Religionskritisches von William Josephus Robinson

Conclusion (If I were God)


William J. Robinson

Herausgegeben von Alois Payer (

Zitierweise / cite as:

Robinson, William J. (William Josephus) <1867 - 1936>: Conclusion (If I were God).  -- Fassung vom 2007-11-17. -- URL:             

Ursprünglich erschienen in:

Robinson, William J. (William Josephus) <1867 - 1936>: If I were God : a freethinker's faith. Incorporating a discussion between the author and a catholic priest. -- New York : Freethought Press, 1930. -- 186 S. -- S. 180 - 186. -- Online: -- Zugriff am 2007-11-16

Erstmals publiziert: 2007-11-16



Dieser Text ist Teil der Abteilung Religionskritik  von Tüpfli's Global Village Library

Chapter Eighteen. CONCLUSION

IT SHOULD not be necessary to write this chapter. But things that should not be necessary are sometimes most necessary. For, unfortunately, some people are obtuse, some are malicious, and in writing on controversial subjects, I generally find it necessary to cross my t's and dot my i's and emphasize or reemphasize points which should be clear from my entire attitude on the subject.

And so in this chapter I wish to reemphasize a few points. I do not wish to be classed with the professional, pugnacious atheists who are sometimes as narrow and intolerant as the most reactionary of fundamentalists. And I never sneer at or ridicule a person's religious beliefs. No, not even the savage's wooden idol. I know how ideas inculcated in the child's brain may retain a permanent foothold there and how a person may hold the most bizarre ideas on certain subjects without it affecting his general intelligence or curtailing his social usefulness. Probably no man has been of greater value to mankind, has done more to discover the causes of disease and to combat them than Pasteur ; and yet he was childishly infantile in his religious beliefs; he was not merely religious, he was as superstitious as an old peasant woman. I was deeply religious once and I do not think that during my religious phase I was particularly stupid or vicious. I imbibed knowledge then just as eagerly as I do now, and my pity for every suffering creature, human or animal, my pro-social humanitarian tendencies were as strong then as they are now. And as I am not a unicum, what is true of myself is, of course, true of millions of others.

And I can be very friendly with the most orthodoxly religious person Catholic, Protestant, Jew, Mohammedan, or Buddhist. I could not be friends, would not shake hands and would have nothing to do with a fascist, a ku-kluxer, a camelot du roi, a Stahlhelmer, a Heimwehr member, a believer in or glorifier of war. That is another matter, for here a man's entire outlook on life is involved which influences his activity and his relation towards his fellow-beings ; in short the categories of men enumerated above are anti-social, generally cruel, dishonest and believers in the "end justifies the means," and with such people I could have nothing to do, would not and could not associate. But this is not true of religious people. Some of the finest, gentlest and most humane men and women are found among the sincere believers in God, among religious people of all denominations as well as among atheists. I once had to share a room with a thoroughly orthodox Catholic physician (of rather heavy build). Every evening before going to bed he would plump down on his knees and say his prayers in a fervent voice. To me it seemed very silly, very childish. And though I did not tell him so, I think he knew what I thought of his nightly performance. But that did not prevent us from being friends and from discussing various medical questions and social problems in the daytime.

Nor can I work up the antagonism and hatred towards the priesthood of various religions that we often find in the professional atheist. On the contrary, I have some very good friends among priests, rabbis, pastors, and preachers of many denominations and various shades of orthodoxy. And strange as it may seem, we have even Catholic priests on the subscription list of The Critic and Guide. And I confess that the droll stories and ribald pictures of priests carousing and indulging in sexual adventures utterly fail to amuse me. They are pabulum for infantile minds. Because the priests of the middle ages were corrupt, ignorant and lecherous, it does not follow that the priests of to-day are of the same type. Because Alexander (Borgia) VI and John XXII were incarnations of all the vices and crimes on the human calendar, it does not follow that the popes of to-day are tainted with vice and crime. I am quite convinced that the priests of all religions, as a whole (there will always be individual exceptions) , live a decent, clean and chaste life, and are beginning to be sincerely interested in social problems. They could not now retain their hold on the people if they lived the way the priests and monks of the middle ages did. Perhaps I might make an exception of the priesthood of Spain and Brittany ; they still live in the middle ages. And the Greek orthodox priesthood under the Czar was a vile aggregation of ignorant, savagely superstitious and corrupt henchmen who always did the government's bidding.

As to the value of religion, I would be the last person to deny it. I mentioned it before and I must refer to it again. No institution would  have lasted so long and have maintained its hold on such a large percentage of the population if it didn't give something of real value, if it did not furnish support and encouragement, if it did not prove of real help in the great crises of life. Within my own brief lifetime and relatively limited experience, I have come across many instances where religion has proved a healing, a life saving balm; many are the men and women who would go to pieces, who would perhaps commit suicide if they didn't have the supporting belief in an all-wise and beneficent God, who knows what he is doing and why he is doing it, to carry them through the crisis, to help them through until the pain is somewhat dulled and the wounds cicatrized.

And I will confess, publicly and frankly, a strange confession from the lips of a freethinker, and it requires some courage to make it that many a time I ardently and fervently wished that I could believe in a beneficent deity. But I have never been given to "thobbing" or wishful thinking, and because we may wish, with every fiber of our soul, a thing to be true, does not make it true. Wishing a thing to exist does not make it exist.

And because I am not given to wishful thinking, I do not agree with the militant freethinkers and atheists who try to make us believe that religion is dead, that it has lost its hold on the people, that it plays practically no role in their lives and that soon it will be a dead issue, gone from the face of the earth. No! Religion, I mean even orthodox, dogmatic, superstitious religion, is not dead yet, and what is more, strange as this statement may sound, Catholicism is much stronger now than it was half a century ago. It has less open, direct temporal power, but its moral influence and its indirect power are much greater than they were a century or half a century ago. Take off your blinders, and look at the enormous power that Catholicism has in America. And even in anti-clerical France, the power of the Catholic Church is much greater than it was fifty years ago. No government would dare now to act toward the Catholic congregations and the Jesuits the way the Waldeck-Rousseau and the Combes ministries did, and the priests and militant lay Catholics are assuming a much bolder tone, and making bolder demands ; and they do so because they know they have the people behind them. And the Jesuits and the congregations driven out of France are coming back. I know that to some of our freethinking friends this will be unpleasant reading, but I am not indulging in wishful thinking and I am telling the truth as I see it.

And I wish to repeat and to reemphasize, so that there may be no doubt of my position, that I am convinced that at the present time there are millions of people to whom religion affords support, comfort and consolation which nothing else could. Of course, this has nothing to do with the truth of religion. I am merely asserting its pragmatic value. An illusion may be deeply comforting, and even life saving. Are we quite ready to be divested of all our illusions? We may be. But is all the rest of the world? I doubt it. But we must tell the Truth as we see it. For Truth is the only goddess at whose feet we, rationalists, can still worship.


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