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قراءة كتاب The Necessity of Atheism

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The Necessity of Atheism

The Necessity of Atheism

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
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awakening, he finds that he is still in the same place where he had lain the night before. Yet, he is certain that during the night he had traveled to his favorite wood and killed an animal whose tender flesh he was still savoring. Since the conception of a dream was as yet foreign to him, the logical conclusion he arrived at was that he had both a body and a spirit. If he possessed a body and a spirit, then all things about him, he reasoned, must likewise possess a similar spirit. Some spirits, he felt, were friendly; some, hostile to him. The hostile spirits were to be feared; but that powerful factor, "hope," had at last entered into his mind, and he hoped to be able to win them over to the camp of friendly spirits.

In this manner, man passed from the stage of contending against the spirits to one of placating them. It was believed that certain men carried more favor with the spirits than others, and these became the original priests, called the "Shamans."

Another expedient for warding off evil spirits was by means of the fetish. The primitive fetish was an object containing an active friendly spirit, which, if worn by the individual, protected him from the evil spirits. In a short while the manufacture of fetishes became a sacred profession, and the men who were thought to fashion the best ones became the professional holy men of the period, the priests.

At first, idols were used to drive away the evil spirits, and then, the conception changed to one of attracting the good spirits to man. From the individual fetish man passed to tribal ones, which in their first form were huge boulders and trees.

As the primitive mind gained cunning, it slyly smeared the surface of the idol with oily substances, hoping that the spirit, like some wild beast, would come and lick, be gratified, and remain in the idol. When some favorable signs denoted that a good spirit had entered into the idol, it was regularly smeared with oils and then blood, in the hope that the spirit would be pleased sufficiently to remain there permanently. As time went on, it became a custom, a rite, and the spirit having performed to the satisfaction of the tribe, ways were invented to manifest their gratitude. Instead of smearing the idol with blood, it was thought more fitting that an animal be killed and offered to the good spirit contained within the idol. In this manner arose the beginning of "sacrifice." It was at this time, when man began to persuade the idols or spirits to do things for his benefit that religion began.

Slowly, slowly, down through the ages, as the mind of man progressed, his self-made religious conceptions advanced. He now worshiped idols, and these idols were his gods. The Celts, the Babylonians, the Greeks, the Romans, all had their idols. All were certain that their gods were the true ones, and that the others were all inferior and even false gods. But, is the modern worshipper who is contemptuous of the ancients very different from them?

The centuries pass by, and in their wake is man's self-conceived religion. Now, some men take the prerogative in the manufacture of religion, and there evolve Brahmanism, Jainism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Taoism, and Zoroastrianism, all inspired, all supernatural, and with their myriads of followers who believed and still believe that theirs is the only true creed.

Very recently, in the time-scale of our development, man adopted the methods of "Big Business," and the religion of many gods and idols, polytheism, has given way to one Supreme God, monotheism. Man found that it made for simplicity and saved his valuable time if he worshiped one god, instead of obeying the hitherto many. The "Chosen People" took it upon themselves to bring the next divinely concocted conception of a Supreme God, and they manufactured the creed of Judaism.

After many years, a rift arose among the Jews, and the sectarians were defeated and expelled. Foiled in their first object, they cast aside the laws of Moses and offered the Hebrew religion without the Hebrew ceremonies to the Greek and Roman world. Jesus was the man who prepared the way for this remarkable event.

When Mohammed conceived the divine conception that he would follow in the footsteps of his brother-prophets, Moses and Jesus, the latest of the major religions was revealed.

At the present time, the Hebrews and Christians, although worshiping the same Jehovah, are disputing with each other, and indeed, amongst themselves, with regard to the various attributes, amorous pursuits, and lineal descendants of the Godhead. Jehovah himself appears to be on the decline and his unity is steadily disintegrating into a paradoxical trinity. But we are progressing, for in 1300 years no new prophet has arisen, and no new divine revelation is perturbing our race; the old ones, however, are causing quite enough disturbance.

It would be of value for the modern religionist who believes that the worship of a deity in our own age is far removed from the worship of an idol by our savage ancestors, to retrace his steps and compare the savage mind worshiping his particular idol and a so-called civilized mind of today worshiping his deity.

The savage prayed to his idol, that is, he begged. He begged the idol to watch over his flock or his fields. The modern prays, that is he begs of his idol, his deity, to prosper his business, to guard his life, and, as one of my "super-devout" acquaintances recently informed me, on the eve of an important golf match, for the Deity to give him endurance; in other words, "to cut down his golf score."

The savage voiced his incantations; the modern sings hymns, that is he flatters. There is still a great deal of the charlatanry of the magician in the construction of the houses of prayer, with the sunlight shut out and only filtering through the leaded and multi-colored panes, the semidarkness, the solemnity, the rise and swell of the organ; all things combined to overcome the senses, to play upon the emotions, and to subdue the reason.

The savage made sacrifices to his idols, that is, he paid tribute, chiefly out of fear, but partly in the hope of getting something better in return. The modern does not offer human or animal sacrifice, it is true; but it must be borne in mind that the wealth of the savage consisted of his sheep, oxen, oils, and wines, not money. Today, the devout offer a sacrifice of money to the Deity. We are all familiar with the requests of religious institutions for gifts, which nearly always finish with the phrase, "And the Lord will repay you many fold." In other words, sacrifice part of your worldly goods to the idol, and he will repay with high interest. He will give in return long life and much riches. The savage was afraid to utter the real name of his god, it was taboo. The modern says, "Take not the name of the Lord in vain." Even today, the followers of Moses consider it taboo to utter the name of Jehovah except in prayer.

The present-day methods of worship are no different from those of the savage; the method of supplication has changed with the advance of the years, but the fundamental ideas at the base of all worship are just as crude today as they were 4000 years ago. Primitive man was no more a fetishist than is the modern Catholic. The latter still wears medals and images suspended from the neck and pinned to the inner clothing.

Moreover, a survey of the various religions extant indicates that the religious factor is no less prevalent today than it was in primitive societies.

In Greenland, one finds, that through nearly all of its vast area religion has no place, but that is chiefly the result of its being largely uninhabited. In Alaska, the population is for the most part Catholic, although the natives are animists. In

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