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none of these things, it is the reverse, and I will war against it with my utmost power. I feel convinced, that wherever truth leads mankind, there they will be most moral and most happy. God, or no God, is not worth a moment's consideration beyond what is the truth of the matter. If falsehood benefits a portion of mankind for a moment, or on a particular emergency, it cannot be made to do it for a continuation. The preaching of Gods is wholly false, and has never generated one iota of morality, one spark of happiness among mankind. It bas every where retarded the progress of civilization, by distracting the minds of mankind, and by creating new and unnatural passion in them, as religious persecutors. I BOLDLY PREACH TO YOU, THAT THERE IS NO GOD: THAT THERE IS NO BEING WHICH CONTROULS THE MATERIAL OPERATIONS OF THE THINGS A BOUT US. ON THIS PREACHING I SEEK TO ESTABLISH THE CIVILIZATION, AND, WITH CIVILIZATION, THE HAPPINESS OF MANKIND. It is here only, that they can begin to pursue solid improvement. It is here only, that the basis of universal peace can be laid. Knowing nothing about that phantom they call God, they will never agree about it; therefore, so long as such nousense is preached, it will be a source of bickering, persecution,
There have been but few wars among mankind, but were the wars of religion. The time has now arrived, when religion will be scouted as a vice, as a cause of universal human degradation, and with degradation a source of pain and misery.
Enquiries into the nature, the attributes, or even the existence of a God, are wholly futile. Thousands of volumes have been written upon the subject; but not one sentence of that writing truth. The writings of Sir Isaac Newton, of Dr. Samuel Carke, of Cudworth, or of Thomas Paine, upon that bead, are altogether fallacious; and to overthrow all their fancied arguments, nothing more is required, than for ene mau to say that there is no God, and to call upon any one to shew the contrary. Consider this solar system; where do you find a God? Go to the next; ask yourself the same question. Go to the thousands that are visible to the naked eye; ask yourself whether analogy does not warrant the inference, that they are similar to the one we inhabit. which of them can you find a God? Go to the millions, which the telescope will bring to your view-then inquire within yourself, if this system of solar systems, which we call the universe, be not too vast to admit the belief of its being controuled by some distinct being, of which man is called, in
your Bible, the image and likeness? Consider the bugeness of but one solar system--refer from the one to the million-then ask yourself, whether a belief, or a pretended belief, in a Gud be a proof of any thing but a littleness of mind, of gross and dark ignorance? It is the belief of savages, not of civilized men: of ignorance, not of knowledge: of vice, not of virtue. Civilization, knowledge, virtue, can only be allied to truth: there is no truth connected with the word God, but in prououncing it a phantom, a mere word, and only a fabled thing.
It follows as a consequence, that since all religion has its foundation in the word God, and the word God has no foundation-Do thing of which it is the verbal symbol, all religion must be vice, must be all alike idolatrous..
Religion is vice, because it is all founded in falsehood, and does not embrace a shade of truth,
Religion is vice, because it obstructs the attainment of useful knowledge, by keeping the human mind in a continual reverie.
Religion is vice, beeause it it has no relation to morality, . which is the foundation of all human happiness, the practical part of goodness.
Religion is vice, because from its bad foundation, it is a source of discussion; of sectarianism, to mankind, that has distracted families, neighbours, provinces, and nations, by quarrels, and that has, from the first, been a fertile source of persecution, of human suffering, of murders and devastations of property, or that capital, which, as a possession, is an essential foundation to civilized human happiness.
Religion is vice, because it is carried on at a great expence, wastes much time, supports a multitude of men and women in idleness and bad babits, and is a grievous tax to no good purpose, even without a single returning benefit.
Religion is like the tares among the wheat, the weed that is entwined on infancy to sap its vitals and to stunt the growth of mind. Mind is.a principle of the human body that is artificially generated, and not of natural growth. Leave even a herd of infants uneducated, and you will find they have no more of what we call mind, than a herd of calves. That which I desire, is to pluck those tares from the wheat, to root out this grievous, useless, injurious tax, to destroy this source of disunion and quarrel, to disencumber morality of this prostitute garb, to leave the human mind free to self-improvement, and to teach mankind every where to seek and to value truth, and that, when all are free to speak,
write, and print, the truth will tower over falsehood, as the ignited matter of the sun towers over the morbid matter of this our more aqueous planet.
It is the pride, the glory, the noble and the useful pride of the human mind, to detect error whenever it proceeds from another mind. But when men surround error with the pomp of state and power of Government and legislation, it requires a martyr to expose that error, and only one here and there will be found to do it. This then is a reason why all should be free to speak, write, and print, and why I should be free to instruct your prisoners. He who talks about the fear of having error instilled on the mind, where all are free to detect it, knows nothing of truth: be may be a religious man; but he is also a vicious man.
