Thursday, 28 August 2014

SECULARIST LECTURE.

The first of a series of three lectures on Secularism was delivered last evening at the Gaiety Theatre, by Mr. W. W. Collins, F.G.S., F.S.S., the vice-president of the National Secular Society of England. There was a very huge audience present, the entire seating accommodation of the theatre being occupied. The title of Mr. Collins's address was "A New Religion."
At the very outset he announced himself an Atheist, and requested his hearers to dismiss from their minds all previously conceived ideas of religion as that which he proposed to present to them, and which he asked their consideration, was not likely to resemble theirs unless they also held atheistic opinions. He did not wish to boast of his Atheism, although he contended that if anyone was entitled to boast of his views on these subjects, it was the man who at the present day was stigmatised as an Atheist. Nine out of every ten Christians if they were honest would confess that they were so because their parents were before them, because they lived in a Christian community and had received a Christian education : but, the same could be said of the majority of Atheists. Their parents, homes, and education had been Christian, but they had dared to have the courage to think for themselves and to follow out, their processes of thought to their ultimate conclusions, and they then found that Atheism was the only tenable ground on which they could rest. Therefore, he considered the man who had dared to reason this problem out for himself was entitled to boast.
  Turning more particularly to the religion of Atheism, Mr. Collins went on to say that it would be granted that every man had a right to live, although the conditions of life were sometimes so hard that even existence was difficult. Granting the right, of man to life, he would contend that the true aim of life was to get as much happiness as possible out of it. This aim, however, had been greatly frustrated by the conditions of so-called religious thought, which robbed life of much of its charm. Secularism, and secularism only, would enable mankind to enjoy to the fullest the happiness of this life, because its principle and meaning was, as Colonel Ingersoll had defined it, "One world at a time," or "this worldism." Secularism was naturalism in morals, and in everything else, It stripped existence of all supernaturalism, and taught the philosophy of daily life, and the following of the precept, "Man, know thyself," for when this knowledge was acquired the understanding of one's fellow-man was possible, and the individual could mete out to others that consideration he desired for himself. This was the keystone of secularism, and upon this the structure of human happiness rested. The kingdom of man was the only one they wanted to know, and when they had understood it they would have become so accustomed to happiness here that if after all there was a future state, never fear but they would make it a happy one also. Hitherto the human race had been held in a bondage of the imagination, but when those fetters were cast aside, as they would be, man would be the better creature for it, and his happiness would be the greater because he would know that he had earned it by his own exertions and without supernatural aid. Belief in the supernatural was not necessary, he contended, to maintain a pure system of morals, and the man who was moral simply for fear of punishment was no more moral than the thief was honest, who did not pick a tempting pocket while a policeman was looking on. True morality consisted in doing right because it was right and refraining from doing wrong because of its lowering and degrading effect upon the man himself.
Mr. Collins contended that the moral perceptions of mankind had been rather weakened than strengthened by old religious systems. The new one would reverse this, for it would be a religion of deeds not creeds, and actions not dogma.

 The Brisbane Courier  30 May 1887,

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