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It has all sorts of forms. One form is to say that there would be no right or 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. 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 gnostics 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. In the part of this universe that we know there is 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.
So they say that there must be a God, and there must be heaven and hell in order that in the long run there may be justice. That is a very curious argument. 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 the odds are that there is injustice elsewhere also.
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.
It is generally taken for granted that we shall 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 farther than most professing Christians can. It was used by Lao-Tze and Buddha some five or six hundred 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,1 [footnote 1. Stanley Baldwin. I think you might find that he thought this text was intended in a figurative sense.
Then there is another point which I consider is excellent. 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. 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.
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, it is not quite the same thing as for a Christian. 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 that 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. That was the belief of His earlier followers, and it was the basis of a good deal of His moral teaching. I have, as a matter of fact, known some Christians who did believe that 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 did really 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 that respect clearly He was not so wise as some other people have been, and he was certainly not superlatively wise.
I do not myself feel that any person who 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 towards 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 sort 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. It is not really to my mind quite the best tone, and there are a great many of these things about hell.
I really do not think that a person with a proper degree of kindliness in his nature would have put fears and terrors of that sort into the world. 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.
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 to the sea. You must remember that He was omnipotent, and He could have made the devils simply go away; but He chooses 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.
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.
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 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. 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.
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 its tortures; there were millions of unfortunate women burnt as witches; and there was every kind of cruelty practised upon all sorts of people in the name of religion.
You find as you look around the world that every single bit of progress in humane feeling, every improvement in the criminal law, every step towards the diminution of war, every step towards better treatment of the coloured races, or every mitigation of slavery, every moral progress that there has been in the world, has been consistently opposed by the organised Churches of the world.
I say quite deliberately that the Christian religion, as organised in its Churches, has been and still is the principal enemy of moral progress in the world.
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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. You must stay together for life.
That 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.
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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 of 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.
The object of morals is not to make people happy. 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 has 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 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 round 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. Conquer the world by intelligence, and not merely by being slavishly subdued by the terror that comes from it.
The whole conception of 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.
Books and Deliverance Materials: Bibles for America: You can find a free version of the Bible on many numerous sites. Just click and download.
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Communion with God Ministries: Christian Books: New and up to date publications. At a price. Christian Media: Has a limited selection of fiction eBooks and these are mostly books that would fall into the classical category.
This site has four pages of various books for download.
Dave Roberson Ministries: Disciples of Jesus Ministry: Discovery House Publishing: E-Library — Christian E-Books: Free Catholic Books: This website has 20 pages of books, each having 12 books per page.
These documents open up in PDF, so you better have Acrobat reader. Global Christians: It is subdivided further into different categories that match what you are looking for. For example they have a bible study section, a ministry and theology section, and a Christian living ethics and social issues section. Just click on the book that you want and the download begins almost immediately. Heart of Wisdom: Hope Faith Prayer: There is nothing more important.
They mainly have doctrinal books, but there is a handful of motivational books as well. The link provided takes you to the motivational eBooks. Jesus Army Library: The Jesus Army also known as the Jesus Fellowship Church aims to be a contemporary expression of the historic Christian faith. All kinds of people are involved: The Jesus Army is particularly active with many in need, including homeless young people, prisoners and ex-prisoners and those involved in alcohol and drug abuse.
On this site each book is listed by author. It seems that most of the books on this site are limited to doctrinal commentary and interpretation. You can easily access authors from Calvin to Edersheim. This site requires a little more digging if you are looking for a specific topic, if you are looking for a specific author it does very well. NTS Lirary: This website is organized topically, once you click on the topic then you gain access to the various books that they have available.
Old Landmark Publishing: Online Christian Library: Open Heaven. RC Publications: Certainly with a visit to brouse. The New Life Mission: By introducing the website to someone close to you so that he may download free Christian e-books, you become a precious participant of serving God through spreading the Gospel of the water and the Spirit.
Multiple languages available. The Plough: Search by topic, author or title. For those who love real books, visit the books in print page. The Plough Articles: The Olive Tree: Up Stream Ministries: Great Commission Publications: The non-profit corporation is jointly run by a representative Board of Trustees consisting of ministers and elders from both churches.
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They probably know. Rule Six We must read the Bible reverently. It requires our attention in addition to our affection Psalm Remember… Successful non-fiction writers put their books on the marketplace and move on.