- B o o k F i v e
T h e C h u r c h
o f t h e M e r c h a n t s
- The Head Merchant
The Great American Fraud
Riches in Glory
Running the Rapids
- Mammon led them on -
Mammon, the least erected spirit that fell
From Heaven; for even in Heaven his looks and thoughts
Were always downward bent, admiring more
The riches of Heaven's pavement, trodden gold,
Than aught divine or holy else enjoyed
In vision beatific...
Let none admire
That riches grow in Hell; that soil may best
Deserve the precious bane.
The Head Merchant
- Ours is the era of commerce, as its propagandists never weary of telling us. Business is the basis of our material lives, and consequently of our culture. Business men control our politics and dictate our laws; business men own our newspapers and direct their policy; business men sit on our school boards, and endow and manage our universities. The Reformation was a revolt of the newly-developing merchant classes against the tyrannies and abuses of feudal clericalism: so in all Protestant Christianity one finds the spirit, ideals, and language of Trade. We have shown how the symbolism of the Anglican Church is of the palace and the throne; in the same way that of the non-conformist sects may be shown to be of the counting-house. In the view of the middle-class Britisher, the nexus between man and man is cent per cent; and so in their Sunday services the worshippers sing such hymns as this:
Whatever, Lord, we lend to Thee,
Repaid a thousand fold shall be;
Then gladly will we give to Thee,
Who givest all.
The first duty of every man under the competitive system is to secure the survival of his own business; so on the Sabbath, when he comes to deal with eternity, he is practical and explicit:
Nothing is worth a thought beneath
But how I may escape the death
That never, never dies;
How make mine own election sure,
And when I fail on earth secure
A mansion in the skies.
Just as the priest of the aristocratic caste figures God as a mighty Conqueror -
Marching as to war
With the cross of Jesus
Going on before -
so the preacher to the trader figures the divinity as a glorified Merchant keeping books. This Head Merchant has a monopoly in His line; He knows all His rivals' secrets, so there is no getting ahead of Him, and nothing to do but obey His Word, as revealed through His clerical staff. The system is oily with protestations of divine love; but when you read the comments of Luther upon Calvin and of Calvin upon Luther, you understand that this love is confined to the inside of each denomination. And even so restricted, there is not always enough to go around. Recently I met a Presbyterian clergyman, to whom I remarked, "I see by the papers that you have just finished a church building." "Yes," he answered; "and I have had three offers of a new church." I did not see the connection, and asked, "Because you were so successful with this one?" The reply was, "They always take it for granted that you want to change when you've finished a new building, because you make so many enemies!"
The business man puts up the money to build the church, he puts up the money to keep it going; and the first rule of a business man is that when he puts up the money for a thing he "runs" that thing. Of course he sees that it spreads his own views of life, it helps to maintain his tradition. In the days of Anu and Baal we heard the proclamation of the divine right of Kings; in these days of Mammon we hear the proclamation of the divine right of Merchants. Some fifteen years ago the head of our Coal Trust announced during a great strike that the question would be settled "by the Christian men to whom God in His Infinite Wisdom has given control of the property interests of this country". And on that declaration all pious merchants stand; whatever their denominations, Catholic, Episcopalian, Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian or Hebrew, their Sabbath doctrines are alike, as their week-day practices are alike; whether it is Rockefeller shooting his Bayonne oil-workers and burning alive the little children of his miners; or smooth John Wanamaker, paying starvation wages to department-store girls and driving them to the streets; or that clergyman who, at a gathering of society ladies, members of the "Law and Order League" of Denver, declared in my hearing that if he could have his way he would blow up the home of every coal-striker with dynamite; or the Rev. R. A. Torrey, Dean of the Bible institute of Los Angeles, who refused to employ union labor on the million dollar building of the Institute, declaring that "the Church cannot afford to have any dealings with a band of fire-bugs and murderers!"
- The business of the Clerical Department of the Merchants' and Manufacturers' Association is to justify the processes of trade, and to preach to clerks and employees the slave-virtues of frugality, humility, and loyalty to the profit system. The depths of sociological depravity to which some of the agents of this Association have sunk is difficult of belief. Twelve years ago I was invited to address the book-sellers of New York, in company with a well-known clergyman of the city, the Reverend Madison C. Peters. This gentleman's address made such an impression upon me that I recall it even at this distance: a string of jokes spoken with an effect of rapid-fire smartness, and simply reeking with commercialism. I could not describe it better than to say that it was on the ethical level of the "Letters of a Self-Made Merchant to His Son". Again, I attended a debate on Socialism, in which the capitalist end was taken by another famous clergyman, pastor of the Metropolitan Temple, the Rev. J. Wesley Hill. He was so ignorant that when he wished to prove that Socialism means free love, he quoted a writer by the name of "Herr Beeble"; he was so dishonest that he garbled the writings of this "Herr Beeble", making him say something quite different from what he had meant to say. I could name several clergymen of various denominations who have stooped to that device against the Socialists; including the Catholic Father Belford, who says that we are mad dogs and should be stopped with bullets.
Or consider the Reverend Thomas Dixon. This gentleman's pulpit-slang used to be the talk of New York when I was a boy; and when I grew up, and came into the Socialist movement - behold, here he was, chief inquisitor of the capitalist Holy Office. I had a friend, a man who saved my life at a time when I was practically starving, and to whom therefore I owe my survival as a writer; this friend had been a clergyman in a Middle Western state, and had preached Jesus as he really was, and so was hated and feared like Jesus. It happened that he was unhappily married, and permitted his wife to divorce him so that he might marry the woman he loved; for which unheard of crime the organized hypocrisy of America fell upon him like a thousand devils with poisoned whips. The Reverend Dixon's holy rage was fired; he applied his imagination to my friend's story, producing a novel under the title of "The One Woman"; and it is as if you were reading the story of Jesus and the Magdalen transmitted through the personality of a he-goat. Of late years this clerical author has turned his energies to negrophobia, and militarism, making millions out of motion-picture incitements to hatred and terror. The pictures were made here in Southern California, and friends in the business have described to me the pious propagandist in the position of St. Anthony surrounded by swarms of cute and playful little movie-girls.
