“Religion For Women And Children”

From Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s – ‘A Freethought Reader’1886

An out and out English agnostic remarked to a friend, who wondered that he still said grace at table and regularly attended divine worship: “We must keep up the church as the most powerful police institution we have; it would be an awful calamity to take their religion from the labouring classes, and especially women and children. All these are more easily governed through their fears, as their capacity to reason is very limited."

 In regard to the first proposition, all history shows that there have been more outrages committed by the Church, through its ecclesiastics, in the name of religion, on the sacred rights of humanity and the best interests of society, than by all other organizations together.

 It has, indeed, been, in all ages, "a powerful police institution," to rob the poor, to suppress free thought, to make martyrs of noble men and women; but when has it ever risked its own safety to fight the battles of the people against the oppressions of the state? When, by wise counsels as a united body, has it ever averted the settlement of one vexed question by war? In the prolonged anti-slavery struggle for forty years, it spoke with no certain sound, until the clashing arms and roaring cannon proclaimed liberty throughout the nation. But when the indignant masses awake from the lethargy of ages the world over, as they have already in France, and see how they have been deceived, defrauded, and priest-ridden, they will repudiate the Church and the creeds that have so long held them in bondage.

As, with more general education, with the light and knowledge of science, the people cannot be much longer swayed by worn-out superstitions, is it not better for their spiritual teachers to begin now to teach them what is true, as far as they themselves know, and to stop teaching them mere speculations and superstitions, the wild vagaries of unbalanced for their unfaithfulness, that the people are not ready for a more rational about anything. But a measure of the truth, as far as it goes, must be better than error; and, if they are always deluded with falsehoods, how will they ever be prepared to accept what is reasonable?

We must remember that truth is the natural food for the human soul, the atmosphere in which all its finest qualities most readily develop. Hence, those who hold the vantage-ground of thought should give freely of their richest treasures to those who would be delivered from the errors of the past. We pride ourselves on the munificent charities of this Christian civilization, on our unbounded  almsgiving to the poor and needy; but behind those outstretched hands, those appealing eyes and pleading lips, are hungering souls oppressed with fear of an angry God, an all-powerful devil, a judgment day, and ever- lasting punishment....

Publichsed in Women Without Superstition "No Gods No Masters"(p151)  edited by Annie Laurie Gaylor & published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

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