User:Nederlandse Leeuw/Translation:Dominee, pastoor of rabbi

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This is a Wikisource translation of Dominee, pastoor of rabbi? Populaire kritiek. Originally published by Dutch freethinkers association De Dageraad, in 1957 renamed De Vrije Gedachte.


Popular critique.

Association "De Dageraad"

Second Tenthousand.

Price 10 Cents; 10 copies f 0.75; 25 copies f 1.50; 50 copies. f 2.50;
100 copies f 4.– all freightage by mail.


The Association De Dageraad aims to further freethought to the moral and rational development of mankind. (Article 1 of the Bylaws.)

The minimum contribution is one guilder a year. Whoever wishes to become a member, should contact the association's secretary at Rozengracht 23, Amsterdam.

To the Reader!
The Association "De Dageraad" [The Dawn], that has been publishing a magazine for several years for the promotion of freethought, has recently been trying to open the eyes of many for the light, that has long reached the scholars, by distributing smaller writings. The booklet you are holding in your hands is one of those writings.
Do you know why this Association does such a thing? The insignificant price of the booklet is the best evidence that it is not about making money. – Why then? We will tell you.
We think that religion, as it is being taught in our little country by ministers, pastors, rabbis, etc. etc. will eventually make the people unhappy. Unhappy, because of stupidity and ignorance.
Now, we would really like to see the people here on earth happy, happy through reason and science. That, and only that, is why we are fighting faith.
Don't [you think] we deserve some trust because of the fact we don't seek any gain for ourselves? Doesn't that make it more likely that we truly want the right thing? So read this booklet without bias, and then judge for yourself. If your minister or pastor or rabbi tells you it contains nothing new, ask him what that would prove against the TRUTH of the matter. That's all what it's about, isn't it? And while you're at it, ask him when was the last time he has said something new. That has got to be a long time as well!
By the way, that it doesn't contain much new, is completely true. It contains TRUTH, and the truth is old. Throughout the ages, scholars and philosophers have given the clergy a hard time by telling truths, and people who have read much, will, when reading this booklet, be reminded at every moment of sayings of certain philosophers, poets or scholars. But again we ask: doesn't that argue in favour rather than against its correctness?
And therefore, reader, ponder and judge for yourself what seems to be the truth to you, and do not let yourself be convinced by anything other than arguments.

On behalf of the Board of De Dageraad,
Dr. Hk. de Vries, chair.
P. Westra, secretary.

Chapter I.[edit]

We are fighting religion primarily for two reasons:

  1. Because serving the divine lacks any solid ground of truth, and is therefore an abhorrence in the eyes of the friend of truth, and
  2. Because the various religions, and the Christian one not in the least, have time and again made a major part of the people and mankind unhappy.

It is necessary to keep in mind and understand both these contentions. Only if both of them are true, every well-thinking person should fight along with us. Namely, if only the first contention contains truth, then many will be inclined to say: oh well, perhaps it is true the various religions are all based on lies, however, they make many people happy and content, and provide consolation to many miserable people. And therefore I do not want to fight the lies.
On the other hand, if only the second contention is true, then every friend of truth would be obligated to say: alas, it's true that religion makes us unhappy here on earth, and will probably continue to do so. It deprives us of many innocent pleasures, it imposes heavy and many duties upon us, and, well considered, it embitters our entire lives, from the cradle to the grave. But God just demands such misery of us, and if we don't partake in it, then we will suffer for it threefold after death. And so, for God's sake we'd have to go to church.
Because that's how things are, right?
Thus, if this booklet is to reach the goal that we have set, then both contentions mentioned need to be proven. We shall try to provide the necessary evidence with facts and arguments. It is the reader's task to test these arguments to his own common sense, and then to either accept or reject them, depending on whether they are found to be valid or invalid. The issue at hand is important enough to think through rationally and calmly.
There is one more thing here we need to warn against. In making your decision, do not let yourself be distracted by the common sense of your aunt or your pastor: if we ever have got to answer for our lives after we've died, we could never invoke the reason and insight of others, but we will have to reckon for the talents, that were bestowed on us, to work with. Let others use their reason, and you use your own.

