Volume 2 Page 377
THE STATE OF CHRISTIANITY
[The Theosophist, Vol. I, No. 7, April, 1880, p. 181]
The entire space in a monthly magazine as large as this might be filled with extracts from the journals of Europe and America showing the misbehaviour of Christian clergymen and influential lay representatives of the Christian religion. Our purpose in alluding to the fact is neither to gratify the prejudices of “Heathen,” nor strengthen the scepticism of “Infidels”—ourselves included in either class. In what little has been said, and the more that is to appear in these columns, we are merely performing a plain and imperative duty to the great Eastern public into which we have become incorporated. Experience now supplements the information previously derived from reading, and we see the missionary emissaries of Christendom withholding the truth, and by specious stories labouring to entice our people to desert their noble Aryan faiths and become converts. If this would make them better, wiser, and happier; if the new religion were more conducive to public or private good; the chapters of Western history showed that the lofty ethical code arbitrarily ascribed to Jesus had elevated the nations professing it; if in Great Britain, Russia, France Spain, Germany, Italy, the United States of America, or any other “Christian” country, there were fewer crimes, and those of a more venial character, than in lands where—
“The Heathen, in his blindness,
Bows down to wood and stone;”
—then we might at least hold our peace. But it is exactly the reverse in nearly every one of these particulars. From
one end of Christendom to the other there prevails neither real peace, brotherhood, contentment, firm religious faith, nor a preponderating tone of morality in official or private life. The press bristles with the proofs that Christianity has no right to be considered as an active purificatory force. More may be added. The gradual liberation of thought by the progress of scientific research has undermined the very foundations of the Christian religion, and the edifice, erected during eighteen centuries with so much difficulty and at such appalling sacrifices of human life and national morality, is tottering like a tree that sways to its fall. The picture of social morals that one finds in the journals of every Christian country would so shock the Hindu mind, that it would be no wonder if a general rising should drive out of the country, between two days, every missionary, bishop, priest, deacon, or lay teacher calling himself a Christian. For, bad as India may have become in these degenerate days, and forgotten as may be the pure religion of the Veda, there is not a community throughout the Peninsula, which would not be able to show among Natives a better average of morality, of sincere religious fervour, and of security for life than either of the communities from which these proselyters come. Last month, an editorial of that powerful American newspaper, the New York Sun, transferred to these pages, showed us that despite the large worldly advantages offered, there was a marked and significant decrease in the proportion of young collegians who were preparing for the priestly calling. This month we reprint the following brief but pointed remarks of Puck, a satirical weekly journal of New York, which were called forth by the most recent clerical scandal:—
OUR SPIRITUAL GUARDIANS
What is the matter with all the ministers of the Gospel? The example set by Plymouth Church’s great preacher has not merely been followed by smaller fry, but often improved on and varied, according to the taste and fancy of the holy individual.
It is not a pleasant picture for the conscientious Christian who believes in going to church regularly and listening to the word of God as expounded by the clerical gentlemen who may happen to have the floor of the pulpit.
We scarcely know where to begin—the list of these eccentric pastors is such an appalling one.
The special weaknesses of the Rev. H. W. B. are pretty well under stood; he has, however, found humble imitators in the Rev. Mr. Hafermann, of the Hoboken Lutheran Evangelical Church who kisses his cook for “pure” Christian motives, and for her spiritual welfare, and the Rev. Mr. Trumbrower, pastor of the Porter Methodist Episcopal Church, also in Hoboken, who is getting himself talked about for his osculatory practices with one Mrs. Boh, a member of his flock, and a married woman, by the way.
But while Hoboken, with its Hafermann and Trumbrower, may eventually prove a worthy and formidable rival to Brooklyn and its notorious pastors, it is not going to carry off all the honours in clerical misdoings. Connecticut, represented by the Rev. Mr. Hayden, will not permit it. It goes in for something a trifle stronger than mere kissing. It goes for higher game—betrayal and murder; true, not proven according to the opinion of an intelligent jury, but unpleasantly probable.
New York has of late been a little behindhand in crooked clergymen, although, as becomes a patriotic citizen, the Reverend Mr. Cowley will not allow it to be left altogether out in the cold.
The story of the saintly Mr. Cowley’s executive ability in his management of the Shepherd’s Fold, and dieting its little inmates, is already familiar to everybody, and we fondly hope that Mr. Cowley will soon become familiar with the interior of a cell in some respectable jail.
There are many more of these saintly sinners, who have distinguished themselves in a greater or lesser degree, but we forebear mentioning their names. The subject is not an inviting one, but yet it must not be shirked; on the contrary, it must be vigorously handled, for the protection of our wives, our daughters, our children, and for everything that is dear to us in our domestic life.
These men—these pastors—to whom practically the care of our families is confided, are constantly disgracing themselves.
It is not a question of the misfortune of any one denomination, disgraced by these unworthy guardians. Protestant, Catholic, Atheist, and Jew are alike interested in the exposure and punishment of the public teacher who betrays his trust and misuses his privileges.
The above editorial is accompanied by one of the cleverest cartoons we have ever seen. In sarcasm and disdain it matches the most famous caricatures of Gilray or Hogarth.
Catholic and Protestant clergymen are depicted in their proven characters of voluptuaries, peculators, and sensationalists; each picture being inscribed with proper names, extracted from the records of the law-courts. No wonder that decent young graduates should prefer any other profession than one which is so rapidly falling into disrepute. Who can be surprised at the growing scepticism throughout Christendom? We are approaching the crisis of the Western religion, and none but a bold and enthusiastic apologist dares deny that its doom is sealed. Without the revival of Aryan philosophy, for which we are labouring, the West will tend towards the grossest materialism; but with the opening of that long-sealed fountain of spiritual refreshment, we may hope that there will arise, upon the ruins of the bad new faith, the superstructure of the good old one, for the salvation of a world given over to vice and folly.
A few weeks ago, an audience of nearly 4,000 persons of the better class gathered at Chicago, to listen to a defense of the memory of Thomas Paine by that splendid American orator, Colonel Robert G. Ingersoll. Paine was one of the purest, wisest, and bravest apostles of Free Thought that the Anglo-Saxon race has produced. He wrote The Age of Reason—a book which. if the missionaries were governed by the spirit of fair-play, would be on the shelf of every mission library in India, so that their “Heathen” pupils might read both sides of the Christian question. For this crime, the noble author was persecuted in the most malicious way by Christians. His name was made the synonym of all that is vile and malevolent. His enemies, not satisfied with lying about him while alive, desecrated his grave, and we have ourselves seen his monument at New Rochelle, New York, bespattered with dung and battered with sticks and stones. But time heals all injustice, and now, seventy years after Thomas Paine’s death, his memory is vindicated. He died almost solitary and alone, deserted by friends, and his services to American liberty all forgotten. But now, thousands and hundreds of thousands of the most intelligent and influential ladies and gentlemen of America have cheered to the echo Colonel Ingersoll’s glowing periods.
In the address above alluded to, for a verbatim report of which we are indebted to the Religio-Philosophical Journal, the Spiritualist organ to which an allusion was made by us last month, occur the following passages:—
[Here follows a lengthy extract from Colonel Robert G. Ingersoll’s address.]