There are but two sorts of vice--voluntary vice, and the vice of habit, vice implanted and insensibly growing upon the mind. Relating to religion, the former is that where a profession is made, in opposition to knowledge, and as a means of conciliatiog the prejudices of neighbours, or for profit; the latter, where the individual proceeds in unconscious error. Our laws treat all vice as voluntary vice; and to me it seems right, that all religion should be so treated, as the best meaus of extirpating it. If I pronounce that there is no God, and if none can prove the contrary, who ever hears that pronunciation, and still makes a profession of religion, continues in voluntary vice. Through this letter to you, I make that proclamation to all.
If you look at the matter carefully, you will find, that religion has grown up when there was no knowledge among mankind; and that the true cause of what you
have heard called infidelity, is, that knowledge is now increasing among them, and that they are throwing off this ignorant vice of religion.
To a certain degree, religion might bave been cherished by men in power, as an easy means of obtaining political respect from the multitude ,through a servility and prostration of mind; but that is no reason why it should be continued. In an advanced and advancing state of knowledge, such as is found in this country, political respect requires the foundation of political rectitude. It will not now do to tell us, that the powers that be are of God; whatever is referred to God is referred to an erroneous foundation; so we must have a better basis for political respect-thut where the legislators and administrators of the law, in every degree, spring from popular election.
It has been argued again, that religion is necessary to deter men from doing wrong. Being deterred from wrong doing is no proof of a disposition to do right. What we want among mankind, is a voluntary disposition to do right—the disposition that practices virtue, from the love of virtue, and from an assurance that the greatest amount of happiness is thereby obtained. We want a virtue founded upon knowledge, and not a vice restrained by terror. Penal laws, without the aid of religion, are wholly sufficient to deter men from wrong doing. The prospect of summary and effectual punishment, that wbich shall make restitution to the injured person, at the expence or labour of the wrong doer, is enough as a safegnard against the spreading of such bad passions. Take care to leave no hope of profit in evil doing, and you will soon root out the passion. So that religion is here nothing better than a vice-a playing off of one vice in opposition to another vice.
I return from the search after God, by no means disappointed in not finding bim; and I consent to be a prisoner among prisoners, while I teach you some of the secrets of this prison house.
Sheriffs, now-a-day, are become a sort of useless officers: their county power is in a great measure superseded by the officiousness of clerical justices: and, I presume, that you know as little about the internal arrangement of this prison, as I know about that of your house at Stone. To make one in a procession with the Judges at the Assizes, and to dance at the Assize Ball, are the chief parts of a Sheriff's duty, out of London.
First, I will tell you, that nothing useful is taught to the prisoners while they reside in this Gaol; nor is there one good habit enforced. No prisoner ever quits this place a better man than he entered; but many are deteriorated in character. The Gaol Act of 1823, provides, that every prisoner shall be taught to read and write; only that unlucky compound of ifs and expedients leaves the Visiting Magistrates witb power as absolute over a Gool, as if the act consisted but of one clause for that purpose. The clause as to instruction is a proof of wbat I say. It is thus: “ Provisions sball be made in all prisons for the instruction of prisoners of both sexes in reading and writing; and that instruction shall be afforded under such rules and regulations, and to such extent, and to such prisoners, as to the Visiting Justices may seem expedient.” Why not to all?
Why not to all? What just exceptions can there be made in such a case? It would be
a tedious and beneficial punishment to compel some men to learn.
Now, Sir, in this Gaol, I cannot perceive any trace of any kind of teaching on the part of the authorities of the Gaol, beyond the corrupting nonsense taught in the chapel. But I do know, that more than one of those who have authority in this Gaol are not only the personal friends of old Henry Banks of Corfe Castie, but are precisely of his opinion, and have no desire to see labouring men and women taught to read and write. As far as I can see, the Visiting Justices of Dorchester Gaol do pot deem it expedient to teach any of the prisoners to read and write! If there be an exception, it applies to two or three boys, who are put under some prisoner denominated a school-master; for I cannot conceive it to be possible, that any thing of the kind can be going on unknown to me, when I have a view of every yard at every hour of the day. I hear of nothing but a school-master for the boys; and he some old prisoner that wants some old woman to initiate him into the art of education. Why not a regular, competent, and salaried schoolmaster? Such an officer would be the most useful officer in the prison. A Chaplain is a wholly useless and mischievous officer, and his salary would satisfy three able school-masters, who might devote at least six hours a day to the instruction of the prisoners, in reading, writing, and arithmetic. All that now passes here is a mockery of instruction. A few of my publications would set all the prisoners a philosophising and make them delight in being instructed. When once taught how to begin to reason rightly on the things about us, a man never ceases: he is like a wheel in motion on a descent, every impulse generating new impulses.
Prison discipline should rest upon tyvo grounds-remuneration to the injured for the past; amelioration and security in the prisoner for the future. To obtain the first, it is necessary that a person, who unlawfully robs or injures another, be made to do some work, laborious work is possible, until compensation be fully made; and while that labour is in progress, to be so disciplined into useful knowledge and useful habits, as to obtain an amelioration of character, with a due sense of virtue and of vice, of honesty and of dishonesty, of industry and of idleness, with an assurance, that any of the latter can never generate happiness. In this Gaol, I see nothing of this kind passing. Nothing that benefits either the public or the prisoner. As it now stands, it