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T H R 

Principles of Seeularism 



** Do the duty nearest liand," — Goethe. 

[third edition, revised.] 


Ai'STiN> & CO., 17, Johnson's court, fleet stijeet. 



" If you think it right to diflfer from the times, and to make a stand for any 
valuable point of morals, do it, however rustic, however antiquated, how- 
ever pedantic it may appear ; do it, not for insolence, but seriously — as a 
man who wore a soul of his own in his bosom, and did not wait till it was 
breathed into him by the breath of fashion." — ^The Rev. Sidney Smith, 
Canon of St Paul's. 



Chapter I. — Introductory. 5 

Chapter II. — The Term Secularism. 8 


Chapter III. — Principles of Secularism Dehned. 1 1 

Chapter IV. — Laws of Secular Controversy, 14 

Chapter V. — Maxims of Association, 16 

Chapter VI. — ^The Secular Guild. 18 

Chapter VII. — Organization Indicated. 21 

Chapter VIII. — The Place of Secularism. 25 

Chapter IX. — Characteristics of Secularism, 27 



HNapassag-eof characteristic sagacity. Dr. J. H. Newman 
31 has depicted the partisan aimlessness more descriptive 
of the period when this little book first appeared, sixteen years 
ago, than it is now. But it will be long before its relevance and 
instruction have passed away. I therefore talie the liberty of 
still quoting his words ; — 

" When persons for the first time look upon the world of 
■politics or religiwi, alt that they find there meets their mind's 
eye, as a landscape addresses itself for the first time to a 
person who has just gained his bodily sight. One thing is as 
far off as another : there is no perspective. The connection 
of fact with fact, truth with truth, the bearing of fact 
upon truth, and truth upon fact, what leads to what, 
■what are points primary and what secondary, all this 
diey have yet to learn. It is all a new science to them, 
and they do not even know their ignorance of it. Moreover, 
■the world of to-day has no connection in their minds with the 
world of yesterday ; time is not a stream, but stands before 
them round and full, like the moon. They do not know what 
iappened ten years ago, much less the annals of a century : 
file past does not live to them in the present ; they do not 
understand the worth of contested points ; names have no 
associations for them, and persons kindle no recollections. 
ney hear of men, and things, and projects, and struggles, 

i principles ; but everything comes and goes like the wind r 
nothing makes an impression, nothing penetrates, nothing has 
"s place in their minds. They locate nothing : they have no- 
System, They hear and they forget : or they just recollect 
what they have once heard, they cannot tell where. Thus 
^ey have no consistency in their arguments: that is, they 
argue one way to-day, and not exactly the other way 
to-morrow, but indirectly the other way at random. Their 



lines of argument diverge ; nothing* comes to a point ; there 
is no one centre in which their mind sits, on which their 
judgment of men and things proceeds. This is the state oi 
many men all through life ; and miserable politicians or Church- 
men they make, unless by good luck they are in safe hands, 
and ruled by others, or are pledged to a course. Else they 
are at the mercy of the wind and waves ; and without being 
Radical, Whig, Tory, or Conservative, High Church or Low 
Church, they do Whig acts, Tory acts. Catholic acts, and 
Heretical acts, as the fit takes them, or as events or parties 
drive them. And sometimes when their self importance is 
hurt, they take refuge in the idea that all this is a proof that 
they are unfettered, moderate, dispassionate, that they observe 
the mean, that they are no ' party men ;' when they are, in 
fact, the most helpless of slaves ; for our strength in this world 
is, to be the subjects of the reason and our liberty, to be 
captives of the truth."* 

How the organization of ideas has fared with higher class 
societies others can tell : the working class have been left so 
much in want of initiative direction that almost everything has 
to be done among them, and an imperfect and brief attempt 
to direct those interested in Freethought may meet with some 
acceptance. To clamour for objects without being able to 
connect them with principles ; to smart under contumely with- 
out knowing how to protect themselves ; to bear some lofty 
name without understanding the manner in which character 
should correspond to profession — this is the amount of the 
popular attainment. 

In this new Edition I find little to alter and less to add. In 
a passage on page 27, the distinction between Secular instruc- 
tion and Secularism is explained, in these words : — " Secular 
education is by some confounded with Secularism, whereas the 
distinction between them is very wide. Secular education 
simply means imparting Secular knowledge separately — by 
itself, without admixture of Theology with it. The advocate 
of Secular education may be, and generally is, also an 
advocate of religion ; but he would teach religion at another 
time and treat it as a distinct subject, too sacred for coercive 
admixture into the hard and vexatious routine of a school. He 

• " Loss and Gain." ascribed to the Rev. Father Newman. 


would confine the inculcation of religion to fitting seasons and 
chosen instruments. He holds also that one subject at a time 
is mental economy in learning. Secular education is the policy 
of a school — Secularism is the policy of life to those who do- 
not accept Theology." 

Very few persons admitted that these distinctions existed 
when diis passage was written in 1854. This year, 1870, they 
have been substantially admitted by the Legislature in con- 
cession made in the National Education. Bill. It only remains 
to add that the whole text has been revised and re-arranged 
in an order which seems more consecutive. The portion on 
Secular Organizations has been abridged, in part re-written,., 
explaining particulars as to the Secular Guild. 