Chapter II.[edit]

To those who think they are convinced of the great benefit of religion, it is a truly fortunate coincidence that they found a wholly ready-made religion right in their cradle, so to speak. Imagine the fate of the bungler who, eargerly desiring to have a "true" religion, had to find it out himself amongst all those false ones! Eternity would barely be long enough for it! Vicar pulling on one arm, Priest on the other, and Rabbi tearing off the tails of his jacket.
Indeed, it is highly entertaining and also sad for the impartial observer to see how someone defends a particular religion with such devotion and fire, just because his father and grandfather were raised in that religion. If they had been raised Catholic, he would die for the dogma of the immaculate conception or the papal infallibility; if they had been Protestant, he would let himself be burnt alive for the right to call the popish mass an abominable idolatry. The oddest thing is that all people just adopt these religions blindly, without the smallest investigation whether a different religion is also better. Someone who needs a safe to store his money, will inquire first which manufacturer makes the best one. If a traveller needs to have his horse shoed, then he will surely watch out not to pick just any blacksmith. And even when buying sigars for 10 cents or a pint of beer, one asks for a good address first.
However, we let our salvation depend on coincidence without any study. What if, you Catholic! the 131 million Protestants were right? You do understand that those good people, with their ministers leading them, are not marching so straight towards hell for their pleasure, don't you!? Or what if, you Mohammedan, the 88 million confessors of the Greek religion were right, who of course do not, against better judgement, fail to secure a spot for themselves in your so enjoyable and lustful heaven, with all those gorgeous girls and female slaves!
It seems to me that it would be prudent for the Turks to examine the Christian faith for once, instead of reviling us all as infidel dogs. Although I admit that it is quite funny to hear that SCHAEPMAN and KEUCHENIUS are being reviled as infidels!
A small inquiry is not superfluous, we are dealing with much more important issues here than sigars for ten cents or mustard for two cents.
A strange thing, that religion! One sacrifices to it time, money, sometimes domestic joy, and one doesn't even investigate if one has got the right one.
So what actually is religion [Dutch: godsdienst, "god-service"]? The word says it: it is to serve God, to honour Him, to do things that are pleasing to Him. We can do those things in hopes of reward, out of fear for punishment, or also out of pure love. But the first and foremost requirement is, of course, that one knows what is actually pleasing to God.
What do we see though?
One person does this, another that. Of the 1400 million people living on earth, 300 million are Christians, that isn't even a quarter. And amongst those 300 million, there are several hundreds of sects, each of them doing something else to be pleasing to God and to serve Him.
Of course, only one out of all those faiths and sects could have gotten things right. What exactly is God's will, what pleases Him, how does he want to be served? Singing psalms, says No. 1.
Listening to the mass and confessing, says No. 2.
From time to time going for a walk with peas in your shoes, says No. 3.
That's not necessary, says No. 4., it's just as commendable to go on pilgrimage by train.
Oh well, says No. 5, I eat fish on all Fridays, that's good enough.
No, says No. 6, God doesn't care about that at all. But He does demand that we talk about him a lot, examine and explain his being and characteristics, and hold Eucharist in broad daylight.
That's not enough, finds No. 7. He wabts us to burn everyone who believes something else than we do.
He adores joyous Sacrifice Feasts and dancing and singing, claims No. 8.
Yes, lectures No. 9, that's how it used to be. But nowadays He demands moderation, sobriety and chastity.
Madness, No. 10 thinks. Polygamy, that's what he likes to see.
You nearly got it, says No. II, but that's not the actual truth yet. There needs to be intercourse amongst women, that is plain as a pike staff.
If you don't read from a Hebrew Bible every Friday night, and keep the Sabbath the next day, you're screwed, advises No. 12.
Etc. etc. etc., almost on to infinity. Everyone, from their own perspective, claims and believes to act on the true way of serving God, and all count on it to be rewarded in the hereafter for all the pleasure they're doing to him.
Wouldn't you think that God, if He truly wanted to be served, would have taken the effort to tell us clearly in what way on by what?
Well, say the Christians, He did. He gave us His word, the precious Bible, and it says clearly what we should and shouldn't do. - Oh really, does it say that clearly? And how then does it happen that of all people, that seek to make that Bible the guide of their lives, there are barely two who think about all points equally? I've got a quarto Bible lying over here with me, about 1160 pages. Ten pages would have been enough to tell us briefly and concisely what we should and shouldn't do to be pleasing to God, and He gives us 1160, with the consequence of eternal fighting, quarreling and killing over what the intention is of this and the meaning of that! It's a strange kind of clarity!
Things are not turning better when we consider that the vast, vast majority of the earth's inhabitants have not received that Bible. It seems to me that every minister should surely concede that those people certainly can't know how God wants to be served.

Chapter III.[edit]

