By Samuel Roberts — July 1903
(Remarks by Samuel Roberts before the Men’s Club of the Universalist Church, 65th street and Stewart Avenue, Chicago, April 25, 1903)
“All truth Is safe and nothing else is safe, and he who keeps back the truth or withholds It from men, from motives of expediency, is either a coward or a criminal or both.”
For the past twenty-five years, I have been combating religious superstition. I believe that all religions are founded upon ignorance, misconceptions, and falsehoods, and that superstition is the warp and woof of every creed.
Concerning the race problem, I feel a great deal as the late Col. Ingersoll felt, when he was asked what he would do if he were God? He replied that he would make the people all white or all black, and that would solve the race problem.
We all know that it is the deep rooted prejudice of the whites against the Negroes, owing to the dark color of their skin that causes the colored people to be treated by the white people as an inferior race, depriving them of the privileges and rights which the whites claim and arrogate to themselves. A few years after the close of the civil war, while a resident of Davenport, Iowa, I realized the full force of the above truth, as I had never done before. One day I stepped into an omnibus to be conveyed home and among the passengers was a colored man. Very soon after I entered I heard the driver of the omnibus tell the colored man to “get out.” I surmised at once what the trouble was, and I asked the colored man if he had the money to pay his fare; he answered that he had; I then told him, loud enough for the driver to hear, to stay in, and that I would see that he was protected. He stayed there and the driver made no further objections. The man was decent and respectable in appearance, but he was not a white man, hence owing to the color of his skin, had no rights which an omnibus driver was bound to respect. He was man enough; too, to appreciate what I had done for him, and never forgot to thank me whenever I met him.
In mentioning this incident I do not wish to claim any credit. It may be that I am so constituted that I could not help doing just what I did. I believe that it is my manly duty to stand by my fellow-man, whenever he needs a helping hand, irrespective of creed or color. “A man is a man for a that.” Now the question naturally arises, how is this unjust prejudice on the part of the white man against the colored man to be conquered? The colored man can no more change the color of his skin than the leopard can change his spots; and the unchangeable God, having retired from the miracle business, no relief can come to the unfortunate colored man from that source.
Neither can he look for much assistance from the white man; he must, therefore, depend almost wholly upon his own personal efforts and upon his strength of character. He must guard against assassinating his manhood, by tamely submitting to insult and injustice. He must endeavor to educate himself, not religiously, but ethically and scientifically, so that his mind may be entirely emancipated from all kinds of superstition. This will enable him to become mentally free and independent, if he continually bears in mind, that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty and manhood.
In my opinion, one of the greatest obstacles, that ·stands in his way to achieve his natural rights, is a belief in the supernatural, and in the inspiration of the Bible—a book upon which the Christian religious superstition is founded. In this book, the first law establishing slavery is recorded, being one of the laws “which the Lord made between him and the children of Israel in Mount Sinai by the hand of Moses.” (See Leviticus 25:44 to 46 and 26:46.) Hence, slavery is called a divine institution.
This book not only commands slavery “the sum of all villainies,” but allows an owner to beat his servant or his maid to die a lingering death without his being called to account: “for he is his money.” (Exodus, 21:21.) The Bible also sanctions nearly every vice known in the catalogue of crime, viz.: Deception, lying, cheating, murder, witchcraft, cannibalism, human sacrifice, injustice to women, cruelty to children and animals, polygamy and intemperance. It’s God even attempts to make total abstainers drink wine, but being more honest than he, they absolutely refused. (Jeremiah, 35:1-10.)
The effect of Bible teachings in sustaining slavery is shown in what Frederick Douglass has said: “We have men stealers for ministers, women whippers for missionaries, and cradle plunderers for members.”
This so-called holy book of God contains (147) palpable contradictions which are necessarily (147) lies. The (33) miracles said to have been wrought by its Jesus are (33) additional lies. The miracles and other absurdities recorded in the Old Testament were physical impossibilities; and in the light of modern knowledge are regarded as impositions and forgeries. It is only the uncritical. superstitious religionist, and the selfish, Pharisaical, paid priesthood, that refuse to be enlightened by established scientific facts; who still cling to the absurd belief in the impossible and Munchhausen stories of the Bible—the citadel of injustice and superstition. A large number of passages in the Bible are too vulgar and obscene to be read, either publicly or privately.
A writer in the Arena says: “If the Bible was a translation of a sacred book of India, China, or Egypt, the whole Christian world would cry out against the publication of many of its passages.” The Koreans have such respect for decency and virtue, as to prohibit the landing of the Bible as an immoral book.
Unfortunately, for the colored man, a large majority of the white people of the South, being very religious and strict believers in the divine authority of the “Holy Book” and, having been taught for generations that the colored people are an inferior race, will be very slow to take any steps that will advance them to a position that will change the relation of master and slave—a condition, which practically still exists in the South, both politically and socially, if not physically.
Discipline, scientific instruction, honest toil, economic justice, and emancipation from Bible superstition of both black and white, not excluding the important factor of time, will ultimately solve the race problem. Past experience having most conclusively shown that the Christian religion, with its thousands of preachers and its hypocritical pretense for the brotherhood of man, has utterly failed to solve the problem. I can offer no better remedy.
Let us not forget, let us not be deceived any longer; Science, not Jesus, is the Savior of Mankind.