A distinctive summary of Secular principles may be read 
under the article " Secularism," in. Chambers's Cyclopaedia. 

THE TERjVI secularism. 




** The adoption of the term Secularism is justified by its including a large 
number of persons who are not Atheists, and uniting them for action which 
has Secularism for its object, and not Atheism. On Uiis ground, and because, 
by the adoption of a new term, a vast amount of impediment from prejudice 
is got rid of, the use of the name Secularism is found advantageous." — 
Harriet nMartineau. Boston Liberator, — Letter to Lloyd Garrison, 
November, 1853. 

VERY one observant of public controversy in England, 
is aware of its improved tone of late years. This im- 
proved tone is part of a wider progress. * Increase of wealth 
has led to improvement of taste, and the diffusion of knowledge 
to refinement of sentiment. The mass are better dressed, 
better mannered, better spoken than formerly. A coffee- 
room discussion, conducted by mechanics, is now a more 
decorous exhibition than a debate in Parliament was in the 
days of Canning ♦ Boisterousness at the tables of the rich, 
and insolence in the language of the poor, are fast disappear- 
ing. "Good society" is now that society in which people 
practise the art of Ipeing genial, without being familiar, and in 
which an evincible courtesey of speech is no longer regarded 
as timidity or effeminacy, but rather as proof of a disciplined 
spirit, whiqh chooses to avoid all offence, the better to maintain 
the right peremptorily punishing wanton insult. Theologians, 
more inveterate in speech than politicians, now observe a 
respectfulness to opponents before unknown. That diversity 
of opinion once ascribed to " badness of heart " is now, with 
more discrimination, referred to defect or diversity of under- 
standing — a change which, discarding invective, recognjzes 
instruction as the agent of uniformity. 

Amid all this newness of conception it must be obvious that 

• From whose lips the House of Commons cheered a reference to a 
political adversary as " the revered and ruptured Ogden." 


many old terms of theolog-ical controversy are obsolete. The 
idea of an " Atheist " as one warring against moral restraints 
— of an' "Infidel'' as one treacherous to the truth — of a 
" Freethinker " as a " loose thinker,"* arose in the darkness 
of past times, when men fought by the flickering light of their 
hatreds — times which tradition has peopled with monsters of 
divinity as well as of nature. But the glaring colours in which 
the party names invented by past priests were dyed, no 
longer harmonize with the quieter taste of the present day. 
The more sober spirit of modern controversy has, therefore, 
need of new terms, and if the term " Secularism " was merely 
a neutral substitute for " Free thinking," there would be 
reason for its adoption. Dissenters might as well continue 
the designation of " Schismatics," or Political Reformers that 
of " Anarchists," asr that the students of Positive Philosophy 
should continue the designation " Atheism," " Infidelism," or 
any similar term by which their opponents have contrived to 
brand their opinions. It is as though a merchant vessel should 
consent to carry a pirate flag. Freethinker is, however, 
getting an acceptable term. Upon the platform, Christian 
disputants frequently claim it, and resent the exclusive 
assumption of it by others. These new claimants say, ** We 
are as much Freethinkers as yourselves," so that it is neces- 
sary to define Freethinking. It is fearless thinking, based 
upon impartial inquiry, searching on both sides, not regarding 
doubt as a crime, or opposite conclusions as a species of moral 
poison. Those who inquire with sinister, pre-possessions will 
never inquire fairly. The Freethinker fears not to follow a 
cbnclusion to the utmost limits of truth, whether it coincides 
with the Bible or contradicts it. If therefore any pronounce 
the term " Secularism " " a concealment or a disguise," they 
can do sor legitimately only after detecting some false meaning 
it is intended to convey, and not on the mere ground of its 
being a change of name, since nothing can more completely 
" conceal and disguise " the purposes of Freethought than the 
old names imposed upon it by its adversaries, which associate 
with guilt its conscientious conclusions and impute to it as out- 
rages, its acts of self-defence. - 

Besides the term Secularism, there was another term which 
seemed to promise also distinctiveness of meaning — namely, 

• As the Reverend Canon Kingsley has perversely rendered it. 


Cosmism, under which adherents would have taken the designa* 
tion of Cosmists. But this name scientific men would have under- 
stood in a purely physical sense, after the great example of 
Humboldt, and the public would not all have understood it— 
besides, it was open to easy perversion in one of its declinations. 
Next to this, as a name, stands that of Realism — intrinsically 
good. A Society of Realists would have been intelligible, 
but many would have supposed it to be some revival of the 
old Realists. Moralism, a sound name in itself, is under 
Evangelical condemnation as " mere morality." Naturalism 
would seem an obvious name, were it not that we should 
be confounded with Naturalists, to say no more. Some 
name must be taken, as was the case with the Theophilan- 
thropists of Paris. Many of them would rather not have 
assumed any denomination, but they yielded to the reason- 
able argument, that if they did not choose one for them- 
selves, the public would bestow upon them one which 
would be 'less to their liking. Those who took the name 
of Philan tropes found it exposed them to a pun, which 
greatly damaged them: Philantropes was turned into filoux 
en troupe. 

