Crimes of Preachers In the United States and Canada
A Short History of the
Illustrated with Pictures of the Instruments ofTorture used upon Heretics, Auto-de-fe Scenes, etc.
- Persecution of the Jews.
- Expulsion of the Moors from Spain.
- The Crusades.
- The Popes and the Inquisition.
- Persecution of the Waldenses.
- Persecution of the Albigenses.
- Persecution of the Huguenots.
- The Jesuits.
- Killing of Witches.
- The War Between Religion and Science.
- The Attitude of the Church Toward Slavery.
Large 12mo. 750 pages. Cloth, $2.00
United States and Canada
Transcribed out of the Original Newspapers, and with PreviousTranscriptions Diligently Compared and Revised.
“THESE BE THY GODS, O ISRAEL.”
“By their fruits shall ye know them. Do men gather grapes ofthorns, or figs of thistles?”
THE TRUTH SEEKER COMPANY
62 Vesey Street
CRIMES OF PREACHERS.
In the year 1906 the Young Men’s ChristianAssociation of Pittsburgh, in Pennsylvania, rejected the application ofan actor for membership on the ground that one of his profession couldnot be a moral person. Viewing the action as a slur cast on the wholetheatrical profession, Mr. Henry E. Dixey, the well-known actor,offered to give one thousand dollars to charity if it could be shownthat actors, man for man, were not as good as ministers of the gospel.No champion of the cloth appearing to claim Mr. Dixey’s money onthat proposition, he went further and offered another thousand dollarsif there could not be found a minister in jail for every state in theUnion. This second challenge was likewise ignored by the clergy and theassociation which had provoked it, but Mr. Dixey made a few inquiriesas to the proportion of ministers to actors among convicts. Hisresearch, which was far short of being thorough, discovered 43ministers and 19 actors in jail. The investigation, so far as theministers were concerned, could have touched only the fringe of thematter, for in eight months of the year 1914 the publishers of thiswork counted more than seventy reported offenses of preachers for whichthey were or deserved to be imprisoned, and of course the countincluded only those cases reported in newspapers that reached theoffice through an agency which scans only the more important ones.There had been nothing like a systematic reading of the press of thecountry for these cases. Judged by 1914, theclerical convicts in 1906 must have far exceeded the number developedby Mr. Dixey’s census.
The foregoing incident is introduced here to explain the nature ofthis work, “Crimes of Preachers,” which, like Mr.Dixey’s challenge to the clergy in behalf of his profession, isthe reply we have to make to the preachers in behalf of the unbelieversin their religion.
The clergy assume to be the teachers and guardians of morality, andassert not only that belief in their astonishing creeds is necessary toan upright life, but, by implication, that a profession of faith is ina sense a guarantee of morality. It has become traditionary with themto assume that the non-Christian man is an immoral man; that thesincere believer is the exemplar of the higher life, while the“Infidel,” the unbeliever, illustrates the opposite; andthat whatever of morality the civilized world enjoys today it owes tothe profession and practice of Christianity.
Now, it is wholly legitimate that systems should be judged by thecorrespondence between the claims made for them and their actualperformances. When Mrs. Eddy, for an instance, rose up and assertedthat Christian Science was the key to health, investigation into thehealth of persons professing and practicing Christian Science became atonce a proper inquiry. And so, when ministers exalt the belief andpractice of Christianity as the one highway to the moral life ofindividuals and nations, it is equally germane to observe with somecare whether or not the clergy make good their claims in their ownpersons. The inquiry would be of great interest and permissible evenwere Christianity offered only for our freeacceptance or rejection; but the investigation assumes the bindingnature of a civic duty when, on the strength of these clericalpretensions, the preachers of Christianity claim and are allowed toenjoy privileges and immunities from the state that are not granted toother citizens. There are many “benefits of the clergy”besides those bestowed on them personally in the shape of half-fares,freedom from civic and military duties, and the license under the papaldecree which forbids that any priest shall be brought into a civil orcriminal court without the approval of his ecclesiastical superior. Inthe United States church property valued at a billion and a halfdollars escapes taxation on the plea that it is devoted to improvingthe morals of the community, and the ministers have a virtual monopolyof the first day of the week, commonly called Sunday, on the strengthof the same unproved theory. The plea is questioned and denied by thepublishers of this book, who quote the evidences in disproof, amongthese being the fact of the immorality of the clergy themselves. If thereligion they spend their lives in expounding does not keep theministers straight, it is almost useless to ask how much restraininginfluence that religion has on the laity who only listen once aweek.
It is admitted that just as the upright life of a professedChristian is no evidence whatever of the truth of Christian doctrineand history, so the moral delinquency of a believer is no disproof ofthose things which it is necessary to accept in order to be orthodox.The creation story, the flood story, the story of Jonah and the whale,the virgin birth and the other miracles of the Old and New Testamentsare not affected by anything a believer in themmay do, either good or bad. Therefore we have been asked of what valuea list of the crimes of preachers can be to the cause of Freethoughtand mental liberty. The reply, couched in the language of an editorialarticle in “The Truth Seeker,” is as follows:
“Christianity, as interpreted by its preachers,affirms a fundamental relation between belief and morals. It claimsthat its system of morals is revealed and perfect; and not only this,but also that good morals are out of the question unless we believe inthe Christian religion.
