Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Evil Genius?

by O. K. Bouwsma

THERE WAS ONCE AN EVIL GENIUS who promised the mother of us all that if she ate of the fruit of the tree, she would be like God, knowing good and evil. He promised knowledge. She did eat and she learned, but she was disappointed, for to know good and evil and not to be God is awful. Many an Eve later, there was rumor of another evil genius. This evil genius promised no good, promised no knowledge. He made a boast, a boast so wild and so deep and so dark that those who heard it cringed in hearing it. And what was that boast? Well, that apart from a few, four or five, clear and distinct ideas, he could deceive any son of Adam about anything. So he boasted. And with some result? Some indeed! Men going about in the brightest noonday would look and exclaim:
"How obscure!" and if some careless merchant counting his apples was heard to say: "Two and three are five," a hearer of the boast would rub his eyes and run away. This evil genius still whispers, thunder ing, among the leaves of books, frightening people, whispering: "I can. Maybe I will. Maybe so, maybe not." The tantalizer! In what follows I should like to examine the boast of this evil genius.

I am referring, of course, to that evil genius of whom Descartes writes: "I shall then suppose, not that God who is supremely good and the fountain of truth, but some evil genius not less powerful than deceitful, has employed his whole energies in deceiving me; I shall consider that the heavens, the earth, the colors, figures, sound, and all other external things are nought but illusions and dreams of which this evil genius has availed himself, in order to lay traps for my credulity; I shall consider myself as having no hands, no eyes, no flesh, no blood, nor any senses, yet falsely believing myself to possess all these things." (Philosophical Works of Descartes, trans. E. S. Haldane and G. R. T. Ross (2 vols.; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1912), 1, 147)

This then is the evil genius whom I have represented as boasting that he can deceive us about all these things. I intend now to examine this boast, and to understand how this deceiving and being deceived are to take place. I expect to discover that the evil genius may very well deceive us, but that if we are wary' we need not be deceived. He will deceive us, if he does, by bathing the word "illusion" in a fog. This then will be the word to keep our minds on. In order to accomplish all this, I intend to describe the evil genius carrying out his boast in two adventures. The first of these I shall consider a thoroughly transparent case of deception. The word "illusion" will find a clear and familiar application. Nevertheless in this instance the evil genius will not have exhausted "his whole energies in deceiving us." Hence we must aim to imagine a further trial of the boast, in which the "whole energies" of the evil genius are exhausted. In this instance I intend to show that the evil genius is himself befuddled, and that if we too exhaust some of our energies in sleuthing after the peculiarities in his diction, then we need not be deceived either.

Let us imagine the evil genius then at his ease meditating that very bad is good enough for him, and that he would let bad enough alone. All the old pseudos, pseudo names and pseudo statements, are doing very well. But today it was different. He took no delight in common lies, everyday fibs, little ones, old ones. He wanted something new and something big. He scratched his genius; he uncovered an idea. And he scribbled on
the inside of his tattered halo, "Tomorrow, I will deceive," and he smiled, and his words were thin and like fine wire. "Tomorrow I will change everything, everything, everything. I will change flowers, human beings, trees, hills, sky, the sun, and everything else into paper. Paper alone I will not change. There will be paper flowers, paper human beings, paper trees. And human beings will be deceived. They will think that there are
flowers, human beings, and trees, and there will be nothing but paper. It will be gigantic. And it ought to work. After all men have been deceived with much less trouble. There was a sailor, a Baptist I believe, who said that all was water. And there was no more water then than there is now. And there was a pool-hall keeper who said that all was billiard balls. That's a long time ago of course, a long time before they opened one, and listening, heard that it was full of the sound of a trumpet. My prospects are good. I'll try it." And the evil genius followed his own directions and did according to his words. And this is what happened.

Imagine a young man, Tom, bright today as he was yesterday, approaching a table where yesterday he had seen a bowl of flowers. Today it suddenly strikes him that they are not flowers. He stares at them troubled, looks away, and looks again. Are they flowers? He shakes his head. He chuckles to himself. "Huh! that's funny. Is this a trick?  Yesterday there certainly were flowers in that bowl." He sniffs suspiciously, hopefully, but smells nothing. His nose gives no assurance. He thinks of the birds that flew down to peck at the grapes in the picture and of the mare that whinnied at the likeness of Alexander's horse.  Illusions! The picture oozed no juice, and the likeness was still. He walked slowly to the bowl of flowers. He looked, and he sniffed, and he raised his hand. He stroked a petal lightly, lover of flowers, and he drew back. He could scarcely believe his fingers. They were not flowers. They were paper. As he stands, perplexed, Milly, friend and dear, enters the room. Seeing him occupied with the flowers, she is about to take up the bowl and offer them to him, when once again he is overcome with feelings of strangeness. She looks just like a great big doll. He looks more closely, closely as he dares, seeing this may be Milly after all. Milly, are you Milly?--that wouldn't do. Her mouth clicks as she opens it, speaking, and it shuts precisely. Her forehead shines, and he shudders at the thought of Mine Tussaud's. Her hair is plaited, evenly, perfectly, like Milly's but as she raises one hand to guard its order, touching it, preening, it whispers like a newspaper. Her teeth are white as a genteel monthly. Her gums are pink, and there is a clapper in her mouth. He thinks of mama dolls, and of the rubber doll he used to pinch; it had a misplaced navel right in the pit of the back, that whistled. Galatea in paper! Illusions!

He noted all these details, flash by flash by flash. He reaches for a chair to steady himself and just in time. She approaches with the bowl of flowers, and, as the bowl is extended towards him, her arms jerk. The suppleness, the smoothness, the roundness of life is gone. Twitches of a smile mislight up her face. He extends his hand to take up the bowl and his own arms jerk as hers did before. He takes the bowl, and as he does so sees his hand. It is pale, fresh, snowy. Trembling, he drops the bowl, but it does not break, and the water does not run. What a mockery! He rushes to the window, hoping to see the real world.

The scene is like a theatre-set. Even the pane in the window is drawn very thin, like cellophane. In the distance are the forms of men walking about and tossing trees and houses and boulders and hills upon the thin cross section of a truck that echoes only echoes of chugs as it moves. He looks into the sky upward, and
it is low. There is a patch straight above him, and one seam is loose. The sun shines out of the blue like a drop of German silver. He reaches out with his pale hand, crackling the cellophane, and his hand touches the sky. The sky shakes and tiny bits of it fall, flaking his white hand with confetti. Make-believe!

He retreats, crinkling, creaking, hiding his sight. As he moves he misquotes a line of poetry: "Those are perils that were his eyes," and he mutters, "Hypocritical pulp!" He goes on: "I see that the heavens, the earth, colors, figures, sound, and all other external things, flowers, Milly, trees and rocks and hills are paper, paper laid as traps for my credulity. Paper flowers, paper Milly, paper sky!" Then he paused, and in sudden fright he asked "And what about me?" He reaches to his lip and with two fingers tears the skin and peels off a strip of newsprint. He looks at it closely, grim. "I shall consider myself as having no hands, no eyes, no flesh, no blood, or any senses." He lids his paper eyes and stands dejected. Suddenly he is cheered.

He exclaims: "Cogito me papyrum esse, ergo sum."

He has triumphed over paperdom. I have indulged in this phantasy in order to illustrate the sort of situation which Descartes' words might be expected to describe. The evil genius attempts to deceive. He tries to mislead Tom into thinking what is not. Tom is to think that these are flowers, that this is the Milly that was, that those are trees, hills, the heavens, etc. And he does this by creating  illusions, that is, by making something that looks like flowers, artificial flowers; by making something that looks like and sounds like and moves like Milly, an artificial Milly. An illusion is something that looks like or sounds like, so much like, something else that you either mistake it for something else, or you can easily understand how someone might come to do this. So when the evil genius creates illusions intending to deceive he makes things which might quite easily be mistaken for what they are not. Now in the phantasy as I discovered it Tom is not deceived. He does experience the illusion, however. The intention of this is not to cast any reflection upon the deceptive powers of the evil genius. With such refinements in the paper art as we now know, the evil genius might very well have been less unsuccessful. And that in spite of his rumored lament: "And I made her of the best paper!" No, that Tom is not deceived, that he detects the illusion, is introduced in order to remind ourselves how illusions are detected. That the paper flowers are illusory is revealed by the recognition that they are paper.

As soon as Tom realizes that though they look like flowers but are paper, he is acquainted with, sees through the illusion, and is not deceived. What is required, of course, is that he know the difference between flowers and paper, and that when presented with one or the other he can tell the difference. The attempt of the evil
genius also presupposes this. What he intends is that though Tom knows this difference, the paper will look so much like flowers that Tom will not notice the respect in which the paper is different from the flowers. And even though Tom had actually been deceived and had not recognized the illusion, the evil genius himself must have been aware of the difference, for this is involved in his design.

This is crucial, as we shall see when we come to consider the second adventure of the evil genius.  As you will remember I have represented the foregoing as an illustration of the sort of situation which Descartes' words might be expected to describe. Now, however, I think that this is misleading. For though I have described a situation in which there are many things, nearly all of which are calculated to serve as illusions, this question may still arise. Would this paper world still be properly described as a world of illusions?

If Tom says: "These are flowers," or "These look like flowers" (uncertainly), then the illusion is operative. But if Tom says: "These are paper," then the illusion has been destroyed.  Descartes uses the words: "And all other external things are nought but illusions." This means that the situation which Descartes has in mind is such that if Tom says: "These are flowers," he will be wrong, but he will be wrong also if he says: "These are paper," and it won't matter what sentence of that type he uses. If he says: "These are rock"--or cotton or cloud or wood--he is wrong by the plan. He will be right only if he says: "These are illusions." But the project is to keep him from recognizing the illusions. This means that the illusions are to be brought about not by anything so crude as paper or even cloud. They must be made of the stuff that dreams are made of.