Or take the Rev. James Roscoe Day, D. D., S. T. D., L. L. D., D. C. L., L. H. D., a leading light of the Methodist Episcopal Church, who offers himself as comic relief in our Clerical Vaudeville. Dr. Day is Chancellor of Syracuse University, a branch of the Mental Munitions Department of the Standard Oil Company; his function being to manufacture intellectual weapons and explosives to be used in defense of the Rockefeller fortune. It is generally not expected that the makers of ruling-class munitions should face the dirty and perilous work of the trenches; but ten years ago, during a raid by an active squad of muckrake-men, Chancellor Day astonished the world by rushing to the front with both arms full of star-shells and bombs. He afterwards put the history of this gallant action into a volume, "The Raid on Prosperity"; and if you want the real thrill of the class-war, here is where to get it!
The Chancellor is a quaint and touching figure; an enthusiast and dreamer, idealist and martyr, in whom the ordinary human virtues have been fused, absorbed, transformed and sublimated into a new supreme virtue of loyalty to Exploitation, patriotism for Profiteering. He began life as a working-man, he tells us, in the good old American fashion of hustle for yourself; but he differed from other Americans in that he had an instant, intuitive recognition of the intellectual and moral excellence of Plutocracy. The first time he met a rich man, he quivered with rapture, he burst into a hymn of appreciation. So very quickly he was recognized as a proper person to have charge of a Mental Munition Works; and the ruling classes proceeded to pin medals upon the bosom of his academic robes - D. D., S. T. D., L. L. D., D. C. L., L. H. D.
The Chancellor knows the masters of our Profit System, those "consummate geniuses of manufacture and trade by which the earth has yielded up her infinite treasures." And having been at the same time in intimate daily communion with the Almighty, he can tell us the Almighty's attitude towards these prodigies. "God has made the rich of this world to serve Him... He has shown them a way to have this world's goods and to be rich towards God... God wants the rich men... Christ's doctrines have made the world rich, and provide adequate uses for its riches." Also the Chancellor knows our great corporations, and gives us the Almighty's views about them; they mean that "the forces with which God built the universe have been put into the hands of man." Likewise by divine authority we learn that "the sympathy given to Socialism is appalling. It is insanity." We learn that the income tax is "a doctrine suited to the dark ages, only no age ever has been dark enough." Somebody raises the issue of "tainted money", and the Chancellor disposes of this matter also. As a Deputy of Divinity, he settles it by Holy Writ: "Paul permitted meat offered to idols to be eaten in the fear of God." And then, to make assurance doubly sure, he settles it with plain human logic; and you are astonished to see how simple, under his handling, the complex problem becomes - how clear and clean-cut is the distinction he draws for you:
Every boy knows that one cannot take stolen goods without being a partaker with the thief. But the proceeds of recognized business are quite a different thing,
- And here is Billy Sunday, most conspicuous phenomenon of Protestant Christianity at the beginning of the twentieth century. For the benefit of posterity I explain that "Billy" is a baseball player turned Evangelist, who has brought to the cause of God the crowds and uproar of the diamond; also the commercial spirit of America's most popular institution. He travels like a circus, with all the press-agent work and newspaper hurrah; he conducts what are called "revivals", in an enormous "tabernacle" built especially for him in each city. I cannot better describe the Billy Sunday circus than in the words of a certain Sidney C. Tapp, who brought suit against the evangelist for $100,000 damages for the theft of the ideas of a book. Says Mr. Tapp in his complaint:
The so-called religious awakening or "trail-hitting" is produced by an appeal to the emotions and in stirring up the senses by a combination of carrying the United States flag in one hand and the Bible in the other, singing, trumpeting, organ playing, garrulous and acrobatic feats of defendant, by defendant in his talk leaping from the rostrum to the top of the pulpit, lying prone on the floor of the rostrum on his stomach in the presence of the vast audience and from thence into a pit to shake hands with the so-called "trail-hitters" and the vulgar use of plaintiff's thoughts contained in said books. Said harangues and vulgarisms of said defendant and horns, drums, organs and singing by said choir and vast audience which are assembled by means of said newspaper advertisements for the purpose of inducing a habit of free and copious flow of money through religious and patriotic excitement produced by and through the vulgarisms, scurrility, buffoonery, obscenity and profanity of defendant pretending to be in the interest of the cause of religion through what he denominates "hitting the trail", the real object being to induce a religious frenzy and enthusiasm which he announces in advance is to result in large audiences composed of thousands of people generously contributing vast sums of money on the last day and night of the so-called revival which is invariably appropriated by the defendant and through which scheme and device defendant has become enormously wealthy.
As I write, the evangelist is in Los Angeles, and twice each day he holds forth to a crowd of ten or fifteen thousand; in addition the newspapers print literally pages of his utterances. The entire Protestant clergy for a score of miles around has been hitched to his triumphal chariot, and driven captive through the streets. Here in this dignified city of Pasadena, home of millionaire brewers and chewing-gum kings, all the churches have been plastered for weeks with cloth signs: "This Church is Cooperating in the Sunday Campaign." To give a sample of the intellectual level of the performance, here is what Billy has to say about modern thought:
All this blasphemy against God and Jesus Christ, all this sneering, highbrow, rotten, loathesome, higher criticism, wriggling its dirty, filthy, stinking carcass out of a beer-mug in Leipzig or Heidelberg!
