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Apostle vs. Pagan
by [?]


My Dear Colonel:–I have not picked up my pen for the express purpose of annihilating you at one fell swoop. Even were such the case, I do not flatter myself that your impending doom would cause you to miss meals or lose sleep, for you have become somewhat used to being knocked off the Christmas tree by theological disputants from the back districts. At least once each lunar month for long years past your quivering diaphragm has been slammed up against the shrinking face of nature by mental microbes, or walked on by ambitious doodle-bugs, who wondered next day to learn that you were absorbing your rations with clock-work regularity and doing business at the same old stand. I once saw an egotistical brindle-pup joyfully bestride the collar of an adult wild-cat, and the woeful result convinced me that Ambition and Judgment should blithely foot it hand in hand. That is why, my dear Colonel, I approach you by siege and parallel, instead of capering gayly down your right-o’-way like a youthful William goat seeking a head-end collision with a runaway freight train.

Without any view of paving the way for a future loan, I tell you frankly that I admire you very much. Your public record and private life prove you to be one of God’s noblest–and rarest–works, an honest man. That you are the equal morally and the superior mentally of any man who has presumed to criticize you must be conceded. The prejudices of honesty are entitled to consideration and the judgment of genius to respect bordering on reverence; but in this age of almost universal inquiry we cannot accept any man, however wise, as infallible pope in the realm of intellect and declare that from his ipse dixit there shall be no appeal. That were intellectual slavery, the most degrading species of bondage, and it is your greatest glory that you have ever been the apostle of liberty–liberty of the hand and liberty of the brain. More than all other men of your generation you have fostered independence of thought and the search for new truth; hence you cannot complain if the fierce light which you have taught the world to turn full and fair upon cults and creeds, should be employed to discern the false logic of the great critic himself.

In your warfare upon hypocrisy and humbuggery I am with you heart and soul. I will set my foot as far as who goes farthest in the exposure of frauds and fakes of every class and kind, though hedged about with the superstitions of a thousand centuries and licensed by prescriptive right to perpetrate a brutal wrong; but it does not follow because some church communicants are hypocrites that all religion is a humbug; that because the Bible winks at incest and robbery , murder and slavery, the book is but a tissue of foolish falsehoods; that because Almighty God has not seen proper to reveal Himself in all His supernal splendor to Messrs. Hume and Voltaire, Paine and Ingersoll the world has no good reason for belief in His existence–that because the dead do not come back to us with a diagram of the New Jerusalem it were folly to believe the soul of man immortal.

My dear Colonel, your mighty intellect has not yet comprehended the philosophy of religion. Oratorically you soar like the condor when its shadow falls upon the highest peaks of the Andes, but logically you grope among the pestilential shadows of an intellectual Dismal Swamp, ever mistaking shadow for substance. You are frittering away your mighty intellectual strength with the idiosyncrasies of creeds and the clumsy detail of cults, instead of considering the psychological phenomena of religion in its entirety. You descend from the realm of philosophy to assume the role of scholastic–to dispute with little men anent points of doctrine, to wrangle with dogmatists regarding their conception of the Deity.