Historical characteristics, however, seemed to point to a 
term which expressed the Secular element in life ; a term 
deeply engrafted in literature ; of irreproachable associations ; 
a term found and respected in the dictionaries of opponents, 
and to which, therefore, they might dispute our right, but 
which they could not damage. Instead, therefore, of finding 
ourselves self-branded or caricatured by this designation, we 
have found opponents claiming it, and disputing with us for 
its possession. 




SECULARISM is the study of promoting- human welfare 
^ by material means ; measuring: human welfare by the 
tarian rule, and making* the service of others a dutyofjife. 
Secularism relates to the present existence of man, and to action, 
the issues of which can be tested by the experience of this life — 
baving- for its objects the development of the physical, moral, 
«nd intellectual nature of man to the highest perceivable 
point, as the immediate duty of society; inculcating; the 
practical sufficiency of natural morality apart from Atheism, 
Theism, or Christianity: engag'ing its adherents in the pro- 
motion of human improvement by material means, and making 
ttiese agreements the ground of common unity for all who 
would regulate life by reason and ennoble it by service. The 
Secular is sacred in its infiuence on life,''for by purity of mate- 
rial conditions the loftiest natures are best sustained, and the 
Jower the most surely elevated. Secularism is a series of 
irindples intended for the guidance of those who find 
lieology indefinite, or inadequate, or deem it unreliable. 
It replaces theology, which mainly regards life as a sinful 
inecessity, as a scene of tribulation through which we pass to a 
better world. Secularism rejoices in this life, and regards it as 
.tile sphere of those duties which educate men to fitness for any 
'fiiture and better life, should such transpire. 

Sci-ularist guides himself by maxims of Positivism, 
seeking to discern what is in Nature — what ougif to be in 
iinorals — selecting the affirmalht in exposition, concerning him- 
pelf with the real, the right, and the constructive. Positive 
principles are principles which are provable, "A positive 



precept," says Bishop Butler, "is a precept the reason of 
which we see." Positivism is policy of material progress. 


Science is the available Providence of life. The problem to 
be solved by a science of Society, is to find that situation in 
which it shall be impossible for a man to be depraved or poor. 
Mankind are saved by being served. Spiritual sympathy is a 
lesser mercy than that forethought which anticipates and ex- 
tirpates the causes of suffering. Deliverance from sorrow or 
injustice is before consolation — doing well is higher than mean- 
ing well — work is worship to those who accept Theism, and 
duty to those who do not. 


Sincerity, though not errorless, involves the least chance of 
error, and is without moral guilt. Sincerity is well-informed, 
conscientious conviction, arrived at by intelligent examination, 
animating those who possess that conviction to carry it into 
practice from a sense of duty. Virtue in relation to opinion 
consists neither in conformity nor non-conformity, but in sincere 
beliefs, and in living up to them. 


Conscience is higher than Consequence.* 


All pursuit of good objects with pure intent is religiousness 
in the best sense -in which this term appears to be used. A 
** good object " is an object consistent with truth, honour, 
justice, love. A pure " intent " is the intent of serving 
humanity. Immediate service of humanity is not intended 
to mean instant gratification, but " immediate " in contradistinc- 
tion to the interest of another life. The distinctive peculiarity 
of the Secularist is, that he seeks that good which is dictated 
by Nature, which is attainable by material means, and which 
is of immediate service to humanity — a religiousness to which 
the idea of God is not essential, nor the denial of the idea 

Vide Mr. IIoldreth*^s Papers. 



Nearly all inferior natures are susceptible of moral 
and physical improvability ; this improvability can be in- 
definitely secured by supplying- proper material conditions ; 
these conditions may one day be supplied by a system of wise 
and fraternal co-operation, which primarily entrenches itself 
in common prudence, which enacts service according to 
industrial capacity, and distributes wealth according- to rational 
needs. Secular principles involve for mankind a future, 
where there shall exist unity of condition with infinite diversity 
of intellect, where the subsistence of ignorance and selfishness 
shall leave men equal, and universal purity enable all things 
— noble society, the treasures of art, and the riches of 
the world — to be had in common. 

Since it is not capable of demonstration whether the 
i nequalties of human condition will be compensated for in another 
life — it is the business of intelligence to rectify them in this 
world. The speculative worship of superior beings, who 
cannot need it, seems a lesser duty than the patient service 
of known inferior natures, and the mitigation of harsh 
destiny, so that the ignorant may be enlightened and the 
low elevated. 





IGHTS of Reason. As a means of developing and 
establishing Secular principles, and as security that the 
principles of Nature and the habit of reason may prevail, 
Secularism uses itself, and maintains for others, as rights of 
reason : — 

The Free Search for Truth, without which its fullattainment 
is impossible. 

The Free Utterance of the result, without which the increase 
of Truth is limited. 

The Free Criticism of alleged Truth, without which its 
identity must remain uncertain. 

The Fair Action of Conviction thus attained, without which 
conscience will be impotent on practice. 


Standard of Appeal. "Secularism accepts no authority 
but that of Nature, adopts no methods but those of science 
and philosophy, and respects in practice no rule but that of 
the conscience, illustrated by the common sense of mankind. 
It values the lessons of the past, and looks to tradition as 
presenting a storehouse of raw materials to thought, and in 
many cases results of high wisdom for our reverence ; but it 
utterly disowns tradition as a ground of belief, whether 
miracles and supernaturalism be claimed or not claimed on its 
side. No sacred scripture or ancient church can be made 
a basis of belief, for the obvious reason that their claims always 
need to be proved, and cannot without absurdity be assumed. 
The association leaves to its individual members to yield 
whatever respect their own good sense judges to be due to 
the opinions of great men, living or dead, spoken or written, 


as also to the practice of ancient communities, national or 
ecclesiastical. But it disowns all appeal to such authorities as 
final tests of truth."* 

• III. 

