Tuesday, 8 November 2016

JOHN NORTON'S REPLY.

I now proceed to reply specifically to the atrocious attack made upon me, and to repudiate and rebut in detail the calumnious charge of atheism, blasphemy, and infidelity therein contained. I do this apart from all questions of actual authorship. Here. and now, I publicly, in, print, proclaim this punk to be not only a benighted bigot, but a brazen-faced liar, as I'll now proceed to prove him to be by the stupid, shallow, and scurrilous scribbling of his own perfidious pen — the poisoned, poniard of a hireling helot.
The manipulator of the "limelight" of Catholic Truth, who poses as an oracle on matters of literature, and even of religion in a Melbourne print, a bigoted fellow, is so inaccurate in the use of words that he confounds journalism with literature, and speaks of some samples of the former as "Infidel Literature." This is the heading that he gives to his article in a certain Catholic print, published in Melbourne recently, and believed to be the organ of the priesthood.
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Both words constituting this caption show what a muddle-headed misleader this captious critic is ; for neither word correctly describes that about which his article was written. His screed is an impudently abusive and arrogantly bigoted attack on an article written by me, and published in Melbourne "Truth" in which an attempt was made by me to summarise, rationalistically, the leading events in the life of Christ.
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"What is an infidel?" Strictly, it is one who is unfaithful. The word is a term of reproach and contumely, applied by modern bigots to those persons who are unable to accept the superstitions that other persons profess to have swallowed eagerly after me reading of such pietistical productions. A man who honestly speaks his thought about matters of speculation (such as are matters of religion) is not unfaithful to anybody. Therefore, it is malignantly false to speak of him, or of what he writes, as "infidel." As to the word "literature," it is properly applied only to works of learning notable for literary form; it is not applied, properly, to writings in a newspaper. The pietistic penman's literary light does not so "shine before men" as to prevent him from stupidly using his native language.
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Like all bigots, Protestant or Papist, this Melbourne writer does not scruple to resort to lying when he thinks it suits his purpose. In this, he is not alone; the mendacity of manipulators of manuscripts throughout the Christian "ages of Faith" was malodorously monstrous enough to pollute the pages of history, and to stink horridly through the corridors of time. The pious penman having referred to the articles written by me as "infidel" literature, then proceeds to refer to them as "Atheistic writing."
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The man lies ; no matter who he may be, priest or layman, he's a liar. Nothing Atheistic has appeared in any of the articles to which he objects. An Atheist is one who is "without God," one who disbelieves in the existence of a Supreme Intelligent Being. One may reject the Bible as untrustworthy, and disbelieve that Jesus was ever more than a benign Visionary, without having the faintest doubt as to the existence of a Supreme Being. As a matter of historic fact, one of the finest defences of the existence of a Supreme Being that ever was written was the work of that disbeliever in the Bible and Christianity, Voltaire. Voltaire it was, moreover, who invented the brilliant epigram : "If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent Him." Voltaire it was, who built, at Ferney, the place of his exile in, Switzerland, a church or chapel to the honor and glory of God, and dedicated it by the following inscription prominently placed on the facade of the sacred edifice, "Deo erexit Voltaire."
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This pious punk penman says that the statements in the articles to which he objects were made on the strength of "rationalistic statements like those of Ingersoll, who was thoroughly refuted by Father Lambert." Here again the pious puke plainly lies again. Ingersoll was not mentioned and the statements that were made in the article were based on higher authority than that of Ingersoll. The "Limelight" faker is apparently "brutally ignorant" of the Catholic fact that, long after the Lambert attack, a controversy between Ingersoll and Cardinal Manning took place in the pages of the "North American Review," in which controversy each treated the other with perfect respect.
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The snide scribbler makes the mendacious assertion that I declared Christ to be an impostor; and he goes on to state the fact (alleged by him), that "560,000,000 Christians in the world to-day proclaim Him as the very greatest character in all history, and most believe Him to be the Second Person of a Triune Godhead." This, according to him, proves that Christ was not a "mere impostor." Did the fact that many millions of persons prior to the birth of Christ believed that there existed the gods of Paganism prove that those Gods really existed? If not, why not, on that scribe's stupid argument?
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A far older religion than Christianity is Buddhism, the religion of Gautama, the Buddha. Gautama was born in the sixth century before Christ, and his religion is believed in by very many millions of men and women at the present day. Does the greater antiquity of this religion prove it to be a greater religion than Christianity? If it be believed in by a greater number of human beings than is Christianity, does the fact that more persons believe it, prove it more worthy of belief than Christianity? To contend that it does would be to push the principle of "majority rule" to the point of madness. The number of those who believe a religion to be true does not prove it to be right and other religions wrong. If it did, then the fact that the majority of  men and women reject Christianity would prove Christianity to be wrong.
