A Bishop on Credulity. A Parson’s Poisonous Piffle Pulverised

The Cross and the Crook
“Christ died on the Cross,” We are told, and a wag who knew something added, “and his followers have lived on the cross ever since.” Consequently, when we read that the Bishop of London, holding aloft a “shepherd’s crook,” has commenced a series of open-air sermons, we must agree that the symbol fits the occasions. For if the crook is not emblematical of crooked ways it signifies a shepherd and sheep, and the sheep need a shepherd because the wool is drawn over their eyes. A beneficent capitalist executive, having for long realised the need of the sheep, have provided shepherds at a huge expense to their class. The Bishop of London is one of the provided (and well provided for—so well provided for, indeed, that he says, “Why, I wouldn’t take another blessed farthing if it was offered me.”)

“At 58 years of age, and unmarried,” says the Bishop, “I am one of the healthiest men in London.” Even sheep with wool combed over their eyes should be able to see that it is possible for their shepherd, with such an income, to keep healthy for quite a long time to come. He need not live in a reeking slum, or work in the poisonous fumes of a factory, or feed on adulterated and semi-decayed food. With £15,000 a year he can have the very best of medical attention, and should live to a hundred. Even then he will not wear out—his duties are too light—and he certainly will not rust, out, because, like most of the clergy, he is naturally oily.

Of course, the Bishop insists that his good health is the reward of a moral life, with especial emphasis on celibacy.

A word of explanation here. Personalities are not in our line ; as critics we deal with suggested reforms, with social evils occasionally, and always with the capitalist system itself. But the Bishop of London comes out with a mission of regeneration, denouncing drink and prostitution and furnishing an example of moral rectitude in his own person ; talks endlessly about himself. Consequently I take up his challenge and merely remark that no doubt every member of his audiences could acquire all his boasted virtues on his salary.

The Science of the Crook
Of course the Bishop would question their ability to perform the duties of his position. What are these onerous and brain-racking duties? First, to understand the standard of intelligence of his flocks, to be able to discern what they will appreciate according to that standard, and then to tickle their intelligence by bolstering up all the vile superstitions that poison their lives and render them easy victims for his capitalist masters. He jeers at science—that pleases his flocks, to whom study and thought are painful—but if he were charged with ignorance of modern science he would doubtless repudiate the charge with indignation. Yet in his discourse he adopts the attitude of one entirely ignorant of the facts and evidence of scientific evolution.

He selects two opposite points in the evolutionary circle and, ignoring the intervening ages with their endless panorama of development, seeks to ridicule science by comparing the phenomena of each, and by thus bringing them into juxtaposition, giving them the appearance of an absurd metamorphosis. His hearers, however, would swallow even this if it were only in “the book” alongside other miracles such as driving out devils and turning water into wine. But I leave it to the reader’s judgment.

The Argument of the Crook
The following is from a “Daily Chronicle” report, 12.9. 16.

“The first thing that helped him to believe in God, added the Bishop, was Nature. “Why are we not blown off this earth as we rush through space at 10 miles a second ?” he asked. “The answer is because Someone has wrapped 70 miles of atmosphere round the earth. The most credulous person who is here is the man who can believe that that happens by accident.”
One might as well say that by flinging broadcast a bundle of letters one could produce a play of Shakespeare as that the universe was not the result of a designed plan.”

Of course, scientists have never suggested that the scattering of type broadcast would produce a Shakespearian play, or even so poor a thing as a bishop’s sermon, though both, they tell us, and everything else good and bad, have come in their turn as a result of the long process of development from the clashing of dead suns, the diffusion of fire-dust, the fusion of nebulas, and all the subsequent physical changes that resulted in the existence of this planet with an atmosphere and temperature capable of nursing into maturity capitalist society.

When we say nursing, however, we fail to perceive the necessity of a nurse. Unlike the bourgeois bishop who must have “someone” to wrap seventy miles of atmosphere round the earth, we perceive that the forces immanent in matter being the eternal property of matter, must manifest themselves wherever matter exists.

But the bishop has the effrontery to tell us that unless we can conceive of “someone wrapping seventy miles of atmosphere round the earth” have no alternative but to regard it as an accident. He would doubtless be surprised to learn that in nature—apart from man—there is no such thing as an accident. Accidents can only exist as ideas in the brains of animals, like man, who are ignorant of natural laws. When we know all the substances in which matter can express itself, and all the forces that belong to those substances, such words as accident and chance will be meaningless.