Sphere of Controversy. Since the principles of Secular- 
ism rest on grounds apart from Theism, Atheism, or Chris- 
tianism, it is not logically necessary for Secularists to debate the 
truth of these subjects. In controversy. Secularism concerns 
itself with the assertion and maintenance of its own affirma- 
tive propositions, combating- only views of Theology and 
Christianity so far as they interfere with, discourage, or dispa- 
rage Secular action, which may be done without digressing 
into the discussion of the truth of Theism or divine origin of 
the Bible. 


Personal Controversy. A Secularist will avoid indis- 
criminate disparagement of bodies or antagonism of persons, 
and will place before himself simply the instruction and service 
of an opponent, whose sincerity he will not question, whose 
motives he will not impugn, always holding that a man whom 
it is not worth while confuting courteously, is not worth while 
confuting at all. Such disparagements as are included in the 
explicit condemnation of erroneous principles are, we believe, 
all that the public defence of opinion requires, and are the only 
kind of disparagement a Secularist proposes to employ. 


Justification of Controversy. The universal fair and open 
discussion of opinion is the highest guarantee of public 
truth — only that theory which is submitted to that ordeal is to 
be regarded, since only that which endures it can be trusted. 
Secularism encourages men to trust reason throughout, and 
to trust nothing that reason does not establish — to examine 
all things hopeful, respect all things probable, but rely upon 
nothing without precaution which does not come wifliin the 
range of science and experience. 

* "Programme of Freethought Societies," by F. W. Newman. 
(Reasoner, No. 388.) 









HT is the duty of every man to regulate his personal 
and family interests so as to admit of some exertions 
for the improvement of society. It is only by serving 
those beyond ourselves that we can secure for ourselves 
protection, sympathy, or honour. The neglect of home for 
public affairs endangers philanthropy, by making it the enemy 
of the household. To suffer, on the other hand, the interests 
of the family to degenerate into mere selfism, is a dangerous 
example to rulers. 


"No man or woman is accountable to others for any 
conduct by which others are not injured or damaged."* 


Social freedom consists in being subject to just rule and 
to none other. 


Service and endurance are the chief personal duties 
of man. 


Secularism holds it to be the duty of every man to reserve 
a portion of his means and energies for the public service, and 
so to cultivate and cherish his powers, mental and physical, as 

* D. in the Lkader, 1850, who, as a correspondent, first exj[)Tessed 
this aphorism thus. 




to have them ever ready to perform service, as efficient as 
possible, to the well-being- of humanity. No weakness, no 
passion, no wavering, should be found among- those who are 
battling for the cause of human welfare, which such errors 
may fatally injure. Self-control, self-culture, self-sacrifice, are 
all essential to those who would serve that cause, and would 
not bring discredit upon their comrades in that service.* 


To promote in good faith and good temper the immedi- 
ate and material welfare of humanity, in accordance with the 
laws of Nature, is the study and duty of a Secularist, 
and this is the unity of principle which prevails amid whatever 
diversity of opinion may subsist in a Secular Society, the bond 
of union being the common convictions of the duty of advancing 
the Secular good of this life, of the authority of natural 
morality, and of the utility of material effort in the work of 
human improvement. In other words. Secularist union implies 
the concerted action of all who believe it right to promote the 
Secular good of this life, to teach morality, founded upon the 
laws of Nature, and to seek human improvement by material 
methods, irrespective of any other opinions held, and irre- 
spective of any diversity of reasons for holding these. 

-T ' ■ — ■ — 

• Mr. U H. Holdreth, Religion of Duty. 


|®BEVERAL expositors of Secular principles, able to act 
|Ip«m| togetlier, have for many yeaj-s endeavoured by counsel, 
by aid, and by publication to jiromote Secular organiza- 
tion. At one time they conducted a Secular Institute in Fleet 
Street, London— 7in 1854. The object was to form Secular 
Societies for teaching the positive results of Freethought. In 
the first edition of this work it was held to be desirable that there 
should bea centre of reference for all inquirers upon Secular 
principles at home and abroad. Attention should be guar- 
anteed to distant correspondents and visitors, so that means of 
communication and publication of all advanced opinions in soci- 
ology, theology, and politics might exist, and be able to com- 
mand publicity, when expressed dispassionately, impersonally, 
and with ordinary good taste. 

it has been generally admitted that the operations at that 
time conducted, helped to impart a new character to Fres- 
thought advocacy, and many of its recommendations have 
since been copied by associations subsequently formed. The 
promoters of Secularism alluded to, have not ceased in the 
Reasoiier and other publications, by lectures, by statements, by 
articles, by pamphlets to urge a definite and consistent repre- 
sentation of Secular and Freelhought principles: as many 
mistake merely mechanical association for the organization 
of ideas. 