Now let us consider this second adventure. The design then is this. The evil genius is to create a world of illusions. There are to be no flowers, no Milly, no paper.  There is to be nothing at all, but Tom is every moment to go on mistaking nothing for something, nothing at all for flowers, nothing at all for Milly, etc. This is, of course, quite different from mistaking paper for flowers, paper for Milly. And yet all is to be arranged in such a way that Tom will go on just as we now do, and just as Tom did before the paper age, to see, hear,
smell the world. He will love the flowers, he will kiss Milly, he will blink at the sun. So he thinks. And in thinking about these things he will talk and argue just as we do. But all the time he will be mistaken. There are no flowers, there is no kiss, there is no sun. Illusions all. This then is the end at which the evil genius aims.

How now is the evil genius to attain this end? Well, it is clear that a part of what he aims at will be realized if he destroys everything. Then there will be no flowers, and if Tom thinks that there are flowers he will be wrong. There will be no face that is Milly's and no tumbled beauty on her head, and if Tom thinks that there is Milly's face and Milly's hair, he will be wrong. It is necessary then to see to it that there are none of
these things. So the evil genius, having failed with paper, destroys even all paper. Now there is nothing to see, nothing to hear, nothing to smell, etc.

But this is not enough to deceive. For though Tom sees nothing, and neither hears nor smells anything, he may alsothink that he sees nothing. He must also be misled into thinking that he does see something, that there are flowers and Milly, and hands, eyes, flesh, blood, and all other senses.  Accordingly the evil genius restores to Tom his old life. Even the memory of that paper day is blotted out, not a scrap remains. Witless Tom lives on, thinking, hoping, loving as he used to, unwitted by the great destroyer. All that seems so solid, so touchable to seeming hands, so biteable to apparent teeth, is so flimsy that were the evil genius to poke his index at it, it would curl away save for one tiny trace, the smirch of that index. So once more the evil genius has done according to his word.

And now let us examine the result.

I should like first of all to describe a passage of Tom's life. Tom is all alone, but he doesn't know it. What an opportunity for methodologico-metaphysico-solipsimo! I intend, in any case, to disregard the niceties of his being so alone and to borrow his own words, with the warning that the evil genius smiles as he reads them.

Tom writes:
Today, as usual, I came into the room and there was the bowl of flowers on the table. I went up to them, caressed them, and smelled over them. I thank God for flowers! There's nothing so real to me as flowers. Here the genuine essence of the world's substance, at its gayest and most hilarious speaks to me. It seems unworthy even to think of them as erect, and waving on pillars of sap. Sap! Sap!

There was more in the same vein, which we need not bother to record. I might say that the evil genius was a bit amused, snickered in fact, as he read the words "so real," "essence," "substance," etc., but later he frowned and seemed puzzled. Tom went on to describe how Milly came into the room, and how glad he was to see her. They talked about the flowers. Later he walked to the window and watched the gardener
clearing a space a short distance away. The sun was shining, but there were a few heavy clouds. He raised the window, extended his hand and four large drops of rain wetted his hand. He returned to the room and quoted to Milly a song from The Tempest. He got all the words right, and was well pleased with himself. There was more he wrote, but this was enough to show how quite normal everything seems. And, too, how successful the evil genius is.

And the evil genius said to himself, not quite in solipsimo, "Not so, not so, not at all so."

The evil genius was, however, all too human. Admiring himself but unadmired, he yearned for admiration. To deceive but to be unsuspected is too little glory. The evil genius set about then to plant the seeds of suspicion. But how to do this?  Clearly there was no suggestive paper to tempt Tom's confidence. There was nothing but Tom's mind, a stream of seemings and of words to make the seemings seem no seemings. The evil genius must have words with Tom and must engage the same seemings with him. To have words with Tom is to have the words together, to use them in the same way, and to engage the same seemings is to see and to hear and to point to the same. And so the evil genius, free spirit, entered in at the door of Tom's pineal gland and lodged there. He floated in the humors that flow, glandwise and sensewise, everywhere being as much one with Tom as difference will allow. He looked out of the same eyes, and when Tom pointed with his finger, the evil genius said "This" and meant what Tom, hearing, also meant, seeing. Each heard with the same ear what the other heard. For every sniffing of the one nose there were two identical smells, and there were two tactualities for every touch. If Tom had had a toothache, together they would have pulled the same face. The twinsomeness of two monads finds here the limit of identity. Nevertheless there was otherness looking out of those eyes as we shall see.

It seems then that on the next day, the evil genius "going to and fro" in Tom's mind and "walking up and down in it," Tom once again, as his custom was, entered the room where the flowers stood on the table. He stopped, looked admiringly, and in a caressing voice said: "Flowers! Flowers!" And he lingered. The evil genius, more subtle "than all the beasts of the field," whispered "Flowers?  Flowers?" For the first time Tom has an intimation of company, of some intimate partner in perception. Momentarily he is checked. He looks again at the flowers. "Flowers? Why, of course, flowers." Together they look out of the same eyes. Again the evil genius whispers, "Flowers?" The seed of suspicion is to be the question. But Tom now raises the flowers nearer to his eyes almost violently as though his eyes were not his own. He is, however, not perturbed. The evil genius only shakestheir head. "Did you ever hear of illusions says he. Tom, still surprisingly good-natured, responds: "But you saw them, didn't you?  Surely you can see through my eyes. Come, let us bury my nose deep in these blossoms, and take one long breath together. Then tell whether you can recognize these as flowers."

So they dunked the one nose. But the evil genius said "Hub!" as much as to say: What has all this seeming and smelling to do with it? Still he explained nothing. And Tom remained as confident of the flowers as he had been at the first. The little seeds of doubt, "Flowers? Flowers?" and again "Flowers?" and "Illusions?" and now this stick in the spokes, "Huh!" made Tom uneasy. He went on: "Oh, so you are one of these seers that has to touch everything. You're a tangibilite. Very well, here's my hand, let's finger these flowers. Careful! They're tender."

The evil genius was amused. He smiled inwardly and rippled in a shallow humor. To be taken for a materialist! As though the grand illusionist was not a spirit! Nevertheless, he realized that though deception is easy where the lies are big enough (where had he heard that before?), a few scattered, questioning words are not enough to make guile grow. He was tempted to make a statement, and he did. He said, "Your flowers are nothing but illusions."

"My flowers illusions?" exclaimed Tom, and he took up the bowl and placed it before a mirror. "See," said he, "here are the flowers and here, in the mirror, is an illusion. There's a difference surely. And you with my eyes, my nose, and my fingers can tell what that difference is. Pollen on your fingers touching the illusion? send Milly the flowers in the mirror? Set a bee to suck honey out of this glass? You know all this as well
as I do. I can tell flowers from illusions, and my flowers, as you now plainly see, are not illusions."

The evil genius was now sorely tried. He had his makebelieve, but he also had his pride. Would he now risk the makebelieve to save his pride? Would he explain? He explained.

"Tom," he said, "notice. The flowers in the mirror look like flowers, but they only look like flowers. We agree about that. The flowers before the mirror also look like flowers. But they,you say, are flowers because they also smell like flowers and they feel like flowers, as though they would be any more flowers because they also like flowers multiply. Imagine a mirror such that it reflected not only the looks of flowers, but
also their fragance and their petal surfaces, and then you smelled and touched, and the flowers before the mirror would be just like the flowers in the mirror. Then you could see immediately that the flowers before the mirror are illusions just as those in the mirror are illusions. As it is now, it is clear that the flowers in the mirror are thin illusions, and the flowers before the mirror are thick. Thick illusions are the best for
deception. And they may be as thick as you like. From them you may gather pollen, send them to Milly, and foolish bees may sleep in them."

But Tom was not asleep. "I see that what you mean by thin illusions is what I mean by illusions, and what you mean by thick illusions is what I mean by flowers. So when you say that my flowers are your thick illusions this doesn't bother me. And as for your mirror that mirrors all layers of your thick illusions, I shouldn't call that a mirror at all. It's a duplicator, and much more useful than a mirror, provided you can control it. But I do suppose that when you speak of thick illusions you do mean that thick illusions are related to something you call flowers in much the same way that the thin illusions are related to the thick ones. Is that true?"

The evil genius was now diction-deep in explanations and went on. "In the first place let me assure you that these are not flowers. I destroyed all flowers. There are no flowers at all. There are only thin and thick illusions of flowers. I can see your flowers in the mirror, and I can smell and touch the flowers before the mirror. What I cannot smell and touch, having seen as in the mirror, is not even thick illusion. But if I cannot also cerpicio what I see, smell, touch, etc., what I have then seen is not anything real. Esse est cerpici. I just now tried to cerpicio your flowers, but there was nothing there. Man is after all a four- or five- or six-sense creature and you cannot expect much from so little."

Tom rubbed his eyes and his ears tingled with an eighteenth century disturbance. Then he stared at the flowers. "I see," he said, "that this added sense of yours has done wickedly with our language. You do not mean by illusion what we mean, and neither do you mean by flowers what we mean. As for cerpicio I wouldn't be surprised if you'd made up that word just to puzzzle us. In any case what you destroyed is what, according to you, you used to cerpicio. So there is nothing for you to cerpicio any more. But there still are what we mean by flowers. If your intention was to deceive, you must learn the language of those you are to deceive. I should say that you are like the doctor who prescribes for his patients what is so bad for himself and is then surprised at the health of his patients." And he pinned a flower near their nose.