The Credulity of the Crook
Those who uphold a social system where the mass of the people are enslaved by a small class, which exploits and governs them, cannot conceive of law without law-makers. The physical world must be analogous with their social world—and the spiritual world of their imagination an echo. If it, the physical world, reveals the fact that it evolves according to laws that can be understood and defined, that is evidence to them of a personality behind it—a supreme law-maker of the physical world, who was also its creator. Surely credulity cannot exceed this ! Because an atmosphere envelops the earth “Someone” wrapped it round. Because suns are scattered like dust over the sky “Someone” arranged them. But the followers of this system of argument (!) never have the faculty of logic sufficiently developed to ask the old but still unanswered question, who created that “someone,” and again, who created that creator, and so without end.

When scientific knowledge becomes general it will be seen that the idea of a supreme law-maker, together with a spiritual world and the ideas of chance and accident, grew in men’s minds because of their ignorance, and its adoption and preservation by the ruling class is the outcome of their desire to maintain supremacy over the working class. To keep alive the fictions and superstitions of the past is to cloud the intellects of the workers and shut them off from real knowledge.

Thus are the workers, under capitalism, provided with a philosophy—a way of looking at things—ready made, that fits the system and keeps them mentally wedded to it. If sickness comes their way they must visit the panel doctor and have faith ; when husbands and brothers are murdered in capitalist mines or factories, or butcher each other on the capitalist-made battlefield, it is “God’s will” ; when the worker is unemployed it is his “luck” that’s out or he is “not worth his salt” ; when we point to the class division of society—the ruling class owning wealth but not producing, and the working class producing all wealth but owning none—it is “God’s will” once again, “otherwise it could not be.”

The Exit of the Crook
It is small wonder that those who hear the message of Socialism for the first time fail to see in the working class the instrument of its fulfilment. It is only when they realise the full strength and meaning of Socialism that their doubts leave them. However ignorant and apathetic the workers may be to-day, the Socialist philosophy, pregnant with truth and appeal alike to self interest and the interest of their class, must eventually triumph over the traditions and superstitions of the past. As the torrent of human knowledge swells, the efforts to dam it up, to confine it to the ruling class and their sneaking tools, becomes ever more futile. The very sanction that a capitalist government must have from an ever-widening circle in society—which compels them to extend the franchise—opens the way to discussion of all the facts of capitalist society, and teaches the worker to use his reason and judgment. As these faculties develop, Socialist principles will be understood and accepted by the workers generally, because they embody the truth of their social position, show them the cause of their poverty, and point the way to their emancipation.

Down the steeps of capitalist anarchy the workers are driven to worse horrors and suffering. One by one the battle-cries and watchwords of their leaders and shepherds are proved worthless and discarded. Socialism—an object of contempt for the “respectable”—is first examined, next tolerated, and finally recognised as the only hope of the workers.

Poverty and misery cannot achieve Socialism, but those who suffer must needs seek the remedy, which they undoubtedly will find in spite of all the hopes and efforts of capitalists and their ecclesiastical agents to the contrary. The strength of Socialism, to-day is in its principles, based upon scientific analysis. The last century has seen the triumph of science in the field of wealth production and distribution. Tomorrow will tear down the theological and economic veil that masks the slavery of the wealth producers, and, revealing to them the real nature of capitalist society, will forge them a weapon to break through the social forms that bind them, to a system dictated by science and common sense.

Meanwhile we are faced with a wily foe. Every discovery in the realm of science is discredited until it is established beyond doubt, when it is claimed as a manifestation of the power of “Almighty God” and a justification of capitalist society. Thus Gallileo, when he, alone, proclaimed the earth’s movement round the sun, was imprisoned and threatened with torture by the priests of his day ; now celestial motions are claimed as evidence of supreme power. Darwin’s theory of evolution was hotly contested by the clergy, and is even now ridiculed by the more ignorant among them ; the more cunning, however, accept evolution and pretend to believe that “God” breathed into the elementary protoplasm and thus imparted the character of struggle and development.

Because the capitalist and his bishop are smug and self-satisfied they overlook the obvious—the poisoned nature of the breath. For their claim is an admission of “God’s” responsibility for parasitism, the cruelty of religious persecution, the horrors of militarism, and the squalor and misery of the working class.

There is still one discovery they have not yet annexed to the glory of their universal dictator—”the Materialist Conception of History,” given to the workers by Marx and Engels 68 years ago. Over that discovery the last great conflict must be fought. Only the working class can bring it to an issue. The game of the master class is to ignore it because it is the key to social evolution, and leaves them stranded in the realm of sociology, without a divine law-maker or a divine purpose in their rule.

And Dr. Ingram, how will he regard it ? For him it will be an accident, because it threatens with extinction his class and his vocation. To him it will matter nothing that the working class will rise to take over its inheritance—to free themselves from capitalist slavery. His sympathies are with his class, the class that he serves by fraudulently misrepresenting science, preaching decaying superstitions, and assisting to keep the workers in ignorance to facilitate their exploitation.

F. F.

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