The promoters in question have since adopted the form of 
action of a Secular Guild, and continue the Reasoner (of which 
there is now issued a " Review Series ") as their organ. The 
objects of a Council of the Guild is to promote, as far as means 
may permit, or counsel prevail, organization of ideas :- 

n Advocates of Secular principles. 



2. — ^To advise an impersonal policy of advocacy, which seeking to carry its 
ends by force of exposition, rather than of denunciation, shall command the 
attention and respect of those who influence public affairs. 

3. — ^To promote solution of political, social, and educational questions on 
Secular and unsectarian grounds.* 

4. — ^To point out new Books of Secular relevance, and where possible, to 
accredit Advocates of Secularism that the public may have some guidance, 
and the party be no longer liable to be judged by whoever may appear 
to write or speak on the subject 

5. —To assist in the protection and defence of those injured, or attempted to 
be injured on account of Freethought or Secularist opinion. 

6. — ^To provide for the administration of property bequeathed for Secular 
purposes, of which so much has been lost through the injustice of the law, 
and machinations of persons opposed to Liberal views. 

7. — When a member has been honourably counted on the side of Secularism, 
has been a Subscriber or a Worker for a term of years, the Guild, keeping 
a record of such Service, proposes to give a Certificate of it which among 
Friends of Freethought may be a passport to recognition and esteem. To 
constitute some such Freemasonry in Freethought, may elevate associa- 
tion in England. A certificate of Illuminism or of Carbonarism in Italy 
was once handed down from father to son as an heirloom of honour, while 
in England you have to supplicate men to join a society of progression, 
instead of membership being a distinction which men shall covet. At 
present a man who has given the best years of his life to the public service 
is liable (if from any necessity he ceases to act) to be counted a renegade 
by men who have never rendered twelve months' consecutive or costly 
service themselves. There ought to be a fixed term of Service, which, if 
honourably and effectively rendered, should entitle a man to be considered 
free, as a soldier after leaving the army, and his certificate of having 
belonged to the Order of Secularism should entitle him to distinction and 
to authority when his opinion was sought, and to exemption from all but 
voluntary service. At present the soldiers of Progress, when no longer 
able to serve, are dismissed from the public eye, like the race-horse to the 
cab stand, to obscurity and neglect. This needs correction before men can 
be counted upon in the battle of Truth. A man is to be estimated 
according to the aims of the party to which he is allied. He is to be 
esteemed in consequence of sacrifices of time, and discipline of conduct, 
which he contributes to the service and reputation of his cause. 

In foreign countries many persons reside interested in 
Secularism ; in Great Britain indeed many friends reside where 

• This has been done to some extent in the discussion of the National 
Education question. The Proposer of the Guild contributed what Ije could 
to this end by reading the paper published in the proceedings of Ae Con- 
ference of the Birmingham Education League, by letters like that to the 
Daily Neios^ commented upon by the Bishop of Peterborough, at Leicester 
Jsee official publications of the Manchester National Education Union,] by 
discussions as those with the Revs. Pringle and Baldwin, at Norwich, and 
with Mr. Chas. Bradlaugh, at the Old Street Hall of Science, London ; and 
by Lectures during the time the question of National Education has been 
before Parliament. 


no Secular Society is formed ; and in these cases membership 
of the Guild would be advantageous to them, affording" means 
of introduction to publicists of similar views: and even in 
instances of towns where Secular Societies do exist, persons in 
direct relation to the Secular Gmild would be able to furnish 
Secular direction where the tradition and usage of a Secular 
'Society are unknown, or unfamiliar. 




_ jlS the aim of llie Guild is not to fetter independent thought., 
{BbS| but to concert practical action, it is mainly required 
of each member that he undertakes to perform, in good 
faith, the duties which he shall consent to have assigned to him : 
and generally so to comport himself that his principles shall not 
be likely to suffer, if Judged by his conduct. He will be expected 
to treat every colleague as equal with himself in veracity, in 
honour, and in loyalty to his cause. And every form of speech 
which casts a doubt upon the truth, or imputes, or assumes a 
want of honour on the part of any member, will be deemed a 
breach of order. If any member intends such an accusation 
of another, it must be made the matter of a formal charge, 
after leave obtained to prefer it. 

What it is desirable to know about new members is this :■— 

Uo they, in their conceptian uf Secularism, see in it that which seeks not 
the sensual but the gooii, nnd a good which Ihe conscience can be engaged 
in pui^uing and promoling ; a Moralism in accordance with the laws of 
Nature and capable of intiin^c proof; a Malerialitim which is definiLe 
wilbout dogmalism or grossness ; and a unity on the ground of these coin- 
tnon agreements, for convictions which imply no apostoUte are neither 
earnest nor generous. No one ought to be encouraged to lake tides wilti 
Secularism, unless his conscience is sitisHed of the morsl rightfulness ofils 
principles and duties both for life and death. ~ i 

It is not desirable to accept persons of that class who decry 
parties - who boast of being of no party — who preach up 
isolation, and lament the want of unity — who think party the 
madness of the many, for the gain of the few. Seek rather 
the partisan who is wise enoug^h to know that the disparage- 
ment of party is the madness of the few, leading to the utter im- 
potence of the many. A party, in an associative and defen- 
sible sense, is a class of persons taking sides upon sonic 


definite question, and acting- tog-ether for necessary ends, 
having- principles, aims, policy, authority, and discipline.* 

With respect to proposed members, it may be well to 
ascertain whether neglect, or rudeness, or insult, or unfairness 
from colleagues, or overwork being- imposed upon him, or 
incapacity of others, would divert him from his duty. These 
accidents or necessities might occur : but if a society is to be 
strong it must be able to count upon its members, and to be 
able to count upon them it must be known what they will 
bear without insubordination ; and what they will bear will 
depend upon the frankness and completeness of information 
they receive as to the social risks all run who unite to carry 
out any course of duty or public service. 

