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can do, or ever does, anything outside of the regular processes of
Nature, and therefore that the word "God," which has always meant
such a being, should be dropped. I would have no objection to the
current use of the word "God" if that use were harmless, but it is
very far from that. It is a word that every despot conjures with to
keep the people in ignorance and subjection. It is a word that
crafty politicians use in carrying out their schemes of bribery and
plunder.

The same thing applies to the word "heaven." It is impossible to
show that there is any such place, and the word is used as a bribe
to the poor to keep them quiet under injustice. I do not see how
there can be a life after death, but if there is it will not be any
better because we are poor and undeveloped in this world, and
therefore immortality should be a reason rather for discontentment
among the poor than for submission to injustice.

As an atheist, I object to a God who is for every tyrannical ruler
and against the rebels that he imprisons, tortures and slays; who
is for the idle landlord and usurer and against the workers; who is
for the purse-proud prelate and against the people; who is for the
boodle politician and against the happiness of the many; who is
for the white exploiter and against the simple colored man; who is
for the rich profiteer and against the petty burglar and
pickpocket.

If I am told there is no such God as this, I reply that there is,
or there is none. The God of every Christian creed is the God of
the rulers, the God of the idle rich. There never has been any
other God known to the world. This is the God that the church now
worships and always has worshiped.

There are forces in Nature that we do not yet understand, and
therefore should not name. But they can only help us as we learn
what they are and how to use them. It is therefore neither our duty
nor our privilege to pray, nor can any good be thus achieved. It is
for us to observe, to think, and to examine the pretensions of the
privileged. It is for us to understand that there is no God to
raise our wages, and no heaven to compensate us for our poverty and
all the misery it entails in this world.

"Said the parson, 'Be content;
Pay your tithes due, pay your rent;
They that earthly things despise
Shall have mansions in the skies,
Though your back with toil be bent,'
Said the parson, 'be content.'

"Then the parson feasting went
With my lord who lives by rent;
And the parson laughed elate
For my lord has livings great,
They that earthly things revere
May get bishop's mansions here.

"Be content! Be content!
Till your dreary life is spent,
Lowly live and lowly die,
All for mansions in the sky!
Castles here are much too rare,
All may have them - in the air!"


III.

According to Marxian socialism, the history of man arose from the need
of his body for food, raiment and shelter. This is the materialistic
explanation of history, and the following is one of the passages in
which Marx clearly shows that it is true and reasonable:

In the social production which men carry on they enter into
definite relations that are indispensable and independent of their
will; these relations of production correspond to a definite stage
of development of their material powers of production. The sum
total of these relations of production constitutes the economic
structure of society - the real foundations, on which rise legal and
political superstructures and which correspond to definite forms of
social consciousness. The mode of production in material life
determines the general character of the social, political and
spiritual processes of life. It is not the consciousness of men
that determines their existence but, on the contrary, their social
existence determines their consciousness. At a certain stage of
their development, the material forces of production in society
come in conflict with the existing relations of production,
or - what is but a legal expression for the same thing - with the
property relations within which they had been at work before. From
forms of development of the forces of production these relations
turn into their fetters. Then comes the period of social
revolution.

Marx and his followers are justified in their contention that the
physical necessities of man (not gods or great men) constitute the key
to his history by the fact that there was no mind of man before the
human body nor will there be any mind when the body has been
disintegrated; for the mind was made by the body, for the body, not the
body by the mind, for the mind. This very remarkable fact, when duly
considered, will change nearly all the ideas of most men and women about
almost everything.

A leader is but a mouthpiece of a people through which they give
expression to their deepest convictions and highest aspirations. Early
in my life Lincoln was the great leader of the people in the United
States, and late in it Lenin is the great leader of the people of the
world. The earlier of these was at least a rationalist and the latter is
an atheist, so that the first probably did not suppose himself to have
been inspired by a divinity, and the second certainly does not.

I claim, said Lincoln, not to have controlled events, but confess
plainly that events have controlled me.