In a certain country, there was a large polder, inhabited and cultivated by several hundreds of farmers. One good day, a gentleman wearing a black coat and a white tie came to ask the farmers if they realised that the entire polder was the property of a rich banker in the neighbouring city. Our little farmers had never heard of it, they said. Now, our white-tied gentleman claimed, it really was so, and henceforth they all needed to pay the rent, 10 bushels of wheat per bunder. For the sake of convenience, they could pay that rent to him, and he'd then bring it over to the banker.
The next day a different gentleman came, almost clothed and tied exactly like No. 1, who essentially told the same story. Except that he asked for 8 bushels of rye instead of 10 bushels of wheat; the banker doesn't appreciate wheat bread, he said. Of course, this was cheaper for the farmers. And the gentleman showed them a note with an unreadable autograph, which indeed read something about land rent and about rye. He reviled the gentleman of the previous day as a mean deceivers.
The 3rd day another gentleman came, equally tied and coated, with exactly the same message. Both previous ones were deceivers, he said. Horse beans is what he named as the due fee, and even 12 bushels per bunder. Fewer was impossible, he said, if anything was to remain for the banker, because he had a big family and life was very expensive.
And about a 100 others came like this, all claiming to be sent by the banker to collect the tax, and all of them accusing each other of being fraudsters. There weren't two naming the same tax rate. Besides the aforementioned fruits, the following was demanded as the due rent: oat, eggs, young foals, turnips, linen goods, tobaco, oxes, swedes, acorns and I don't know what. And all those black coats built houses for themselves in a big circle around the polder, and every morning they shouted through a great speech trumpet, so that it resounded across the entire polder: "remember the rent!"
Most farmers, foolish creatures, paid regularly, even though they did so sighingly. For the sake of convenience, they brought their rent to the black coat living nearest; oxes, if they lived close to the ox man; turnips, if they lived close to the turnip man; wheat, if they lived close to the wheat man. They were of course highly praised for their obedience.
Several amongst the farmers, however, and they weren't the dumbest, threw in the towel and payed completely nothing. It's quite possible, they reasoned, that this banker in the city owns the land here, and that he's got the right to levy rent. But as long as he doesn't even find it worth the effort to show up himself to talk about it, or at least send someone with a proper mandate, we'll better keep our corn. Any knife grinder can claim to be an agent of the landowner, but to me, it looks incredibly much like swindle, all those black coats. I'm paying nothing.
What do you think, reader, weren't those the most reasonable of the polder's inhabitants? If you say "yes", I would suggest that you'd henceforth act in the same way towards all those people, who claim to be sent to receive the rent pence we are due to God. Let's quit going to confession and church, fasting and baptising and communion, until God finds it worth the effort to let us know clearly, what exactly it is he wants from us. For nothing is easier for an all-powerful God than to say that briefly and concisely! As long as he doesn't, I'll assume he doesn't want any rent at all.
It wouldn't surprise me at all if he got angry about all those unasked, offered services. We know that offered services are seldomly pleasant. I get the impression of hearing Him say: "Yuck, those folks are annoying me with their fish eating and praying and all that idiotic churchgoing; if I wanted something from them, I'd say so; in the meantime, let them keep calm."
Shall we presume that [He] said that, reader?

Chapter IV.[edit]

So, from that situation that by far most people do not know what they should do to serve God, it appears clearly that He doesn't want to be served at all. A landlord will bloody well take care to let his farmers and hirers know how much rent he wants. Usually the contract will even specify where and on which date the payment should take place. A teacher who desires homework of his pupils, will state precisely what they should bring with them the next morning. It is thus obvious that God would have acted the same way if he truly wanted to be served!
And it seems to me that He would take pleasure in his presciptions. A human being is not human without gladly doing his superior a favour, especially if he knows it will do him a little advantage as well. Our king only has to say the word about one thing or the other, and immediately it sends lackeys and ministers flying to deliver it. Just look at how a rural patrolman does his best for the mayor! If he thinks it will please the gentleman, he will run like hell, even before the word is spoken. Would we then do less for a much mightier potentate, who mind you! can decide over our eternal bliss or damnation?
Yeah but, say our clerics, the Bible is clear enough, for those that study it seriously and closely. Not just anyone can do that, however; you need follow a certain education, and learn Latin and Greek.
Really? Why then do all those people who did receive a certain education for it, continue fighting about the different interpretations? In our small country alone we've got the following denominations: Roman Catholics, Jansenists, Old Catholics, Mennonites, Remonstrants, Lutherans, Restored Lutherans, Afgescheidenen [the "Seceded"], Dolerenden [the "Sorrow-Feelers"], Israëlieten [Jews] and last but not least that strange hodgepodge called the Reformed Church, where barely even two vicars can be found who think and preach the same on issues. For my part, we can discount the smaller groups, such as Labadists, Baptists, Mormons, Congregations under the Cross, Walloon churches, Salvation Army, Free Congregation, etc. etc. etc. etc. All those big faiths and small faiths do not argue for the claim, that with the help of Latin and Greek the Bible becomes so very clear.
But moreover, wouldn't it be very injust that so much study is needed to find out what God requires of us? Do all those people, who don't have time for that study, have to trust their bliss to the random vicar or priest, in whose congregation they just so happened to have been born? And that in the Christian churches, whose Founder thanked his Father "that He had hidden these things from the wise and learned, to reveal them to little children"! The "blessed are the poor in spirit:" becomes a mockery if Latin and Greek are required to understand the Bible.

