4/30/2002                                                                                       View Comments

An Atheist on Judgment Day.

- The line seemed to stretch back forever. Hundreds of millions of souls, waiting patiently for their turn before the throne. The date... Well, the day is Judgment Day, so you won't find it on any calendar. The queue of people winds its way down the mountain, through the valley and off into the far distance. Everybody in the queue can see the final destination at the mountain peak. A hundred miles away, they can see it perfectly clearly. And they wait, moving forward a couple of steps at a time. Towards God, and the Decision.

At the head of the we find a young Christian, wearing an expression of awe and joy. Behind him, an atheist, looking slightly astonished, examining a leaf she has picked from a nearby bush, trying to decide if it is real or not. Heaven, she thinks, should be whiter, with more dry ice swirling about; not look like a Welsh hillside on a hot day.

The Christian steps forward for judgment.

"Hello Martin". God's voice is calm and gentle as He speaks.

"Erm.. Hello. Lord". Martin's voice is nervous, as a dozen emotions fight for room in his mind at once.

"This is it. This is where I decide what shall happen to you, Martin. In life, you were a Christian". It was a statement, not a question.

"I was, Lord. I still am. I have been all my life. I have dedicated myself to your service."

"Tell me, Martin. Why were you a Christian? Why did you believe in me?"

"Why? Well... Because you are God! I've always believed in you."

"That is not what I want to know. Why did you believe?"

"Because I knew it was true. You were always there for me. You helped me through the bad times. You answered my prayers. You gave me the strength and courage to get through life. I could feel your presence with me all the time."

"No."

"Pardon, Lord?"

"I said no, Martin. I have never helped you. You seemed to be doing perfectly alright by yourself. I heard your prayers, but never
answered a single one. Your belief in me definitely helped you on occasion, but I have never intervened in your life. Certainly, you
gave me credit for all the good times, but they were your own doing, not mine. You did not feel my presence, because it cannot be felt. The only actual proof you have that I exist at all is here and now. Again, tell me why you believed."

"I.. I had faith, Lord. Since I was a child I have been to church, prayed and sang every Sunday. My faith in you never wavered. Even
when my mother died, I had faith that it was your will, that it was a blessing from you that she passed peacefully. I was raised to believe in you, and as I grew I read the Bible for myself, and learnt of your miracles, and all the saints and martyrs, and the good done in your name. I read the works of great philosophers and they merely strengthened my faith. I knew it was true. "

"No, Martin. Your mother died of natural causes, and she died peacefully because of the actions of the hospital. I watched and saw,
but that is all. As for the rest - the saints, martyrs and philosophers had similar reasons for their belief in me, just as dictators and murderers have had. People have done great good and great harm in my name, and in the names of a thousand false gods. The
Bible was written about me, not by me, and was written by people who had similar reasons as you for their belief, just as a thousand other Holy Books have been written about the false gods, or different versions of myself. I ask for the third and final time. Why did you
believe in me?"

Martin looked shocked and ashen, but pulled himself together. His Lord was testing him, and he had lived his entire life for this moment.

"I believed because I could feel in my heart it was true. You sent your son to die for us, and I gladly accepted Him as my saviour. I..
I just knew it was true, and now that I see you, my faith has been vindicated. I no longer need to believe - I can see for myself the
truth and majesty of my religion."

Quietly, God spoke again. "Martin, you have impressed me". He paused.

"But... not enough. You believe because you were taught to believe. You believe because you mistakenly attribute to me anything positive that has happened in your life, and discount anything negative. You believe because it is comforting to believe, and because you are frightened of the consequences of my not existing. You believe because... you believe. I'm sorry, Martin, but there is no place for you here."

God gestured briefly with his fingers, and Martin vanished. His shadow lingered where he had stood, fading rapidly to nothingness.

The atheist, somewhat shaken by what she had just seen, stepped forward.

"Hello Eve. I like that name."

"Ah. Hello, God. Thanks", said Eve, not entirely sure how to address a being she had, until now, considered fictional.

"Yes, you may call me God. Eve, in life you were an atheist. You doubted my existence, even objecting to the very concept". Again, a
statement, not a question.

"Yes, I did. Clearly, I was mistaken."

"Clearly. Tell me, are you still an atheist?"

"I suppose not. I'm not a Christian, Jew or anything else. I guess I'd have to be called an involuntary theist. Ah ha ha", Eve laughed
nervously, hoping the very real and solid-looking deity before her had a good sense of humor.

"Mmm... Tell me, Eve. Why did you not believe in me?". God's voice was kind and gentle once more.

"At one point I did. I was raised as a Christian, and often went to hurch, and prayed every night before bed. When I was feeling down I
would read the Bible. The act of reading it seemed to comfort me, even though the words themselves didn't seem much help. I think, like Martin, I believed because I believed."

"And then you lost your faith? You decided I did not exist, and you knew better than those around you? You knew better than your pastor and family?" The voice was losing its kindly edge a little.

"That is one way of looking at it, yes. What I believed did not seem to fit with other things I knew. The Bible clearly could not be literally true, word for word. I knew from biology and paleontology that humans had evolved like all other life, and were not special
creations. How life or the universe began, I still don't know, but could not just merely accept 'God did it' as an explanation. I learned about other religions, and how they all claimed a monopoly on truth, happiness and morality. I saw the good done in your name, but
I also saw the oppression, genocide and wars. I saw that if people were in need, it was up to us to deal with it, not to rely on heavenly aid.". Eve felt a little braver, but was expecting the traditional thunderbolt any moment. The people behind her, now at the head of the queue, were slowly moving backwards, trying not to draw attention to themselves.

"Yet here you are, before your God, on the final Day of Judgment. Why should I allow you in - a heretic, a disbeliever, an infidel - when
your predecessor, devout and faithful, full of love for me, was consigned to Oblivion? Tell me why. Justify your entry to my Paradise."

Eve straightened up, looking God in the face. "Why should you let me in? Because I am better person than you."

If Eve had looked round, she would have seen the entire line of souls, perfectly still and wide-eyed, staring at her in shock.

"What did you say?", enquired God. His voice, though barely audible, caused tremors in the mountain.

Surprised at still being alive, her mouth dry, Eve continued. "I said, because I am a better person. You have shown it yourself already. You told Martin that you watched as his mother became ill and died. You destroyed him for believing for no good reason, when his whole life had been shaped by that belief. Your preachers on Earth encourage unquestioning faith, yet you do not tell us whether
that is what you want. You give people no rational basis for belief, and then when they make up their own that is not good enough for you. You listen to our prayers, yet do not answer, leaving people to rationalise events for themselves. People kill and slaughter over
trivial differences in doctrine, and you look on. In the churches and temples raised in your glory, children are mentally and physically
abused - in your so-called House! All over the world, throughout history, people have murdered each other for believing the wrong
thing about God, for believing in the wrong God, or for not believing in any God. The poorest and most helpless people are relentlessly
targeted, being told to give what little they have now, for the promise of eternal bliss later. When a person is at his lowest ebb, that is when the smiling missionaries appear, knowing that his life will probably get better naturally and they can give you the credit. In your name, the ends justify the means as long as souls are saved". Eve paused for breath, and continued.

"And you? All-powerful, all-loving, all-knowing? You just sit here and you watch it all... Any person in this line, had they your power,
would show greater compassion and morality. You may be God, but you are far from Godliness."

God smiled. "Are you finished? Good. Eve, you have impressed me". He paused. Eve held her breath, shoulders tensing.

"You have impressed me a great deal. You may have believed in me for all the wrong reasons, but you disbelieved for the right reasons. You led a good life, and used the intelligence I give to everybody in the correct way. Even though you came to a conclusion about me that was hopelessly wrong, you came to it in a way that cannot be faulted. You may pass into paradise, Eve, with my blessing."

Eve did not step forward. Instead, she spoke once more. "No, I will not".

"No? You refuse Heaven? You defy my will?" The smile had left God's face again.

"Do you think I would want to spend one more minute, let alone eternity, in your company? You allow people to suffer, sometimes for
their entire lives, for no purpose, and then judge them on their reaction. You hide yourself from the world and allow your creations
to persecute each other over differing interpretations of the lack of evidence. You see all the pain and ignorance caused in your name, and just sit there as this queue grows daily? And then you have the audacity to punish good people for believing in you 'for the wrong
reasons'?"

"Eve. Enough of this. The gates to Paradise are open to you. Be silent now, and enter."

"No. If it is a choice between oblivion and an eternity with a monster like you, I gladly choose oblivion. I ask only one thing, before you destroy me."

"And what is that?" asked God, getting impatient.

"That, if you can, you look me in the eyes as you do it."





Shortly afterwards, the next person in the queue stepped towards the
top of the mountain, and Judgment.

4/26/2002                                                                                       View Comments

Hearing the Voice of GOD

I was doing a little Internet surfing when I came across this article on “Hearing the Voice of GOD” The full article for anyone mildly interested is here: http://www.layhands.com/HowToHearGodsVoice.htm

The parts of the article that grabbed my attention as I scanned it, I just have to comment on. It would be quite entertaining on a parody site, such as Landover Baptist Church, or something similar. However, this is not a parody as the author or authors of this site are serious about this stuff. Look at the following two paragraphs quoted from the article.

Another way that the Holy Spirit guides us is by giving us a "check" in our spirits when something is wrong, and by giving us an "inner witness" when something is right. I will try to describe how I experience these things, but please realize that you might not be able to fully relate to my descriptions. When you learn to recognize the "check" and the "inner witness" within yourself, you might describe them in a very different way than I do.

Here's an example of receiving a "check" in my spirit. My wife and I hadn't been out together in awhile, so one day we wanted to take our three-year-old to the babysitter and then go see a movie. The Lord doesn't let us see 'R' rated movies or even most 'PG-13' movies, so I had narrowed down the list of movies to two or three that seemed like possible candidates. I asked the Lord if it was all right for us to see the first movie, and immediately a faint "sick to my stomach" sensation began to rise up within me. I have learned that this is how I experience a "check" in my spirit, so I thanked the Lord for His guidance and said that we would not go to see that movie. Immediately that sensation dissipated. I asked the Lord about another movie, and immediately a "good" sensation, sort of a happy, loving, even "tickly" sensation rose up in the area of my belly, which I have learned is the way that I usually experience the "inner witness." I thanked the Lord, and the sensation immediately dissipated. As you can see from this example, the "check" is like a "no" answer from the Lord, and the "inner witness" is like a "yes" answer from the Lord.