In Lenin's Birthday Anniversary number of the magazine, Soviet Russia,
the Editor says:

At the very outset, we must clearly state that much of Lenin's
powerful position in present-day history is made by the history
itself, - by the fact that we are living at the moment when the
entire life of the race is vindicating in a most emphatic manner
the theoretical position occupied by Lenin for many years. After
all, Lenin, like Trotsky, was an unknown man, except to certain
political circles, and the mass of Russian revolutionists, even as
late as 1916. And yet, he was the same Lenin; had not the
opportunity come to put into practice the system for which he and
his associates had been laboring and suffering for many years, no
doubt the circle of his admirers and readers would not be much
wider in 1920 than it was in 1916. Lenin would probably be the
first to admit - nay, insist - that the material circumstance that
enables a certain individual to assert himself is the prime element
in building his reputation. So that, if the Russian Revolution had
not taken the course it did take, Lenin, with exactly the same
mental and idealogical preparation, might have remained a
relatively unknown man.

Those who on the one hand interpret life from the naturalistic or
materialistic point of view, and those who on the other hand interpret
it from the supernaturalistic viewpoint need not and generally do not
differ as widely as is commonly supposed.

Materialism is the name for two totally different things, which are
constantly confused. There is, in the first place, materialism as a
theory of the universe - the theory that matter is the source and
the substance of all things. That is (if you associate "force" or
"energy" or "motion" with your "matter," as every materialist does)
a perfectly arguable theory. It has not the remotest connection
with the amount of wine a man drinks or the integrity of his life.

But we also give the name of materialism to a certain disposition
of the sentiments, which few of us admire, and which would kill the
root of progress if it became general. It is the disposition to
despise ideals and higher thought, to confine one's desires to
selfish and sensual pleasure and material advancement. There is no
connection between this materialism of the heart and that of the
head.

For whole centuries of Christian history whole nations believed
abundantly in spirits without it having the least influence on
their morals; and, on the other hand, materialists like Ludwig
Buchner, or Vogt, or Moleschott, were idealists (in the moral
sense) of the highest order. Look around you and see whether the
belief or non-belief (for the Agnostic is in the same predicament
here) in spirit is a dividing-line in conduct. There is no ground
in fact for the confusion, and it has wrought infinite
mischief. - McCabe.

As to their philosophy concerning the origin, sustenance and governance
of the universe, communists are almost to a man materialists; but, as to
their philosophy concerning life, they are as generally idealists. There
is, I feel sure, as much idealism in my thinking and living now as there
was in the days of my orthodoxy.

Many of the representations of the Jewish-Christian Bible are
materialistic in a high, if not gross, degree. This is true of the
account of the creation according to which the god, Jehovah, with hands
moulded a man out of dust; performed a surgical operation upon him for
the purpose of securing a rib out of which he carved a woman; made a
garden; and provided worship for himself by a system of material
sacrifices. The ark of the covenant was a wooden chest, and its contents
(a pot, some manna, and Aaron's rod) were materialities.

The conception, birth, death, descension, resurrection, ascension and
session of the god, Jesus, were (if they occurred) material realities.
And the eating of the flesh and drinking of the blood of the god sounds
like materialism, especially according to the explanation of the Greek,
Roman, Lutheran and Anglican churches.


IV.

A nutshell summary of this booklet is contained in these confessions of
my religious and political faith:

I. My religious faith is summed up in the following creed of twelve
Articles:

(1) The chief end of every man should be to make the most of his own
life by having it as long and as happy as possible and to help others in
doing this for themselves.

(2) Though parents live unconsciously in their children and all do so in
those over whom they have had any influence, yet all there is of
conscious, personal life for man is of a terrestrial character, none
celestial.

(3) Knowledge is the Christ of the World. The saviour-gods of the
supernaturalistic interpretations of religion are symbols of this one.

(4) Ignorance is the devil of the world. The destroyer-gods of the
supernaturalistic interpretations of religion are symbols of this one.

(5) Knowledge consists in knowing facts and truths. Every real fact and
truth is a word of the only gospel which the world possesses.