A different divine revelation than the Bible does not exist, most Christians claim. The Heidelberg Catechism, that is endlessly much shorter, would have been clear enough to show the path to heaven, but alas, it is just made by humans.
[Only] one out of two [is possible], says dr. KUYPER. Either we've got revealed truth in Scripture, or there is no revealed truth. The Mohammedans claims exactly the same about the Quran. The Jews about the Talmud. The Brahmans [Hindus] about the Vedas. The Buddhists about their Holy Books. The Persians about their Zend Avesta. The Chinese about their Kong [Confucius].
All those books have come to us in miraculous ways, and the authenticity and divine origins of all are equally likely. Some, such as the Bible, are as it were inspired or dictated by God. Others, such as the Quran, were delivered here page by page by an angel, which certainly is more secure. But the Mormons are most fortunate, whose "Book of Mormon", was found at an angel's directions ready-made buried in the ground.
You notice that, before inquiring which Christian sect is to be preferred to join, we must investigate whether it wouldn't be better to arrange our lives according to one of those other holy books. One has just as much probability as the other. Because all of them have got adherents and believers. There are:

approximately 446 million Buddhists.
      ,,   171     ,, Mohammedans [Muslims].
      ,,   139     ,, Brahmans [Hindus].
      ,,   209     ,, Romish [Catholics].
      ,,   131     ,, Protestants.
      ,,     88     ,, Greeks [Orthodox Christians].
      ,,       8     ,, Israelites [Jews].
      ,,   223     ,, of a 100-ish smaller religions.

So the issue cannot be settled by a vote, there isn't any majority. Especially if we consider that merely the main religions are listed and, for example, the 131 million Protestants are further divided into hundreds of sects. It's really no wonder that even our novelist CREMER said: There is so much bickering about religion, that a simple human being should remain neutral, and believe that the porridge is well-cooked when it stands in front of him. This does not satisfy the mind of a thinking person, however, who sees how that religion is an obstacle towards popular happiness.

Chapter V.[edit]

One question that will soon be asked by a thinking person is this: how did we actually start serving God? When did we start it, if there is so little reason for serving the divine?
If we want to leave all those holy books out of consideration and simply take the view of science and common sense, the answer to that question is not very hard. We then must begin by joining almost all contemporaneous naturalists [biologists] in presuming that humans, as they presently are, have evolved from lower animal species. When I speak of "almost all naturalists" that's no grandiloquence, but simply a fact I can prove, for example by the testimony of the, on this point certainly completely reliable, dr. A. KUYPER, who back in 1880 already wrote: "In our days, the theory of DARWIN is accepted by almost all naturalists and practitioners of philosophy."
I realise that many people find it a very unpleasant and creepy idea to be descended from monkeys, as they call it. They find it much more distinguished to keep believing in their descent from Paradise. Yes, that family pride is deeply rooted in our people. I used to know a building inspector, who didn't dare to address or greet his father in the street, because he was just an ordinary mason. As for me, I quote STRAUSS: I've got more respect for a citizen, who worked his way up the career ladder by honest labour, than an expired count or baron, even if he descended from CHARLEMAGNE. Similarly, it is more honourable for a person that he has advanced himself from lower animal species, than that he was originally created as a sinless and perfect inhabitant of Paradise, and presently having gone downhill through his own fault. We should unlearn that weird bragging about a distinguished descent.
But moreover, facts and science don't care whether we like something or not. Most people don't like dying either, and yet they will have to face it sooner or later. And when just about all scholars agree about our descent, we will need to swallow the pill one way or the other, whether it may be tasty or bitter to us.
There was a time, thousands of years ago, that all humans were still living in the woods in an uncivilised state, just as wild and savage as many peoples still are to this day. Those humans saw many natural phenomena that they didn't understand anything about, and of which they were very afraid, because of the matter's mysteriousness. Nowadays, if we see the sun gradually getting smaller and smaller in the middle of the day, then we know exactly, from the almanac or from the neighbours, that it is a solar eclipse, and no old woman at a spinning wheel is frightened by it.
However, those uncivilised, ignorant savages, that maintained nothing that came even close to an almanac, and had no notion whatever about the size of the sun, thought that a giant, strange animal was eating the sun, and they were crying at the idea that they were to live without a sun in the future.
If there were flashes and thunder, then they sat in solemn respect for the mysterious mighty beings, who could create so much unrest. We should consider that those fools have never attended a play in the Threatre of Amsterdam, and thus did not know that anyone, when provided the necessary tools, can create a thunderstorm so naturally, that it almost makes the milk sour.
Whenever there was a comet to be seen; whenever the storm raged through the tree tops; whenever all kinds of weirdly shaped clouds like many armies floated at great speed in the sky in clear moonlight, in short, whenever anything happened that was out of the ordinary daily events, then they immediately thought of powerful creatures that were fighting or playing.
It is obvious that everyone would like to be in a good relationship to those mighty creatures. We can notice that every day, even now. A Javan will never speak about a tiger without calling him "Mister", it's always: Mr Tiger. The beast might hear him once, and take revenge at him for merely saying tiger in a familiar way!
It didn't take long before there were some, a little more lazy and a little cleverer than the others, who claimed to know means to satisfy those powerful beings. With noble human love and charity, they were prepared, of course at the cost of a small compensation — a person needs to live of something, right? — to teach those means to their fellow villagers. Usually, these were very simple tasks that they needed to do. Plant some flower or tree; spill a bit of milk on the hut's threshold; make a bow for the rising sun in the morning; never get out of bed with one's left leg first, etc., etc., etc. Later on, sacrificing cows, sheep and other animals was added: a human being, even though being a priest, is not a human being if he doesn't like the taste of a good sheep leg. And the sacrificed animal was of course for the priests, only the smoke and the smell during the frying was meant for the powerful Being, at whose honour the sacrifice was made. Wine was also welcome, of which always some drops were poured on the floor [=libation] "to the face of the Lord".
In many tribes, they soon distinguished between evil spirits or devils, and good spirits or gods. All nice things an individual experienced, came from the good spirits, all things unpleasant came from the evil spirits. Those who thought they were the most crafty, decided for centuries to only serve and sacrifice to the evil spirits, to bribe these into ceasing their torments. They disregarded the good spirits; at most, these received some leftovers from time to time. They didn't do evil anyway, so they didn't have to be bribed! The reasoning isn't actually that stupid.
Slowly, the duties and doctrines accumulated.
The priests mainly obtained respect and prestige after the invention or discovery, or whatever we're gonna call it, of the belief in immortality, in a continued existence after death. But we will this discuss this in more detail soon.
We know for sure that all church dogmas come from earlier generations, who had much less knowledge of nature and society than we do, and whose ignorance and foolishness should be sufficient to make us mistrust the doctrines they came up with.

