Is this Liberalism?
Is This Liberalism?
The natural sympathy and fellowship of Liberty is with the Freethinkers of this country and their organs. It matters little with us whether they are outspoken atheists of the Seaver and Mendum school, fearless iconoclasts of the Bennett and Ingersoll stripe, or the " uncertain, sickly souls," as Bakounine calls them, the " Free Religionists." It is enough for us to know that all of these disordered forms of revolt carry within themselves the promise and potency of coming Liberty. Their leaders are all acting better than they know, and we have no disposition with our limited space to antagonize them, except where the provocation becomes too great.
One of the most astonishing exhibitions of inconsistency which has of late come to us was an editorial in the Boston "Investigator" of September 19 on Mormonism. To show how utterly and suicidally on the side of theological despotism a professed and really earnest liberal can be, we reprint the article entire, as appended to a refreshing liberty-inspired clipping from an organ of theocracy:
The trouble in dealing with the Mormon question lies altogether in the fact that the government has no authority to establish or to destroy any sort of religion, true or false. The authority to break up a false religion involves the authority to destroy a true belief. There arc some things which it is better to leave to the attack of moral agencies. When we undertake to regulate men's belief, or their eating and drinking, or their going and coming, by statutes, we are at once involved in a maze of perplexities.—[ Hebrew Leader.
There is some truth in the above, but it is not all true. As the "Hebrew Leader " says, government should not interfere with religion or matters of belief; but suppose a religion maintains or practices what the law denominates a crime, can the government consistently guarantee and protect it? The law says that polygamy, which Mormonism teaches and practices, is a crime, and therefore must not be allowed. But if there were no polygamy in Mormonism, tho government could not properly interfere with it, any more than with Orthodoxy or Judaism. They can be left " to the attack of moral agencies."
Last week three polygamous Mormons were convicted in the Dedham court, (Massachusetts,) not on account of their religion, but for committing crime, though, if they call it religion, it makes no difference in point of fact, as no religion should be protected by law in the commission of crime. If polygamy is right, let the law protect it; but if it is wrong, it should be suppressed.
The business of printing and soiling Freethought publications, in which Messrs. Seaver and Mendum are engaged, was once a crime under every government on the earth. According to their ruling, then, the practice of free thought was always justly interdicted, and the Inquisition was therefore right :is against the martyrs whose protests have made I hem and the "Investigator" possible to-day. Not only this, but "blasphemous" articles appear every week in the "Investigator," which, under a strict construction of the statutes of Massachusetts, constitute a crime and would send Messrs. Seaver and Mendum to jail. Are they ready to go, and do they not belong there as much as the polygamous Mormons sent from Dedham court? Certainly they do, under their own ruling.
But, once in jail, the distinguished editors of the "Investigator" have already plugged up .their own mouths, should it occur to them that Freethought was their religion. They have committed a crime, and, to quote their own language, "if they call it a religion, it makes no difference in point of fact, as no religion should be protected by law in the commission of crime."
It is painfully manifest in the above article that, according to the individual judgment of Messrs. Seaver and Mendum, the conscientious, religious application of free thought in love and domestic association is wrong, while its application in the business of Freethought publishing is right. Once themselves safe from the clutches of the Massachusetts jailer in their own application of free thought
they now stand ready to strike hands with bigots in the State and their executives and stand guard over Massachusetts Mormons behind the bars who have simply executed their own application of free thought in their own chosen sphere Who are Messrs. Seaver and Mendum of the " Investigator" that they should dogmatically discriminate among the various applications of free thought, and decide who shall go to jail and who shall not in the exercise of soul liberty? What is this thing, "crime," after all, but somebody's prejudices, backed by the bayonet and the dungeon?
We are sorry to thus scold at the venerable pioneers of liberalism who occupy the Paine Hall Building, to whom we are heartily grateful for almost all that they have done and with whom we heartily cooperate in almost all that they are doing. But they ought to dig deeper into the philosophy of Liberty, lest a too shallow logic should by-and-by land them inside the prison doors which they are ready to open for Mormons and others whose "crime" simply consists in obeying the dictates of their own consciences.