Always assuming that a candidate cares for the objects for 
which he proposes to associate, and that it is worth while 
knowing whom it is with whom you propose to work them 
out ; answers to such inquiries as the following would tend to 
impart a working knowledge and quality to the society : — 

Is he a person previously or recently acquainted with the principles he is 
about to profess ? 

Does he understand what is meant by " taking sides " with a public 
party? Would he be faithful to the special ideas of Secularism so long as he 
felt them to be true ? Would he make sacrifices to spread them and vindicate 
them, or enable others to do so ? Would he conceive of Secularism as a 
cause to be served loyally, which he would support as well as he was able, 
if unable to support it as well as he could wish ? 

Is he of decent, moral character, and tolerably reliable as to his future 
conduct ? 

In presenting his views to others, would he be likely to render them in 
an attractive spirit, or to make them disagreeable to others ? 

Is he of an impulsive nature, ardent for a time, and then apathetic or 
reactionary — ^likely to antagonize to-morrow the persons he applauds 
to-day ? 

Is he a person who would commit the fault of provoking persecution ? 
Would ridicule or persecution chill him if it occurred ? Is he a man to 
stand by an obscure and friendless cause — or are notoriety, success, applause, 
and the company of others, indispensable to his fidelity ? 

Is he a man of any mark of esteem among his friends — a man whose 
promise is sure, whose word has weight ? 

Is his idea of obedience, obedience simply to his own will ? Would he 
acquiesce in the authority of the laws of the Society, or the decision of the 
Society where the laws were silent ? Would he acknowledge in democracy 
the despotism of principles self-consented to — or as an arena for the 

• In a school there is usually teaching, training, discipline, science, system, 
authorities, tradition, and development. — Times, 1846. 


assertion of Individualism before winning the consent of colleagues to the 
discussion of special views ? 

The membership sought may be granted, provided the 
actual knowledge of Secular principles be satisfactory, and 
evident earnestness to practise them be apparent. The purport 
of the whole of the questions is to enable a clear opinion 
to be formed as to what is to be expected of the new 
member — ^how far he is likely to be reliable— how long he is 
likely to remain with us — under what circumstances he is 
likely to fail us — ^what work may be assigned him — ^what 
confidences he may be entrusted with, and in what terms he 
should be introduced to colleagues, and spoken of to others. 

The Membership here described would and should be no 
restricted and exclusive society, where only one pattern of 
efficiency prevails; but a society where all diversities of 
capacity, energy, and worth, may be found, so far as it is 
honest and trustworthy. A Society, like the State, requires the 
existence of the people, as well as public officers — men who 
can act, as well as men who can think and direct. Many men 
who lack refinement, and even discretion, possess courage and 
energy, and will go out on the inevitable " forlorn hopes " of 
progress ; which the merely prudent avoid, and from which 
the cultivated too often shrink. Our work requires all orders 
of men, but efficiency requires that we know which is which,^ 
that none may be employed in the dark. 

In every public organization there are persons who promote 
and aid unconnected with the Society. 

Active members are those who engage to perform specific 
duties ; such as reporting lectures, sermons, and public meet- 
ings, so far as they refer to Secularism.* 

To give notice of meetings and sermons about to be held or 
delivered for or against Secularism. 

To note and report passages in books, newspapers, maga- 
zines, and reviews referring to Secularism. 

Each active member should possess some working efficiency,. 
or be willing to acquire it. To be able to explain his views 
by tongue or pen with simple directness, to observe carefully, 

* In reporting, each member should be careful to understate rather than 
overstate facts, distinguishing carefully what is matter of knowledge from. 
Fumour, conjecture, or opinion. 


to report judiciously, to reason dispassionately, to put the best 
construction on every act that needs interpretation, are desir- 
able accomplishments in a Propagandist. 

In all public proceedings of the Society, written speeches 
should be preferred from the young, because such speeches 
admit of preconsidered brevity, consecutiveness, and purpose, 
and exist for reference. In the deliberations and discussions 
of any Society, it might usefully be deemed a qualification to 
make a contribution to the subject in speeches brief and 

Non-reliableness in discharge of duties, or moral disqualifi- 
cation, shall be a ground of annulling membership, which 
may be done after the member objected to has had a fair 
opportunity of defending himself from the specific disqualifi- 
cations alleged against him and communicated to him, and has 
failed therein. 

The duties assigned to each member should be such as are 
within his means, as respects power and opportunity ; such, 
indeed, as interfere neither with his social nor civil obligations ; 
the intention being that the membership of the Society shall 
not as a rule be incompatible with the preservation of health, 
and the primary service due to family and the State.* 

Any persons acquainted with the "Principles of Secularism '* 
here given, who shall generally agree therein, and associate 
under any name to promote such objects, and to act in concert 
with all who seek similar objects, and will receive and take 
into official consideration the instructions of the Guild, and to 
make one subscription yearly among its members and friends on 
behalf of its Propagandist Funds, shall be recognized as a 
Branch of it. 