Whether willingly or reluctantly, the preachers sit upon the platform and smile while Billy thus slangs the devil; and being themselves, poor fellows, at their wits end to draw the crowd, they watch and see how he does it, and then return to their own churches and try the same stunt; so the manners of the baseball diamond spread like a contagion. I open my morning paper, and find a picture of an intense-looking clerical gentleman, the Rev. J. Whitcomb Brougher, pastor of the Baptist Temple. He is discussing certain slanderous rumors which he has heard about Billy Sunday, and he offers ten thousand dollars reward to anyone who can prove these things; though, as he says,
The dirty, low-down, contemptible, weazen-brained, impure-hearted, shrivelled-souled, gossipping devils do not deserve to be noticed... Scandal-mongers, gossip-lovers, reputation-destroyers, hypocritical, black-hearted, green-eyed slanderers... Corrupt, devil-possessed, vile debauches... Immoral, sin-loving, vice-practicing, underhanded sneaks... Carrion-loving buzzards and foul-smelling skunks.
You will be prepared after this to hear that when the Socialists were near to carrying Los Angeles, this clergyman preached a sermon in support of the candidate of "Booze, Gas and Railroads".
In so far as Billy Sunday is trying to keep the neglected youth of our streets from drinking, gambling and whoring, no one could wish him anything but success; but his besotted ignorance, his childish crudity of mind, make it impossible that he could have any success except of a delusive nature. He is utterly devoid of a social sense; utterly unaware of the existence of the forces of capitalism which are causing depravity ten times as fast as all the evangelists in creation can remedy it. So he is precisely like the Catholics with their "charity", cleaning up loathsome and unsightly messes for a thousand years, and never stopping to ask why such messes continue to come into existence.
More than that, I question whether the spirit of commercialism which he fosters does not help the development of evil more than his preaching hinders it. The newspapers always report the cost of the tabernacle, of the "free-will offering", which amounts to hundreds of thousands of dollars in each "campaign", In each city the expenses are guaranteed by men who are generally the most sinister exploiting forces of the community; they welcome and fete him, and he visits their homes, and is in every way one of the crowd. After the big strike in Paterson, N. J., the employers, Jews and Catholics included, all subscribed a fund to bring Billy Sunday to that city; and it was freely proclaimed that the purpose was to undermine the radical union movement. This was never denied by Sunday himself, and his whole campaign was conducted on that basis.
Later Billy came to New York, where he met a certain rich young man, perhaps a thousand times as rich as any that lived in Palestine. This young man came to Billy and said: "What shall I do to inherit eternal life?" And Billy told him to keep the commandments - "Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor thy father and thy mother." The young man answered; "All these have I kept from my youth up." And Billy said: "Yet lackest thou one thing; sell all that thou hast and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and come follow me." And when he heard this he was very sorrowful, for he was very rich.
- No, I have got the story mixed up. That is what happened in Palestine. What happened in New York is that Billy said, "I am delighted to meet you, Mr. Rockefeller." And Mr. Rockefeller said, "Come be my guest at my palace in the Pocantico Hills; and then we will go together and you may preach submission to my wage-slaves in the oil-factories at Bayonne and elsewhere." And Billy went to the palace, and went and preached to the wage-slaves, telling them to beware the "stinking Socialists", and to concentrate their attention on the saving of their souls; so the rich young man was delighted, and he sent for all the newspaper reporters to come to his office at 26 Broadway, and told them what a great and useful man Billy Sunday is. As the New York "Times" tells about it:
Mr. Rockefeller seldom gives interviews and certainly he has never been charged with having an excess of verbally expressed enthusiasm on any subject. But he talked for an hour and a half about the evangelist. He was full of the subject of Billy Sunday. "Billy did New York a lot of good," he said. He went on to tell of 187 meetings held in 100 different factories, attended by 50,000 men. "That's good work." And he expressed his satisfaction with Sunday's theology: "He believes the Bible from cover to cover and that is good enough for me." The Sunday campaign had cost $200,000, and "If it had stopped here, if it was not kept up, it would be poor business; a poor dividend on the $200,000 and the work invested. But we expect to get dividends in the next year."
Again you note the symbolism of the counting-house!
- It is the duty of the clergy, not merely to defend large-scale merchants while they live, but to bury them when they die, and to place the seal of sanctity upon their careers. Concerning this aspect of Bootstrap-lifting I quote the opinion of an earnest hater of shams, William Makepeace Thackeray:
I think the part which pulpits play in the death of kings is the most ghastly of all the ceremonial: the lying eulogies, the blinking of disagreeable truths, the sickening flatteries, the simulated grief, the falsehood and sycophancies - all uttered in the name of Heaven in our State churches: these monstrous Threnodies which have been sung from time immemorial over kings and queens, good, bad, wicked, licentious. The State parson must bring out his commonplaces; his apparatus of rhetorical black-hanging...
And this, of course, applies not merely to kings of England, but to kings of Steel, kings of Coal, kings of Oil, kings of Wall Street. When a certain king of Western railroads died, a Methodist clergyman, afterwards Bishop, likened his heir to the boy Christ; a statement which requires for its appreciation a mention of the fact that this heir died of syphilis. In the year 1904 there passed from his earthly reward in Pennsylvania a United States senator who had been throughout his lifetime a notorious and unblushing corruptionist. Matthew Stanley Quay was his name, and the New York "Nation", having no clerical connections, was free to state the facts about him:
He bought the organization, bribed or intimidated the press, got his grip on the public service, including even the courts; imposed his will on Congress and Cabinet, and upon the last three Presidents - making the latter provide for the offal of his political machine, which even Pennsylvania could no longer stomach - and all without identifying his name with a single measure of public good, without making a speech or uttering a party watchword, without even pretending to be honest, but solely because, like Judas, he carried the bag and could buy whom he would.