The evil genius, discomfited, rode off on a corpuscle. He had failed. He took to an artery, made haste to the pineal exit, and was gone. Then "sun by sun" he fell. And he regretted his mischief.

I have tried in this essay to understand the boast of the evil genius. His boast was that he could deceive, deceive about "the heavens, the earth, the colors, figures, sound, and all other external things." In order to do this I have tried to bring clearly to mind what deception and such deceiving would be like. Such deception involves illusions and such deceiving involves the creation of illusions. Accordingly I have tried to imagine the
evil genius engaged in the practice of deception, busy in the creation of illusions. In the first adventure everything is plain. The evil genius employs paper, paper making believe it's many other things. The effort to deceive, ingenuity in deception, being deceived by paper, detecting the illusion-all these are clearly understood. It is the second adventure, however, which is more crucial. For in this instance it is assumed that the illusion is of such a kind that no seeing, no touching, no smelling, are relevant to detecting the illusion.

Nevertheless the evil genius sees, touches, smells, and does detect the illusion. He made the illusion; so, of course, he must know it. How then does he know it? The evil genius has a sense denied to men. He senses the flower-in-itself, Milly-in-her-self, etc. So he creates illusions made up of what can be seen, heard, smelled, etc., illusions all because when seeing, hearing, and smelling have seen, heard, and smelled all, the special sense senses nothing.

So what poor human beings sense is the illusion of what only the evil genius can sense. This is formidable. Nevertheless, once again everything is clear. If we admit the special sense, then we can readily see how it is that the evil genius should have been so confident. He has certainly created his own illusions, though he has not himself been deceived. But neither has anyone else been deceived. For human beings do not use the word "illusion" by relation to a sense with which only the evil genius is blessed.

I said that the evil genius had not been deceived, and it is true that he has not been deceived by his own illusions. Nevertheless he was deceived in boasting that he could deceive, for his confidence in this is based upon an ignorance of the difference between our uses of the words, "heavens," "earth," "flowers," "Milly," and "illusions" of these things, and his own uses of these words. For though there certainly is an analogy between our own uses and his, the difference is quite sufficient to explain his failure at grand deception. We can also understand how easily Tom might have been taken in. The dog over the water dropped his meaty bone for a picture on the water. Tom, however, dropped nothing at all. But the word "illusion" is a trap.

I began this essay uneasily, looking at my hands and saying “no hands," blinking my eyes and saying "no eyes." Everything I saw seemed to me like something Cheshire, a piece of cheese, for instance, appearing and disappearing in the leaves of the tree. Poor kitty! And now? Well....

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

LOTUS? Is that "Priesty" a Buddhist or what?

The new LOTUS Sessions at A World Apart are quickly becoming one of our most popular services.  The LOTUS Session (Life Oneness Truth Understanding Serenity) is a service unique to A World Apart and Tranquil Oasis Holistic Living Community.  You may find other "lotus readings" on-line, however many of these readings are simply tarot card readings using a specialized deck (In these readings, readers use cards that have designs and card meanings different from a tarot deck, but you are still essentially getting a card reading only).  Our LOTUS Sessions have been created exclusively for A World Apart and Tranquil Oasis.  
Our LOTUS Sessions focus on the Chakra energies.  The reading begins with a psychic energy and Chakra scan.  Our provider has created a holistic energy balance modality that combines the spiritual principles of several ancient traditions with the theory of the Chakra system to give clients a truly holistic self-healing experience.  

If you are looking for spiritual and energetic balance in your life, this is the experience for you. Be warned, however, the LOTUS experience at A World Apart requires your effort in order to have the kind of impact on your life that will bring you into balance and out of the negative energy patterns that cause conflict in the spirit.  Our Spiritual Director, Tomas Martin, OPD conducts our LOTUS Sessions.  With more than 15 years of public ministry experience, Tomas uses the same techniques in the LOTUS Session that he uses in his one-on-one spiritual conferences.  This means that he goes into a place of deep prayer and connects with divine energies to give you spiritual assistance to help you unlock the power of your heart giving you the tools to create positive higher energy experiences and eliminate low negative energy setbacks in life.  

Even though our provider is a minister, don't expect a 'sentimental' experience.  If Tomas 'picks up' any negativity that you are creating in your own life, he expects you to face your own creation and take responsibility for your life.  This is not your 'boardwalk psychic' here! If you are simply looking to be entertained, this isn't the experience for you! If you are serious about coming to a place of balance in life...if you are looking for the tools and support to help you create a life of harmony with the world around you, the LOTUS Session is for you.  If you are tired of feeling out of control of your life situation and want the jump-start you need to take the first steps toward a life of confidence and serenity, this is the reading for you. 

This experience is truly a spiritual experience. Regardless of your denominational religious belief system, the LOTUS Session can help you along your spiritual life path and bring peace into your life.  

Does this experience conflict with Christian morals? 

"First let me say that it would be impossible for me to offer any spiritual service that would conflict with core Scriptural values.  My life is a reflection of the sacred scriptures of my tradition.  It took me more than a decade of Christian ministry to clearly see the ungodly limitations I was placing on my own spirituality and on my congregants by participating in what I call 'Christian spiritual bigotry.' For too long I placed 'God' in a Christian prison.  It wasn't until I realized a few important truths that I was able to experience the 'God of Christ' in a dynamic and personal way.  What are some of these truths?  First: God is not a Christian.  If that which we call God is limited to one human denomination, that is not the God of Christ that the scripture reveals to us.  The God of Christ is not limited in any way.  Second, God doesn't use one human language to communicate. Why is that important? It's important because our religious language is dependent on the language of the local people.  Language is cultural.  Words carry certain meanings that are dependent upon the particular history and experience of the people speaking the language.  Language is inherently prejudiced and if we rely on our understanding of Christian theology based only on our study of the 'English' language interpretation of divine words, we fail to overcome the curse of the tower of Babel.  After I studied the ancient languages of scripture (and specifically the Gospel of John) I discovered a God who had no boundaries and a Christ that embraced all life.  I saw for myself the meaning of the words of Jesus that remind us that there are 'other flocks' who are part of the Universal church.  I also remembered the admonition warning about sins against the Holy Spirit.  Sin against the Holy Spirit is commonly understood as 'seeing the work of the Holy Spirit and calling it evil.'  When I engage the various ministries and spiritual healing modalities I offer through A World Apart and Tranquil Oasis Community, I am working with the power of the Holy Spirit. Period.  Regardless of the human words attached to the services I provide in Pennsville, anyone who cannot see the Holy Spirit and the angels of God descending on my ministry, is blind to the faith of Christ.  Whether you are Christian, Pagan, Wiccan, Muslim, Jewish, or no religion at all, I will use the gift of Divine Love to help you on your path to peace. If you choose to judge and label what we do at A World Apart because you don't understand the words of your own theology, I leave you to the judgement of God." 
-Tomas Martin, OPD. 

During a full LOTUS Session, Tomas will design a seven-day re-creation plan for your life.  This is the heart of the reading.  Your LOTUS experience continues for one full week, helping you to balance your mind, body, and spirit.  The reading also includes a 15-minute follow-up that you schedule within two weeks of your reading.  

The cost of the session is $49. 
We have priced this service to be accessible to all who need it.  

The session takes an average of 15 to 30 minutes depending on how many Chakras need to be addressed.  
Call 856-678-2444 to make your appointment! 

Why does that Priesty act so Witchy?

As part of our Priesty and the Witch in the Morning episode that featured the background and work of our "Priesty" and our "Witch" we re-post this article about the "readings" Tomas (Priesty) offers through his ministry.  

One of the most popular services offered through the Tranquil Oasis Holistic Living Community is known as an Angel Reading, but what exactly is it?  Over the past few months we have been trying to write a generalized description of the experience but to no avail since each Angel Reading is different depending on the needs of the client. 

We make an effort to ask the clients to describe the experience of their first Angel Reading.  Our favorite description came from a client whose daughter recommended the service to him.  He told us that the Reading taught him how to be a better listener.  He said that some of the information he received was familiar to him because his intuition recognized it as expounding on the faint whisperings he would ‘hear’ during times of confusion or stress.  He told us that the Reading made him realize that his own ‘angels’ were in fact ‘speaking’ to him throughout his life, but he dismissed this as fleeting random thoughts only.  The messages Tomas gave him during the Reading confirmed for him the power of the ‘unseen’ and the potential of the human mind to connect with ‘something greater.’

The Angel Reading is not like a psychic reading, although the ‘psychic’ senses certainly come into play.  It is also not ‘mediumship,’ although it is common that some of the advice calls to mind loved ones who have crossed over.  Tomas theorizes that our loved ones live on in our hearts and so it’s not uncommon to associate certain life advice or emotions with the ‘spirit’ that our loved ones have left us as an eternal reminder of their presence.  When a significant person from our life crosses to the unseen, Tomas believes that we sometimes associate their memory with the idealized father, friend, or teacher.  In the reading clients will often say things like, “…that sounds just like something my father would have told me.  I can feel his guidance with us.”  However, if you are looking for someone to ‘channel’ a loved one who has passed, this isn’t the reading for you!

