevented; and would have been if man had been interested in the welfare of his fellowmen instead of the glorification of an almighty being. Future generations may well declare religion to have been the curse of humanity. The Church had cursed the human intellect by cursing the doubts which are the necessary consequence of its exercise. She had cursed even the moral faculty by asserting the guilt of honest error.
Medicine which has for its sole objects the alleviation of man's sufferings, to cure them when possible, to relieve more often the pains: and ills which make this life a living hell, what might it not have accomplished ages ago had religion not interfered with its progress? Whatever cures are known, and preventions that are practiced now, could have been common knowledge centuries ago. And what of the multitudes that perished who might have been saved, and what of the misery which might have been prevented, had not this curse fallen upon man?
Since 1906, there have been only five deaths from yellow fever in the United States. Outbreaks of cholera and plague are unknown. In former years, puerperal fever took the lives of from five to fifty of each one hundred parturient mothers. At present, an average of one out of 1250 mothers dies of this infection following childbirth. Deaths from many diseases are less than one-tenth of their former number. These include wound infections, diphtheria, scarlet fever, malaria, dysentery, typhoid, small pox, and many dietary and metabolic diseases. Since 1880, the medical sciences have accomplished a total net saving of human life from all diseases which, if equally distributed among, the population, would add sixteen years to the life span of each person. In 1880, the average duration of human life, that is, the average age at which death occurred, was 41.78 years. In 1925, the average duration of life was 58.29 years. In other words, those born at this time live on the average 16.5 years longer than those born at any time prior to 1880. In a population of 120,000,000 this would mean a total of 1,920,000,000 additional years of life. Such a figure is as difficult to conceive of as are the interstellar spaces. This is one contribution, numerically expressed, which medical science and its offspring, preventive medicine, have made to humanity in the short space of fifty years.
Indeed if, as the religionists believe, there is a god, he could not have punished his subjects more than by instilling in them the "dementia religiosa." If the Church had not taught that the sum total of all knowledge was contained in the Bible, and prohibited, on pain of death and confiscation of property, the promulgation of any discoveries, men would have reasoned as they are accustomed to at the present day, and we would not be 2000 years behind in all branches of learning.
But there has never been an advance in science of widespread importance, which in some manner endangered some mouldy religious concept, that the Church has not bitterly opposed; an advance which in time has proven of inestimable good for all mankind. (A glance at the history of human progress will reveal scores of such instances.) The opposition to medicine, as previously noted, is only one of many examples which might have been chosen. In proportion, as the grasp of theology upon education tightened, medicine declined, and in proportion, as the grip relaxed, medicine developed.