I would like to thank Christians like this for their extremely screwy ideas. If it weren’t for these poor deluded souls promulgating such asinine gibberish, I might still be a Christian today. Fortunately, most Christians are so full of doctrines and teachings like this to relegate them to a very high degree of inconsequence in the real world. Imagine if people like this were in charge of the affairs of men. Talk about your Dark Ages!

By the way, just before I left Christianity, I made the amazing discovery that I, yours truly, am GOD! Yes, that is right, I am GOD! I know this, because one night, on my knees, praying fervently for the salvation of my friends and family, it came to me like a flash of lightning. I realized for the first time that I was not talking to a deity somewhere in the heavens. No, I indeed was not invoking the favor of the divine overlord of the space-time continuum. No wrestling with spiritual darkness was taking place. I knew, deep in my heart, with a confidence that is best described as enlightenment, or perhaps revelation knowledge, that I was merely talking to myself.

One last quote from the article: " Also keep in mind that when God speaks to you, it will not always make sense to your brain."
Boy aint that the truth!

4/23/2002                                                                                       View Comments

To Michelle, a believer in Christ

In the last couple of days, I have been exchanging emails with a believer in Australia. I haven’t been called mate since I was in Australia some 9 years ago, just before I retired from the military. I enjoyed my time in the land down under, and the people there were very nice. Oh, and I was a believer then, and corresponded with other believers there for some time after my short stint in Townsville Aus.

The reason I make special mention of this exchange is that in her letters I recognize some of the thinking I myself once held dear. Now that I am free from religious dogma, and have been for the past few years, I think it is interesting to observe how fallacious her arguments are. I once thought this same approach with unbelievers to be effective, yet now I am embarrassed to realize how infantile I was in my thinking. This is not to imply I think I have nothing more to learn, no, it is just a realization of how much I didn’t know then, yet how arrogant I was in my ignorance.

She posted to about half a dozen articles and letters on my website, to which I delayed in responding. She wanted to be sure I saw what she had to say so then she emailed me directly. Finally I responded with a short letter refuting her contentions. I am posting the whole exchange to my site and can be read by clicking HERE.
The main points I want to address:

1) Her first contention is that it is apparent “that nothing anyone can say to you is going to change your mind – nothing.” While it is true that I write emphatically and that my mind set is such that I can now rightly call myself by the name atheist, it was not always so. I spent 30 years as a die-hard fundamentalist Christian. However, even then my theology changed and developed as I discovered evidence that my thinking was lacking or skewered on one topic or other. Finally, after a lifetime of Christian life and service, I realized that religion generally and Christianity in particular just doesn’t stand up under scrutiny. The contradictions in the bible, the lack of historical support for the miraculous stories all over the bible, the opposition to good science demonstrated in the bible and throughout the history of Christendom began the unraveling of my commitment. The general denigration of human wisdom and learning taught in both the Old and New Testaments and the way Christianity has played out in history and reality felled the final blows that destroyed my faith. You might say my reason won out in the battle for my mind. While she accuses me of being unable to change my mind no matter what anyone says, I say that this is a prime example of the pot calling the kettle black as the old cliché goes.

2) “I am living my life, so if I die and there is no God, then I lose nothing. I lived a good life!” Now I wonder if this is valid or not as an apologetic for living a lie. Should we attempt to heal individual suffering from delusion, if they are happy with their fantasy life? If someone believes they are Napoleon Bonaparte, and they are harm to neither themselves nor others, is that then a good life? It might be reasonably argued by some that a happy delusion is preferable to an unhappy reality, but personally, I prefer to face reality squarely in the face. Of course also to be considered in this statement is the fact that she obviously accepts only Yahweh to be GOD. What if one of the other deities believed in by millions of people around the globe and in history turns out to be the right one. Perhaps living for the wrong god will suffer stiffer penalties then those who serve none at all. Anything is possible when people bring invisible friends into their version of reality.

3) “I do not want to rumble with you alright!” “However, if I do see stuff that I believe is twisted about the Bible or about the Church, then I will say something! So which is it? No, I suppose you do not want an argument, which is why the half a dozen posts and the veiled accusations were written if I respond in any way that appears even the slightest bit adversarial. Finally: “Neither can you by any scientific experiment prove that God doesn't exist! If you come up with something, heck, let me know and I'll ring all the TV stations so that we can all watch you do it!” I love this one more than any other that is thrown at me. By the way, that fallacious argument is thrown about like confetti. Oh, and I admit, I also threw it about in my day. Of course proving a negative on almost any item of interest is impossible. This type of argument is popularly known as “Burden of Proof.”
Burden of Proof is a fallacy in which the burden of proof is placed on the wrong side. Another version occurs when a lack of evidence for side A is taken to be evidence for side B in cases in which the burden of proof actually rests on side B. A common name for this is an Appeal to Ignorance. This sort of reasoning typically has the following form:
A. Claim X is presented by side A and the burden of proof actually rests on side B.
B. Side B claims that X is false because there is no proof for X.
In many situations, one side has the burden of proof resting on it. This side is obligated to provide evidence for its position. The claim of the other side, the one that does not bear the burden of proof, is assumed to be true unless proven otherwise. The difficulty in such cases is determining which side, if any, the burden of proof rests on. In many cases, settling this issue can be a matter of significant debate. In some cases the burden of proof is set by the situation. For example, in American law a person is assumed to be innocent until proven guilty (hence the burden of proof is on the prosecution). As another example, in debate the burden of proof is placed on the affirmative team. As a final example, in most cases the burden of proof rests on those who claim something exists (such as Bigfoot, psychic powers, universals, and sense data).
Examples of Burden of Proof
a. Bill: "I think that we should invest more money in expanding the interstate system."
Jill: "I think that would be a bad idea, considering the state of the treasury."
Bill: "How can anyone be against highway improvements?"
b. Bill: "I think that some people have psychic powers."
Jill: "What is your proof?"
Bill: "No one has been able to prove that people do not have psychic powers."
c. "You cannot prove that God does not exist, so He does."

In conclusion: “I am a thinking person, and I don't just accept something because it sounds good! Even with the ones standing behind the pulpit, I check out what they say too! I can't just accept something! I can't - that's not me! So, it was a thinking person along with many others who have gone before me (thinking people - even atheist scientists!) that accepted Christ as Lord.” This too is a fallacious argument known as “The Appeal to Authority” which uses admiration of a famous person to try and win support for an assertion. For example:
"Isaac Newton was a genius and he believed in God."
This line of argument isn't always completely bogus; for example, it may be relevant to refer to a widely-regarded authority in a particular field, if you're discussing that subject. For example, we can distinguish quite clearly between:
"Hawking has concluded that black holes give off radiation"
and
"Penrose has concluded that it is impossible to build an intelligent computer"
Hawking is a physicist, and so we can reasonably expect his opinions on black hole radiation to be informed. Penrose is a mathematician, so it is questionable whether he is well-qualified to speak on the subject of machine intelligence.
I could say more, but that is enough for now.

4/21/2002                                                                                       View Comments

THE NEW TEN COMMANDMENTS

1. Never accept any thing on faith. Faith is just an excuse for laziness. Get out and do some research on the origins of your god. Question things that don't make sense or defy logic. Don't accept ignorance.

2. Find out where the money you donate really goes. Most churches are big business organizations which prey on the fears of the sick and elderly, or try to influence minors before they can think for themselves. They are not required to give an accurate accounting of funds taken in.

3. Realize that every tax concession given to a religious organization must be made up in some other way. You, the tax payer, are supporting religions you may not even believe in, or approve of. Demand a full accounting of all funding churches receive. Find out how much actually goes to charitable causes, how much goes to outreach propaganda, how much goes into business investments, and how much is sent to headquarters. Would this money be better distributed by your local government to aid the community? If this income were taxed, how much would your community benefit?

4. Consider Robert Ingersoll's maxim: "Hands that help are better far than lips that pray." When you send money to a mission overseas do you really know what is happening? Don't you think that tools would be more helpful to an impoverished nation than bibles? Don't hospitals perform more miracles than churches?

5. Do not sit back and accept that everything is "All In God's Plan". That is a cop out! Take responsibility for your own life. Get out and do something in your community to make this world a better place. If you wait for divine intervention, you'll be waiting a long time.

6. Be a good person, not because you fear the wrath of god but because you want to help. Be kind to all living things because you respect life and are capable of making good choices on your own. If god is as merciful as some religions would like you to believe, then he'll forgive those who think logically. If he is as vengeful and unforgiving as other religions claim, then who would want to live with a tyrant like that?

7. Realize that all animals have feelings, display emotions, have dreams, feel hope and give love. They also feel pain, terror, grief and loneliness. Whether you believe in a god or not, you must accept that we share the world with other creatures and should strive to treat them all with compassion. Treat animals with the same respect you would treat someone of a different culture. Just because you don't understand them, doesn't mean they are not sentient beings.

8. Examine the roots of racial and sexual prejudices. They often have a religious origin. Remember that the history of most religions is bloody, cruel and repressive, no matter how much they claim to be based on love.

9. Don't expect a god to solve the world's problems. Look to science, technology and humanity for help. These items were repressed in the Dark Ages by religious leaders who feared losing power over their ignorant followers.

10. After diligent study, make a mature and knowledgeable decision. Decide which god, if any, is needed to make your life full.



There is no evidence of a benevolent creator. There is much cruelty on earth, from a cat toying with a mouse, to snakes slowly squeezing the life out of their prey, to children born with terrible handicaps. To say that this is "all God's plan" seems like a pretty poor excuse.

To say that Satan is the cause of the world's ills makes no particular sense. If God is all powerful and all merciful, he would have rid the earth of Satan a long time ago, rather than let millions of innocents suffer.

Life on earth demonstrates survival of the fittest, strongest or most intelligent - all traits developed through natural selection. Random acts of cruelty are part of this system. We must use our own intelligence to make this world a better place.

4/18/2002                                                                                       View Comments

"A Sabbatical?" or "My Anti-Testimony"

I first posted this "testimony" to the web on July 27, 2001. If you too have found Christianity specifically, or religion generally, to be less than satisfying for any reason, please consider posting your own "testimony" to this site by clicking here, or message me by clicking here.