It is important to note that Tomas does not use “angel cards” as many other ‘angel readers’ do.  These cards are used in a way similar to ‘tarot cards.’  We certainly respect those readers who use guidance tools in their readings,  but our Angels Readings aren’t like any others.  In our Angel Readings, Tomas uses the contemplative techniques he has learned in over fifteen years of spiritual ministry.  Drawing from his experience of Judeo/Christian, Buddhist, and Islamic Mysticism, Tomas has developed a way of ‘going to that inner place of deep prayer and listening for divine guidance’ in the way of the mystics rather than in the way associated with popular psychics.  In our Angel Readings Tomas establishes what he calls ‘a connection with your highest good.’  The Reading becomes a dialogue between the client and those ideals that make one’s life experience unique and sacred. 

So if our Readings don’t involve cards, what is being ‘read’?
The Angels are being ‘read’ directly!  So what does ‘Angel’ mean?  Well the world itself refers to ‘divine messenger.’  In the spiritual traditions of most major faith systems we see the belief in angels.  These angels are beings which communicate messages from the Divine to humanity.  We believe Angels (with a capital ‘A’) to be spirits sent directly from the Divine with a mission to guide, protect, and enlighten.  Consider these spirits (‘spirit’ means ‘intellect and will’) to be the divine thoughts of the Universe sent directly to those who seek divine guidance.  We sometimes refer to these ‘Angels’ or ‘divine thoughts’ as ‘Archangels.’  It’s important not to think of these ‘Angels’ in a ‘humanized’ form.  In other words, we are not ‘communicating’ with ‘unseen personalities.’  When Tomas uses the term ‘Raphael,’ for example, he is referring to the idea of ‘the healing power of the Divine.’  ‘Rapha-el’ is an ancient Hebrew expression that means ‘Healing of God.’  These are the angelic ideas that Tomas ‘reads’ in a one-on-one session.  Tomas uses his spiritual abilities and theological background to help the client align their own thoughts and decisions with those divine, primordial ideas that shape our universe.  It is the ultimate thought balancing session!

During the Reading you will have those unexpected ‘ah-ha’ moments that will help you get the guidance and confirmation you need concerning life’s issues.  Readings ‘go where they need to go.’  There is no set outline or form for our Angel Readings.  Tomas’ technique is the same for each Reading, but no two readings are alike.  (This is especially evident in Group Readings.  We can accommodate four to ten people in a Group Reading.)  You will be amazed at how the Reading seems to ‘hit all the important’ points in your life. 

Energy is the Key!
Our clients all seem to enjoy the start of the Readings and the use of dowsing rods.  Tomas uses dowsing rods to give the client an idea of the type of thought-energy being ‘read’ during the session.  The rods are not used as a ‘divination tool’ in this reading.  Tomas simply demonstrates how thought-energy affects the material world around you in an amazing way!  This part of the Reading truly mystifies most clients! 

Confidentiality in Angel Readings
What Tranquil Oasis and A World Apart term ‘Angel Reading,’ is a one-on-one Spiritual Conference for Tomas who has engaged in public ministry for more than fifteen years.  This means that all one-on-one Readings fall under the ministerial covenant for Tomas and are in the ‘internal forum’ or private spiritual matters.  He will only discuss your Reading with a third party if you give permission (and even with permission, he must feel confident that discussing the Reading is for the highest good).  Group Readings, however, fall into the ‘external forum’ meaning they are public by nature.

What are some of our clients saying about Angel Readings?
“Had an angel reading today and was completely amazed by what I experienced. It solidified what I knew I needed to do and helped me find closure in the things that I have been holding onto for far too long. Fantastic, fantastic time....amazing place. Will be back for more readings with friends and family!”–Jennifer

“My angel reading was 2 days ago and I'm still floating from it. Truly amazing. Whatever you believe, get on down to A World Apart in Pennsville for a reading. Seriously. Dude is on point!” –AP

“Had my very first angel reading today. AMAZING!! Thanks for introducing me to something!!!” –Jeanne

“With the way I am raving about Wednesday, you may have a sudden influx of angel readings. It was wonnnnnnnnnnnnderful! :D” –Stephanie

“Thank you Eden and Thomas for my angel reading tonight. Words cannot express how I walked out of there feeling” –Belinda

“During one of my last angel readings, I was given a warning. And although I knew better, I didn't heed this warning. At the moment it all clicked, and I said out loud, ‘watch out for the young one,’ I looked up at the moon. It was about half full, and peeking through the clouds. The clouds parted, forming the 3 Goddesses symbol around it. Before I could verbalize what I saw, it dissipated. It was like a message for me saying, ‘YES! Listen next time!’ ” –Amy

“I just wanted to thank Tomas for the Angel Reading. Changed my whole outlook on my life. Seriously life changing.” –Tara

“Its hard to explain in just a few words, its really something you have to experience. You might be familiar with angel card readings but this is totally different. To try to sum it up, Br. Tomas connects with the Angelic energies that are aound you and the reading takes on its own form from there. It truly is amazing.” –Eden

“The entire experieince was great. I learned some things about myself and left knowing exactly what I had to do. I also felt a lot closer with myself, if that makes any sense, and felt an over all sense of peace and well being and clarity. I highly recommend these readings, especially with Tomas and A World Apart. He's an amazing person and it's a great place.” –Blair

To schedule your in-person Angel Reading, call A World Apart at 856-678-2444.  Ask for the Tranquil Oasis Services receptionist to reserve your time-slot!   

One-on-One and Group Angel Readings ~ Guided Mediation Sessions in Stress reduction, Pre-natal Bonding, Goal Focusing, and Reconciliation with Self techniques ~ Angel Reiki sessions ~ Psychic Attunements ~ Angel Reiki Aura Clearing ~ One-on-One Spiritual Direction ~ One-on-One Pastoral Coaching ~ Family Energy Balance ~ Crystal Clearing sessions ~ Spiritual Conflict and Grief Purging (four session cycle) ~ Angel Energy Development ~ Mythology of Me course facilitator ~ Holistic Living Workshops facilitator 

"Priesty" of Priesty and the Witch in the Morning!

Tomas Martin Bell, OPD
"Priesty" of Priesty and the Witch in the Morning!
As Spiritual Director for Tranquil Oasis Holistic Living Community and Spiritual Consultant at A World Apart, Tomas helps members and clients find the spiritual tranquil oasis within.  He offers one-on-one and group programs aimed at giving participants the knowledge and skills to eliminate confusion and disorder in their spiritual lives.  Tomas draws from a background of formation in many spiritual paths.  Tomas has been a spiritual facilitator since 1994.  He began teaching grammar school level faith formation and in 1999 began teaching adult faith formation.  

Tomas completed his studies in Human resource management and went on to five years of Religious formation, making perpetual profession in the Dominican Community in 2003.  In 2004, Tomas developed the Community of Ecumenical Brothers and Sisters as an independent non-denominational community of believers which was formally recognized in 2006.  He engaged in advanced studies in Sacred Theology. His work focused on a study of Ancient Aramaic Christian teachings and Hebrew spiritual formulae. After completing Masters level work in biblical studies, Tomas went on to doctoral studies in Pastoral Ministry; and after becoming a consecrated bishop in apostolic succession was awarded the doctorate in Divinity in 2009.  Tomas went on to study holistic healing methods such as Angel Energy Healing, Reiki, and Manifestation techniques.  

Tomas has helped build fresh water drinking wells in Uganda, Africa and provided assistance to missionaries in need. Tomas has engaged in Deliverance Ministry, Homeless Ministry, Ministry to the Sick and Dying, Private Spiritual Direction, Holistic Healing Ministry, and an active ministry to those searching for their own healing power within. Tomas has offered courses to communities in the Catholic Tradition, Christian Movements, Independent Sacramental Movements, Wiccan and Pagan Communities, and Non-denominational associations across the country.

Tomas is co-developer of Angel Energy Reiki and is co-founder/facilitator of Priesty and the Witch both with Eden Kantrowitz.

Tomas’ current services through Tranquil Oasis at A World Apart:
One-on-One and Group Angel Readings ~ Guided Mediation Sessions in Stress reductionPre-natal BondingGoal Focusing, and Reconciliation with Self techniques ~ Angel Reiki sessions ~ Psychic Attunements ~ Angel Reiki Aura Clearing ~ One-on-One Spiritual Direction ~ One-on-One Pastoral Coaching ~ Family Energy Balance ~ Crystal Clearing sessions ~ Spiritual Conflict and Grief Purging (four session cycle) ~ Angel Energy Development ~ Circle of Self course facilitator ~ Holistic Living Workshops facilitator

"Priesty" without "Popie"? Yup.

In the wake of the disaster that contintnues to unfold in the mainstream Roman church, many parishioners have chosen to abandon their ritual practice and walk away from the traditions of the Church. I have been amused by the rantings of conservative Catholics who condemn their brothers and sisters who have left the Roman church. Those same conservatives "defend" the church and maintain that, despite the horrific effects clergy sexual abuse has had on countless families, Catholics have a moral obligation to remain in the Roman church and obey its leaders even if those leaders do not act in accordance with the divine mandate to love one another and to protect the children of God. They say Catholics don't have the right to challenge the hierarchy of the church. They say "faithful" Catholics should never question their bishops and certainly never reject their authority.

I wonder if any of these conservative Catholics have ever experienced the Gospel? A central element of the ministry of Jesus is the unflinching criticism of the hypocritical hierarchs of the church. The words of Jesus call on the people to continue to practice their faith, but to do this by loving one another, concerned only with obedience to God's voice, not the voice of hypocrites (whether or not those hypocrites are leaders of their church). The words of the scripture tell the people to remain faithful to the Divine Voice in their hearts. It seems to me that a "faithful" Catholic would recognize his obligation to live his life as Christ demands. So why do conservative Catholics fail to acknowledge the incarnation of Jesus as the life template for all who profess to be children of God and followers of Christ? Why not demand, as Jesus did, that church leaders act as good shepherds?

