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Charles Bradlaugh

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Charles Bradlaugh (1833-1891)
Atheist writer and member of Parlaiment. His acquittal with Annie Wood Besant in 1877 ended Britain's ban on disseminating contraceptive advice.

Charles Bradlaugh (Parlaiment portrait)If special honor is claimed for any, then heresy should have it as the truest servitor of humankind.
-- Charles Bradlaugh, from a speech in London (September 25, 1881), quoted from James A Haught, ed, 2000 Years of Disbelief

Liberty's chief foe is theology.
-- Charles Bradlaugh, quoted from the picket sign carried by Madalyn Murray O'Hair, while picketing the Reagan-occupied White House in 1982

The ameliorating march of the last few centuries has been initiated by the heretics of each age, though I concede that the men and women denounced and persecuted as infidels by the pious of one century are frequently claimed as saints by the pious of a later generation.
-- Charles Bradlaugh, "Humanity's Gain From Unbelief"

Atheist, without God, I look to humankind for sympathy, for love, for hope, for effort, for aid.
-- Charles Bradlaugh, quoted from Jim Herrick, "Bradlaugh and Secularism: 'The Province of the Real'"

Tell the backwoodsman, who, with axe in hand, hews at the trunks of sturdy trees, that his is destructive work, and he will answer: "I clear the ground, that plough and reaping-hook may be used by and by". And I answer that in many men -- and women too, alas! -- thought is prison-bound, with massive chains of old church welding; that human capacity for progress is hindered, grated in by prison bars, priest-wrought and law-protected; that the good wide field of common humanity is over-crowded with the trunks of vast creed frauds, the outgrowth of ancient mythologies.... Atheist, without God, I look to humankind for sympathy, for love, for hope, for effort, for aid.
-- Charles Bradlaugh, quoted from Jim Herrick, "Bradlaugh and Secularism: 'The Province of the Real'"

A ground frequently taken by Christian theologians is that the progress and civilization of the world are due to Christianity; and the discussion is complicated by the fact that many eminent servants of humanity have been nominal Christians, of one or other of the sects. My allegation will be that the special services rendered to human progress by these exceptional men have not been in consequence of their adhesion to Christianity, but in spite of it, and that the specific points of advantage to human kind have been in ratio of their direct opposition to precise Biblical enactments.
-- Charles Bradlaugh, "Humanity's Gain From Unbelief"

No religion is suddenly rejected by any people; it is rather gradually outgrown. None sees a religion die; dead religions are like dead languages and obsolete customs: the decay is long and -- like the glacier march -- is perceptible only to the careful watcher by comparisons extending over long periods.
-- Charles Bradlaugh, "Humanity's Gain From Unbelief"

Take the gain to humanity in the unbelief not yet complete, but now largely preponderant, in the dogma that sickness, pestilence, and famine were manifestations of divine anger, the results of which could neither be avoided nor prevented. The Christian Churches have done little or nothing to dispel this superstition. The official and authorized prayers of the principal denominations, even to-day, reaffirm it. Modern study of the laws of health, experiments in sanitary improvements, more careful applications of medical knowledge, have proved more efficacious in preventing or diminishing plagues and pestilence than have the intervention of the priest or the practice of prayer. Those in England who hold the old faith that prayer will suffice to cure disease are to-day termed "peculiar people," and are occasionally indicted for manslaughter when their sick children die, because the parents have trusted to God instead of appealing to the resources of science.
-- Charles Bradlaugh, "Humanity's Gain From Unbelief"

Will any one, save the most bigoted, contend, that it is not certain gain to humanity to spread unbelief in the terrible doctrine that eternal torment is the probable fate of the great majority of the human family?
-- Charles Bradlaugh, "Humanity's Gain From Unbelief"

Is it not gain to have diminished the faith that it was the duty of the wretched and the miserable to be content with the lot in life which providence had awarded them?
-- Charles Bradlaugh, "Humanity's Gain From Unbelief"

Atheism is without God. It does not assert no God.
-- Charles Bradlaugh, The Freethinker's Text-Book (London: 1876), quoted from George H Smith, "Defining Atheism," in Atheism, Ayn Rand, and other Heresies

The atheist does not say, "There is no God," but he says, "I know not what you mean by God; the word God is to me a sound conveying no clear or distinct affirmation."
-- Charles Bradlaugh, A Plea for Atheism, (1864), from James A Haught, ed, 2000 Years of Disbelief

I do not deny "God", because that word conveys to me no idea, and I cannot deny that which presents to me no distinct affirmation, and of which the would-be affirmer has no conception. I cannot war with a nonentity. If, however, God is affirmed to represent an existence which is distinct from the existence of which I am a mode, and which it is alleged is not the noumenon of which the word "I" represents only a speciality of phenomena, then I deny "God", and affirm that it is impossible "God" can be.
-- Charles Bradlaugh, in the National Reformer, quoted from Jim Herrick, "Bradlaugh and Secularism: 'The Province of the Real'"

A mere society form of Atheism.
-- Charles Bradlaugh, describing Thomas Henry Huxley's neologism (agnosticism), quoted from Jim Herrick, "Bradlaugh and Secularism: 'The Province of the Real'"

Idle and meaningless ... a form less solemn to me than the affirmation I would have reverently made.
-- Charles Bradlaugh, describing the oath he was prepared to swear (though he ended up affirming, instead) upon entering Parlaiment, quoted from Jim Herrick, "Bradlaugh and Secularism: 'The Province of the Real'"