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This silly scribe makes the remarkably ignorant statement that the followers of "Confucius, Buddha, Mahomet, or Taou, regard them as a Methodist regards Wesley, or a Lutheran Luther." The fool apparently does not know that nobody has ever alleged there was any such man as Taou ; the founder of the Taouist sect was Laou-tsze ; Taou is Laou-tsze's name for the mystical Origin, Cause, and Being ; Taou is, in fact, God; and the word means the Way and the Word, two titles which have also been bestowed upon Christ. As for "Mahomet," he was always called a prophet, and is held in greater reverence as a prophet by Mohammedans now than ever before. A war-cry of the Mohammedans was: "There is but one God, and Mohammed is His Prophet."
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The greatest amount of unblushing impudence and presumption upon the assumed ignorance of his hearers is shown by this puking pimp, however, when he says : —
Remember that in order to belittle this historical Christ, the blasphemer has to ignore the Gospel's, which have stood the test of the higher criticism. He has to make the Pauline testimony of no account, and treat it— one of the finest pieces of literature on earth — as if it were never written. Yet we know that the Gospels are the history of Jesus, and that they were written by eye-witnesses for the use of other eye-witnesses by men who died as martyrs for the truth of what they had written. Jesus is the hero of those Gospels, and even the infidel Rousseau said of their validity: "It is not thus that people invent. The inventor of such a book would be only more astonishing than its hero." The very highest criticism has admitted that the writers of the Gospel narratives were unquestionably honest in recording what they believed they saw. What they saw was Jesus.
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"We know" all this, do we? Who says that we know it? Professional religionists interested in the maintenance of existing beliefs? Yet "professors of ecclesiastical history" (and surely we do not expect the fishmonger to cry "stinking fish"?) assert that there is great doubt as to the authorship of the first three Gospels.
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So clerically conservative a "professor of ecclesiastical history" as the Rev. W. E. Collins thus speaks in an article in the "Encyclopaedia Britannica, of the first three Gospels: —
Scholars are now practically agreed that we have to do with three distinct sources; one document in Greek, containing the recollections of St Peter, which corresponds closely with our St Mark, and was used by the writers of the First and Third Gospels: a second, also in Greek, containing discourses and very little narrative, which was also used by these two writers; and a third special source, whether written or unwritten, which is to be found in the third Gospel alone. This in turn was probably written by the writer of the Acts, who was also the companion of St Paul. This is the clerical view, the view of those whose interest it is to conserve the interests of their profession. Now, however, let us look at what some other "higher critics" say about the authenticity of the Gospels. Dr. Frederick Schleimacher, whom the "Imperial Dictionary of Biography" declares to be one of the most influential of the theologians of Germany, says that the Gospel of Luke consists almost wholly of a compilation of manuscripts older than the time of the compiler.
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In the "History of the Christian Religion to the Year Two Hundred," Charles B. Waite, A.M., says that one of the manuscripts used by the compiler of the gospel "according" to Luke was "The Gospel" of Marcion. Dr. Davidson says that the Fourth Gospel was not written by John, and that its existence prior to A.D. 140 cannot be maintained. In the "Encyclopaedia Biblica," Professor Schmiedel says that the chronological framework of the Gospels is most untrustworthy, while "several of the reported sayings of Jesus bear the impress of a time which he did not live to see."
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The great majority of the Higher Critics are of the same opinion as Davidson as to the Gospel attributed to John. Sunderland says, in "The Bible: Its Origin, Growth and Character": "The biblical scholarship of our century has settled it beyond a question that at least three of our Gospels — namely, the synoptics: Matthew, Mark, and Luke — are compilations, which reached their present form only after several redactions."
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Sunderland also says that the compiler of Matthew probably used the "Logia" (an early Gospel rejected by a majority of the Church some centuries later). Conybeare says that the last twelve verses of Mark's Gospel were added by Aristion the Presbyter. Dr. J. A. Robinson ("Encyclopaedia Britannica," Eleventh Edition) says that the author of Mark's Gospel was "not an eyewitness of what he relates," and he says of Matthew's Gospel: "We cannot tell the exact date or the author's name."
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The leading New Testament proof of the doctrine of the Trinity, which is in the "First Epistle General of John" (in the fifth chapter), has been omitted from the Revised Version, because it has long been known by scholars to be an interpolation. That is to say, something thrust in some time after the work had originally been written. Its insertion was probably what is called, by writers who have studied the history of such practices, "a pious fraud." Dr. Hedger says :
The age in which these books were received, and put in circulation was . . . an age when literary honesty was a virtue almost unknown, and when, consequently, literary forgeries were as common as genuine productions, and transcribers of sacred books did not scruple to alter the text in the interest of personal views and doctrinal prepossessions. The newly-discovered Sinaitic code, the earliest known manuscript of the New Testament, dates from the fourth century. Tischendorf, the discoverer, a very orthodox critic, speaks without reserve of the license in the treatment of the text apparent in this manuscript — a license, he says, especially characteristic of the first three centuries."