I am one of the people that conservative Catholics condemn for questioning church leaders and eventually leaving the Roman jurisdiction. I am always amazed at how easy it is for people who claim to be people of God to judge others. I am equally amazed by the hate-filled verbal venom these same "godly" people are able to spew from their "saintly" mouths. A recent conversation with a Roman parishioner is what inspired---or rather, incited---me to write this post.

The woman approached me as I was heading into the post to pick up my mail. She saw my collar and respectfully said, "Hello, Father" I greeted her and continued to walk by. She called out to me asking me "What parish are you from?" I explained to her that I was raised Roman Catholic but I am not a Roman priest and so was not based in any Roman parish. "Well what are you?" she asked with a bit of perturbation. I then simply said that I minister in a community that has the same Sacramental tradition but is not connected to the Roman Vatican and that I left the Roman church in good conscience. To which she replied, "Oh, so you're not a 'real' priest. You know you've got a lot of nerve wearing a priest collar. And you grew up a good Catholic? Your mother must be horrified."

I have to admit that I am not proud of how I responded, because I did so with the same arrogant attitude that she was giving me. I should have just walked away, but instead I said... "Well what really horrified her is the three Roman priests who sexually abused me ... pretty much she's okay with my choice of clothing." To my amazement she said, "Well at least they were 'real' priests. I'm glad your not at a parish, good riddance."

When I see all of the darkness in the mainstream church and when I encounter "good" Catholics like the one I just described, it feels like a dagger piercing my heart. When I vented my frustration over the situation to a close RC friend, she told me that "the woman did have a point. I mean your not a "real" priest anymore." I felt that dagger twist. There was a time that I lamented my exit from the mainstream church, but now am grateful that God's own voice led me out of a group that never really loved me to begin with. I am blessed to have found the Independent Catholic Movement.

In this post I am going to discuss my reasons for leaving the Roman church and then I am going to provide some information on Independent Catholicism. At the end of the post I am going to briefly discuss the earliest independent movements. I am also going to quote from several binding Roman Catholic documents that show Independent Catholic bishops possess the same sacramental authority as any other Catholic bishop. I am not including the Roman documents because I think that Independent bishops somehow "need" to be justified by Rome. I am simply including the information so that the next time an RC parishioner questions my "realness," I can tell them where to go. ...uh, to this blog post that is.

Why did I leave the Roman Church?
What many of my quick-to-judge conservative RC critics don't know is that members of my faith community and I worked hard to remain with our RC brothers and sisters. The founding members of my faith community were all perpetually professed members-in-good-standing of a Roman Catholic Religious Order. We all had ministered for years in the Church. It wasn't until the local diocese failed to remove an abusive priest from ministry, that I came forward and publicly spoke about the abuse I suffered at the hands of priests. I requested a meeting with the bishop to report the names of the priests and the details of my abuse. I thought (foolishly, apparently) that the bishop would meet with me and respond as loving pastor of the Church. I thought he would do the right thing and remove the priests in question. I had no intention of suing the diocese, I just wanted the priests dealt with.

That didn't happen. The bishop refused to meet with me, but did (through the superiors of my religious community) order me to be silent and "docile to his authority." I was also ordered by my religious community to write a letter of apology to the bishop for acting disobediently. I was told that if I did not issue a letter of apology that I would be declared "out of communion with the diocese." I was then informed that the bishop would also take action against all members of my local ministry. So, was I expected to make a formal apology to the local bishop for not being the "good" kind of abuse know, the silent kind? Instead the local membership of my community and I responded with a letter asserting our canonical rights to continue to minister as members of our association of the faith in spite of his threats against our ministry.

In a matter of days, the diocese sent a letter to all parishes expelling my community and me from all participation in parish life. Just after that, I received a letter from the diocesan attorney telling me that as a result of making allegations of sexual abuse, I was barred from having any further communication with any priest of the diocese! It made it sound as though the priests had to be protected from such a person who would dare attack their character. When I read that letter, I cried as I wondered to myself...if I had the courage to come forward as a child, would the diocese have told me I was at fault for my abuse? ...that if I wasn't such a prayerful child I wouldn't have spent so much time in church and so the priests would not have had any occasion to abuse me?

During this ordeal it was a retired bishop of the Independent Catholic Movement who came to my aid. He was a former priest of the diocese who left the church in the 1980's. He too questioned the actions of the bishops and when he was faced with the decision to stay and remain quiet or leave and remain with Christ...he chose Christ. And so did I. I joined the independent movement and was eventually consecrated a bishop. Now I never have to beg any other man for sacramental crumbs from his table because God has blessed me with a feast of my own to share with the world.

There is another interesting part of my story. After I was consecrated a bishop, I wrote to Rome. I sent a series of letters directly to the office of the Holy Father. My letters explained my situation in detail. The Vatican acknowledged the receipt of my letters and I began a year-long effort of correspondence with the highest authorities in the church. At the time I thought that there was still some hope that some good could come of what had happened to me. I thought that being a consecrated bishop, I would be heard. You would think I would have learned my lesson a few years before. What made me think that being a bishop pleading with the pope would be any different from my experience as a member of a religious order pleading with a local bishop? It's all the same. The problem is not an isolated problem that exists in a diocese here and a diocese there. The problem is systemic. It took me too long to recognize that fact.

What is Independent Catholicism like?
Most independent catholic communities are small. Many don't even own a church of their own. They minister wherever they are. Some "indy" bishops have relationships with pastors from non-Roman churches and have the benefit of having Mass for their community in a borrowed space. It's rare for an independent catholic priest or bishop to receive a salary from the community because few independent communities even have a bank account. So, most priests work secular jobs to support themselves. To many RC parishioners this is laughable. But to all those who think that a "real" church owns property, has an impressive bank account, and thousands of parishioners, I say this: In the first century Jesus sent out the Apostles with nothing, only the power of God's own Word. Jesus sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. They were told "Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra coat. Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town. If people do not welcome you, leave their town and shake their dust off your feet"

If in this day and age one must possess riches and buildings in order to be considered a "real" priest or bishop of Christ, what of the Preacher of Nazareth? What of him who didn't even have a place to lay his head?

This must be something new in the Church, right?
Well that depends on what you mean by new. Certainly, the Gospels and the writings of St. Paul (see Galatians 1:11-24 with footnotes from the US Catholic Bishops Conference) confirm that priesthood of Christ and the creation of apostles (bishops) is not limited to any particular congregation. So, independent bishops (relating to the ministry of Christ) really started with St. Paul. Who is acknowledged as an Apostle even though his apostleship started independent of the first 12 Apostles of Jesus.

...But if that reference doesn't quite satisfy those who still believe that "outside of Rome, there can be no 'real' bishops" I offer this:

In 1145 Pope Eugene III granted the people of the Diocese of Utrecht, Holland the right to elect and consecrate its own bishops. The Fourth Lateran Council confirmed this in 1215. The Fourth Lateran Council is a recognized infallible council of the Roman Catholic Magisterium. Pope Eugene and the Council fathers essentially approved the creation of the ecclesiastical community that we call "Old Catholics." Referring to someone as "Old Catholic" has nothing to do with the age of the catholic in question; and it doesn't mean that they are part of any of today's break-away traditional Latin-language groups. It means that they are a part of the legitimate catholic entity that received papal and universal church approval in 1145. Many Independent bishops are a part of the lineage of the bishops of Utrecht, including two of the four bishops who by the laying-on of hands transmitted their apostolic lineage to me.

You may be curious as to how "Old Catholic" bishops now exist all over the world and are not limited to the original diocese. This has happen in the same way that many religious communities experience growth. As members and ministries of the community grew, the bishops sent priests (and eventually bishops) as missionaries to other places in the world. The movement became so vibrant and grew so steadily that Catholic Bishops from other parts of the world began to complain to Rome about the Episcopi Vagantes (which means "wandering bishops" the term was used to describe bishops who were not part of any geographically anchored diocese) who were claiming to be true bishops of the church and who were ministering in their dioceses. In the early 1500's bishops petitioned the Pope to declare that the wandering bishops were not validly consecrated and not true bishops of the Church. They also wanted the bishops in the diocese of Utrecht to be brought up on charges in a Vatican court and punished for ordaining bishops without papal approval.

In the year 1520 Pope Leo X brought an end to the conflict and issued a papal bull "Debitum Pastoralis." While many bishops thought that this would be the end of the Episcopi Vagantes, Pope Leo confirmed the authority, right, power, and privilege granted to the church of Utrecht to elect and consecrate its own bishops. The papal bull gave extraordinary powers to the presiding bishop of Utrecht (Bishop Philip of Burgundy) which would protect him and all bishops who would come after him from ever being forced to give up the infallibly proclaimed right to consecrate bishops to serve their communities. The bull made it impossible for any church authority to interfere with the ministry of the wandering bishops of Utrecht. The bull went so far as to state that no bishop in the future could ever challenge the validity of the bishops tracing their ministry to Utrecht, "not even under pretense of any apostolic letters whatever; and that all such proceedings should be, ipso facto, null and void." Meaning that not even a future Pope could impede the ministry of the "wandering bishops."

Certainly the fact that one pope sanctioned the group, one infallible Church Council confirmed the group, and another pope published a binding papal bull ensuring the validity of the future bishops should suffice to end all questions concerning the existence of true bishops (with the same sacramental authority as their Roman counterparts) outside of the Vatican-based church.

