Upton Sinclair: The Profits of Religion
Book Four - The Church of the Slaves
Witches and Women
To whatever part of the world you travel, to whatever page of history you turn, you find the endowed and established clergy using the word of God in defense of whatever form of slave- driving may then be popular and profitable. Two or three hundred years ago it was the custom of Protestant divines in England and America to hang poor old women as witches; only 150 years ago we find John Wesley, founder of Methodism, declaring that "the giving up of witchcraft is in effect the giving up of the Bible." And if you investigate this witch-burning, you will find that it is only one aspect of a blot upon civilization, the Christian Mythology. You see, there were two Hebrew legends - one that woman was made out of a man's rib, and the other that she ate an apple; therefore in modern England a wife must be content with a legal status lower than domestic servant.
Perhaps the most comical of the clerical claims is this - that Christianity has promoted chivalry and respect for womanhood. In ancient Greece and Rome the woman was the equal and helpmate of man; we read in Tacitus about the splendid women of the Germans, who took part in public councils, and even fought in battles. Two thousand years before the Christian era we are told by Maspero that the Egyptian woman was the mistress of her house; she could inherit equally with her brothers, and had full control of her property. We are told by Paturet that she was "juridically the equal of man, having the same rights and being treated in the same fashion." But in present-day England, under the common law, woman can hold no office of trust or power, and her husband has the sole custody of her person, and of her children while minors. He can steal her children, rob her of her clothing, and beat her with a stick provided it is no thicker than his thumb. While I was in London the highest court handed down a decision on the law which does not permit a woman to divorce her husband for infidelity, unless it has been accompanied by cruelty; a man had brought his mistress into his home and compelled his wife to work for and wait upon her, and the decision was that this was not cruelty in the meaning of the law!
And if you say that this enslavement of Woman has nothing to do with religion - that ancient Hebrew fables do not control modern English customs - then listen to the Vicar of Crantock, preaching at St. Crantock's, London, Aug. 27, 1905, and explaining why women must cover their heads in church:
The manner of creation. The man is not of the woman, but the woman of the man.
The purport of creation. The man was not created for the woman, but the woman for the man.
Results in creation. The man is the image of the glory of God, but woman is the glory of man.
Woman's priority in the fall. Adam was not deceived; but the woman, being deceived, was in the transgression.
The marriage relation, As the Church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their husbands.
The headship of man and woman. The head of every man is Christ, but the head of the woman is man.
I say there is no modern evil which cannot be justified by these ancient texts; and there is nowhere in Christendom a clergy which cannot be persuaded to cite them at the demand of ruling classes. In the city where I write, three clergymen are being sent to jail for six months for protesting against the use of the name of Jesus in the wholesale slaughter of men. Now, I am backing this war, I know that it has to be fought, and I want to see it fought as hard as possible; but I want to leave Jesus out of it, for I know that Jesus did not believe in war, and never could have been brought to support a war, I object to clerical cant on the subject; and I note that an eminent theological authority, "Billy" Sunday, appears to agree with me; for I find him on the front page of my morning paper, assailing the three pacifist clergymen, and making his appeal not to Jesus, but to the blood-thirsty tribal deity of the ancient Hebrews:
I suppose they think they know more than God Almighty, who commanded the sun to stand still while Joshua won the
battle for the Lord; more than the God who made Samson strong so he could slay thousands of his nation's enemies in a righteous cause.
Right you are, Billy! And if the capitalist system continues to develop unchecked, we shall some day see it dawn upon the masters of the world how wasteful it is to permit the superannuated workers to perish by slow starvation. So much more sensible to make use of them! So we shall have a Bible defence of cannibalism; we shall hear our evangelists quoting Leviticus: "They shall eat the flesh of their own sons and daughters." Or perhaps some of our leisure-class ladies might make the discovery that the flesh of working-class babies is relished by pomeranians and poodles. If so, the Billy Sundays of the 21st century may discover the text: "Happy shall be he that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones."
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