Such was the lay opinion; and now for the clerical. It was expressed by a Presbyterian divine, the Reverend Dr. J. S. Ramsey, who stood over the coffin of "Matt", and without cracking a smile declared that he had been "a statesman who was always on the right side of every moral question!"
In that same year of 1904 died the high priest of our political corruption, Mark Hanna. He had belonged to no church, but had backed them all, understanding the main thesis of this book as clearly as the writer of it. In his home city of Cleveland the eulogy upon him was pronounced by Bishop Leonard, in St. Paul's Episcopal Church; while in the United States Senate the service was performed by the Chaplain, the Rev. Edward Everett Hale. This is a name well-known in American letters, as in American religious life; it was borne by a benevolent old gentleman, a Unitarian and a liberal, who organized "Lend-a-Hand Clubs" and such like amiabilities. "Do You Love This Old Man?" the signs in the street-cars used to ask when I was a boy; and I promptly answered "Yes" - for my mother took the "Ladies' Home Journal", and I swallowed the sentimental dish-water set out for me. But when I read the Rev. Edward's funeral oration over the Irrev. Mark, I loved neither of them any longer. "This whole-souled child of God," cried the Rev. Edward, "who believed in success, and knew how to succeed by using the infinite powers!" You perceive that the Chaplain of the Millionaires' Club agrees with this book, that the "infinite powers" in America are the powers that prey!
The Great American Fraud
- Among the most loathesome products of our native commercial greed is the patent medicine industry, "The Great American Fraud," as its historian has called it. In 1907 this historian wrote:
Gullible America will spend this year some seventy-five millions of dollars in the purchase of patent medicines. In consideration of this sum it will swallow huge quantities of alcohol, an appalling amount of opiates and narcotics, a wide assortment of varied drugs ranging from powerful and dangerous heart depressants to insidious liver stimulants; and, far in excess of all other ingredients, undiluted fraud. For fraud, exploited by the skillfullest of advertising bunco men, is the basis of the trade.
One by one Mr. Adams tells about these medical fakes: habit-forming laxatives, head-ache powders full of acetanilid, soothing-syrups and catarrh-cures full of opium and cocaine, cock-tails subtly disguised as "bitters", "sarsaparillas", and "tonics". He shows how the fake testimonials are made up and exploited; how the confidential letters, telling the secret troubles of men and women, are collected by tens and hundreds of thousands and advertised and sold - so that the victim, as he begins to lose faith in one fake, finds another at hand, fully informed as to his weakness. He quotes the amazing "Red Clause" in the contracts which the patent-medicine makers have with thousands of daily and weekly papers, whereby the makers are able to control the press of the country and prevent legislation against the "Great American Fraud."
There are a thousand religious papers in America, weekly and monthly; and what is their attitude on this question? Mr. Adams tells us:
Whether because church-going people are more trusting, and therefore more easily befooled than others, or from some more obscure reason, many of the religious papers fairly reek with patent medicine fakes.
He gives us many pages of specific instances:
Dr. Smith belongs to the brood of cancer vampires. He is a patron and prop of religious journalism. It is his theory that the easiest prey is to be found among readers of church papers. Moreover he has learned from his father-in-law (who built a small church out of blood-money) to capitalize his own sectarian associations, and when confronted recently with a formal accusation he replied, with an air of injured innocence, that he was a regular attendant at church, and could produce an endorsement from his minister.
And here is the "Church Advocate", of Harrisburg, Pa., which publishes quack advertisements disguised as editorials. One of them Mr. Adams paraphrases:
As Dr. Smith is, on the face of his own statements, a self-branded swindler and rascal, you run no risk in assuming that the Rev. C. H. Forney, D. D., L. L. D., in acting as his journalistic supporter for pay, is just such another as himself!
Will the editor of the "Baptist Watchman" of Boston explain by what phenomenon of logic or elasticity of ethics he accepts the lucubrations of Dr. Bye, of Oren Oneal, of Liquozone, of Actina, that marvelous two-ended mechanical appliance which "cures" deafness at one terminus and blindness at the other, and all with a little oil of mustard?
The "Christian Observer" of Louisville replied to a protesting subscriber, suggesting that the "Collier" articles were written in a spirit of revenge, because "Collier's" could not get patent medicine advertising. When I asked the Rev. F. Bartlett Converse for his foundation for the charge, he said that one of the typewriters must have written the letter! Doubtless also the same highly responsible typewriter imitated the signature with startling fidelity to Dr. Converse's handwriting!
And here is - would you think it possible? - our "Church of Good Society"! It has an organ in Chicago called the "Living Church", most dignified and decorous. You have to study quite a while to ascertain what denomination it belongs to; it will not tell you directly, for the Anglician pose is that it is the church
Elect from every nation,
Yet one oer all the earth,
Her charter of salvation,
One Lord, one Faith, one Birth;
One holy name she blesses,
Partakes one holy food,
And toward one Hope she presses,
With every grace endued.
And this one holy institution was found setting at its peak the black flag of the trader, the "Jolly Roger" of the modern commercial pirate - "Caveat emptor!" To quote the precise words:
The editors and publishers of the "Living Church" assume no responsibility for the assertions of advertisers.
And so it threw open its columns to the claims of America's champion labor-baiter, the late C. W. Post, that his "Grapenuts" would prevent appendicitis, and obviate the need of operations in such cases!