But, if a papal bull from 1520 still isn't "current" enough for you. I offer a few more proofs:
On June 16, 2000, Pope John Paul II ratified the document "Dominus Iesus." The document is a declaration of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The document was written under the direction and supervision of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI). In this official declaration of the Roman Catholic Church we see confirmation that Rome recognizes the validity of Orders and Sacraments of churches whose bishops were not consecrated by Vatican-based entities:
Therefore, there exists a single Church of Christ, which subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the Successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him. The Churches which, while not existing in perfect communion with the Catholic Church, remain united to her by means of the closest bonds, that is, by apostolic succession and a valid Eucharist, are true particular Churches. Therefore, the Church of Christ is present and operative also in these Churches, even though they lack full communion with the Catholic Church, since they do not accept the Catholic doctrine of the Primacy, which, according to the will of God, the Bishop of Rome objectively has and exercises over the entire Church. (section IV, no.17)

The declaration goes on to quote the Second Vatican Council's Decree Unitatis Redintegratio: Therefore, these separated Churches and communities as such, though we believe they suffer from defects, have by no means been deprived of significance and importance in the mystery of salvation. For the spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as means of salvation which derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Catholic Church.

In addition...

The Roman Catholic Code of Canon Law acknowledges that there are "non-Catholic" ministers who possess valid apostolic succession and the same sacramental authority as their Roman counterparts. Roman law tells us that when "necessity requires it or true spiritual advantage suggests it, and provided that danger of error or indifferentism is avoided, the Christian faithful for whom it is physically or morally impossible to approach a Catholic minister are permitted to receive the sacraments of penance, Eucharist and anointing of the sick from non-Catholic ministers in whose Churches these sacraments are valid." The law goes on to confirm that Roman priests can also administer the Sacraments to the laity of other churches with valid Sacraments. see Canon 844, 2-5 from the Vatican web site.

So it is certainly possible to receive "real" Sacraments from non-Roman priests and it is permissible for Roman priests to administer the sacraments to non-Roman lay people.
Ask the average RC parishioner if it is possible to receive the "real presence of Christ" in the Eucharist from a church that is not Roman and you are likely to be told "no way." I believe If the average RC parishioner actually read the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Canon Law, and the documents of the Councils they profess to be infallible, they would discover a very different church. Maybe I should start quizzing random RC parishioners about their knowledge of official Roman Catholic documents... maybe they aren't "real" parishioners.

The Beauty of Independent Catholic Voices
As the RC pews continue to empty I am happy that there is a network of true ministers of Christ who are able to shepherd the lost sheep. I am overjoyed that courageous Independent bishops are able to discuss: Same-Sex Marriage, Adoption of children by same-sex couples, Divorce and annulment, Ordination of married men, Ordination of women, and so many other subjects in a way that does not judge or alienate. I pray that more mainstream Catholics discover the reality of Independent Catholicism and choose the movement as an alternative to simply walking away from the traditions that bring them closer to the Divine.

Click this link to read an article by Cathleen Kaveny who teaches theology and law at the University of Notre Dame. She addresses many of the issues I've just touched upon.

I invite all the Independent Catholic bishops and priests who read this post to comment, suggest further reading, or post links to your own websites or articles supporting the Independent Movement.

With hope for the future, I am,
+Tomas Martin, OPD

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Are you a Christian? Are You sure?

Below is the text of Bertrand Russel's well-known presentation on the idea of God and Christianity. If the text doesn't change your opinion of your own 'religious' ideas let us hope it inspires you to give thoughtful attention to the ends of your belief system...

Why I Am Not a Christian

As your chairman has told you, the subject about which I am going to speak to you tonight is "Why I Am Not a Christian." Perhaps it would be as well, first of all, to try to make out what one means by the word "Christian." It is used in these days in a very loose sense by a great many people. Some people mean no more by it than a person who attempts to live a good life. In that sense I suppose there would be Christians in all sects and creeds; but I do not think that that is the proper sense of the word, if only because it would imply that all the people who are not Christians -- all the Buddhists, Confucians, Mohammedans, and so on -- are not trying to live a good life. I do not mean by a Christian any person who tries to live decently according to his lights. I think that you must have a certain amount of definite belief before you have a right to call yourself a Christian. The word does not have quite such a full-blooded meaning now as it had in the times of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas. In those days, if a man said that he was a Christian it was known what he meant. You accepted a whole collection of creeds which were set out with great precision, and every single syllable of those creeds you believed with the whole strength of your convictions.

What is a Christian?
Nowadays it is not quite that. We have to be a little more vague in our meaning of Christianity. I think, however, that there are two different items which are quite essential to anyone calling himself a Christian. The first is one of a dogmatic nature -- namely, that you must believe in God and immortality. If you do not believe in those two things, I do not think that you can properly call yourself a Christian. Then, further than that, as the name implies, you must have some kind of belief about Christ. The Mohammedans, for instance, also believe in God and immortality, and yet they would not call themselves Christians. I think you must have at the very lowest the belief that Christ was, if not divine, at least the best and wisest of men. If you are not going to believe that much about Christ, I do not think that you have any right to call yourself a Christian. Of course, there is another sense which you find in Whitaker's Almanack and in geography books, where the population of the world is said to be divided into Christians, Mohammedans, Buddhists, fetish worshipers, and so on; but in that sense we are all Christians. The geography books counts us all in, but that is a purely geographical sense, which I suppose we can ignore. Therefore I take it that when I tell you why I am not a Christian I have to tell you two different things: first, why I do not believe in God and in immortality; and, secondly, why I do not think that Christ was the best and wisest of men, although I grant him a very high degree of moral goodness.

But for the successful efforts of unbelievers in the past, I could not take so elastic a definition of Christianity as that. As I said before, in the olden days it had a much more full-blooded sense. For instance, it included the belief in hell. Belief in eternal hell fire was an essential item of Christian belief until pretty recent times. In this country, as you know, it ceased to be an essential item because of a decision of the Privy Council, and from that decision the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York dissented; but in this country our religion is settled by Act of Parliament, and therefore the Privy Council was able to override their Graces and hell was no longer necessary to a Christian. Consequently I shall not insist that a Christian must believe in hell.

The Existence Of God
To come to this question of the existence of God, it is a large and serious question, and if I were to attempt to deal with it in any adequate manner I should have to keep you here until Kingdom Come, so that you will have to excuse me if I deal with it in a somewhat summary fashion. You know, of course, that the Catholic Church has laid it down as a dogma that the existence of God can be proved by the unaided reason. This is a somewhat curious dogma, but it is one of their dogmas. They had to introduce it because at one time the Freethinkers adopted the habit of saying that there were such and such arguments which mere reason might urge against the existence of God, but of course they knew as a matter of faith that God did exist. The arguments and the reasons were set out at great length, and the Catholic Church felt that they must stop it. Therefore they laid it down that the existence of God can be proved by the unaided reason, and they had to set up what they considered were arguments to prove it. There are, of course, a number of them, but I shall take only a few.

The First Cause Argument
Perhaps the simplest and easiest to understand is the argument of the First Cause. It is maintained that everything we see in this world has a cause, and as you go back in the chain of causes further and further you must come to a First Cause, and to that First Cause you give the name of God. That argument, I suppose, does not carry very much weight nowadays, because, in the first place, cause is not quite what it used to be. The philosophers and the men of science have got going on cause, and it has not anything like the vitality that it used to have; but apart from that, you can see that the argument that there must be a First Cause is one that cannot have any validity. I may say that when I was a young man, and was debating these questions very seriously in my mind, I for a long time accepted the argument of the First Cause, until one day, at the age of eighteen, I read John Stuart Mill's Autobiography, and I there found this sentence: "My father taught me that the question, Who made me? cannot be answered, since it immediately suggests the further question, Who made God?" That very simple sentence showed me, as I still think, the fallacy in the argument of the First Cause. If everything must have a cause, then God must have a cause. If there can be anything without a cause, it may just as well be the world as God, so that there cannot be any validity in that argument. It is exactly of the same nature as the Hindu's view, that the world rested upon an elephant, and the elephant rested upon a tortoise; and when they said, "How about the tortoise?" the Indian said, "Suppose we change the subject." The argument is really no better than that. There is no reason why the world could not have come into being without a cause; nor, on the other hand, is there any reason why it should not have always existed. There is no reason to suppose that the world had a beginning at all. The idea that things must have a beginning is really due to the poverty of our imagination. Therefore, perhaps, I need not waste any more time upon the argument about the First Cause.