There is a court to which I shall appeal: the court of public opinion.
-- Charles Bradlaugh, speech opposing the move to force him to swear an oath upon entering Parlaiment

The House, being strong, should be generous ... but the constituents have a right to more than generosity.... The law gives me my seat. In the name of the law I ask for it. I regret that my personality overshadows the principles involved in this great struggle; but I would ask those who have touched my life, not knowing it, who have found for me vices which I do not remember in the memory of my life, I would ask them whether all can afford to cast the first stone ... then that, as best judges, they will vacate their own seats, having deprived my constituents of their right here to mine.
-- Charles Bradlaugh, speech in 1883, in a further attempt to pass a Bill giving atheists the right to affirm, quoted from Jim Herrick, "Bradlaugh and Secularism: 'The Province of the Real'"

Is poverty of spirit the chief amongst virtues, that Jesus gives it prime place in his teachings? Is it even a virtue at all? Surely not. Manliness of spirit, honesty of spirit, fullness of rightful purpose, these are virtues; poverty of spirit is a crime.
-- Charles Bradlaugh, on Jesus's beatitude, "Blessed are the poor in spirit" (Matthew 5:3), in "What Did Jesus Teach?" (quoted from John E Remsberg, The Christ, p. 311, possibly from an alternate source, as, "Is poverty of spirit a blessing? Surely not. Manliness of spirit, honesty of spirit, fulness of rightful purpose, these are virtues; but poverty of spirit is a crime."),

When Jesus began to be about thirty years of age he was baptized by John in the River Jordan. John, who knew him, according to the First Gospel, forbade him directly he saw him; but, according to the Fourth Gospel, he knew him not, and had, therefore, no occasion to forbid him. God is an "invisible spirit," whom no man hath seen (John i. 18) or can see (Exod. xxxiii. 20); but the man John saw the spirit of God descending like a dove. God is everywhere, but at that time was in heaven, from whence he said, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." Although John heard this from God's own mouth, he did not always act as if he believed it, but some time after sent two of his disciples to Jesus to inquire if he were really the Christ (Matt. xi. 2, 3).
-- Charles Bradlaugh, "Who Was Jesus Christ?" (1864?) ‡‡

Probably they had good reason for omitting it. A profane mind might make a jest of an apostle "half seas over," and ridicule an apostolic gate-keeper who couldn't keep his head above water.
-- Charles Bradlaugh, quoted in John E Remsberg, The Christ, (p. 127), referring to the tale in the Gospel of Matthew of Peter trying to walk on water with Jesus, being omitted from the accounts of Jesus walking on water in Mark and John

Jesus being hungry went to a fig-tree to gather figs, though the season of figs was not yet come. Of course there were no figs upon the tree, and Jesus then caused the tree to wither away. This is specially interesting as a problem for a true orthodox trinitarian who will believe, first, that Jesus was God, who made the tree, and prevented it from bearing figs; second, that God the all-wise, who is not subject to human passions, being hungry, went to the fig-tree, on which he knew there could be no figs, expecting to find some there; third, that God, the all-just, then punished the tree because it did not bear figs in opposition to God's eternal ordination.
-- Charles Bradlaugh, "Who Was Jesus Christ?" (1864?) ‡‡

God is a spirit. Jesus was led up of the Spirit to be tempted of the Devil; and it is also true that spirits are very likely to lead men to the Devil. Too intimate acquaintance with whisky toddy overnight is often followed by the delirium tremens and blue-devils on the morrow. We advise our readers to eschew alike spirituous and spiritual mixtures. They interfere sadly with sober thinking, and play the Devil with your brains.
-- Charles Bradlaugh, "A Few Words About The Devil" (1864?) ‡‡

On the Cross the Jesus of the Four Gospels, who was God, cried out " My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" God cannot forsake himself, Jesus was God himself. Yet God forsook Jesus, and the latter cried out to know why he was forsaken. Any able divine will explain that of course he knew, and that he was not forsaken. The explanation renders it difficult to believe the dying cry, and the passage becomes one of the mysteries of the holy Christian religion, which, unless a man rightly believe, "without doubt he shall perish everlastingly."
-- Charles Bradlaugh, "Who Was Jesus Christ?" (1864?) ‡‡

I cannot follow you Christians; for you try to crawl through your life upon your knees, while I stride through mine on my feet.
-- Charles Bradlaugh (attributed: source unknown)

Without free speech no search for truth is possible ... no discovery of truth is useful ... Better a thousand-fold abuse of free speech than the denial of free speech. The abuse dies in a day but denial stays the life of the people and entombs the race.
-- Charles Bradlaugh (1890) (attributed: source unknown)

If when I am libelled I take no notice, the world believes the libel. If I sue, I have to pay about one hundred pounds' costs for the privilege, and gain the smallest coin the country knows for recompense.
-- Charles Bradlaugh, who, having had to deal with many libellous attacks on his character, was not averse to litigation but found himself in a dilemma, quoted from Jim Herrick, "Bradlaugh and Secularism: 'The Province of the Real'"

[That] my body be buried as cheaply as possible and no speeches be permitted at my funeral.
-- Charles Bradlaugh, will dated 1884, which his daughter honored. So many people, from working men to MPs, wished to pay their respects that a special train was laid on from Waterloo to Brookwood (where he was buried with his family), and a young Indian student, Mohandas K Gandhi, was among the mourners. Quoted from and citation comments derived from Jim Herrick, "Bradlaugh and Secularism: 'The Province of the Real'."

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