And here is the "Christian Endeavor World", organ of one of the most powerful non-sectarian religious bodies in the country. Some one wrote complaining of its medical advertising, and the answer was:
To the best of our knowledge and belief, we are not publishing any fraudulent or unworthy medical advertising... Trusting that you will be able to understand that we are acting according to our best and sincerest judgment, I remain, yours very truly, The Golden Rule Company, George W. Coleman, Business Manager.
Whereupon the historian of "The Great American Fraud" remarks:
Assuming that the business management of the "Christian Endeavor World" represents normal intelligence, I would like to ask whether it accepts the statement that a pair of "magic foot drafts" applied to the soles of the feet will cure any and every kind of rheumatism in any part of the body? Further, if the advertising department is genuinely interested in declining "fraudulent and unworthy" copy, I would call their attention to the ridiculous claims of Dr. Shoop's medicines, which "cure" almost every disease; to two hair removers, one an "Indian Secret", the other an "accidental discovery", both either fakes or dangerous; to the lying claims of Hall's Catarrh Cure, that it is "a positive cure for catarrh", in all its stages; to "Syrup of Figs", which is not a fig syrup, but a preparation of senna; to Dr. Kilmer's Swamp Root, of which the principal medical constituent is alcohol; and, finally, to Dr. Bye's Oil Cure for cancer, a particularly cruel swindle on unfortunates suffering from an incurable malady. All of these, with other matter, which for the sake of decency I do not care to detail in these columns, appear in recent issues of the "Christian Endeavor World".
Riches in Glory
- There came recently to Los Angeles a "world-famous evangelist", known as "Gipsy" Smith. There was a shirt-waist strike at the time, and the girls were starving, and they sent a delegation to this evangelist to ask for help. They told him how they were mistreated, exposed to insults, driven to sell their virtue because their wage would not support life; and to their plea he made answer: "Get Jesus in your hearts, and these questions will take care of themselves!"
So we see the most important of the many services which the churches perform for the merchants - taking the revolutionary hope of Jesus, for a kingdom of heaven upon earth, and perverting it into a dream of a golden harp in an uncertain future. To appreciate the fullness of this betrayal, take the prayer which Jesus dictated - so simple, direct and practical: "Give us this day our daily bread", and put it beside the hymns which the slave-congregations are trained to sing. In my neighborhood is a one-roomed building with a plate glass front, upon which I observe a painter inscribing in red, white and blue letters the sign "Glory Mission". I approach him, and he drops his work and welcomes me with eager cordiality. Am I "living in grace"? I answer that I am. I have to shout the good tidings into his ear, as he is very deaf. He presents me with his card, which shows that he bears the title of "Reverend", also the sobriquet of "Mountain Missionary". I ask him to permit me to examine the hymn-book which he uses in his work, and with touching eagerness he presses upon me a well-worn volume bearing the title "Waves of Glory". I seat myself and note down a few of the baits it sets out for hungry wage-slaves:
O, there's a plenty, O, there's a plenty,
There's a plenty in my Father's bank above!
Riches in glory, riches in glory,
Royal supply our wants exceed!
Feasting, I'm feasting,
I'm feasting with my Lord!
Beautiful robes, beautiful robes,
Beautiful robes we then shall wear!
Jerusalem the golden,
With milk and honey blest!
Yes, I'll meet you in the city of the New Jerusalem,
I'll be there, I'll be there!
Blest Canaan land, bright Canaan land,
I love to be in Canaan land!
Oh, Beulah land, sweet Beulah land,
As on the highest mount I stand,
I look away across the sea,
Where mansions are prepared for me!
In the sweet bye and bye
We shall meet on that beautiful shore -
I stopped there, being reminded of Joe Hill, poet of the I. W. W. who was hanged three or four years ago in Utah, and who used this tune in his little red book of revolutionary chants:
You will eat, bye and bye,
In the glorious land above the sky;
Work and pray, live on hay,
You'll get pie in the sky when you die!
- In one of the writer's earlier novels, "Prince Hagen", the hero is a Nibelung out of Wagner's "Rheingold", who leaves his diggings in the bowels of the earth, and comes up to look into our superior civilization. The thing that impresses him most is what he calls "the immortality idea". The person who got that up was a world-genius, he exclaims. "If you can once get a man to believing in immortality, there is no more left for you to desire; you can take everything he owns - you can skin him alive if it pleases you - and he will bear it all with perfect good humor."
And is that merely the spiritual deficiency of a Nibelung - or the effort of a young author to be smart? Would you like to hear that view of the most vital of Christian doctrines set forth in the language of scholarship and culture? Would you like to know how an ecclesiastical authority, equipped with every tool of modern learning, would set about voicing the idea that the function of the teaching of Heaven is to chloroform the poor, so that the rich may continue to rob them in security?
Here under my hand is a volume in the newest dress of scholarship, dated 1912, and written by Professor Georges Chatterton-Hill, of the University of Geneva. Its title is "The Sociological Value of Christianity", and from cover to cover it is a warning to the rich of the danger they run in giving up their religion and ceasing to support its priests. It explains how "the genius of Christianity has succeeded in making the individual suffering, the individual sacrifices, which are indispensible for the welfare of the collectivity, appear as indispensible for the individual welfare." The learned professor makes plain just what he means by "individual suffering, individual sacrifices"; he means all the horrors of capitalism; and the advantage of Christianity is that it makes you think that by submitting to these horrors, you are profiting your own soul. "By making individual salvation depend on the acceptance of suffering, on the voluntary sacrifice of egotistical interests, Christianity adapts the individual to society". And this, as the professor explains, is not an easy thing to do, in a world in which so many people are thinking for themselves. "The only means of causing the rationalized individual to consent to the sacrifice.... is to captivate him with a sufficiently powerful idea!" And the professor shows how beautifully Jesus can be used for this purpose. "Jesus, the so-called humanitarian, never ceased to insist on the necessity of suffering, the desirableness of suffering - of that suffering which a weak and sickly humanitarianism would fain suppress if it could."