It is invariably a shock to Evangelical Christians to come across someone who has turned his or her back on the “faith was once delivered unto the saints.” Most believers will quickly dismiss an ex-Christian by piously pointing out that anyone who turns away from Christ was never a real believer. Or, as an insider might say it, “They were never born again.” There is Biblical support for the assertion. 1 John 2:19, which addressed the problem of First Century apostates, states that: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.” (KJV) (I’d like to point out here that the previous verse, verse 18, suggests that the writer also believed it was the end of history and that the Antichrist was about to appear. It seems that whoever penned 1 John was premature in announcing it to be the “last time.” He may have been mistaken in his quick judgments against those ancient infidels as well.)

For those from a Calvinistic background, the fifth petal of TULIP uncompromisingly declares that those truly chosen by God for salvation will persevere in the faith. They will persevere in the faith because God will preserve them in the faith. Or, as a Baptist fundamentalist might express it: “Once saved always saved.” For fundies, a believer gone bad was just faking salvation or is presently backslidden and will eventually return to the fold, with his or her tail between his or her legs. There are also a plethora of competing denominations that teach people can lose their salvation. To members of those denominations, a fellow believer who has fallen away might have really been saved at one time, but is now lost again. They believe it is possible to get saved, and lost, and saved again, many times, before a person's allotted lifespan runs out.

The reason for this brief essay is to share my testimony about my personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and my repentance from that relationship. What follows may unnerve some of my closer associates and will likely alienate some of my good friends. I have absolutely no desire to alienate anyone since I have already spent years as a zealous evangelical Christian, alienating dozens and dozens of people in the name of Christ. However, it is only fair to those who know me to allow them a glimpse into where I am coming from, now.

When I was very young, my parents attended a Presbyterian Church. I used to watch my father pray during the service. His eyes would close and his chin would rest against his chest. I wondered if he was asleep. At home, my mother would tell my brother and I Bible stories. I always had questions for her: “Why did God put the tree of knowledge in the garden since he knew what would happen?” I also wondered whom Cain married, if dinosaurs were taken on the ark, and all kinds of things my mother could not answer. My parents stopped regularly attending church when I was nine, but still sent my brother and me to Vacation Bible School during the summer. I was diligent to learn all the Bible lessons, stories and doctrines, earning multiple gold stars in each class. Though I do not remember it, my mother likes to tell a story that even when I was 5 years old, I would come home from Sunday School, gather the un-churched neighborhood kids together on our porch, and parrot all I had been taught that morning.

I was eleven years old in 1969. My grandmother was a staunch Baptist. In fact, she was one of the founding members of the First Baptist Church in Ashtabula Ohio, and was absolutely devoted to the place. The Church had hired an aggressive youth minister who wanted to see more young people attending services. His name was Norm, and he organized a youth rally which featured a movie produced by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. The movie's aim was the conversion of young people. My grandmother invited me to the meeting and of course I loved my Grandma, so I got a ride from my Dad and sat with her to watch the show. I don’t remember the title of the movie, but the basic plot centered on one of the male characters who accepts Christ and starts to tell his friends about it. One of his unbelieving friends makes terrible fun of the whole thing, mocks Christ, and mocks the threat of going to hell. The unbelieving friend ends up accidentally trapped in a burning barn toward the end of the film and dies horrifically, going straight to a Christless grave.

I am not sure how powerful of a flick it was, but it got to me. Before that movie, I knew about God and the Bible and Jesus, but now I realized I had no personal relationship with Christ, and I needed one. When the altar call was given to come forward and accept Christ, I did not go forward, but listened intently, memorizing the “sinner’s prayer.” Later that night, in the dark and quiet of my room, I got down on my knees confessed my sins, repented as much as I knew how, and accepted Christ into my heart. It was a mind-altering experience for me. In my mind’s eye I visualized the Creator of all physically with me in the room. I felt overwhelmed with what I believed was a personal and direct manifestation of the LORD. I cried and cried. The emotional cleansing and reality of that moment has never left me, and as I write about it now, it comes alive once again.

The very next morning, I started carrying a small New Testament to school with me. I was in the sixth grade, reading a KJV, and doing my best to understand what I could from its inspired pages. I began attending church that week, and became a regular customer at the local Christian Book Store. My paper route wages and tips found investment in books and comic book tracts by Jack Chick, which I read and distributed zealously.

After my twelfth birthday I was asked if I would like to be trained as a counselor for the new Billy Graham evangelistic movie entitled “For Pete’s Sake,” which was being sponsored by several local churches. The showings were to be at Shea’s Theater in downtown Ashtabula. I eagerly agreed and dutifully submitted myself to the counselor training by memorizing the required verses and receiving a certificate as a bona fide counselor. At the end of each night, a short salvation message was shared by one of the local pastors, followed by the traditional Billy Graham style altar call. During the course of the weekend, I was able to assist several young people from my own age group as they came forward to make decisions for Christ. Following that crusade, I was excited. I began to do street evangelism on my own. I witnessed to other kids at school, and even led a fellow Boy Scout to the lord while on a week long Boy Scout camp. His name is Phil and is presently a pastor at an American Baptist Church outside of Youngstown Ohio. I started a junior high school Bible study group, and taught the others who joined how to lead others to Christ ala Billy Graham. (“The Romans Road” with some small variations, was what Billy recommended back then.) The early 1970’s saw the height of the Jesus People Movement in the US, so naturally I became involved with other non-denominational youth study groups held at various houses around town. I was introduced to CS Lewis, Watchman Nee and other famous Christian authors during this time. I drank every word written in those books like it was water. A prolific reader even in junior high I was insatiable for more and more information.

Reggie Kirk, my Boy Scout Master, recognized my thirst for more spiritual enlightenment and invited me to his church, the local Assembly of God, where I learned I needed the Baptism in the Holy Spirit to be a complete Christian. I attended one Sunday night when, providentially, the topic being discussed was that very doctrine. I went forward during the altar call to receive the “Baptism” and kept those poor people there long after the service ended as I pleaded with the Almighty to grace me with the Holy Ghost and tongues. Finally, after two hours of eye watering, knee hardening prayer, and some helpful coaching from a woman who stood with me, I babbled a few syllables. Everyone pronounced proudly that I had indeed received the Holy Spirit. Now, as a full-fledged tongue-talking Jesus person, I went full steam into making a difference in the world for Christ.

My parents, who at best were only nominally religious, viewed my obsessive enthrallment with church-stuff as disconcerting and worrisome. My mother, knowing I loved to read, decided to introduce me to her understanding of reality which was embodied in the writings of Edgar Cayce. My mother was a Reincarnationist. I rejected her teaching, witnessed to her unceasingly for the next 25 years about the love of Christ, and read everything published concerning the psychic Cayce. My grades suffered terribly in junior high, as I could not see any value to secular learning. I viewed the world as passing away, valueless compared with heavenly knowledge with eternal relevance.

As puberty became more influential in my thought processes, I struggled terribly with the hormonal demands of my body verses the tenets of the Church concerning any sort of sensual pleasure. Jesus taught that it is just as sinful to have any sort of lustful thought, as to actually act on any of them. I found adolescence very difficult on my thought life, finding myself in a perpetual war with guilt. I agonized over my sexuality, begging God to deliver me from temptation, to no avail. It was depressing.
I began to distinguish myself in music during this time, receiving nothing but positive feedback on my performance. By the time I was 14, I was being hired to play trombone semi-professionally. It was fun. I had begun finding inconsistencies in the Bible when I noticed numerous contradictions between various number citations in the Old Testament. Then I was confused by the multiple conflicting details in the resurrection stories in the Gospels, as well as in Paul’s version. One of the biggest contradictions I could not rectify was whether or not Judas threw his money into the temple and hanged himself or bought a field and fell headlong into it. I wrote to an evangelistic radio ministry out of Richmond Virginia, asking for direction about these apparent problems. I was only thirteen and they responded to my cry for help with a short note. Instead of an intellectually satisfying apologetic, they merely admonished that some things could only be answered through the eyes of faith. I pretty much got the same answer everywhere I went. Regardless, I continued to attend Baptist Church on Sunday mornings, Assembly of God on Sunday nights, and various home study groups during the week. Then, the summer before entering High School, the Baptist church hierarchy decided to fire the youth minister. He had held an all night youth rally event at the church. The geriatric power people in the church thought his tactics to lure young people to church were inappropriate, so they brought the issue to vote and that settled the matter. He was there one week and gone the next. During the same time period, the Pastor of the Assembly of God church was caught having an affair with one of the lady members. Both he and the woman were married to other people, so when the affair was discovered, he resigned and left the church. I still wonder how long that had been going on. My growing dissatisfaction with the church’s inability to answer my Biblical questions, my budding musical career and the hypocritical church politics worked together to help me fall away from Christianity for a time. My grades in school improved immensely. I finished High School early, in the top 10% of the class. I auditioned for the Air Force Band, was accepted, and as soon as I turned seventeen, I left for basic training in San Antonio.

As the years went by, I continued to have an interest in the Bible, studying textual variants and translation problems. I had several years of revival, when I buried my questioning and simply emulated the faith of a little child, trusting that though I could not understand many things, God knew what he was doing. Eventually, I would get a headache from such pious mind games and find myself drifting again. I spent years in and out of Charismatic meetings where healings were performed as well as Words of Knowledge, messages from God, and rousing sermons proclaiming the imminent return of Christ. The emotional feeling of those early charismatic events was like a drug high.

During these up and down spiritual times, I swung between being fanatically zealous, to totally apostate. I comforted myself on my lack of consistency by reasoning that at least I was not lukewarm. In the next few years I belonged to several different Baptist Churches and several different Charismatic Churches in succession. I was married, had a son, got divorced, remarried and had two more children. In my thirties, I finally hit bottom and decided I would simply dig in, buy books like crazy, and study until I got all my answers.

