Tuesday, August 2, 2016
Religious Delusions By J. V. Coombs 1904
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Religion and superstition are enemies, but it is difficult to divorce them. Mysticism has always surrounded religion. Although Jesus came to reveal a rational system of religion, and in the face of the fact that the Spirit of God tells us that pure religion is "To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction and to keep himself unspotted from the world," we have gone on mixing our religion with ghost stories and spirit manifestations.
There is not one mysterious thing connected with Christianity. Jesus established a church. In a few simple words he told men how to enter this religious society. The ritual for admission is one of the clearest ever given to men. All He said about admission into the church would not fill one-fourth of a column in one of our papers; yet these plain statements have been twisted to suit the doctrines of men.
Conversion has been made a mystery; the change of heart an incomprehensible transformation. Jesus and the Apostles never taught these mystical theories. Conversion means a change. Faith changes a man's intellect; godly sorrow changes his affections; and repentance changes his will. It is a simple process, an enlistment into the army of Christ. But religionists have surrounded conversion with the supernatural and mysterious.
Dr. Buckley of New York, the greatest among the Methodists, says in his late book, page 60: "It has been suggested that if faith healing can be accounted for by the law of suggestion, cannot conversion be accounted for in the same way? If by conversion you mean cataleptic condition witnessed in revival meetings, I admit that the phenomena are of natural origin. Trances, convulsions, tears are no part of conversion. They are the results of emotional excitement and not of divine origin." In speaking of this mysterious notion in revival meetings, President David Starr Jordan says: "Emotion is not religion. Hysteria in religion is dangerous. Chronic religious excitement is destructive to higher life."
The following extract is from Dr. Starbuck's late book, The Psychology of Religion: "The most glaring danger is found in emotionalism of religious revivals. Religion should not be submerged into the sea of feeling, but should be lifted within the range of intelligence. Religionists are liable to color religious emotions and call them divine demonstrations. This unnatural state is dangerous to religion. In the early part of this century it was not unusual for whole communities to be caught up in the epidemic until some would have the "jerks,'; others go into trances, while others would become rigid. This phenomenon is sometimes now witnessed among some wild religionists. Shouting and jumping over the benches were common occurrences. Insensibility often followed these excitements. These so-called conversions seldom resulted in a reformation of life." That these manifestations are nothing more than religious frenzy cannot be denied. Witness the similarity between the hypnotist and the sensationalist in revival. The hypnotist tells his subject to gaze at him and make a complete surrender. Then he repeats to the subject, "You are going to sleep." The evangelist says to his seekers, "Surrender all to Christ. He will come and save you. Wait for the feeling. God will speak to you."
The appeals, songs, prayers and the suggestion from the preacher drive many into the trance state. I can remember in my boyhood days seeing ten or twenty people lying unconscious upon the floor in the old country church. People called that conversion. Science knows it is a mesmeric influence, self-hypnotism. Wrought up to this high state of ecstasy the seekers in imagination see lights and hear voices. This they call conversion. In describing a great revival in Caneridge, Ky., an observer said: "Some were prostrate upon the floor, others were crawling upon their hands and knees; some were trance mediums, speaking in an excited manner; while on the outside of the house were scores lying unconscious. They had swooned in the house and had been carried to the open air. Some of these people were unconscious for hours, others did not seem to breathe. The excitement became an epidemic, and people who came to ridicule were attacked with the jerks." Any hypnotist can explain all this mysterious performance. It is sad that Christianity is compelled to bear the folly of such movements.
It is eminently the duty of all sensible people to rescue Christianity from mysticism and fanaticism. In France a religious society called the convulsionists, became prominent. They met, shouted, sang and prayed until many fell into convulsions. These strange actions they called blessings from God.
Any religious fake can find followers. Dr. Thomas Harris founded a community on Lake Erie and declared that he had been married to a spirit and that a child had been born of this union. He had enthusiastic followers. A divine healer in the south declares God has revealed to her that she will never die. A western "Affinity Hunter," after being several times married, declares he has found his affinity, that children born of this union will never die. These freaks have followers.
Dr. Buckley tells us that he knew a healer who prayed with a sick woman. When he arose from his prayers he shouted: "You will get well; God told me you would recover; the Holy Spirit revealed this to me." The woman died in a few days. Dr. Buckley says: "God did not reveal this to him; he was an imposter and a blasphemer."
Many persons use the name of the Holy Spirit in a way that borders upon blasphemy.
In the olden times the prophets and teachers came humbly. John the Baptist came dressed in coarse garments, lifting up his voice in the wilderness. Jesus went about doing good, with no place that he could call his home. Peter the Hermit, barefooted and poorly clad, went forth to rally the people around the cross. The prophets and prophetesses of the twentieth century come to us in flying chariots and live in palaces. These imposters see money in their plans. The Dowies, Eddys, Whites and Joseph Smiths have made religion a paying investment. No system of religion is too shameful to enlist recruits. The paradise of Mohammed suited the sensuality of the Arabian, and satisfied the thirst for blood in the Turk. "Plural Marriage" of the Mormon gratified the lust of men. But what is sad, these hideous things are done in the name of religion. The biggest fools in all the world are human beings, and the greatest fool among fools is the religious fool. This age demands common sense in religion. These false teachers tell us that there is no pain, suffering or death. Did Jesus suffer and die on the cross, or was He merely acting? The Word of God says He suffered and died. Faise prophets say there is no suffering. God's Word will stand though false prophets fall.
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