You get this, you "blanket-stiff", you "husky", or "wop", or whatever you are - you disinherited of the earth, you proletarians who have only your labor-power to sell, you weak and sickly ones who are condemned to elimination? There has come, let us say, a period of "overproduction"; you have raised too much food, and therefore you are starving, you have woven too much cloth, and therefore you are naked, you have finished the world for your masters, and it is time for you to move out of the way. As the sociologist from Geneva phrases it, "Your suppression imposes itself as an imperious necessity." And the function of the Christian religion is to make you enjoy the process, by "captivating you with a sufficiently powerful ideal"! The priest will fill your nostrils with incense, your eyes with candle-lights and images, your ears with sweet music and soothing words; and so you will perish without raising a finger! "Here," reflects the professor, "we see how magnificently the teaching of Jesus applies to all classes of society!"
Somebody has evidently put up to our Christian sociologist the embarrassing fact that so many of those who survive under the capitalist system are godless scoundrels. But do you think that troubles him? Not for long. Like all religious thinkers, he carries with his scholar's equipment a pair of metaphysical wings, wherewith at any moment he may soar into the empyrean, out of reach of vulgar materialists, like you and me. "Inequality signifies inequality of capacity," he explains; but the standard whereby we judge this capacity "cannot be the standard of the moral law."
The laws which govern the biological evolution of man are known, but those which govern his moral nature cannot be known; the moral nature appertains to the Absolute, and hence is not subject to the law of inequality!
As an exhibition of metaphysical wing-power, that is almost as wonderful as the flight of Cardinal Newman when confronted with the fact that his divinely guided church had burned men for teaching the Copernican view of the universe; that infallible popes had again and again condemned this heresy ex cathedra. Said the eloquent cardinal:
Scripture says that the sun moves and the earth is stationary, and science that the earth moves and the sun is comparatively at rest. How can we determine which of these opposite statements is the very truth till we know what motion is?
- Do not imagine that it is only in Geneva that Christian professors realize this peril from the loss of faith. It is never far from the thoughts of any of them - for, of course, no man can look at the present system and not wonder how the poor stand it, and more especially why they stand it. There have been many thinking men who have given up the miracle-business quite cheerfully, but have stood appalled at the idea of letting the lower classes find out the truth. You note that idea continually in the writings of Professor Goldwin Smith, who was a free-thinker, but also a bourgeois publicist, with a deep sense of responsibility to the money-masters of the world. He was about as honest a man as the capitalist system can produce; he was the beau ideal of the New York "Evening Post", which indicates his point of view. He wrote:
It can hardly be doubted that hope of compensation in a future state, for a short measure of happiness here, has materially helped to reconcile the less favored members of the community to the inequalities of the existing order of things.
When I was a student in Columbia University, I took a course called "Practical Ethics", under a professor by the name of Hyslop. The course differed from most of the forty that I tried, in that it gave evidence that the professor was accustomed to read the morning paper. He had learned that American politics were rotten; his idea of "Practical Ethics" was to outline in elaborate detail a complete scheme of constitutional changes which would make it impossible for the "boss" to control the government. I think I must have been born with a charm against bourgeois thought, for the good professor never fooled me an instant; I remember I used to smile at the idea of how quickly the "boss" would brush through his constitutional cobwebs. The reforms required an elaborate campaign of publicity - and of course long before they could be put into practice, the politicians would be ready with devices to make them of no effect.
Soon after this, my ethical professor resigned and went to hunting spooks. I don't want to be unfair to him; I know that he is a determined and courageous man, and it seems possible that he may really have bagged some spooks. All I wish to point out here is the method he uses in seeking to persuade the heedless rich to support the spook-hunting industry. The very same argument as we got from the University of Geneva and the University of Toronto! Says our head spook-hunter:
There has been no belief that exercised so much power upon the poor as that in a future life. The politicians, men of the world, have known this so well as to postpone the day of political judgment by it for many years.
The Church, having lost all its battles with science, and having abandoned a strenuous intellectual defense of its fundamental beliefs, has lost its power over the poor and the laboring classes... The spiritual ideal of life has gone out of the masses as well as the classes, and nothing is left but a venture on a struggle with wealth.
And again, more menacingly yet:
The rich will learn in the dangers of a social revolution that the poor will not sacrifice both wealth and immortality.
What is to be done about this? The question answers itself: Step up, ladies and gentlemen, and empty your purses into the Psychical Research hat! So that we may accumulate statistics as to the cost of milk and honey in Jerusalem the Golden!
You read what I had to say about Bootstrap-lifters, and the Wholesale Pickpockets' Association making use of their incantations. You admired my ability to sling language, but not my taste; and you certainly did not think that I would back my rhetoric with facts. But what do these quotations mean, unless they mean what I have said? Are not these three professors men of culture? Are they not as "spiritual" as any men of learning you can find in our present-day society?
And now stop for a moment and put yourself in the position of the young student of the working-class, who goes to these books and discovers that truth is not truth, but only a bait for a snare. Who discovers that professors of ethics, practical or impractical, are not interested in justice among men, but only in collecting funds for their specialty; that in order to get funds, they are willing to teach the rich how to paralyze the minds of the poor! Do you wonder that such young students conclude that bourgeois thinkers do not know what honesty is, but are prostitutes, retainers and lackeys, to be kicked out of the temple of truth?