My second wife and I were deeply involved in an English speaking Assembly of God church while living in Japan. We ran the music ministry, the bookstore and participated in English evangelism at a local Japanese speaking Assembly of God. Once again, my inquiring mind reared its ugly head and put me at odds with the church. For years I had accepted the Pentecostal teaching that all Christians must speak in tongues to demonstrate they had been baptized in the Holy Spirit. I had also accepted the harsh Arminianism preached there. As I began to study John Calvin, Matthew Henry, John Bunyan, Matthew Poole, Charles Spurgeon, Martin Luther and a host of other teachers from the past, I began to realize that there was a whole other gospel of which I was completely ignorant. I questioned the pastor of our AG church on some of these matters. He did not answer any of my questions, assuring me that God would comfort my heart as to the truth of the Assemblies’ teachings in time. He responded to my inquiry by removing my wife and I from all our leadership responsibilities until such time as we came to peace with the issues I brought up. He said if I were to remain in leadership with doubts on various Pentecostal doctrines, it would cause confusion for the congregation. Of course we were welcome to stay and attend the services, he said. We left the church that day. I started a home Bible study where we studied such things as Romans 9, Ephesians 1, and other strikingly Calvinistic chapters, without forcing any dogmatic conclusions. It was well attended. I led that group into street evangelism in Japan, passing out tracts at train stations and other public areas. I wrote letters to Christian leaders all over the world, soliciting their input on various doctrinal issues and spent a small fortune on books, studying the reformed theologians who lived prior to this century’s “charismania”.

I retired from the Air Force, left Japan and started over again in the town where I grew up. My parents and other relatives were apprehensive of my resettling near them, since they knew I was a religious fanatic. We attended, and even joined, several churches over the next few years, trying to settle in with the local evangelical, non-charismatic Christians. We wanted to find acceptance, and learn sound doctrine. As I learned more, and leaned more toward the Reformed Faith, I was made aware that I was living in adultery with my present wife. This was because my previous marriage did not end with a scriptural divorce. One counselor advised me that I should leave my present wife and live celibate in order to obey Christ’s commands. Failure to leave my present wife was considered continuous adultery in this Reformed denomination. This made no sense to me. Can one grievous sin be offset by committing another, I wondered? Should I really abandon my wife and two children because I blew it on my first marriage? I also discovered that any illusions I might have of ever being in any kind of leadership in any Reformed church, was out of the question. Divorce and remarriage was treated, except under the narrowest of scriptural scrutiny, as if it were more unforgivable than murder. The husband of one wife was the badge of acceptance required above all. Of course I still had questions. That, apparently, is a bad thing, as it did nothing but set me at odds with pastors and congregants alike. We finally found a Reformed Baptist Church in Pennsylvania, which accepted my past miscarriage of wedlock and we attended for several months. Originally the church had been an Independent Baptist Church and quite Arminian in theology. They had made the switch to Calvinism in soteriology, but remained Darbyite in eschatology. The primary preoccupation they seemed to have was with such important topics as head coverings for women and hating homosexuals. If the pastor was questioned in private concerning even the smallest detail of his teaching, the next service would be laced with personalized rebuke and condemnation pointedly aimed at the doubting inquiries and directly at those mouthing them. We left that church too.

We found another church some 35 miles away from our house that seemed promising. This church had been very charismatic originally, but had found deeper meaning in the teachings of R.J. Rushdooney. They had made a complete 180-degree turn toward Reconstructionism. I was totally unfamiliar with this brand of Christianity, so we stayed there for over three years. In that time we experienced and were taught a whole new brand of Christianity. Waving the Westminster Confession as the flag of truth we were encouraged to be filled with anger against sin, against worldly politicians, and to be fiercely aggressive political activists, so we might gain temporal power and obey Christ’s command to go into the entire world. “Discipling the Nations” was their clarion call. When the assistant pastor raised money to go and publicly support a civil war in a small African country, in the name of Christ, we finally knew it was time to leave that arena too. During the three years we were there, not one person became our friend. Everyone was too busy condemning pietism, marching and campaigning, and supposedly changing the world for Jesus.

Since leaving that church, I have spent the last couple of years reading other materials. Books by disillusioned Christians, pastors and others who find religion generally, and Christianity specifically, lacking in truth has become my books of choice. I have come to accept my initial adolescent doubts about the Bible. It was not simply rebellion, but the seed of good common logic and sense. I no longer claim to have all, or many, of the answers to life as I once claimed when my fanaticism expanded to full bloom. Since I have had to accept the fact that my theology has been wrong time and again, even though I supposedly had the Holy Spirit guiding me, it is quite unlikely that I have ever been totally right on much. I have changed my foundational beliefs several times as my religious self-education has evolved. I can’t say that I am content to be stagnant even at this juncture of spiritual understanding – I reserve the right to once again change my mind. Surely, if God could make a mistake and repent of making man, I can acknowledge error and repent of making a god and any decisions about my belief in it.

What do I believe now? Like I said, I am not sure. I suppose that makes me an agnostic. At this point, that is the most intellectually appealing position for my tortured thought processes. It allows me the freedom to keep an open mind while absorbing all the viewpoints without completely immersing myself in any of them. You might consider it an R&R from mind control, or perhaps I simply want …………, a sabbatical.

Dave




That is what I said then, and for the most part I would not change a thing. However, as my mind has cleared from the constant programming or self brainwashing I willingly subjected myself to, I have upped the "Anti", you might say. While I really cannot credit or blame anyone else for the positions on religion I have held, I find that much of the feedback I am receiving from this site implies that I have rejected Christ because of how people treated me. I regret I have written in such a way so as to mislead some on this point. Though I indeed was treated poorly by the bulk of Christians I know, I do not hate or dislike any of them. Neither did I leave the faith solely because of their behavior. I endured trials like that for nearly 30 years, and though unpleasant, it did not discourage me from my commitment to Christ. I remained stalwart for years, reasoning, as many of the people who write me, that Christians may be imperfect, but they are forgiven, and Christ is not like them, and so on. The main point I had hoped to accomplish in reiterating a few of the unpleasant experiences I had with the "chosen few" was to show that there is nothing supernatural going on in the lives of Christians. We are taught that the Holy Spirit is within us, transforming us, quickening us, destroying our sin nature, putting to death the "old man" and on and on ad-nauseam. The simple truth is: it is not true. Christians are absolutely no different than any one else. They do not have GOD ALMIGHTY in their bodies, making them into new creatures. Oh, sure, many resist temptation and endeavor to live a pure, moral life, but their thoughts continue to trouble them, and have to be resisted until death. Anyone who claims otherwise is a lying fool.

Now, of course someone is going to give me one of the stock theological answers to this puzzle, such as, the sin nature will never be destroyed until death. Or they might say that we are never perfectly sanctified in this life. There are plenty of well-rehearsed answers, all with supporting Bible verses, and interestingly, many of those bland explanations contradict one another, depending on the denominational bent of the various unharmonious voices. I readily admit that I have never been anything more than a layman. I have no official seminary or theological schooling to adorn my walls. I have, however, read extensively from the writings of Charles Spurgeon, Charles Hodge, Matthew Poole, Matthew Henry, Adam Clarke, Martin Luther, John Calvin, R.C. Sproul, the historic Confessions of Faith, commentaries without number, The Sword of the Lord, Charisma Magazine, Bill Bright, Frank Morrison, Hendricks, etc.

Listing all my reading is possible, but I only mention the books I can see from my computer desk. If I were to go to the basement, I would recite dozens of other well known authors in Christendom. I owned a Dake Bible and I own an old Geneva Bible. I have a reprint of Tyndale's original English New Testament. I was, and am, highly interested in the Christian faith. Does all this reading make me the authority? No of course not, but it was not only emotional dissatisfaction which led me to my present position. The more I studied the Christian faith, its history, how it has mutated and evolved over time, I began to realize that I was not being intellectually honest with myself. How can “the truth once delivered” change so much over the course of 2000 years if GOD ALMIGHTY was running the show? For example, Arminianism was heresy to Protestants when the Bible was published in English. Now it is the Calvinists who are held in disrepute.

Chances are that many of the Christians who read the mentions of Calvinism, eschatology, soteriology, etc., have no idea what I am talking about. That is another topic that contributed to my first suspicions that Xtianity is a false lie: the striking ignorance and loathing for learning that is rife in the Christian community. Claiming to love god with all their hearts and souls, yet reading His Word, memorizing it, studying theology to better understand HIM, is quite beyond most, if not nearly all Christians. Finding anyone who understands the history of Christianity prior to Darby's Dispensational gospel is nearly impossible. I would try to strike up conversations about theological and historical topics that were churning in my mind only to find blank stares in the Christian's faces to whom I would address myself. Now, that would be understandable if I were addressing novices, or baby believers, but the blankest stares would come from the pastors themselves. One pastor actually admitted to me that he found if very difficult to study the Word of God. He found study of theology very dry and boring and emphasized to me that Christ was relational, seeking a living relationship with his children, not living in dry books but living in beating hearts. Oh, how pious sounding! No doubt some reading this now have heard such tripe, and maybe some even heard their spirit bear witness to them that, yes that is true, Christ desires a relationship with us. To this nonsense I say that since Christ and his Dad are not talking in any other conventional way except through the words of Scripture in these last days, how is it I can hear His voice, unless I immerse myself in His WORDS? How is it I can say I am filled with the Holy Spirit, I love GOD more than all, I am being made into a new creation, and yet still find studying Christianity to be dull? The answer is simple of course. It is dull, and it is dead. There is no living Spirit indwelling believers, and only the compulsive, people like me, have the natural drive to totally focus on boring stuff.

Finally, finding no answers to my questions, I read the books of such people as Thomas Paine, Mark Twain, Dan Barker, Charles Templeton, Austin Mills, James Randi, Richard Dawkins, and a host of others. I began to see that there was a whole world of Freethinking Ex-Christians, and NON-Christians out there, people who were fairly invisible to the general public, especially the Christian general public. My mind was opened to reality, and is continuing to be opened to reality, as the myths and gods of my youth are abandoned to be replaced by reason.

I do not consider myself an agnostic anymore, finding fence sitting untenable. I could say I am now an evil Atheist, or I could use the softer sounding title of Freethinker. For now I will simply call myself an Ex-Christian, though there is more to it than being an ex something or another. I no longer believe in any gods or goddesses, they are all primitive imaginings reflecting an escape from fear and ignorance. There are many things we do not know about the world and the universe at large, but not knowing the how’s or why’s of things does not predispose us to believing in a giant Sky Daddy, or Tri-Daddy, or whatever.

None of this proves or disproves Christianity, I realize, but the purpose of this paper is to show the thinking processes that led to my de-conversion.

