Shadow of the Third Century, a Revaluation of Christianity

Shadow of the Third Century, a Revaluation of Christianity

Shadow of the Third Century, a Revaluation of Christianity

Shadow of the Third Century, a Revaluation of Christianity

Excerpt

In the mountains of Virginia a few years ago the minister of a sect of religious addicts, standing in his pulpit, released a rattlesnake and provoked the reptile to strike him twice in the arm. This, it was announced, was to prove that the power of faith in God was able to overcome the power of the serpent's poison. Lamentably all that was proved impeccably was the failure of arrant faith in God to overcome human folly, when goaded to feverish pitch of fanaticism by irrational religion.

Some years before that the author saw the cinema dealing with the Easter (rather pre-Easter) rites of the Penitentes, or Flagellantes in New Mexico, in which on Good Friday they marched up to a hilltop lashing each the one in front with knotted ropes upon bare backs, to a cross on which a victim in human form was savagely put through an ordeal simulating the crucifixion and well-nigh actually murdered. The reflections of the beholder of this eccentric monstrosity of religious pietism were centered upon the agency that could have brought to birth in normally sensible human beings such outlandish and insufferable perversions of religious motivation. Obviously it was a product of the Christian religion, for every motive and feature in it sprang from a Christian principle or practice. What should one think about a religion that could generate such appalling prodigies of fanaticism?

Back in 1837 there broke out in New England and spread west as far as Ohio a wave of religious frenzy that threw the land into a furore of excitement and swept people into its maelstrom of insane force like leaves in an autumn gale. It originated in a single bit, or several bits, of calculation based on a literal interpretation of figures in the Bible by a rather fine young Vermont schoolteacher and local lay preacher. Young Miller took some numbers given in Daniel, Ezekiel and Revelation and with a little arithmetical manipulation, by two distinct methods, deduced that the date of April seventeenth, 1843-six years ahead -- was the "day" set by Biblical prophecy as the "Day of the Lord," that dreadful day on which the crack of doom would shatter the heavens and all the world would be dissolved with fervent heat . . .

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