Chapter VI.[edit]

There is so much to be said and written about all those things and topics, that it takes some effort to quit it. Yet, I have to do so right now, because I would first like to examine with you, how much is true about the claim of the believers, that religion makes people so happy.
For the person who looks around impartially, it should be certain that in a great many cases, religion really does provide consolation and ease suffering, or rather, it makes bearing the suffering with more patience and acceptance. Many a dead person is regarded cheerfully, in the solid conviction that one will see him or her back soon in heaven; more than one deathbed provides the evidence that genuine piety and devotion takes away much of the awfulness surrounding death.
There can be no difference of opinion on this. Whoever denies these facts, merely reveals their ignorance. At least for me, it is undoubtable that religion has often given people consolation, and still does.
However, we should ask the question whether the happiness brought by religion can outweigh the unhappiness and suffering it causes, and depending on whether this questions is to be answered with yes or no, it will appear if it truly makes humanity as such happier. If a travel companion in a railway train or stagecoach offers us a cigar, but also seizes the opportunity to rob our watch, we haven't got that much reason to be thankful to him. Likewise, we cannot be thankful for religion, if we found out that it does deliver us short moments of joy, but on the whole is embittering our entire existence, and spoils society, state and extended family for us.
After all, it's possible that religion works like gin. Although it often eases the suffering, and makes one gleeful. Boys, such a drink can change a person to such an extent, and grant him great courage. There is nothing, says the English poet BYRON, that calms someone so much as religion or rum in the event of a shipwreck or another danger, and so, in such a case one will see half of the crew praying, and the other half making an effort to empty the rum barrel.
And yet nobody, except maybe the tappers and liquor store owners, would dare to maintain gin has such an amazingly beneficial influence on popular wellbeing. It eases the suffering, and desensitises you to it, it intoxicates us, makes us cheerful and even liberated, makes us sing that we "have never had such fun", and at the end of the day, if consumed in sufficient quantities, slowly but surely takes us down the toilet. The hours of pleasure cause days and weeks of misery.
All things we saw and read about the consequences of serving the divine considered, I'm afraid that the judgement about it cannot be more favourable than that about gin. Religion, too, gives buckets full of grief and suffering against small cups full of happiness and consolation. All of world history is one big accusation against religion, a single indictment against all faith, a single outcry to be delivered from its harsh yoke. So many killings and wars in its name, so many massacres and crusades and burning at the stake and witch trials, all as a consequence of their often honestly well-meant attempts to serve a God that doesn't want to be served! The first Christians were relatively honest. At least they didn't try to throw sand in people's eyes by talking shit about the happiness and consolation of religion.
PAUL squarely admits that it would be foolish to serve God if there was no great eternal bliss attached to it. If in this life only we have hope in CHRIST, he says, we are of all men most miserable.[1] And JESUS too acknowledges that continuous fighting and killing will be the consequence of his teaching: parents and children will hate each other, brothers will rise against one another.[2] Never has a prediction been fulfilled sadder.
The indictment against the Christian faith is very long. We will only mention a few main points in the booklet, but those will suffice for anyone, who truly desires the happiness of humanity and their personal happiness as well, to turn their back on religion for good. For a start, we shall count up all the bloody "blessings".
The massacres and exterminations from the Old Testament are known well enough. Jehova maintained a rule to have all peoples killed that didn't speak Jewish. If they prayed to him under the name of BAÄL — which simply means Lord as well — they were guilty to death. It's fortunate for all European peoples that Jehova has become a bit more rational and linguistic in this regard. Otherwise e.g. the Dutch Christians, who worship "God", would be obliged to exterminate the French, because they say "Dieu". And vice versa!
The number of victims, fallen in religious wars amongst Christian sects, or of Christians against the Turks,[3] has been calculated by VOLTAIRE to amount to the round number of 100 million, say a hundred million! Is it enough blessing and happiness? Suppose someone would claim that JESUS couldn't prophesy!