4/17/2002                                                                                       View Comments

Thomas Paine: Age Of Reason - Editor's Introduction

IN the opening year, 1793, when revolutionary France had beheaded its king, the wrath turned next upon the King of kings, by whose grace every tyrant claimed to reign. But eventualities had brought among them a great English and American heart -- Thomas Paine. He had pleaded for Louis Caper -- "Kill the king but spare the man." Now he pleaded, -- "Disbelieve in the King of kings, but do not confuse with that idol the Father of Mankind!"

In Paine's Preface to the Second Part of "The Age of Reason" he describes himself as writing the First Part near the close of the year 1793. "I had not finished it more than six hours, in the state it has since appeared, before a guard came about three in the morning, with an order signed by the two Committees of Public Safety and Surety General, for putting me in arrestation." This was on the morning of December 28. But it is necessary to weigh the words just quoted -- "in the state it has since appeared." For on August 5, 1794, Francois Lanthenas, in an appeal for Paine's liberation, wrote as follows: "I deliver to Merlin de Thionville a copy of the last work of T. Payne [The Age of Reason], formerly our colleague, and in custody since the decree excluding foreigners from the national representation. This book was written by the author in the beginning of the year '93 (old style). I undertook its translation before the revolution against priests, and it was published in French about the same time. Couthon, to whom I sent it, seemed offended with me for having translated this work."

Under the frown of Couthon, one of the most atrocious colleagues of Robespierre, this early publication seems to have been so effectually suppressed that no copy bearing that date, 1793, can be found in France or elsewhere. In Paine's letter to Samuel Adams, printed in the present volume, he says that he had it translated into French, to stay the progress of atheism, and that he endangered his life "by opposing atheism." The time indicated by Lanthenas as that in which he submitted the work to Couthon would appear to be the latter part of March, 1793, the fury against the priesthood having reached its climax in the decrees against them of March 19 and 26. If the moral deformity of Couthon, even greater than that of his body, be remembered, and the readiness with which death was inflicted for the most theoretical opinion not approved by the "Mountain," it will appear probable that the offence given Couthon by Paine's book involved danger to him and his translator. On May 31, when the Girondins were accused, the name of Lanthenas was included, and he barely escaped; and on the same day Danton persuaded Paine not to appear in the Convention, as his life might be in danger. Whether this was because of the "Age of Reason," with its fling at the "Goddess Nature" or not, the statements of author and translator are harmonized by the fact that Paine prepared the manuscript, with considerable additions and changes, for publication in English, as he has stated in the Preface to Part II.

A comparison of the French and English versions, sentence by sentence, proved to me that the translation sent by Lanthenas to Merlin de Thionville in 1794 is the same as that he sent to Couthon in 1793. This discovery was the means of recovering several interesting sentences of the original work. I have given as footnotes translations of such clauses and phrases of the French work as appeared to be important. Those familiar with the translations of Lanthenas need not be reminded that he was too much of a literalist to depart from the manuscript before him, and indeed he did not even venture to alter it in an instance (presently considered) where it was obviously needed. Nor would Lanthenas have omitted any of the paragraphs lacking in his translation. This original work was divided into seventeen chapters, and these I have restored, translating their headings into English. The "Age of Reason" is thus for the first time given to the world with nearly its original completeness.

It should be remembered that Paine could not have read the proof of his "Age of Reason" (Part I.) which went through the press while he was in prison. To this must be ascribed the permanence of some sentences as abbreviated in the haste he has described. A notable instance is the dropping out of his estimate of Jesus the words rendered by Lanthenas "trop peu imite, trop oublie, trop meconnu." The addition of these words to Paine's tribute makes it the more notable that almost the only recognition of the human character and life of Jesus by any theological writer of that generation came from one long branded as an infidel.

To the inability of the prisoner to give his work any revision must be attributed the preservation in it of the singular error already alluded to, as one that Lanthenas, but for his extreme fidelity, would have corrected. This is Paine's repeated mention of six planets, and enumeration of them, twelve years after the discovery of Uranus. Paine was a devoted student of astronomy, and it cannot for a moment be supposed that he had not participated in the universal welcome of Herschel's discovery. The omission of any allusion to it convinces me that the astronomical episode was printed from a manuscript written before 1781, when Uranus was discovered. Unfamiliar with French in 1793, Paine might not have discovered the erratum in Lanthenas' translation, and, having no time for copying, he would naturally use as much as possible of the same manuscript in preparing his work for English readers. But he had no opportunity of revision, and there remains an erratum which, if my conjecture be correct, casts a significant light on the paragraphs in which he alludes to the preparation of the work. He states that soon after his publication of "Common Sense" (1776), he "saw the exceeding probability that a revolution in the system of government would be followed by a revolution in the system of religion," and that "man would return to the pure, unmixed, and unadulterated belief of one God and no more." He tells Samuel Adams that it had long been his intention to publish his thoughts upon religion, and he had made a similar remark to John Adams in 1776. Like the Quakers among whom he was reared Paine could then readily use the phrase "word of God" for anything in the Bible which approved itself to his "inner light," and as he had drawn from the first Book of Samuel a divine condemnation of monarchy, John Adams, a Unitarian, asked him if he believed in the inspiration of the Old Testament. Paine replied that he did not, and at a later period meant to publish his views on the subject. There is little doubt that he wrote from time to time on religious points, during the American war, without publishing his thoughts, just as he worked on the problem of steam navigation, in which he had invented a practicable method (ten years before John Fitch made his discovery) without publishing it. At any rate it appears to me certain that the part of "The Age of Reason" connected with Paine's favorite science, astronomy, was written before 1781, when Uranus was discovered.

Paine's theism, however invested with biblical and Christian phraseology, was a birthright. It appears clear from several allusions in "The Age of Reason" to the Quakers that in his early life, or before the middle of the eighteenth century, the people so called were substantially Deists. An interesting confirmation of Paine's statements concerning them appears as I write in an account sent by Count Leo Tolstoi to the London 'Times' of the Russian sect called Dukhobortsy (The Times, October 23, 1895). This sect sprang up in the last century, and the narrative says:

"The first seeds of the teaching called afterwards 'Dukhoborcheskaya' were sown by a foreigner, a Quaker, who came to Russia. The fundamental idea of his Quaker teaching was that in the soul of man dwells God himself, and that He himself guides man by His inner word. God lives in nature physically and in man's soul spiritually. To Christ, as to an historical personage, the Dukhobortsy do not ascribe great importance ... Christ was God's son, but only in the sense in which we call, ourselves 'sons of God.' The purpose of Christ's sufferings was no other than to show us an example of suffering for truth. The Quakers who, in 1818, visited the Dukhobortsy, could not agree with them upon these religious subjects; and when they heard from them their opinion about Jesus Christ (that he was a man), exclaimed 'Darkness!' From the Old and New Testaments,' they say, 'we take only what is useful,' mostly the moral teaching. ... The moral ideas of the Dukhobortsy are the following: -- All men are, by nature, equal; external distinctions, whatsoever they may be, are worth nothing. This idea of men's equality the Dukhoborts have directed further, against the State authority. ... Amongst themselves they hold subordination, and much more, a monarchical Government, to be contrary to their ideas." Here is an early Hicksite Quakerism carried to Russia long before the birth of Elias Hicks, who recovered it from Paine, to whom the American Quakers refused burial among them. Although Paine arraigned the union of Church and State, his ideal Republic was religious; it was based on a conception of equality based on the divine son-ship of every man. This faith underlay equally his burden against claims to divine partiality by a "Chosen People," a Priesthood, a Monarch "by the grace of God," or an Aristocracy. Paine's "Reason" is only an expansion of the Quaker's "inner light"; and the greater impression, as compared with previous republican and deistic writings made by his "Rights of Man" and "Age of Reason" (really volumes of one work), is partly explained by the apostolic fervor which made him a spiritual, successor of George Fox.

Paine's mind was by no means skeptical, it was eminently instructive. That he should have waited until his fifty-seventh year before publishing his religious convictions was due to a desire to work out some positive and practicable system to take the place of that which he believed was crumbling. The English engineer Hall, who assisted Paine in making the model of his iron bridge, wrote to his friends in England, in 1786: "My employer has Common Sense enough to disbelieve most of the common systematic theories of Divinity, but does not seem to establish any for himself." But five years later Paine was able to lay the corner-stone of his temple: "With respect to religion itself, without regard to names, and as directing itself from the universal family of mankind to the 'Divine object of all adoration, it is man bringing to his Maker the fruits of his heart; and though those fruits may differ from each other like the fruits of the earth, the grateful tribute of every one, is accepted." ("Rights of Man." See my edition of Paine's Writings, ii., p. 326.) Here we have a reappearance of George Fox confuting the doctor in America who "denied the light and Spirit of God to be in every one; and affirmed that it was not in the Indians. Whereupon I called an Indian to us, and asked him 'whether or not, when he lied, or did wrong to anyone, there was not something in him that reproved him for it?' He said, 'There was such a thing in him that did so reprove him; and he was ashamed when he had done wrong, or spoken wrong.' So we shamed the doctor before the governor and the people." (Journal of George Fox, September 1672.)

Paine, who coined the phrase "Religion of Humanity (The Crisis, vii., 1778), did but logically defend it in "The Age of Reason," by denying a special revelation to any particular tribe, or divine authority in any particular creed of church; and the centenary of this much-abused publication has been celebrated by a great conservative champion of Church and State, Mr. Balfour, who, in his "Foundations of Belief," affirms that "inspiration" cannot be denied to the great Oriental teachers, unless grapes may be gathered from thorns.