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My cocksure critic says that "we know" that the alleged "eye-witnesses" who wrote the Gospels "died as martyrs for the truth of what they had written." Of course he means, if he can be said to mean anything distinct and definite, that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were martyred. This belief, like a good many more beliefs of men of his miserable mental type, rests upon no evidence. Many Christians asserted that none of the Evangelists were martyred. Heracleon stated that Matthew died a natural death, and this statement is apparently agreed with by Clement of Alexandria. The earliest traditions as to the death of Mark, as recorded by Eusebius, Jerome, and Isidore of Seville, appeared to imply that Mark died a natural death. Paulus Diaconus, Isidore of Seville, and other early writers "state or imply" that Luke died a natural death. There is no good reason to believe that John died a martyr. The traditions as to the deaths of the Evangelists are dealt with, as extensively as they deserve, in the "Encyclopaedia Britannica."
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The fact is that very many of the stories of the early Christians having been martyred have to be viewed with suspicion. Men were "martyred" by the Pagans, no doubt, but so were Pagans by the Christians. There is abundance of evidence — much of it of a thoroughly Catholic character— of, for instance, the murder of the beautiful Pagan female philosopher Hypatia by Christian clerics, who scraped the flesh from her bones with oyster shells. Many stories of the martyrdom of Christians by Pagans rest upon not the slightest scrap of evidence.
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This crackpot Catholic critic says that I represented Christ as an "ignorant Jewish pretender." He lies, if, as seems to be the case, he uses the word "pretender" in a bad sense. A pretender is merely one who makes a claim, which may be a rightful claim. However, this word was not used by me. What, too, if Christ was ignorant? What was that to the discredit of any man in those ancient days? Some of the greatest things that the world bears record of were done by men of no book-learning.
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Quite commonly, in ancient times, especially in Asia, the only learned class was the priestly class, and men not in that caste had little or no knowledge of the wisdom that could be gained from the writings of the learned. This would be particularly the case in so obscure it corner of the world as that in which Jesus lived and taught. Yet the native genius of this great Teacher has caused has name to meet with (professedly) more respect among the most advanced nations of the world than that of any other religious Founder.
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So, too, with regard to Mary, the mother of Jesus. To imply that the people who knew that Jesus was not the son of Joseph, probably regarded Him as illegitimate, may be a reflection upon the people of Nazareth, but is none upon either Mary or Joseph. Yet this assertive ass says that I made "an elaborate attack on Jesus Christ, on His Holy Mother, and on St Joseph." Joseph was represented by me as just an upright man, who was doing his duty as a good citizen to his wife and family ; and Mary was stated to be the mother of one of the most adorable characters of whom history has any record. This displeases this deluded donkey ! What an atrabilious ass is this muddle-headed "moke!"
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For myself, I don't care a curse for the bigoted bellowings of this helot. I simply say to him, when he brands me as an atheist and blasphemer, "You're a liar, — an ignorant impudent liar !" He would seem to have dragged his anchors of verisimilitude and common-sense, and to have drifted downward on the outgoing tide of dogmatic dementia— "all at sea, without a rudder," a disgraceful, decrepit, discredited, delirious, derelict.
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If I'm an infidel, that's my business. If I err, I err in the noble company of the Apostles of Humanity, I stand beside Voltaire, Diderot, the Encyclopedists, Paine, John Stuart Mill, Martineau, Darwin, Tyndall, and Huxley, and the whole list of intellectual giants whose work and words have waged war against ignorance and superstition, and "set the bounds of freedom wider yet." To stand in the shadow of such a splendid shield of talent and truth, is a privilege and an honor. The works of these great and good men do testify of them, and will continue to bless and benefit mankind ages after all pious punks, Clerical and lay, have passed away, and disappeared in the oblivion of their own degenerate dust. The splutterings of all the superstitious squibs of Creation avail not against truth, any more than a mundane fog avails against the light of the celestial sun.
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This feeble fellow's denunciations are the emanations of a murky mind, and resemble nothing so much as the offensive eructations from a foul stomach. This scribbling squib is simply a sectarian stinkard, who should be either disinfected or dessicated; and the Church or cause that tolerates or stands in need of the stinkpot services of such a skunk must be in a bad way. It is not by sectarian savagery that the causes of Catholic Emancipation, Irish Land Reform, and Home Rule have been won.
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Not all the helots in all the world will advance the twin Catholic causes of Catholic State, Subsidies for Catholic Schools, and State Aid to Catholic Charities. These causes have been won, and will be won, if ever won, by broad-minded Christians, Catholic and Protestant, with tho assistance of equally broad-minded Rationalists, Agnostics, Deists, Unitarians, who worship the Creator or Great First Cause by marvelling at and adoring His wondrous works. As Alfred Russell Wallace, in his latest illuminating work, "The World of Life," observes: the constitution of the Cosmos demonstrates design, and a design demands a divine designer. That's my faith, that's my creed, and all the sectarian screechings of whole crowd of sectarian scribblers won't and can't change it— any more than they can persuade modern society back into the black benighted bye-paths of persecution for matters of personal beliefs on religious doubts.

JOHN NORTON.

Sydney,
Tuesday,
January 28, 1913.

Truth (Sydney, NSW : 1894 - 1954), Sunday 2 February 1913, page 7

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