* As a general rule, it will be found that any one who sacrifices more 
than one-nfth of his time and means will become before long reactionary, 
and not only do nothing himself, but discourage others. 


" We do nol, however, deny Ihal, false as the whole theory [of Secularism] 
Bppears to us, it isiapable of atlracting the belief of large numbeis of 
people, and of exercising conEiderable influence over their conduct ; and we 
should admit that the influence so exercised is conadcrably belter than no 
influence at aW'^Satutdnyi Revirai, July 2, 1S59. 

^H HIS first Step is to win, from public opinion, a standing place 
IHsM for Secularism. So long- as people believe Secularism 
not lo be wanted, indeed impossible to be wanted — that it is 
error, wickedness, and unmitigated evil, it will receive no 
attention, no respect, and make no way. But show that it 
occupies a vacant place, supplies a want, is a direction 
where no other party supplies any — and it at once appears 
indispensable. It is proved to be a service to somebody, 
and from that moment it is tolerated if not respected. It 
may be like war, or medicine, or work, or law, disagreeable 
or unpalatable, but when seen to be necessary, it will have 
recognition and support. We are sure this case can be 
made out for Secularism. It is not only true, but it is known ; 
it is not only known, but it is notorious, that there are thou- 
sands and tens of thousands of persons in every district of 
this and most European countries, who are without the pale 
of Christianity. They reject it, diey disprove it, they dis- 
like it, or they do not understand it. Some have vices and 
passions which Christianity, as preached around them, con- 
demns. As Devils are said to do, they " believe and tremble," 
and so disown what they have not the virtue to practise. 
Faith does not touch them, and reason is not tried — indeed 
reason is decried by the evangelically religious, so that not 
being converted in one way, no odier way is open to them. 
Others are absorbed or insensate ; they are busy, or stupid, 
or defiant, and regard Christianity as a waste of time, or as 
monotonous or offensive. It bores them or threatens them. 
They are already dull, therefore it does not attract them — 
they have some rude sense of independence and some feeling 
of courage, and they object either to be snubbed into con- 
formity or kicked into heaven. Another and a yearly 
increasing portion of the people have, after patiently and 


painfully thinking- over Christianity, come to believe it to be 
untrue ; unfounded historically ; wrong morally, and a dis- 
creditable imputation upon God. It outrages their affections, 
it baffles their understandings. It is double tongued. Its 
expounders are always multiplying, and the more they increase 
the less they agree, and hence sceptics the more abound. 
Disbelievers therefore exist ; they augment : they can neither 
be convinced, converted, nor conciliated, because they will yield 
no allegiance to a system which has no hold on their conscience. 
It is, we repeat, more than known, it is notorious that these 
persons live and die in scepticism. These facts are the cry of 
the pulpit, the theme of the platform, the burden of the 
religious tract. Now, is nothing to be done with these people ? 
You cannot exterminate them, the Church cannot direct them. 
The Bible is no authority to them — the " will of God," as the 
clergy call it, in their eyes is mere arbitrary, capricious, dog- 
matical assumption ; sometimes, indeed, wise precept, but 
oftener a cloak for knavery or a pretext for despotism. To 
open the eyes of such persons to the omnipresent teachings of 
Nature, to make reason an authority with them, to inspire them 
with precepts which experience can verify — to connect con- 
science witli intelligence, right with interest, duty with self- 
respect, and goodness with love, must surely be useful. If 
Secularisni accomplishes some such work, where Christianity 
confessedly accomplishes nothing, it certainly has a place of 
its own. It is no answer to it to claim that Christianity is higher, 
imore complete, better. The advocates of every old religion, say 
the same. Christianity may be higher, more complete, better 
— for somebody else. But nothing can be high, complete, or 
good, for those who do not see it, accept it, want it, or act 
upon it. That is first which is fit— that is supreme which is 
most productive of practical virtue. No comparison (which 
would be as irrelevant as offensive) between Secularism and 
Christianity is set up here. The question is — is Secularism 
useful, or may it be useful to anybody ? The question is not^ 
does it contain all truth ? but does it contain as much as may 
be serviceable to many minds, otherwise uninfluenced for good ? 
Arithmetic is useful though Algebra is more compendious. 
Mensuration performs good offices in hands ignorant of Euclid. 
There may be logic without Whately, and melody without 
Beethoven ; and there may be Secular ethics which shall be 
useful without the pretension of Christianity. 