Add to that those who perished in so-called political wars. Only the seriousness of the matter is able to hold back our laughter, when we hear the vicars revile the "bloody" French Revolution, and then realise that even the smallest battle in the War of 1870 cost more blood than the entire Revolution.[4] However, then the pastors on both sides were praying for God's blessing during the slaughter!
But the awfullest part is yet to come. Falling in a battle, well, one can say something or actually a lot in opposition to it, it's dehumanising, it's atrocious, it's even shameful, all that killing on a large scale, and yet, one perishes and that's that. Although, a 100 million remains an extremely high toll.
But what to say about the hundreds of thousands who are literally tortured to death? Burnt in small fires of wet wood; tied down to a plank, with the feet held to the gratefire and then moved in gradually as the feet and legs slowly, slowly burnt and carbonised; torn apart on racks; put in a kettle cold oil above a fire and then softly, softly boiled up; pieces of flesh wrenched from the body with glowing fire tongs; hammers crushing the genitals and next ropes pinching them off; tear up the nails of hands and feet with metal nails, and then wrenched off with fire tongs; tongues cut off, eyes poked out; maimed, tortured in hundreds of ways. And all that because the poor victim believed in different fairy tales than their torturers, and preferred to have communion with bread rather than a wafer!
And then those nonsensical witch trials, which lie only recently behind us. Consider all those poor old women — and young ones, too — who were condemned to be burnt at the stake after they, no longer able to bear the torture on the rack, confessed anything to their judges, whatever these wanted [to hear]. Forbidden intercourse with the devil? Certainly, every night. Had children from His Black Majesty? Of course, as many as the judges determined.
One shouldn't think that there were just a few victims, who were burnt alive in this manner "to further God's glory". In three years time, namely from 1627 to 1630, so 260 years ago, 900 witches were publicly burnt in the city of Würzburg; 1200 in Bamberg, and in Trier 6500, that's six thousand and five hundred. Is that enough, reader, to show you that the Roman Catholic Church carries the word "loving" in honour? Calvin burnt 34 of those poor creatures in three months time in Geneva. This should serve to remind those who think that only "those Romish" perform such lovely acts. Do you know Art. 36 of the Reformed Church's creed?

"We believe that our good God has given the Government the sword in hands in order to punish the evil and to protect the pious. And her task is not just to inspect and guard over the police, but also to hold firm to the holy church service: to combat and exterminate all idolatry and false religions."

The Reformed gentlemen have never been master and commander somewhere without showing they took their creed seriously. If we would now tell their current allies, the Roman Catholics, that according to the 30th Sunday of the Heidelberg Catechism, mass is nothing but a cursed idolatry, then we'll also know what they can expect according to the demands of the Reformed Church's doctrine. Is there enough blood and bloodiness? "Never", says prof. Huxley, "have the first Christians been persecuted so cruelly by the Roman emperors, as later, under the pretext of witchcraft, men, women and children have been [persecuted] by so-called Christians."

Chapter VII.[edit]

Nowadays, the Catholic and Reformed gentlemen try to make us believe that, if they would again get back in power somewhere, they wouldn't do things as unpleasantly anymore*). In the old days, oh well, they don't deny that people who thought differently have sometimes been dealt with rather roughly. You know, here and there, every once in a while, by semi-mistake, one little heretic may have been burnt. And that stuff about those witches, there is some truth to that as well. But, they've wisened up by now. The times have changed, and burning people at the stake and other such enrichments of live are now gone forgood.
Well, I suspect that, too. However, only on the condition that the gentlemen will never again gain the power to erect them once more. Because if they did, they'll be compelled to burn and kill as before, and will do so on the authority of their Bible, and because the nature of their faith brings it along.
On the authority of their Bible. Or have some parts of the Bible been recalled by special communiqué from God in recent years, perhaps? If so, it seems to me that we would have been informed about it. I don't know other than the fact that they still consider the entire Bible as having been inspired by God, and so they cannot even think about simply leaving all kinds of bloodthirsty commands unexecuted, as if they were articles from a Dutch law on alcohol.