“There are Christian ministers, and they are of the class whohave the widest hearing, because they are ‘sensational’ones, who will tell you that unbelief is synonymous with immorality;that men are wicked because they are Infidels, and are Infidels becausethey are wicked. They argue that as religion cannot countenanceanything that is wrong, the wrongdoer must justify his course bydenying the authority of religion, and hence becomes an unbeliever inorder that his creed may not conflict with his conduct. Who has notheard that Infidels deny the existence of hell to relieve their mindsof the uncertainty of going there when they die; that they put theBible aside because it will not permit their indulgences in sin, andthat a reform in conduct will be accompanied by a renunciation of theirInfidelity and a reacceptance of religion and the Bible?
“The preachers who promulgate these principles often proceedfrom the general to the particular. Having asserted the correlation ofunbelief with moral turpitude, they give pretended illustrativeinstances, and they do not seem to understand that the force of theirargument is lessened by the fact that they are obliged to invent casesand to deal with imaginary characters. Some, of course, prefer to libelknown and representative Freethinkers instead of exercisingthe faculty of invention and defamingunbelievers who are pure myths.
“A list of ministers, guilty of crimes and immoralities,though of unimpeached orthodoxy, is the answer to this class offalsifying preachers, which any court must accept as historical andlawful evidence against the pretense that good conduct grows out ofbelief in Christianity. It shows that the very apostles of thatreligion go wrong, that its ministers are profligate, and that in thesethe theory is condemned before we come to its mere lay exponents wholess perfectly understand it.
“People have been taught so long that piety and morality areinterchangeable terms, that they believe it without regard to the factswhich demonstrate the contrary to be true. When an individual ofreputed orthodoxy violates the moral law they accuse him of being ahypocrite and set his religious professions down as mere outwardpretense. But here their mental narrowness is shown, for the immoralperson may be thoroughly sincere. The more firmly he believes, thestronger may be his confidence that no mere human weakness on his partcan deprive him of the benefits of his religion. For according to thecode we are all sinners, and the function of religion is not so much tokeep us from personal sin as to save us from its natural consequences.One has fallen already in Adam and is therefore totally depraved, whichis the limit of depravity. How, then, can his own sins count againsthim, when he cannot be depraved beyond ‘totally’? Hisconcern is to escape the consequences of the fall, which isaccomplished by accepting the Christian scheme of salvation. His owntransgressions can be adjusted by prayer and repentance. He conceivesof divine mercy as infinite—there is no reaching the end of it;hence with unlimited credit he may draw on his account whenever hefeels sinfully disposed.”
It is unlikely, however, that the believer performs this mentaloperation before reaching a determination to do thatwhich is wrong. Were he capable of analyzing the plan of salvation inthat manner he might doubt it. But he is like other men in the sameenvironment, and, like them, when inclination prompts, he falls.Conduct, in the last analysis, is a matter of common sense, in whichthe minister and the believer are likely to be at a disadvantage ascompared with the Rationalist. In our own minds we are pretty wellconvinced of the reason why ministers go wrong—they have moreopportunities and, among the faithful, are under less suspicion andobservation than the laity. Nevertheless we are not averse to hearingother explanations of their tendency to fall.
A few years ago the Rev. Dr. Madison C. Peters, a New Yorkclergyman, offered a theory and remedy.
“The average minister,” said Dr. Peters, “has onlyto preach a twenty-minute or half-hour sermon on Sunday, and this, witha mid-week meeting, constitutes his week’s work. The rest of thedays he is often loafing, trying to kill time. Even the weekly sermonmay not be his own effort. He may be either too lazy or too ignorant tocompose a sermon of his own, so he simply treats the congregation to arehash of some other man’s work, and for this he often receives agood salary. Do you wonder that the worst passions of these men becomeinflamed by their lives of idleness? They are only human. They eat anddrink of the choicest products of the earth; they visit only the homesof the wealthy, where they are sumptuously entertained; they do not tryto keep the body in subjection to the spirit by any kind of restraintor mortification, and so their carnal passion becomes the master oftheir being, and they fall away from grace, shocking the community and scandalizing thechurch of God. I would make all work for their money.”
No doubt the indolent habits of the stall-fed clergy contribute totheir incontinence, which is recognized as their predominant weakness.While their offenses otherwise, as these pages show, range all the wayfrom petty larceny to murder, yet the great majority are such as arecommitted with or against women and girls. The larger figures in thelist number cases of adultery, bigamy, desertion, elopement, andseduction.
That the immorality of the clergy is recognized as a matter thatneeds explanation is shown by an article entitled “Why MinistersGo Wrong,” extracted from the “Baptist Standard”(Chicago), in which orthodox weekly it appeared in the latter part ofthe year 1913. The article, whose author is a minister, is surprisingmainly because of its frankness and not because it tells anything notpreviously known or surmised. The writer says:
“Do ministers of the churches, that isclergymen, priests and preachers, go wrong in any greater proportionthan do doctors, lawyers or teachers? If one answers the questionmathematically, no; if one answers the question in the light of ourmoral