The centenary of the complete publication of "The Age of Reason," (October 25, 1795), was also celebrated at the Church Congress, Norwich, on October 10, 1895, when Professor Bonney, F.R.S., Canon of Manchester, read a paper in which he said: "I cannot deny that the increase of scientific knowledge has deprived parts of the earlier books of the Bible of the historical value which was generally attributed to them by our forefathers. The story of Creation in the Book of Genesis, unless we play fast and loose either with words or with science, cannot be brought into harmony with what we have learnt from geology. Its ethnological statements are imperfect, if not sometimes inaccurate. The stories of the Fall, of the Flood, and of the Tower of Babel, are incredible in their present form. Some historical element may underlie many of the traditions in the first eleven chapters in that book, but this we cannot hope to recover." Canon Bonney proceeded to say of the New Testament also, that the Gospels are not so far as we know, strictly contemporaneous records, so we must admit the possibility of variations and even inaccuracies in details being introduced by oral tradition." The Canon thinks the interval too short for these importations to be serious, but that any question of this kind is left open proves the Age of Reason fully upon us. Reason alone can determine how many texts are as spurious as the three heavenly witnesses (i John v. 7), and like it "serious" enough to have cost good men their lives, and persecutors their charities. When men interpolate, it is because they believe their interpolation seriously needed. It will be seen by a note in Part II. of the work, that Paine calls attention to an interpolation introduced into the first American edition without indication of its being an editorial footnote. This footnote was: "The book of Luke was carried by a majority of one only. Vide Moshelm's Ecc. History." Dr. Priestley, then in America, answered Paine's work, and in quoting less than a page from the "Age of Reason" he made three alterations, -- one of which changed "church mythologists" into "Christian mythologists," -- and also raised the editorial footnote into the text, omitting the reference to Mosheim. Having done this, Priestley writes: "As to the gospel of Luke being carried by a majority of one only, it is a legend, if not of Mr. Paine's own invention, of no better authority whatever." And so on with further castigation of the author for what he never wrote, and which he himself (Priestley) was the unconscious means of introducing into the text within the year of Paine's publication.

If this could be done, unintentionally by a conscientious and exact man, and one not unfriendly to Paine, if such a writer as Priestley could make four mistakes in citing half a page, it will appear not very wonderful when I state that in a modern popular edition of "The Age of Reason," including both parts, I have noted about five hundred deviations from the original. These were mainly the accumulated efforts of friendly editors to improve Paine's grammar or spelling; some were misprints, or developed out of such; and some resulted from the sale in London of a copy of Part Second surreptitiously made from the manuscript. These facts add significance to Paine's footnote (itself altered in some editions!), in which he says: "If this has happened within such a short space of time, notwithstanding the aid of printing, which prevents the alteration of copies individually; what may not have happened in a much greater length of time, when there was no printing, and when any man who could write, could make a written copy, and call it an original, by Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John.

Nothing appears to me more striking, as an illustration of the far-reaching effects of traditional prejudice, than the errors into which some of our ablest contemporary scholars have fallen by reason of their not having studied Paine. Professor Huxley, for instance, speaking of the freethinkers of the eighteenth century, admires the acuteness, common sense, wit, and the broad humanity of the best of them, but says "there is rarely much to be said for their work as an example of the adequate treatment of a grave and difficult investigation," and that they shared with their adversaries "to the full the fatal weakness of a priori philosophizing." [NOTE: Science and Christian Tradition, p. 18 (Lon. ed., 1894).] Professor Huxley does not name Paine, evidently because he knows nothing about him. Yet Paine represents the turning-point of the historical freethinking movement; he renounced the 'a priori' method, refused to pronounce anything impossible outside pure mathematics, rested everything on evidence, and really founded the Huxleyan school. He plagiarized by anticipation many things from the rationalistic leaders of our time, from Strauss and Baur (being the first to expatiate on "Christian Mythology"), from Renan (being the first to attempt recovery of the human Jesus), and notably from Huxley, who has repeated Paine's arguments on the untrustworthiness of the biblical manuscripts and canon, on the inconsistencies of the narratives of Christ's resurrection, and various other points. None can be more loyal to the memory of Huxley than the present writer, and it is even because of my sense of his grand leadership that he is here mentioned as a typical instance of the extent to which the very elect of free-thought may be unconsciously victimized by the phantasm with which they are contending. He says that Butler overthrew freethinkers of the eighteenth century type, but Paine was of the nineteenth century type; and it was precisely because of his critical method that he excited more animosity than his deistical predecessors. He compelled the apologists to defend the biblical narratives in detail, and thus implicitly acknowledge the tribunal of reason and knowledge to which they were summoned. The ultimate answer by police was a confession of judgment. A hundred years ago England was suppressing Paine's works, and many an honest Englishman has gone to prison for printing and circulating his "Age of Reason." The same views are now freely expressed; they are heard in the seats of learning, and even in the Church Congress; but the suppression of Paine, begun by bigotry and ignorance, is continued in the long indifference of the representatives of our Age of Reason to their pioneer and founder. It is a grievous loss to them and to their cause. It is impossible to understand the religious history of England, and of America, without studying the phases of their evolution represented in the writings of Thomas Paine, in the controversies that grew out of them with such practical accompaniments as the foundation of the Theophilanthropist Church in Paris and New York, and of the great rationalist wing of Quakerism in America.

Whatever may be the case with scholars in our time, those of Paine's time took the "Age of Reason" very seriously indeed. Beginning with the learned Dr. Richard Watson, Bishop of Llandaff, a large number of learned men replied to Paine's work, and it became a signal for the commencement of those concessions, on the part of theology, which have continued to our time; and indeed the so-called "Broad Church" is to some extent an outcome of "The Age of Reason." It would too much enlarge this Introduction to cite here the replies made to Paine (thirty-six are catalogued in the British Museum), but it may be remarked that they were notably free, as a rule, from the personalities that raged in the pulpits. I must venture to quote one passage from his very learned antagonist, the Rev. Gilbert Wakefield, B.A., "late Fellow of Jesus College, Cambridge." Wakefield, who had resided in London during all the Paine panic, and was well acquainted with the slanders uttered against the author of "Rights of Man," indirectly brands them in answering Paine's argument that the original and traditional unbelief of the Jews, among whom the alleged miracles were wrought, is an important evidence against them. The learned divine writes:

"But the subject before us admits of further illustration from the example of Mr. Paine himself. In this country, where his opposition to the corruptions of government has raised him so many adversaries, and such a swarm of unprincipled hirelings have exerted themselves in blackening his character and in misrepresenting all the transactions and incidents of his life, will it not be a most difficult, nay an impossible task, for posterity, after a lapse of 1700 years, if such a wreck of modern literature as that of the ancient, should intervene, to identify the real circumstances, moral and civil, of the man? And will a true historian, such as the Evangelists, be credited at that future period against such a predominant incredulity, without large and mighty accessions of collateral attestation? And how transcendently extraordinary, I had almost said miraculous, will it be estimated by candid and reasonable minds, that a writer whose object was a melioration of condition to the common people, and their deliverance from oppression, poverty, wretchedness, to the numberless blessings of upright and equal government, should be reviled, persecuted, and burned in effigy, with every circumstance of insult and execration, by these very objects of his benevolent intentions, in every corner of the kingdom?" After the execution of Louis XVI., for whose life Paine pleaded so earnestly, -- while in England he was denounced as an accomplice in the deed, -- he devoted himself to the preparation of a Constitution, and also to gathering up his religious compositions and adding to them. This manuscript I suppose to have been prepared in what was variously known as White's Hotel or Philadelphia House, in Paris, No. 7 Passage des Petits Peres. This compilation of early and fresh manuscripts (if my theory be correct) was labelled, "The Age of Reason," and given for translation to Francois Lanthenas in March 1793. It is entered, in Qudrard (La France Literaire) under the year 1793, but with the title "L'Age de la Raison" instead of that which it bore in 1794, "Le Siecle de la Raison." The latter, printed "Au Burcau de l'imprimerie, rue du Theatre-Francais, No. 4," is said to be by "Thomas Paine, Citoyen et cultivateur de I'Amerique septentrionale, secretaire du Congres du departement des affaires etrangeres pendant la guerre d'Amerique, et auteur des ouvrages intitules: LA SENS COMMUN et LES DROITS DE L'HOMME."

When the Revolution was advancing to increasing terrors, Paine, unwilling to participate in the decrees of a Convention whose sole legal function was to frame a Constitution, retired to an old mansion and garden in the Faubourg St. Denis, No. 63. Mr. J.G. Alger, whose researches in personal details connected with the Revolution are original and useful, recently showed me in the National Archives at Paris, some papers connected with the trial of Georgeit, Paine's landlord, by which it appears that the present No. 63 is not, as I had supposed, the house in which Paine resided. Mr. Alger accompanied me to the neighborhood, but we were not able to identify the house. The arrest of Georgeit is mentioned by Paine in his essay on "Forgetfulness" (Writings, iii., 319). When his trial came on one of the charges was that he had kept in his house "Paine and other Englishmen," -- Paine being then in prison, -- but he (Georgeit) was acquitted of the paltry accusations brought against him by his Section, the "Faubourg du Nord." This Section took in the whole east side of the Faubourg St. Denis, whereas the present No. 63 is on the west side. After Georgeit (or Georger) had been arrested, Paine was left alone in the large mansion (said by Rickman to have been once the hotel of Madame de Pompadour), and it would appear, by his account, that it was after the execution (October 31, 1793) Of his friends the Girondins, and political comrades, that he felt his end at hand, and set about his last literary bequest to the world, -- "The Age of Reason," -- in the state in which it has since appeared, as he is careful to say. There was every probability, during the months in which he wrote (November and December 1793) that he would be executed. His religious testament was prepared with the blade of the guillotine suspended over him, -- a fact which did not deter pious mythologists from portraying his death-bed remorse for having written the book.

In editing Part I. of "The Age of Reason," I follow closely the first edition, which was printed by Barrois in Paris from the manuscript, no doubt under the superintendence of Joel Barlow, to whom Paine, on his way to the Luxembourg, had confided it. Barlow was an American ex-clergyman, a speculator on whose career French archives cast an unfavorable light, and one cannot be certain that no liberties were taken with Paine's proofs.

I may repeat here what I have stated in the outset of my editorial work on Paine that my rule is to correct obvious misprints, and also any punctuation which seems to render the sense less clear. And to that I will now add that in following Paine's quotations from the Bible I have adopted the Plan now generally used in place of his occasionally too extended writing out of book, chapter, and verse.

Paine was imprisoned in the Luxembourg on December 28, 1793, and released on November 4, 1794. His liberation was secured by his old friend, James Monroe (afterwards President), who had succeeded his (Paine's) relentless enemy, Gouvemeur Morris, as American Minister in Paris. He was found by Monroe more dead than alive from semi-starvation, cold, and an abscess contracted in prison, and taken to the Minister's own residence. It was not supposed that he could survive, and he owed his life to the tender care of Mr. and Mrs. Monroe. It was while thus a prisoner in his room, with death still hovering over him, that Paine wrote Part Second of "The Age of Reason."