(6) A fact is something which matter, force and motion have
unconsciously done, not what a god has consciously willed. There are no
other facts.

(7) A truth is a fact so interpreted that if it is lived it will
contribute towards making the most of life. There are no other truths.

(8) Hence the greatest people in the world are the scientists who
discover facts, and the preachers who interpret them and persuade to
their living. If you contend that mothers are greater than teachers, I
shall agree with you on condition that you will admit that a mother is
not really great unless she is a teacher.

(9) The desire and effort to learn facts, interpret and live them
constitute morality.

(10) Morality is the greatest thing in the world, because it is all
there is of real religion and politics.

(11) But, paradoxical as it may seem, there is one thing which is
greater than the greatest thing in the world - freedom.

(12) And the freedom which is greater than morality consists in the
liberty to learn, interpret, live and teach facts, without which liberty
a man may be a non-moral child, or an immoral hypocrite, but he cannot
be the possessor of the pearl of great price - morality, without which
human life is not worth the living or even possible.

II. My political faith is summed up in the following creed of twelve
articles:

(1) As the universe in general is self-existing, self-sustaining and
self-governing, so man in particular, who is but one among the
transitory, cosmic phenomena, has all of the potentialities of his own
life within himself, so that every man can say of himself what the
makers of Jesus had him say: I and my Father are one.

(2) Man has set a far-off and high-up goal of an ideal civilization for
himself, and is finding the way to it by his own discoveries, and is
walking therein by his own strength, so that he is not in the least
indebted to any of the gods of the supernaturalistic interpretations of
religion, either for the setting of the goal, or for what progress he
has made towards it.

(3) Nor is humanity indebted to its outstanding representatives for the
advance in the way of civilization, as is evident from the fact that,
but for the gods, it would have long since been far beyond the point
where the English-German war would have been within the range of
possibilities, and these gods are the gifts to a blind humanity by its
blind leaders.

(4) Humanity is not indebted to its physical scientists any more than to
its spiritual prophets for its advance in the way of civilization,
because the scientists have always worked, as the prophets have
preached, in the interests of the profiteers of the existing system of
economics. Economic systems have been the chief, if not indeed, the only
promoters of war, and the world war with its tremendous horrors would
not have been possible but for science.

(5) So, then, the history of civilization has been what it is because of
the economic systems by which the material necessities of life (foods,
raiments and houses) have been produced, not because gods have made
spiritual revelations, nor yet because men have made great discoveries
and persuasively taught them. According to Marx, who discovered the key
to the door of history, it is constituted neither by the gods in the
skies, nor the great men on earth; but by economic systems. These create
the divinities and the leaders, not they them.

(6) Thus far in the history of mankind every civilization has rested
upon the institution of slavery and there have been, speaking broadly,
three different forms of it, with their correspondingly different
civilizations, chattel, feudal and capital. Each of these forms of
slavery has been the foundation for a superstructure of a civilization
peculiar to a distinct period of history. Chattel, feudal and capital
slaveries respectively constituted the foundations for the
superstructures of ancient, mediaeval and modern civilizations. The
second of the two great discoveries by Marx was that the wage slavery of
capitalism, by far the worst of all slaveries, is due to surplus
profits.

(7) Since civilizations have their embodiments in religious and
political institutions (churches and states with what goes with them) so
clearly as to justify the contention that religion and politics are the
halves of one and the same reality - civilization - it follows that I am
right in carrying my materialism over from the realm of religion into
that of politics.

(8) A system of economics is about the most materialistic thing in the
world, yet it is the only key which will open the door to the temple of
human history. Having opened it with this key, the first thing to be
seen is a world divided into two classes, one class whose
representatives live by owning the material means and the machines for
production and distribution; and another class whose representatives
live by working in making and operating these machines, with the result
of producing and distributing the material commodities by which the
world is fed, clothed and housed, but to the surfeiting of the owners
who as such produce nothing and have everything and the starving of the
workers who produce everything and have nothing.

(9) Capitalists and communists agree that when the goal of humanity has
been reached the world will find itself to be one all inclusive
co-operating family.