*) A lot of Radicals and nonbelievers, who have never seen the gentlemen at work, are buying into that promise, and due to their aversion against so-called "liberal" mismanagement, one could even observe a kind of political alliance between clericals and Radicals in many places during the 1888 parliamentary elections.

'Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live', says Ex[odus] 22:18; and the recipe for treating men or women, who have a fortune-telling spirit, is mentioned succinctly in Leviticus 20:27: stoning. Those poor spiritists!
Whoever serves gods other than "the Lord", shall be killed. Since, as we've seen, e.g. the Catholics are committing idolatry during the celebration of mass by worshipping an idol, the killing shouldn't be held off.
Concerning us poor unbelievers, there probably won't be a sudden large change. The extirpation of all Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites and other -ites remains a duty for every believer. And those believers are completely right in their point of view, that they take action as harshly as possible. A believer cannot and may not be tolerant, — and indeed he isn't.
Isn't eternal salvation at stake? Isn't perpetual doom looming? A faithful believer needs to prevent their fellow human beings from marching to Hell, by any means; willingly or unwillingly, Heaven must be populated. After all, it's much better to let the people burn here for a bit, than that they should be roasted in Hell forever! Force them to enter,[5] force them by all means. If prisons and pillories are not enough, then [bring up the] gallows; if those don't help anymore either, then burn them at the stake!
Again, an honest, convinced believer cannot be tolerant; the honour of his God and the eternal salvation of his fellow humans are involved. Would he then exclude crass methods? No, history tells us, and no we frankly repeat after it. The oppression of the French Huguenots, as soon as they took complete control of any city; the tyranny of our ancestors who fought against Spain, when they were given the free hand; they tell us more than many book volumes could.
Have you ever read about the humane way in which the Calvinist Geuzen general and nobleman Diederik Sonoy treated his Catholic prisoners? He had small iron cages made, about one foot long and wide, and a half foot high. He put a living rat inside it, and placed the cage on the naked body, preferably the abdomen, of a neatly tied prisoner. Next, the lower lock was opened up, so that the rat found itself on the naked body of the condemned, after which a fire was lit on top of the cage. The heat inside the cage necessitated the rat to find a way out, and running into the iron everywhere, obviously nothing else remained but seeking a way in and through the prisoner.[6] The rest is imaginable. Isn't that sweet? David could barely have improved on it, although that "man after God's own heart" was also rather capable of inventing new means of persuading the Canaanites and other riffraff of the goodness of the Lord Sabaoth![7]

Chapter VIII.[edit]

I'll gladly concede that it's highly unlikely to see the Calvinists or Catholics ever getting so powerful again to indulgde so fervently in their religious zeal as they did in the past. They may still tease and trouble us and keep the common people ignorant for years and years; they'll probably not take it to burning for the time being. My present greatest grievance against them is that, with their religion, they are taking away all our enthusiasm and joy of living, and are constantly seeking to make our Earth a vale of tears. It's just like Mirza Schaffy sings: Die Lust ist im Lande verloren worden.
Goethe, the famous German poet and philosopher, declared that of the four matters he hated with furious hatred, the crucifix was one of them. And elsewhere he expressed his regret that the founder of the Christian faith hadn't been crucified three years earlier, before his public ministry:

"Crucify ev'ry fanatic ere yet his years become thirty; Once they the world understand, dupes are transformed into rogues."[8]