The work was published in London by H.D. Symonds on October 25, 1795, and claimed to be "from the Author's manuscript." It is marked as "Entered at Stationers Hall," and prefaced by an apologetic note of "The Bookseller to the Public," whose commonplaces about avoiding both prejudice and partiality, and considering "both sides," need not be quoted. While his volume was going through the press in Paris, Paine heard of the publication in London, which drew from him the following hurried note to a London publisher, no doubt Daniel Isaacs Eaton:

"SIR, -- I have seen advertised in the London papers the second Edition [part] of the Age of Reason, printed, the advertisement says, from the Author's Manuscript, and entered at Stationers Hall. I have never sent any manuscript to any person. It is therefore a forgery to say it is printed from the author's manuscript; and I suppose is done to give the Publisher a pretence of Copy Right, which he has no title to.

"I send you a printed copy, which is the only one I have sent to London. I wish you to make a cheap edition of it. I know not by what means any copy has got over to London. If any person has made a manuscript copy I have no doubt but it is full of errors. I wish you would talk to Mr. ----- upon this subject as I wish to know by what means this trick has been played, and from whom the publisher has got possession of any copy.

T. PAINE.
"PARIS, December 4, 1795,"

Eaton's cheap edition appeared January 1, 1796, with the above letter on the reverse of the title. The blank in the note was probably "Symonds" in the original, and possibly that publisher was imposed upon. Eaton, already in trouble for printing one of Paine's political pamphlets, fled to America, and an edition of the "Age of Reason" was issued under a new title; no publisher appears; it is said to be "printed for, and sold by all the Booksellers in Great Britain and Ireland." It is also said to be "By Thomas Paine, author of several remarkable performances." I have never found any copy of this anonymous edition except the one in my possession. It is evidently the edition which was suppressed by the prosecution of Williams for selling a copy of it.

A comparison with Paine's revised edition reveals a good many clerical and verbal errors in Symonds, though few that affect the sense. The worst are in the preface, where, instead of "1793," the misleading date "1790" is given as the year at whose close Paine completed Part First, -- an error that spread far and wide and was fastened on by his calumnious American "biographer," Cheetham, to prove his inconsistency. The editors have been fairly demoralized by, and have altered in different ways, the following sentence of the preface in Symonds: "The intolerant spirit of religious persecution had transferred itself into politics; the tribunals, styled Revolutionary, supplied the place of the Inquisition; and the Guillotine of the State outdid the Fire and Faggot of the Church." The rogue who copied this little knew the care with which Paine weighed words, and that he would never call persecution "religious," nor connect the guillotine with the "State," nor concede that with all its horrors it had outdone the history of fire and faggot. What Paine wrote was: "The intolerant spirit of church persecution had transferred itself into politics; the tribunals, styled Revolutionary, supplied the place of an Inquisition and the Guillotine, of the Stake."

An original letter of Paine, in the possession of Joseph Cowen, ex-M.P., which that gentleman permits me to bring to light, besides being one of general interest makes clear the circumstances of the original publication. Although the name of the correspondent does not appear on the letter, it was certainly written to Col. John Fellows of New York, who copyrighted Part I. of the "Age of Reason." He published the pamphlets of Joel Barlow, to whom Paine confided his manuscript on his way to prison. Fellows was afterwards Paine's intimate friend in New York, and it was chiefly due to him that some portions of the author's writings, left in manuscript to Madame Bonneville while she was a freethinker were rescued from her devout destructiveness after her return to Catholicism. The letter which Mr. Cowen sends me, is dated at Paris, January 20, 1797.

"SIR, -- Your friend Mr. Caritat being on the point of his departure for America, I make it the opportunity of writing to you. I received two letters from you with some pamphlets a considerable time past, in which you inform me of your entering a copyright of the first part of the Age of Reason: when I return to America we will settle for that matter.

"As Doctor Franklin has been my intimate friend for thirty years past you will naturally see the reason of my continuing the connection with his grandson. I printed here (Paris) about fifteen thousand of the second part of the Age of Reason, which I sent to Mr. F[ranklin] Bache. I gave him notice of it in September 1795 and the copy-right by my own direction was entered by him. The books did not arrive till April following, but he had advertised it long before.

"I sent to him in August last a manuscript letter of about 70 pages, from me to Mr. Washington to be printed in a pamphlet. Mr. Barnes of Philadelphia carried the letter from me over to London to be forwarded to America. It went by the ship Hope, Cap: Harley, who since his return from America told me that he put it into the post office at New York for Bache. I have yet no certain account of its publication. I mention this that the letter may be enquired after, in case it has not been published or has not arrived to Mr. Bache. Barnes wrote to me, from London 29 August informing me that he was offered three hundred pounds sterling for the manuscript. The offer was refused because it was my intention it should not appear till it appeared in America, as that, and not England was the place for its operation.

"You ask me by your letter to Mr. Caritat for a list of my several works, in order to publish a collection of them. This is an undertaking I have always reserved for myself. It not only belongs to me of right, but nobody but myself can do it; and as every author is accountable (at least in reputation) for his works, he only is the person to do it. If he neglects it in his life-time the case is altered. It is my intention to return to America in the course of the present year. I shall then [do] it by subscription, with historical notes. As this work will employ many persons in different parts of the Union, I will confer with you upon the subject, and such part of it as will suit you to undertake, will be at your choice. I have sustained so much loss, by disinterestedness and inattention to money matters, and by accidents, that I am obliged to look closer to my affairs than I have done. The printer (an Englishman) whom I employed here to print the second part of 'the Age of Reason' made a manuscript copy of the work while he was printing it, which he sent to London and sold. It was by this means that an edition of it came out in London.

"We are waiting here for news from America of the state of the federal elections. You will have heard long before this reaches you that the French government has refused to receive Mr. Pinckney as minister. While Mr. Monroe was minister he had the opportunity of softening matters with this government, for he was in good credit with them tho' they were in high indignation at the infidelity of the Washington Administration. It is time that Mr. Washington retire, for he has played off so much prudent hypocrisy between France and England that neither government believes anything he says.

"Your friend, etc.,
"THOMAS PAINE."

It would appear that Symonds' stolen edition must have got ahead of that sent by Paine to Franklin Bache, for some of its errors continue in all modern American editions to the present day, as well as in those of England. For in England it was only the shilling edition -- that revised by Paine -- which was suppressed. Symonds, who ministered to the half-crown folk, and who was also publisher of replies to Paine, was left undisturbed about his pirated edition, and the new Society for the suppression of Vice and Immorality fastened on one Thomas Williams, who sold pious tracts but was also convicted (June 24, 1797) of having sold one copy of the "Age of Reason." Erskine, who had defended Paine at his trial for the "Rights of Man," conducted the prosecution of Williams. He gained the victory from a packed jury, but was not much elated by it, especially after a certain adventure on his way to Lincoln's Inn. He felt his coat clutched and beheld at his feet a woman bathed in tears. She led him into the small book-shop of Thomas Williams, not yet called up for judgment, and there he beheld his victim stitching tracts in a wretched little room, where there were three children, two suffering with Smallpox. He saw that it would be ruin and even a sort of murder to take away to prison the husband, who was not a freethinker, and lamented his publication of the book, and a meeting of the Society which had retained him was summoned. There was a full meeting, the Bishop of London (Porteus) in the chair. Erskine reminded them that Williams was yet to be brought up for sentence, described the scene he had witnessed, and Williams' penitence, and, as the book was now suppressed, asked permission to move for a nominal sentence. Mercy, he urged, was a part of the Christianity they were defending. Not one of the Society took his side, -- not even "philanthropic" Wilberforce -- and Erskine threw up his brief. This action of Erskine led the Judge to give Williams only a year in prison instead of the three he said had been intended.

While Williams was in prison the orthodox colporteurs were circulating Erskine's speech on Christianity, but also an anonymous sermon "On the Existence and Attributes of the Deity," all of which was from Paine's "Age of Reason," except a brief "Address to the Deity" appended. This picturesque anomaly was repeated in the circulation of Paine's "Discourse to the Theophilanthropists" (their and the author's names removed) under the title of "Atheism Refuted." Both of these pamphlets are now before me, and beside them a London tract of one page just sent for my spiritual benefit. This is headed "A Word of Caution." It begins by mentioning the "pernicious doctrines of Paine," the first being "that there is No GOD" (sic,) then proceeds to adduce evidences of divine existence taken from Paine's works. It should be added that this one dingy page is the only "survival" of the ancient Paine effigy in the tract form which I have been able to find in recent years, and to this no Society or Publisher's name is attached.

The imprisonment of Williams was the beginning of a thirty years' war for religious liberty in England, in the course of which occurred many notable events, such as Eaton receiving homage in his pillory at Choring Cross, and the whole Carlile family imprisoned, -- its head imprisoned more than nine years for publishing the "Age of Reason." This last victory of persecution was suicidal. Gentlemen of wealth, not adherents of Paine, helped in setting Carlile up in business in Fleet Street, where free-thinking publications have since been sold without interruption. But though Liberty triumphed in one sense, the "Age of Reason." remained to some extent suppressed among those whose attention it especially merited. Its original prosecution by a Society for the Suppression of Vice (a device to, relieve the Crown) amounted to a libel upon a morally clean book, restricting its perusal in families; and the fact that the shilling book sold by and among humble people was alone prosecuted, diffused among the educated an equally false notion that the "Age of Reason" was vulgar and illiterate. The theologians, as we have seen, estimated more justly the ability of their antagonist, the collaborator of Franklin, Rittenhouse, and Clymer, on whom the University of Pennsylvania had conferred the degree of Master of Arts, -- but the gentry confused Paine with the class described by Burke as "the swinish multitude." Skepticism, or its free utterance, was temporarily driven out of polite circles by its complication with the out-lawed vindicator of the "Rights of Man." But that long combat has now passed away. Time has reduced the "Age of Reason" from a flag of popular radicalism to a comparatively conservative treatise, so far as its negations are concerned. An old friend tells me that in his youth he heard a sermon in which the preacher declared that "Tom Paine was so wicked that he could not be buried; his bones were thrown into a box which was bandied about the world till it came to a button-manufacturer; "and now Paine is travelling round the world in the form of buttons!" This variant of the Wandering Jew myth may now be regarded as unconscious homage to the author whose metaphorical bones may be recognized in buttons now fashionable, and some even found useful in holding clerical vestments together.