(10) Capitalists say that then the co-operating will be between the
owners as fathers, and the workers as children. The capitalists will
recognize every laborer who does a fair day's work as a good son or
daughter, and the laborer will recognize every owner who gives a fair
day's wage as a good father.

(11) But communists say that then the co-operating will be between men,
all of whom are on the same footing as laborers, since, when the goal is
reached, the world will no longer be divided as it has been, from time
out of mind, into a small owning or master class and a large working or
slave class; but it will constitute one great all inclusive family,
every member of which will be on the same footing with all others,
except that the older members will regard the younger as sons and
daughters, and they in turn will be regarded as fathers and mothers, and
all of the same generation will look upon each other as brothers and
sisters.

(12) Civilization always has been and ever will be impossible without
slavery, because leisure and opportunity for study, social intercourse
and travel are necessary to it, but under capitalism, as it works out,
only representatives of the owning or master class have these
prerequisites, and those of the working or slave class must be deprived
of them. When communism supplants capitalism all will have their equal
parts in both the labor necessary to the sustenance of the physical
(body) life, and also the leisure necessary to the development of the
psychical (soul) life. There will still be slavery, indeed much more of
it than the world has hitherto known, but machines, not men, women and
children will be the slaves. Of course there will remain much work
connected with the making and operating of the machines, but the time
and energy required for it will more and more decrease with the
inevitable increase in the number and efficiency of the machines until,
according to conservative estimates, three or four hours per day of
comparatively light and pleasant employment will be quite sufficient to
provide the necessities of life in abundance for every worker and his
dependents, so that, then, all will have as much of them as the few have
now; and this without any sense of slavery because when one is working
for the benefit of himself and his own in particular, and the public to
which he belongs in general, not for the profit of a class of which he
is not a representative, there is no feeling of irksome servitude.


V.

A world-wide revolution has begun and is rapidly spreading over the
earth. Why? Because a world-wide economic system for feeding, clothing
and housing the people has broken down so that it must be supplanted by
a new system, else mankind will perish for the lack of food, raiment and
shelter.

This revolutionary war is between the working class whose
representatives live starvingly, though they produce and distribute all
the necessities of life and the capitalist class whose representatives
live surfeitingly, though taking no part in the production and
distribution of these necessities.

Nearly one hundred years ago our fourth President, James Madison, saw
partly and dimly what nearly every one now sees fully and clearly:

We are free today substantially, but the day will come when our
Republic will be an impossibility. It will be an impossibility
because wealth will be concentrated in the hands of a few. A
republic cannot stand upon bayonets, and when that day comes, when
the wealth of the nation will be in the hands of a few, then we
must rely upon the wisdom of the best elements in the country to
readjust the laws of the nation to the changed conditions.

The laborers of Russia have turned the country right side up so that
they themselves are above and the capitalists below, having the
privilege of remaining down to idle and starve or else to crawl up to
work and live, but not to rob, war and enslave.

As I lay down my pen the working man's government of Russia is fighting
a double war, the Poland-Crimea war, to prevent its overthrow by the
capitalist governments of the world, especially England, France, Japan
and the United States, which in this war are surreptitiously
confederated against it, and the victory seems assured to it, largely
because of the sympathy and help of their fellow workers throughout the
world.

Marx though dead yet speaketh. He is speaking more widely and
persuasively in death than in life. Russia is the megaphone from which
his voice goes out through every land and over every sea.

Never man nor god spake with as much power as he speaks. His gospel is
to the slave, and this is its thrilling appeal - workers of the world
unite, and this is its inspiring assurance - you have nothing to lose but
your chains and a world to gain.

WM. M. BROWN.

Brownella Cottage, Galion, Ohio.
September 24th, 1920.




* * * * * *




Transcriber's note:

The typographical error "overwhelmlingly" was changed to
"overwhelmingly." All other spelling, capitalization, and
punctuation was retained.



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Online LibraryWilliam Montgomery BrownCommunism and Christianism → online text (page 15 of 15)