We don't need to inquire here whether Goethe did injustice to the personality of Jesus, as he is described to us in the gospels. He had a need to air his hatred against him who, in his opinion, was the cause of poisoning and spoiling a beautiful Earth by the gloomiest and saddest of all religions.
Because of the age-old preaching of the Ten Commandments and other Biblical prescriptions and the continuous urging to pray and not sin, in order to avoid hell and obtain a spot in heaven, our characters have been ruined through and through. The performance of one noble act for its own sake has become an exception, the thought of payment and reward became the rule. Our tough sailors risk their bodies and lives in the lifeboat to save poor castaways, and when they've succeeded, they chaffer for a few coins more as a reward for their efforts. The whole world has become one big heap of chaffers, mostly due to all that continual chaffering with God about our salvation.
There is barely any Christian whose life isn't partially embittered by the thought of death, which does have to come at some point. Heathens, Indians and also Mohammedans look towards the hour of dying with calm; they know for certain they will either be destroyed or enjoy the happiest life ever on the other side of the grave. And we Christians? In the most favourable case, we end up in heaven, a most boring heaven, where pleasure consists of singing halleluja and looking at God. The majority, however, will end up in a much more unpleasant place and may burn there for eternity. That is the Christian conception, full of consolation.
That the lives of true blue believers are being poisoned by this thought is obvious. Even if they themselves already belong to the chosen halleluja singers, then still the thought of the impending doom of parents, children, brothers or sisters is enough to eradicate all joy of living. They know it: Wide is the gate and broad is the road leading to ruin, and many will tread it. According to the pious REIMARUS, not even one in a 1000 people will be saved. It's truly an august and most pleasurable idea, and it's not strange, that JESUS never laughed.
But the semi-believers, too, will experience many a doorleven menig smothery moment at the thought of death, or rather the after-death. The superstition we've been raised with, LESSING rightly says, doesn't immediately lose its influence after we've obtained more educated insights; a chained person will not free themselves by mocking their chains. Things learnt in the past still keep most people restrained in fear and angst. Although they don't believe any of all that nonsense... guys, there must be something to it, right? They've barely caught a little illness, or they start thinking about reconciling with the vicar and "our dear Lord", just in case. When they recover, they laugh at their own fear, but not wholeheartedly.
In their youth, they were taught about hell. Later, modern vicars may have told us we shouldn't be afraid of that everlasting torture, because God is a loving Father, but we see here on Earth such strange examples of that "loving fatherliness", that we only half trust the situation, and can never fully assured as long as we remain religious.
Oh, dear people, if you only knew what a quiet and calm idea death is for the truly convinced nonbeliever. How you would envy the writer of these lines, if you knew how merrily calmly he can think about death!
But religion has more to answer for. After nearly 19 centuries of Christianity, we have reached the point where, like in a society of savage beasts, anywhere and everywhere laws and more laws are required. All year long, governments are busy making laws. Laws favouring this, laws favouring that; laws against this, laws against that; more and more laws, laws, laws. If religion really had such an ennobling and exhalting effect, we would need fewer and fewer laws as we progressed. In a decent company, laws are unnecessary, everyone knows how to behave and acts accordingly. But in our present Christian society, just about everything needs to be forced and forbidden, and there is almost nothing about which no law has been made yet. If there were equally many laws for nature as for society, our dear Lord himself wouldn't be able to tell them apart (Börne.)
After all, those laws and their armies of maintainers still do only little to help. Murdering, stealing, serving alcohol without permits and such, they can partially prevent, but they are equally incapable of cultivating virtues as religion itself. Christian virtues! It is self-contradictory. The only Christian virtue is to burn anyone who thinks differently. Where is the fairness and honesty in commerce? Decreased, as Christianity increased. Where is hospitality, which was honoured so well amongst nearly all heathens? This accusation does not only apply to the Christian faith, but to others as well. Mohammedanism, for example, has succeeded in turning once loyal, honest and hospitable Arabs into deceptive, fraudulent merchants and cruel slave drivers.

Notes (Wikisource)[edit]

Translator's notes:

  1. See 1 Corinthians 15:19; the translation here is based on the King James Version.
  2. Ten Bokkel does not quote the New Testament literally here, but this prediction of Jesus can be found in Matthew 10:21, Mark 13:12 and Luke 21:16, albeit all phrased differently.
  3. Turks is an obsolete Western pars pro toto term for Muslims. This comes from the fact that between the 14th and early 20th century, the Ottoman Empire bordered on the Christian West, housing by far the largest population of Muslims around the world, and as a caliphate claiming to represent all of Islam.
  4. This depends very much on how broad one defines the term "French Revolution". If this is limited to, say, events in Paris between 1789 and 1799 (Storming of the Bastille, 10 August, September Massacres, Reign of Terror, 13 Vendémiaire etc.), Ten Bokkel's claim might be true. But if e.g. the War in the Vendée is included (c. 170,000–200,000 deaths), not to mention the French Revolutionary Wars, the entire Revolution easily caused more deaths than the entire Franco-Prussian War of 1870 (c. 167,000 deaths), let alone the smallest battle of it.
  5. This probably references the well-known Latin phrase compelle intrare or cogite intrare ("Force them to enter [the Church]" by church father Augustine of Hippo, who, in turn, based himself on Luke 14:23.
  6. During the Dutch Revolt, Diederik Sonoy, an ally of William the Silent, is documented to have used a method where a pottery bowl filled with rats was placed open side down on the naked body of a prisoner. When hot charcoal was piled on the bowl, the rats would "gnaw into the very bowels of the victim" in an attempt to escape the heat. See John Lothrop Motley (1855). The Rise of the Dutch Republic: A History. Volume 3. Bickers & Son. pp. 29–31. 
  7. The passage in 2 Samuel 12:31 is variously translated as king David of Israel having put all the conquered Ammonites to either torture or slavery (forced labour). The exact meaning of the text remains controversial.
  8. German original: 'Jeglichen Schwärmer schlagt mir an's Kreuz im dreyßigsten Jahre; Kennt er nur einmal die Welt, wird der Betrogne der Schelm.' From the Venetianische Epigramme.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1924.

The author died in 1932, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 80 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.