Historical Reprints Religion Satires and Profanities

Satires and Profanities

Satires and Profanities
Catalog # SKU3648
Weight 1.00 lbs
Author Name James Thomson, G. W. Foote
ISBN 10: 0000000000
ISBN 13: 0000000000000


Satires and Profanities

James Thomson
Preface by G. W. Foote

I am much mistaken if this volume does not become a well-prized treasure to many Freethinkers; that it will ever be valued by the general public I dare not hope. Yet the number of its admirers will increase with the growth of a healthy scepticism. It will not fall like a bombshell among ordinary readers, who serenely ignore the most terrible mental explosives, and render them comparatively innocuous by mere force of neglect; but it will startle and stimulate some minds, and in time its influence will extend to many more.

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This is one of our few and far-between outbursts of Rabelasian laughter, irresistibly provoked by the aggressive absurdities of theology; and as such I consider it thoroughly defensible. In all seriousness I affirm that its mockery is far less "blasphemous" than the solemn outrage on reason, the infernal damnation of all mankind who are sensible and sane or who are even mad otherwise than the author, the cold-blooded dissection of the infinite and eternal God as a superior surgeon may dissect an inferior corpse, perpetrated by its prototype the so-called Athanasian Creed. I do not see in what the statement that an old monkey of the tribe once saw the tail of this great big monkey is more irreverent than that other statement how Moses of the tribe of Levi once saw the back parts of the Lord; whom the Church believes to be a Spirit infinite, without parts, a sort of omnipresent aether or supersubtle gas. Nor do I see that the monkey, who is at least a natural animal, is a more outrageous symbol or emblem than the utterly unnatural Lamb as it had been slain, with seven horns and seven eyes, encompassed by all "the menagerie of the Apocalypse." It would be easy to produce, I think, mockeries far more insulting, buffooneries far more bitter and malignant, lavished upon Paganism, Socinianism, Atheism, and many another ism, in the works of the most saintly divines. The hierarchy of Olympus is more venerable than the triune Lord of the New Jerusalem; yet how is it treated in our most popular burlesques?

I go to a theatre and find a Christian audience, very tenderly sensitive as to their own religious feelings rolling with laughter and thundering applause at the representation of a ballet-girl Jupiter ascending in a car like a monstrous coal-scuttle, with a deboshed mechanical eagle nodding its head tipsily to the pit; a male Minerva, spectacles on nose, who takes sly gulps from a gin bottle and dances a fish-fag carmagnole; a Bacchus sprawling about drunken and brutish as Caliban; all uttering idiotic puns and singing idiotic songs. And if other mythologies were equally familiar, they would doubtless be maltreated with equal contempt. You thus deliver over to your dismal comic writers, to your clowns and merry-andrews and bayaderes, the gods of Homer and Aeschylus, of Herodotus, Pindar and Phidias, you the sanctimonious and reverent modern Britons; and you cry out aghast against "atrocious blasphemy" touching a Divinity, who was first the anthropomorphic clan-god of a petty Syrian tribe, who grew afterwards into a vague Ormuzd with the devil for Ahriman when this tribe had been captive in Babylonia, whom you have filched from this tribe which you still detest and disdain, with whom you have associated two colleagues declared by this tribe (which surely ought to know best) utterly spurious, whom you worship with rites borrowed from old pagans you decry, and discuss in divinity borrowed from old philosophers and schoolmen you sneer at; who gave to his tribe some millenniums back laws which you preserve in the filched book of your idolatry, but which not one of you dare read to his wife and children; whose son and colleague gave you laws which are certainly readable enough, but which you are so far from obeying that you would assuredly consign to Bedlam any one seeking to act upon them perfectly.

But mockery of the Olympians hurts no one's feelings, while mockery of the Tri-unity hurts the feelings of nearly all who hear or see it? I know that there are here and there a few pious and tender hearts, with whom habitude has become nature; people who, having less intellectual than cordial energy, more affection and reverence than curiosity and self-reliance, pour their whole melted nature into whatever religious moulds chance to be nearest, and harden to the exact shape and size of the mould, so that any blow struck upon it jars and wounds them; and the feelings of these I should be very loth to hurt. I care not for propagandism in general, and in such cases above all propagandism is certainly useless. Why seek to convert women to a struggling faith? Let the women be always on the victorious side, let the men do the fighting and endure the hardships. When their struggling faith has conquered such triumph as it merits, they will find the women all at once in agreement with them, converted not by ideas (for which women care not an apple-dumpling) but by feminine love and loyalty to manhood. One must always be very loth, I say, to wound the feelings of the pious and tender hearts, of the beautiful feminine souls; and fortunately these love to seclude themselves in tranquillity, avoiding debates and controversies. Whose religious feelings, then, are likely to be wounded by "atrocious blasphemies," by "blasphemous indecencies"?

The feelings of "the gentle spirit of our meek Review," the benign and holy Saturday! The feelings of tract distributors, scripture-readers, polemical parsons, all those in general who violate every courtesy of life to thrust their narrowminded dogmas upon others, and who preach everlasting damnation against people too sensible to care for their ranting! They outrage our reason, they vilify our human nature, they blaspheme our world, they pollute our flesh, and they wind up by dooming us to eternal torture because we differ from them: these trifles are, of course, not supposed to hurt our feelings. We endeavor to enthrone human reason, to ennoble human nature, to restore the human body to its pure dignity, to develop the beauty and glory of the world; and we wind up, not by retorting upon them their fiendish curses, not even by laughing at the idea of an almighty and all-good God, but by laughing at their notions of an almighty and all-good God, who has a Hell ready for the vast majority of us: this horrible laugh lacerates their pious sensibilities, and we hear the venomous whine of "atrocious blasphemy."

After condemning us to death they commit us for contempt of court, which surely is an anomalous procedure!

You can mock the Grecian mythology, you can burlesque Shakespeare, without wounding any pious heart? No: Olympus is as sacred to many as Mount Sion is to you; our own Shakespeare is as venerable and dear to us as to you that bundle of dissimilar anonymous treatises which you have made coherent by help of the bookbinder and called the Book of Books. And mark this; the Grecian mythology is dead, is no longer aggressive in its absurdities; the priestcraft and the foul rites have long since perished, the beauty and the grace and the splendor remain. But your composite theology is still alive, is insolently aggressive, its lust for tyrannical dominion is unbounded; therefore we must attack it if we would not be enslaved by it. The cross is a sublime symbol; I would no more think of treating it with disrespect while it held itself aloft in the serene heaven of poetry than of insulting the bow of Phoebus Apollo or the thunderbolts of Zeus; but if coarse hands will insist on pulling it down upon my back as a ponderous wooden reality, what can I do but fling it off as a confounded burden not to be borne?

220 pages - 7 x 8½ softcover

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