Running the Rapids
- And now, can you form to yourselves a clear concept of what it means to society that practically all its moral teaching should be in the hands of men who are incapable of clean, straight thinking? That all the intellectual prestige of the Church should be lent to the support of vagueness, futility, and deliberate evasion? Here we are, all of us, caught in the most terrific social crisis of history; I search for a metaphor to picture our position, and I recall a canoe-trip in the wilds of Ontario, hundreds of miles down a long swift river. You sit in the bow of the canoe, your partner in the stern, watching ahead; and there comes a slide of smooth green water, and you go over it, and into a torrent of foaming white, which seizes you and rushes you along with the speed of a race-horse. With every sense alert, You watch for the rocks, and when you see one, you dip your paddle on one side or the other and with a quick motion draw the canoe clear of the danger. If by any chance you fail to do it, over you go, and your partner with you, and all your belongings go down-stream, and maybe you are sucked into a whirlpool, and not seen for several hours afterwards. Precisely like this is the voyage of life, for the whole of society and for every individual. The paddle which would save us from the rocks is experimental science; but in most of our canoes we put a man who has no paddle, but a Holy Book; and he casts up his eyes and murmurs words in ancient Greek and Hebrew, and now and then, when he sees an especially formidable obstruction - a war, or the gonococcus, or the I. W. W. - he casts a holy wafer upon the foaming torrent.
And mind you, it isn't as if I could save myself and you could save yourself; we are all in the same canoe, and we all go overboard together. You, perhaps, have a son who is drafted into the trenches in winter-time, and drowned in blood and mud, because in Europe the Catholic party supported militarism, and kept aristocratic criminals in control of states. Or you find yourself involved in a marital tragedy, and in order to free yourself from unendurable misery, you are obliged to go to law-courts dominated by the tradition of Paul, the Roman bureaucrat, who despised women, and regarded marriage as a means of gratifying an unclean animal desire. "It is better to marry than to burn," he said, with unmatchable brutality; and so of course those who think him a voice of God can form no conception of the dignity and grace of love, and if you want sound and wholesome sex-conventions, you will be as apt to find them among the Ashantees or the Kamchadals as among the followers of the Apostle to the Gentiles.
You go to a so-called "divorce-court," which is dominated by this Christian taboo, and exists for the purpose of barring you from a second chance at the gratification of your unclean animal desire. You are not permitted to tell your own story, for that would be "collusion;" you listen while your intimate friends recite the pitiful and shameful details of your domestic misfortune, under the cross-questioning of lawyers who have suppressed for the time whatever decent instincts they may possess, and follow blindly the details of a prescribed procedure, at the cost of all sincerity, humanity and truth. The next morning you find that the privacy guaranteed you by law has been taken from you by corrupt court officials, who have sold copies of the testimony to the newspapers, so that all the intimate details of where you slept and where your wife slept and what you saw your wife doing have been thrown out to journalistic jackals, who scream with glee as they rend the carcass of your dead love. And in the end, perhaps, you find that you have gone through this horror for nothing - the august court with its Roman Catholic judge throws out your petition, its suspicions having been excited by the fact that when you discovered your domestic tragedy, you sought to behave like a civilized person, with pity and self-restraint, instead of like a sultan in Turkey, or a basso in an Italian grand opera.
- I assert that the control of our thinking on ethical questions by minds enslaved to tradition and priestcraft is an unmitigated curse to the race. The armory of science is full of weapons which might be used to slay the monsters of disease and vice - but these weapons are not allowed to be employed, sometimes not even to be mentioned. Consider the misery which is piling itself up in the slams of our great cities - -the degenerate, the defective, the insane, who are multiplying as never before in history. There exists a perfectly harmless and painless method of sterilizing the hopelessly unfit, so that they can not reproduce their hopeless unfitness; but religion objects to this operation, and so the law does not make use of this knowledge. There exists a simple, entirely harmless, and practically costless method of preventing conception, which would enable us to check the blind and futile fecundity of Nature, and to multiply as gods instead of as animals. Consider the festering mass of misery in the slums of our great cities; consider the millions of terrified, poverty-hounded women, bearing one half-nurtured infant after another, struggling desperately to feed and care for them, and seeing them drop into the grave as fast as they are born-until finally the mother, worn out with the Sisyphean labor, gives up and follows her misbegotten offspring. Consider how many women, in their agony and despair, make use of the methods of the primitive savage, to escape from Nature's curse of fecundity. Dr. Wm. J. Robinson has estimated that in the United States alone there are a million abortions every year; and consider that all this hideous mass of suffering - a bloody European war going on continually, unheeded by any newspaper correspondent - might be avoided by the use of a simple sterilizing formula, which we are not permitted to give! The Federation of Catholic Societies have placed a law upon the statute-books of the nation, and of all the states as well; the whole power of police and courts and jails is at the service of religious bigots, and a young girl is sent to prison and forcibly fed with a tube through the nose for telling poverty-ridden, slum-women how to keep from becoming pregnant!
And go among the sleek, cynical men of the world, the judges and district attorneys, the commissioners of correction and doctors who perpetrated this infamy under a so-called "reform" administration in New York City - and what do you find? The first thing you find is that they themselves, one and all, practice birth-control with their wives or their mistresses. The second thing you find is that the statute-books are crowded with other laws which they make no pretense of enforcing; for example, the law which forbids the saloons to be open on Sunday - which law they take the liberty of understanding to mean that the saloons shall not have their front doors open on Sunday. You will find that they are not at all afraid of the religious taboos; they are afraid of the religious vote - and even more they are afraid of the campaign contributions of sweat-shop manufacturers and landlords, who cannot see what would become of prosperity if the women of the slums were to cease to breed. So once more we discover the wolf in sheep's clothing, the trader, making use of Tradition-worship; hiding behind the skirts of devout old maiden aunts and grandmothers, who repeat the instructions which God gave to Adam and Eve, "Be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth." As if God were as blind as a Fifth Avenue preacher, and could see no difference between the Garden of Eden, full of all fruits that grow and all creatures that run and fly and swim, and a modern East Side tenement-room, with an oil stove and no windows and no water-closet, and the price of cabbage seven cents a pound!