The Natural-Law Argument
Then there is a very common argument from Natural Law. That was a favorite argument all through the eighteenth century, especially under the influence of Sir Isaac Newton and his cosmogony. People observed the planets going around the sun according to the law of gravitation, and they thought that God had given a behest to these planets to move in that particular fashion, and that was why they did so. That was, of course, a convenient and simple explanation that saved them the trouble of looking any further for any explanation of the law of gravitation. Nowadays we explain the law of gravitation in a somewhat complicated fashion that Einstein has introduced. I do not propose to give you a lecture on the law of gravitation, as interpreted by Einstein, because that again would take some time; at any rate, you no longer have the sort of Natural Law that you had in the Newtonian system, where, for some reason that nobody could understand, nature behaved in a uniform fashion. We now find that a great many things we thought were Natural Laws are really human conventions. You know that even in the remotest depth of stellar space there are still three feet to a yard. That is, no doubt, a very remarkable fact, but you would hardly call it a law of nature. And a great many things that have been regarded as laws of nature are of that kind. On the other hand, where you can get down to any knowledge of what atoms actually do, you will find that they are much less subject to law than people thought, and that the laws at which you arrive are statistical averages of just the sort that would emerge from chance. There is, as we all know, a law that if you throw dice you will get double sixes only about once in thirty-six times, and we do not regard that as evidence that the fall of the dice is regulated by design; on the contrary, if the double sixes came every time we should think that there was design. The laws of nature are of that sort as regards to a great many of them. They are statistical averages such as would emerge from the laws of chance; and that makes the whole business of natural law much less impressive than it formerly was. Quite apart from that, which represents the momentary state of science that may change tomorrow, the whole idea that natural laws imply a law-giver is due to a confusion between natural and human laws. Human laws are behests commanding you to behave a certain way, in which way you may choose to behave, or you may choose not to behave; but natural laws are a description of how things do in fact behave, and, being a mere description of what they in fact do, you cannot argue that there must be somebody who told them to do that, because even supposing that there were you are then faced with the question, Why did God issue just those natural laws and no others? If you say that he did it simply from his own good pleasure, and without any reason, you then find that there is something which is not subject to law, and so your train of natural law is interrupted. If you say, as more orthodox theologians do, that in all the laws which God issues he had a reason for giving those laws rather than others -- the reason, of course, being to create the best universe, although you would never think it to look at it -- if there was a reason for the laws which God gave, then God himself was subject to law, and therefore you do not get any advantage by introducing God as an intermediary. You really have a law outside and anterior to the divine edicts, and God does not serve your purpose, because he is not the ultimate law-giver. In short, this whole argument from natural law no longer has anything like the strength that it used to have. I am traveling on in time in my review of these arguments. The arguments that are used for the existence of God change their character as time goes on. They were at first hard intellectual arguments embodying certain quite definite fallacies. As we come to modern times they become less respectable intellectually and more and more affected by a kind of moralizing vagueness.

The Argument From Design
The next step in the process brings us to the argument from design. You all know the argument from design: everything in the world is made just so that we can manage to live in the world, and if the world was ever so little different we could not manage to live in it. That is the argument from design. It sometimes takes a rather curious form; for instance, it is argued that rabbits have white tails in order to be easy to shoot. I do not know how rabbits would view that application. It is an easy argument to parody. You all know Voltaire's remark, that obviously the nose was designed to be such as to fit spectacles. That sort of parody has turned out to be not nearly so wide of the mark as it might have seemed in the eighteenth century, because since the time of Darwin we understand much better why living creatures are adapted to their environment. It is not that their environment was made to be suitable to them, but that they grew to be suitable to it, and that is the basis of adaptation. There is no evidence of design about it.

When you come to look into this argument from design, it is a most astonishing thing that people can believe that this world, with all the things that are in it, with all its defects, should be the best that omnipotence and omniscience have been able to produce in millions of years. I really cannot believe it. Do you think that, if you were granted omnipotence and omniscience and millions of years in which to perfect your world, you could produce nothing better than the Ku Klux Klan, the Fascisti, and Mr. Winston Churchill? Really I am not much impressed with the people who say: "Look at me: I am such a splendid product that there must have been design in the universe." I am not very much impressed by the splendor of those people. Moreover, if you accept the ordinary laws of science, you have to suppose that human life and life in general on this planet will die out in due course: it is merely a flash in the pan; it is a stage in the decay of the solar system; at a certain stage of decay you get the sort of conditions and temperature and so forth which are suitable to protoplasm, and there is life for a short time in the life of the whole solar system. You see in the moon the sort of thing to which the earth is tending -- something dead, cold, and lifeless.

I am told that that sort of view is depressing, and people will sometimes tell you that if they believed that they would not be able to go on living. Do not believe it; it is all nonsense. Nobody really worries much about what is going to happen millions of years hence. Even if they think they are worrying much about that, they are really deceiving themselves. They are worried about something much more mundane, or it may merely be a bad digestion; but nobody is really seriously rendered unhappy by the thought of something that is going to happen in this world millions and millions of years hence. Therefore, although it is of course a gloomy view to suppose that life will die out -- at least I suppose we may say so, although sometimes when I contemplate the things that people do with their lives I think it is almost a consolation -- it is not such as to render life miserable. It merely makes you turn your attention to other things.

The Moral Arguments For Deity
Now we reach one stage further in what I shall call the intellectual descent that the Theists have made in their argumentations, and we come to what are called the moral arguments for the existence of God. You all know, of course, that there used to be in the old days three intellectual arguments for the existence of God, all of which were disposed of by Immanuel Kant in the Critique of Pure Reason; but no sooner had he disposed of those arguments than he invented a new one, a moral argument, and that quite convinced him. He was like many people: in intellectual matters he was skeptical, but in moral matters he believed implicitly in the maxims that he had imbibed at his mother's knee. That illustrates what the psycho-analysts so much emphasize -- the immensely stronger hold upon us that our very early associations have than those of later times.

Kant, as I say, invented a new moral argument for the existence of God, and that in varying forms was extremely popular during the nineteenth century. It has all sorts of forms. One form is to say that there would be no right and wrong unless God existed. I am not for the moment concerned with whether there is a difference between right and wrong, or whether there is not: that is another question. The point I am concerned with is that, if you are quite sure there is a difference between right and wrong, then you are then in this situation: is that difference due to God's fiat or is it not? If it is due to God's fiat, then for God himself there is no difference between right and wrong, and it is no longer a significant statement to say that God is good. If you are going to say, as theologians do, that God is good, you must then say that right and wrong have some meaning which is independent of God's fiat, because God's fiats are good and not bad independently of the mere fact that he made them. If you are going to say that, you will then have to say that it is not only through God that right and wrong came into being, but that they are in their essence logically anterior to God. You could, of course, if you liked, say that there was a superior deity who gave orders to the God who made this world, or could take up the line that some of the agnostics ["Gnostics" -- CW] took up -- a line which I often thought was a very plausible one -- that as a matter of fact this world that we know was made by the Devil at a moment when God was not looking. There is a good deal to be said for that, and I am not concerned to refute it.

The Argument For The Remedying Of Injustice
Then there is another very curious form of moral argument, which is this: they say that the existence of God is required in order to bring justice into the world. In the part of the universe that we know there is a great injustice, and often the good suffer, and often the wicked prosper, and one hardly knows which of those is the more annoying; but if you are going to have justice in the universe as a whole you have to suppose a future life to redress the balance of life here on earth, and so they say that there must be a God, and that there must be Heaven and Hell in order that in the long run there may be justice. That is a very curious argument. If you looked at the matter from a scientific point of view, you would say, "After all, I only know this world. I do not know about the rest of the universe, but so far as one can argue at all on probabilities one would say that probably this world is a fair sample, and if there is injustice here then the odds are that there is injustice elsewhere also." Supposing you got a crate of oranges that you opened, and you found all the top layer of oranges bad, you would not argue: "The underneath ones must be good, so as to redress the balance." You would say: "Probably the whole lot is a bad consignment;" and that is really what a scientific person would argue about the universe. He would say: "Here we find in this world a great deal of injustice, and so far as that goes that is a reason for supposing that justice does not rule in the world; and therefore so far as it goes it affords a moral argument against deity and not in favor of one." Of course I know that the sort of intellectual arguments that I have been talking to you about is not really what moves people. What really moves people to believe in God is not any intellectual argument at all. Most people believe in God because they have been taught from early infancy to do it, and that is the main reason.

Then I think that the next most powerful reason is the wish for safety, a sort of feeling that there is a big brother who will look after you. That plays a very profound part in influencing people's desire for a belief in God.

The Character Of Christ
I now want to say a few words upon a topic which I often think is not quite sufficiently dealt with by Rationalists, and that is the question whether Christ was the best and the wisest of men. It is generally taken for granted that we should all agree that that was so. I do not myself. I think that there are a good many points upon which I agree with Christ a great deal more than the professing Christians do. I do not know that I could go with Him all the way, but I could go with Him much further than most professing Christians can. You will remember that He said: "Resist not evil, but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also." That is not a new precept or a new principle. It was used by Lao-Tse and Buddha some 500 or 600 years before Christ, but it is not a principle which as a matter of fact Christians accept. I have no doubt that the present Prime Minister, for instance, is a most sincere Christian, but I should not advise any of you to go and smite him on one cheek. I think you might find that he thought this text was intended in a figurative sense.

Then there is another point which I consider excellent. You will remember that Christ said, "Judge not lest ye be judged." That principle I do not think you would find was popular in the law courts of Christian countries. I have known in my time quite a number of judges who were very earnest Christians, and they none of them felt that they were acting contrary to Christian principles in what they did. Then Christ says, "Give to him that asketh of thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn thou not away." This is a very good principle. Your chairman has reminded you that we are not here to talk politics, but I cannot help observing that the last general election was fought on the question of how desirable it was to turn away from him that would borrow of thee, so that one must assume that the liberals and conservatives of this country are composed of people who do not agree with the teaching of Christ, because they certainly did very emphatically turn away on that occasion.

Then there is one other maxim of Christ which I think has a great deal in it, but I do not find that it is very popular among some of our Christian friends. He says, "If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that which thou hast, and give to the poor." That is a very excellent maxim, but, as I say, it is not much practiced. All these, I think, are good maxims, although they are a little difficult to live up to. I do not profess to live up to them myself; but then, after all, I am not by way of doing so, and it is not quite the same thing as for a Christian.