But the careful reader will find in Paine's "Age of Reason" something beyond negations, and in conclusion I will especially call attention to the new departure in Theism indicated in a passage corresponding to a famous aphorism of Kant, indicated by a note in Part II. The discovery already mentioned, that Part I. was written at least fourteen years before Part II., led me to compare the two; and it is plain that while the earlier work is an amplification of Newtonian Deism, based on the phenomena of planetary motion, the work of 1795 bases belief in God on "the universal display of himself in the works of the creation and by that repugnance we feel in ourselves to bad actions, and disposition to do good ones." This exaltation of the moral nature of man to be the foundation of theistic religion, though now familiar, was a hundred years ago a new affirmation; it has led on a conception of deity subversive of last-century deism, it has steadily humanized religion, and its ultimate philosophical and ethical results have not yet been reached.

4/16/2002                                                                                       View Comments

Saint Augustine

"The good Christian should beware of mathematicians and all those who make empty prophecies. The danger already exists that mathematicians have made a covenant with the devil to darken the spirit and confine man in the bonds of Hell."

[Saint Augustine]

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"Often a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other parts of the world, about the motions and orbits of the stars and even their sizes and distances,... and this knowledge he holds with certainty from reason and experience. It is thus offensive and disgraceful for an unbeliever to hear a Christian talk nonsense about such things, claiming that what he is saying is based in Scripture. We should do all that we can to avoid such an embarrassing situation, which people see as ignorance in the Christian and laugh to scorn."

[St. Augustine, "De Genesi ad litteram libri duodecim" (The Literal Meaning of Genesis)]

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"I feel that nothing so casts down the manly mind from it's height as the fondling of women and those bodily contacts which belong to the married state."

[St. Augustine, De Trinitate 7.7]

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"All diseases of Christians are to be ascribed to demons; chiefly do they torment freshly-baptized Christians, yea, even the guiltless new-born infants."

[Saint Augustine (354-430)]

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"It is indeed better (as no one ever could deny) that men should be led to worship God by teaching, than that they should be driven to it by fear of punishment or pain; but it does not follow that because the former course produces the better men, therefore those who do not yield to it should be neglected. For many have found advantage (as we have proved, and are daily proving by actual experiment), in being first compelled by fear or pain, so that they might afterwards be influenced by teaching, or might follow out in act what they had already learned in word."

[St. Augustine, Treatise on the Correction of the Donatists (417), p.214]

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"Nothing is so much to be shunned as sex relations."

[St. Augustine (354-430)]

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"Women should not be enlightened or educated in any way. They should, in fact, be segregated as they are the cause of hideous and involuntary erections in holy men."

[St. Augustine]

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"This then is not God, if thou has comprehended it; but if this be God, thou hast not comprehended it."

[St. Augustine, "Sermo LII"]

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"It is impossible that there should be inhabitants on the opposite side of the Earth, since no such race is recorded by Scripture among the descendants of Adam."

[St. Augustine, from "The Dark Side of Christian History" by Linda Ellerbe, 1995, Morningstar Books]

4/15/2002                                                                                       View Comments

Gerold, Patriarch of Jerusalem
Letter to all the Faithfull - (1229)

Translations and Reprints from the Original Sources of European History,
(Philadelphia: Department of History, University of Pennsylvania, 1894) vol. 1, no. 4, 2-5

Hanover Historical Texts Project
Scanned by Linda Xue, May 1998.
Proofread and pages added by Jonathan Perry, March 2001.


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Munroe's introduction:

These are the most valuable sources for the crusade Of Frederic II. Each of the contestants tells the story from his own standpoint. We have comparatively little data for controlling their statements and determining their motives. See Rohricht: Reitrage zur Geschichte der Kreuzzuge, Vol. I.




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Gerold, patriarch of Jerusalem, to all the faithful--greeting.
If it should be fully known how astonishing, nay, rather deplorable, the conduct of the emperor has been in the eastern lands from beginning to end to the greet detriment of the cause of Jesus Christ and to the great injury of the Christian faith, from the sole of his foot to the top of his head no common sense world be found in him. For he came, excommunicated, without money and followed by scarcely forty knights, and hoped to maintain himself by spoiling the inhabitants of Syria. He first came to and there most discourteously seized that noble man J. [John] of Ibelin and his sons, whom he had invited to his table under pretext of speaking of the affairs of the Holy Land. Next the king, whom he had invited to meet him, he retained almost as a captive. He thus by violence and fraud got procession of the kingdom.

After these achievements he passed over into Syria. Although in the beginning he promised to do marvels and although in the presence of the foolish he boasted loudly, he immediately sent to the sultan of Babylon to demand peace. This conduct rendered him despicable in the eyes of the sultan and his subjects, especially after they discovered that he was not at the head of a numerous army which might have to some extent added weight to his words. Under the pretext of defending Joppa, he marched with the Christian army towards that city, in order to be nearer the sultan and in order to be able more easily to treat of peace or obtain a truce. What more shall I say? After long and mysterious conferences and without having consulted any one who lived in the country, he suddenly announced one day that he had made peace with the sultan. No one saw the text of the peace or truce when the emperor took the oath to observe the articles which were agreed upon. Moreover, you will be able to see clearly how great the malice was and how fraudulent the tenor of certain articles of the truce which we have decided to send to you. The emperor for giving credit to his word wished as a guarantee only the word of the sultan, which he obtained for he said among other things that the holy city was surrendered to him.

He went thither with the Christian army on the eve of the Sunday when "Oculi rnei" is sung [third Sunday in Lent]. The Sunday following, without any fitting ceremony and although excommunicated, in the chapel of the sepulchre of our lord, to the manifest prejudice of his honor and of the imperial dignity, he put the diadem upon his forehead, although the Saracens still held the temple of the lord and Solomon's temple, and although they proclaimed publicly as before the law of Mohammed--to the great confusion and chagrin of the pilgrims.

This same prince, who had previously very often promised to fortify Jerusalem, departed in secrecy from the city at dawn on the following Monday. The Hospitalers and the Templars promised solemnly and earnestly to aid him with all their forces and their advice, if he wanted to fortify the city, as he had promised. But the emperor who did not care to set affairs right, and who saw that there was no certainty in what had been done, and that the city in the state in which it bad been surrendered to him, could be neither defended nor fortified, was content with the name of surrender, and on the same day hastened with his family to Joppa. The pilgrims who had entered Jesusalem with the emperor, witnessing his departure, were unwilling to remain behind.

The following Sunday when "Laetare Jerusalem" is sung [fourth Sunday in lent], he arrived at Acre. There in order to seduce the people and to obtain their favor, he granted them a certain privilege. God knows the motive which made him act thus, and his subsequent conduct will make it known. As, moreover, the passage was near, and as all pilgrims, humble and greet, after having visited the Holy Sepulchre, were preparing to withdraw, as if they had accomplished their pilgrimage, because no truce had been concluded with the sultan of Damascus, we seeing that the holy land was already deserted and abandoned by the pilgrims, in our council formed the plan of retaining soldiers, for the common good, by means of the alms given by the king of France, of holy memory.

When the emperor heard of this, he said to us that he was astonished at this, since he had concluded a truce with the sultan of Babylon. We replied to him that the knife was still in the wound, since there was not a truce or with the sultan of Damascus, nephew of the aforesaid sultan and opposed to him, adding that even if the sultan of Babylon was unwilling, the former could still do us much harm. The emperor replied, saying, that no soldiers ought to be retained in his kingdom without his advice and consent, as he was now king of Jerusalem. We answered to that, that in the matter in question, as well as in all of a similar nature, we were very sorry not to be able, without endangering the salvation of our souls, to obey his wishes, because he was excommunicated. The emperor made no response to us, but on the following day he caused the pilgrims who inhabited the city to be assembled outside by the public crier, and by special messengers he also convoked the prelates and the monks.

Addressing them in person, he began to complain bitterly of us, by heaping up false accusations. Then turning his remarks to the venerable mater of the Templars, he publicly attempted to severely tarnish the reputation of the latter, by various vain speeches, seeking thus to throw upon others the responsibility for his own faults which were now manifest and adding at last, that we were maintaining troops with the purpose of injuring him. After that he ordered all foreign soldiers, of if they valued their lives and property, not to remain in the land from that day on, and ordered count Thomas, whom he intended to leave as bailiff of the country, to punish with stripes any one who was found lingering, in order that the punishment of one might serve as an example to many. After doing all this he withdrew, and would listen to no excuses or answers to the charges which he had so shamefully made. He determined immediately to post some cross-bowmen at the gates of the city, ordering them to allow the Templars to go out but not to return. Next he fortified with cross-bows the churches and other elevated positions, and especially those which commanded the communications between the Templars and ourselves. And you may he sure that he never showed as much animosity and hatred against Saracens.

For our part, seeing his manifest wickedness, we assembled all the prelates and all the pilgrims, and menaced with excommunication all those who should aid the emperor with their advice or their services against the church, the Templars, the other monks of the holy land, or the pilgrims.

The emperor realizing that his wickedness could have no success, was unwilling to remain any longer in the country. And, as if he would have liked to ruin everything, he ordered the cross-bows and engines of war, which for a long time had been kept at Acre for the defense of the Holy Land, to be secretly carried onto his vessels. He also sent away several of them to the sultan of Babylon, as his dear friend. He sent a troop of soldiers to Cyprus to levy heavy contributions of money there and, what appeared to us more astonishing, he destroyed the galleys which he was not able to take with him. Having learned this, we resolved to reproach him with it, but shunning the remonstrance and the correction, he entered a galley secretly, by an obscure way, on the day of the Apostles, St. Philip and St. James, and hastened to reach the island of Cyprus, without saying adieu to any one, leaving Joppa destitute; and may he never return.

Very soon the bailiffs of the above-mentioned sultan shut off all departure from Jerusalem for the Christian poor and the Syrians, and many pilgrims died thus on the read.

This is what the emperor did, to the detriment of the Holy Lend and of his own soul, as well as many other things which are known and which we leave to others to relate. May the merciful God deign to soften the results! Farewell.