- There are more than a hundred thousand Protestant churches in America. They own more than a billion dollars' worth of property, and in the West and South they dominate the intellectual life of the country. I do not wish to be unfair in what I say of them. They are far more democratic than the Catholic Church; they fight valiantly against the liquor traffic and those forms of graft which are obvious, or directly derived from vice. There are among their clergy many men who are honestly seeking light, and trying to make their institutions a factor for progress. But they are caught in the spirit of Lutheran scholasticism, narrow and ignorant, dogmatic and jealous; and they cannot help it, because they are pledged by their creeds and foundations to Tradition-worship; they have to believe certain things because their ancestors believed them, they have to act in certain ways, because of certain facts which existed in the world three thousand years ago, but which now are known only to historians.
You are familiar with the habit of a herd of sheep to follow the example of their leader; if this leader leaps over a stick, all the rest will leap when they come to that spot, even though the stick may have been taken away in the meantime. The scientist explains this seeming-foolishness by the fact that sheep once lived in high mountains, and fled from their enemies in swiftly rushing herds; when the leader leaped across an abyss, the others had to leap, without waiting to see in the dust and confusion. Now there are no mountains and no enemies, but the sheep still jump. And in exactly the same way the tailor still sews buttons at the back of your dress-coat, because a couple of hundred years ago all gentlemen wore swords; in the same way our railroad builders make cars narrow and uncomfortable and liable to overturn, because a hundred years ago all cars were hauled by mules. In the same way the Orthodox Hebrew will eat no pork, in spite of the fact that the microscope affords him complete protection against disease; the orthodox Catholic will not eat meat on Friday, because he thinks Jesus was crucified on that day; the orthodox Anglican will not marry his deceased wife's sister, because of something he reads in Leviticus; the orthodox Baptist requires total immersion in a climate quite different from that of Palestine; the orthodox Methodist refuses to enjoy fresh air and exercise on the Sabbath.
In ancient Judea, you see, the people lived an open-air life, tending sheep and working the fields; so it was an excellent thing for them to rest from labor one day of the week, and to gather in temples to hear the reading of the best literature of their time. But nowadays the city slave spends his week-days shut up in an office, poring over a ledger, or in a sweat-shop, chained to a sewing-machine. Obviously, therefore, the thing to do on the seventh day is to lure him into the open air, and persuade him to run and play. But do we do that, we human sheep? We write ancient Hebrew laws upon our modern statute-books, and if the city slave goes into a vacant lot and tries to play base-ball, we send a policeman and take him to jail, and next morning hie is fined five dollars, and probably loses his job.
In the city where I live, a city supposed to be free and enlightened, but in reality heavily burdened with churches, there are tennis courts built and paid for out of public funds, my own included; yet I cannot use these tennis courts on Sunday, because of the ancient Hebrew taboo. My mail is not delivered to me, the swimming pool in the park is closed to me, the library is closed nearly all day. If I enquire about it, I am told that it is desirable that city employees should have one day's rest a week; but when I ask why it might not be possible to relay the employees, so that they might all have one, or even two days' rest a week, and still give the public their rights on Sunday, there is no answer. But I know the answer, having probed our politics of hypocrisy. There is a "church vote" at which all politicians tremble; there are clergymen, humanly jealous when their peculiar graft is threatened, and hoping that if the law enforces a general boredom, the public may be more disposed to endure the boredom of sermons.
In New York City the theaters are closed on Sunday; but moving pictures having come into being since the days of Puritan, rule, the picture-shows are free to keep open. The law permits "sacred concerts" - which, under the benevolent sway of Tammany, has come to mean any sort of vaudeville; so what we have is a free rein to the imbecilities of "Mutt & Jeff" and the obscenities of Anna Held and Gaby Deslys - while we bar the greatest moralists of our times, such as Ibsen and Brieux.
I speak with some crossness of this Sabbath taboo, because of an experience which once befell me. In the second decade of this century of enlightenment and progress, in our free American democracy, whose constitution proclaims religious toleration, and forbids the establishment by the state of any form of worship, I was made to serve a sentence of eighteen hours in the state prison of Delaware for playing a game of tennis on the Sabbath. I was duly arrested upon a warrant, duly sentenced by a magistrate, duly clad in a prison costume, duly set to work upon a stone-pile, duly locked up over night in a steel-barred cell full of vermin - in a building housing some five hundred wretches, black and white, thirty of them serving life-terms under circumstances which never permitted them a breath of fresh air nor a glimpse of the sunshine or the sky. They had no exercise court to their prison, and the inmates were not permitted to speak to one another, but ate their meals in dead silence, and walked back to their cells with folded arms, and had their only occupation working for a sweat-shop contractor; this on the outskirts of the capital city of Wilmington, with no less than ninety-one churches! The writer was informed that he would return to this institution regularly every week unless he abandoned his godless habit of playing tennis on a private club court on Sunday; he only escaped the painful punishment by making the discovery that at the Wilmington Country Club it was the custom of the leading officials of the city and state to play golf every Sunday, and by threatening to employ detectives and have these mighty ones arrested and sent to their own prison. Which shows again the importance of understanding the relationship of Superstition and Big Business!