Defects In Christ's Teaching
Having granted the excellence of these maxims, I come to certain points in which I do not believe that one can grant either the superlative wisdom or the superlative goodness of Christ as depicted in the Gospels; and here I may say that one is not concerned with the historical question. Historically, it is quite doubtful whether Christ ever existed at all, and if He did we do not know anything about Him, so that I am not concerned with the historical question, which is a very difficult one. I am concerned with Christ as He appears in the Gospels, taking the Gospel narrative as it stands, and there one does find some things that do not seem to be very wise. For one thing, he certainly thought his second coming would occur in clouds of glory before the death of all the people who were living at that time. There are a great many texts that prove that. He says, for instance: "Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel till the Son of Man be come." Then He says: "There are some standing here which shall not taste death till the Son of Man comes into His kingdom"; and there are a lot of places where it is quite clear that He believed His second coming would happen during the lifetime of many then living. That was the belief of his earlier followers, and it was the basis of a good deal of His moral teaching. When He said, "Take no thought for the morrow," and things of that sort, it was very largely because He thought the second coming was going to be very soon, and that all ordinary mundane affairs did not count. I have, as a matter of fact, known some Christians who did believe the second coming was imminent. I knew a parson who frightened his congregation terribly by telling them that the second coming was very imminent indeed, but they were much consoled when they found that he was planting trees in his garden. The early Christians really did believe it, and they did abstain from such things as planting trees in their gardens, because they did accept from Christ the belief that the second coming was imminent. In this respect clearly He was not so wise as some other people have been, and he certainly was not superlatively wise.

The Moral Problem
Then you come to moral questions. There is one very serious defect to my mind in Christ's moral character, and that is that He believed in hell. I do not myself feel that any person that is really profoundly humane can believe in everlasting punishment. Christ certainly as depicted in the Gospels did believe in everlasting punishment, and one does find repeatedly a vindictive fury against those people who would not listen to His preaching -- an attitude which is not uncommon with preachers, but which does somewhat detract from superlative excellence. You do not, for instance, find that attitude in Socrates. You find him quite bland and urbane toward the people who would not listen to him; and it is, to my mind, far more worthy of a sage to take that line than to take the line of indignation. You probably all remember the sorts of things that Socrates was saying when he was dying, and the sort of things that he generally did say to people who did not agree with him.

You will find that in the Gospels Christ said: "Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell." That was said to people who did not like His preaching. It is not really to my mind quite the best tone, and there are a great many of these things about hell. There is, of course, the familiar text about the sin against the Holy Ghost: "Whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven him neither in this world nor in the world to come." That text has caused an unspeakable amount of misery in the world, for all sorts of people have imagined that they have committed the sin against the Holy Ghost, and thought that it would not be forgiven them either in this world or in the world to come. I really do not think that a person with a proper degree of kindliness in his nature would have put fears and terrors of this sort into the world.

Then Christ says, "The Son of Man shall send forth His angels, and they shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity, and shall cast them into a furnace of fire; there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth"; and He goes on about the wailing and gnashing of teeth. It comes in one verse after another, and it is quite manifest to the reader that there is a certain pleasure in contemplating wailing and gnashing of teeth, or else it would not occur so often. Then you all, of course, remember about the sheep and the goats; how at the second coming He is going to divide the sheep from the goats, and He is going to say to the goats: "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire." He continues: "And these shall go away into everlasting fire." Then He says again, "If thy hand offend thee, cut it off; it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched, where the worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched." He repeats that again and again also. I must say that I think all this doctrine, that hell-fire is a punishment for sin, is a doctrine of cruelty. It is a doctrine that put cruelty into the world, and gave the world generations of cruel torture; and the Christ of the Gospels, if you could take Him as his chroniclers represent Him, would certainly have to be considered partly responsible for that.

There are other things of less importance. There is the instance of the Gadarene swine, where it certainly was not very kind to the pigs to put the devils into them and make them rush down the hill into the sea. You must remember that He was omnipotent, and He could have made the devils simply go away; but He chose to send them into the pigs. Then there is the curious story of the fig-tree, which always rather puzzled me. You remember what happened about the fig-tree. "He was hungry; and seeing a fig-tree afar off having leaves, He came if haply He might find anything thereon; and when he came to it He found nothing but leaves, for the time of figs was not yet. And Jesus answered and said unto it: 'No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever'.... and Peter.... saith unto Him: 'Master, behold the fig-tree which thou cursedst is withered away.'" This is a very curious story, because it was not the right time of year for figs, and you really could not blame the tree. I cannot myself feel that either in the matter of wisdom or in the matter of virtue Christ stands quite as high as some other people known to History. I think I should put Buddha and Socrates above Him in those respects.

The Emotional Factor
As I said before, I do not think that the real reason that people accept religion has anything to do with argumentation. They accept religion on emotional grounds. One is often told that it is a very wrong thing to attack religion, because religion makes men virtuous. So I am told; I have not noticed it. You know, of course, the parody of that argument in Samuel Butler's book, Erewhon Revisited. You will remember that in Erewhon there is a certain Higgs who arrives in a remote country, and after spending some time there he escapes from that country in a balloon. Twenty years later he comes back to that country and finds a new religion in which he is worshipped under the name of the "Sun Child"; and it is said that he ascended into heaven. He finds that the feast of the Ascension is about to be celebrated, and he hears Professors Hanky and Panky say to each other that they never set eyes on the man Higgs, and they hope they never will; but they are the High Priests of the religion of the Sun Child. He is very indignant, and he comes up to them, and he says: "I am going to expose all this humbug and tell the people of Erewhon that it was only I, the man Higgs, and I went up in a balloon." He was told, "You must not do that, because all the morals of this country are bound round this myth, and if they once know that you did not ascend into heaven they will all become wicked"; and so he is persuaded of that and he goes quietly away.

That is the idea -- that we should all be wicked if we did not hold to the Christian religion. It seems to me that the people who have held to it have been for the most part extremely wicked. You find this curious fact, that the more intense has been the religion of any period and the more profound has been the dogmatic belief, the greater has been the cruelty and the worse has been the state of affairs. In the so-called Ages of faith, when men really did believe the Christian religion in all its completeness, there was the Inquisition, with all its tortures; there were millions of unfortunate women burned as witches; and there was every kind of cruelty practiced upon all sorts of people in the name of religion.

You find as you look around the world that every single bit of progress of humane feeling, every improvement in the criminal law, every step toward the diminution of war, every step toward better treatment of the colored races, or ever mitigation of slavery, every moral progress that there has been in the world, has been consistently opposed by the organized churches of the world. I say quite deliberately that the Christian religion, as organized in its churches, has been and still is the principal enemy of moral progress in the world.

How The Churches Have Retarded Progress
You may think that I am going too far when I say that that is still so, I do not think that I am. Take one fact. You will bear with me if I mention it. It is not a pleasant fact, but the churches compel one to mention facts that are not pleasant. Supposing that in this world that we live in today an inexperienced girl is married to a syphilitic man, in that case the Catholic Church says, "This is an indissoluble sacrament. You must stay together for life," and no steps of any sort must be taken by that woman to prevent herself from giving birth to syphilitic children. This is what the Catholic church says. I say that that is fiendish cruelty, and nobody whose natural sympathies have not been warped by dogma, or whose moral nature was not absolutely dead to all sense of suffering, could maintain that it is right and proper that that state of things should continue.

That is only an example. There are a great many ways in which at the present moment the church, by its insistence upon what it chooses to call morality, inflicts upon all sorts of people undeserved and unnecessary suffering. And of course, as we know, it is in its major part an opponent still of progress and improvement in all the ways that diminish suffering in the world, because it has chosen to label as morality a certain narrow set of rules of conduct which have nothing to do with human happiness; and when you say that this or that ought to be done because it would make for human happiness, they think that has nothing to do with the matter at all. "What has human happiness to do with morals? The object of morals is not to make people happy."

Fear, The Foundation Of Religion
Religion is based, I think, primarily and mainly upon fear. It is partly the terror of the unknown and partly, as I have said, the wish to feel that you have a kind of elder brother who will stand by you in all your troubles and disputes. Fear is the basis of the whole thing -- fear of the mysterious, fear of defeat, fear of death. Fear is the parent of cruelty, and therefore it is no wonder if cruelty and religion have gone hand-in-hand. It is because fear is at the basis of those two things. In this world we can now begin a little to understand things, and a little to master them by the help of science, which has forced its way step by step against the Christian religion, against the churches, and against the opposition of all the old precepts. Science can help us to get over this craven fear in which mankind has lived for so many generations. Science can teach us, and I think our own hearts can teach us, no longer to look around for imaginary supports, no longer to invent allies in the sky, but rather to look to our own efforts here below to make this world a fit place to live in, instead of the sort of place that the churches in all these centuries have made it.

What We Must Do
We want to stand upon our own feet and look fair and square at the world -- its good facts, its bad facts, its beauties, and its ugliness; see the world as it is and be not afraid of it. Conquer the world by intelligence and not merely by being slavishly subdued by the terror that comes from it. The whole conception of a God is a conception derived from the ancient oriental despotisms. It is a conception quite unworthy of free men. When you hear people in church debasing themselves and saying that they are miserable sinners, and all the rest of it, it seems contemptible and not worthy of self-respecting human beings. We ought to stand up and look the world frankly in the face. We ought to make the best we can of the world, and if it is not so good as we wish, after all it will still be better than what these others have made of it in all these ages. A good world needs knowledge, kindliness, and courage; it does not need a regretful hankering after the past or a fettering of the free intelligence by the words uttered long ago by ignorant men. It needs a fearless outlook and a free intelligence. It needs hope for the future, not looking back all the time toward a past that is dead, which we trust will be far surpassed by the future that our intelligence can create.