|ECULARISM means the moral duty of man in this life 
deduced from considerations which pertain to this life 
alone. Secular education is by some confounded with 
Secularism, whereas the distinction between them is very wide. 
Secular education simply means imparting Secular knowledge 
separately — by itself, without admixture of Theology with it. 
The advocate of Secular education may be, and generally is, 
also an advocate of religion ; but he would teach religion at 
another time and treat it as a distinct subject, too sacred for 
coercive admixture into the hard and vexatious routine of a 
school. He would confine the inculcation of religion to fitting 
seasons and chosen instruments. He holds also that one 
subject at a time is mental economy in learning. Secular 
education is the policy of a school — Secularism is a policy of 
life to those who do not accept Theology. Secularity draws 
the line of separation between the things of time and the 
things of eternity. That is Secular which pertains to this 
world. The distinction may be seen in the fact that the 
cardinal propositions of Theology are provable only in the 
next life, and not in this. If I believe in a given creed it may 
turn out to be the true one ; but one must die to find that out. 
On this side of the grave all is doubt ; the truth of Biblical 
creeds is an affair of hope and anxiety, while the truth of 
things Secular becomes apparent in time. The advantages 
arising from the practice of veracity, justice, and temperance 
can be ascertained from human experience. If we are 
told to " fear God and keep His commandments," lest His 
judgments overtake us, the indirect action of this doctrine 
on human character may make a vicious timid man 
better in this life,- supposing the interpretation of the will of 
God, and the commandments selected to be enforced, are 
moral ; but such teaching is not Secular, because its main 



object is to fit men for eternity. Pure Secular principles have 
for their object to fit men for time, making the fulfilment of 
human duty here the standard of fitness for any accruing 
future. Secularism purposes to regulate human affairs by 
considerations purely human. Its principles are founded 
upon Nature, and its object is to render man as perfect as 
possible in this life. Its problem is this : Supposing no other 
life to be before us, what is the wisest use of this ? As the Rev. 
Thomas Binney puts it, " I believe * * that even * * if 
there were really no God over him, no heaven above, or eternity 
in prospect, things are so constituted that man may turn the 
materials of his little life poem, if not always into a grand 
epic, mostly into something of interest and beauty ; and it is 
worth his while doing so, even if there should be no sequel 
to the piece.'** Chalmers, Archbishop Whately, and earlier 
distinguished divines of the Church of England, the most con- 
spicuous of whom is Bishop Butler, have admitted the 
independent existence of morality, but we here cite Mr, 
Binney's words because among Dissenters this truth is less 
readily admitted. A true Secular life does not exclude any from 
supplementary speculations. Not until we have fulfilled our 
duty to man, as far as we can ascertain that duty, can we 
consistently pretend to comprehend the more difficult relations 
of man to God. C ur duties to humanity, understood and dis- 
charged to the best of our ability, will in no way unfit us to 
" reverently meditate on things far beyond us, on Power un- 
limited, on space unfathomed, on time uncounted, on 
* whence ' we came, and * whither \ we go.^f The leading 
ideas of Secularism are humanism, moralism, materialism, 
utilitarian unity ; Humanism, the physical perfection of this 
life — Moralism, founded on the laws of Nature, as the guid- 
ance of this life — Materialism, as the means of Nature for the 
Secular improvement of this life — Unity of thought and action 
upon these practical grounds. Secularism teaches that the 
good of the present life is the immediate concern of man, and 
that it should be his first endeavour to raise it. Secularism 
inculcates a Morality founded independently upon the laws of 
Nature. It seeks human improvement through purity and suit- 
ableness of material conditions as being a method at once 
moral, practical, universal, and sure. 

* " How to make the best of both worlds," p. 1 1, 
t F. W. Newman. 


The province of Positivism is not speculation upon the 
origin, but study of the laws of Nature — its policy is to destroy 
error by superseding it. Auguste Comte quotes, as a cardinal 
maxim of scientific progress, the words " nothing is destroyed 
until it is replaced," a proverbial form of a wise saying of 
M. Necker that in political progress " nothing is destroyed for 
which we do not find a substitute." Negations, useful in their 
place, are iconoclastic — not constructive. Unless substitution 
succeeds destruction — ^there can be no sustained progress. 
The Secularist is known by setting up and maintaining affirm- 
ative propositions. He replaces negations by affirmations, 
and substitutes demonstration for denunciation. He asserts 
truths of Nature and humanity, and reverses the position of 
the priest who appears as the sceptic, the denier, the dis- 
believer in Nature and humanity. Statesmen, not otherwise 
eager for improvement, will regard affirmative proposals. 
Lord Palmerston could say — " Show me a good and I will 
realize it — not an abuse to correct." 


*'A11 science," says M. Comte, " has prevision for its end, an 
axiom which separates science from erudition, which relates to 
events of the past without any regard to the future. No accumula- 
tion of &cts can effect prevision until the facts are made the basis 
of reasonings. A knowledge of phenomena leads to pre- 
vision, and prevision to action ;" or, in other words, when we 
can foresee what will happen under given circumstances, we 
can provide against it. It by no means follows that every 
Secularist will be scientific, but to discern the value of 
science, to appreciate and promote it, may be possible to most. 
Science requires high qualities of accurate observation, close 
attention, careful experiment, - caution, patience, labour. Its 
value to mankind is inestimable. One physician will do more 
to alleviate humeui suffering than ten priests. One physical * 
discovery will do more to advance civilization than a generation 
of prayer-makers. " To get acquaintance with the usual course 
of Nature (which Science alone can teach us), is a kind of 
knowledge which pays very good interest."* The value of this 
knowledge becomes more apparent the longer we live. There 

• Atl^aeum, No. 1,637, March 12, iS^iq, 


may be a general superintending Providence — there may be 
a Special Providence, but the first does not interfere in human 
affairs, and the interpositions of the second are no longer to 
be counted upon. The age of Prayer for temporal deliver- 
ance has confessedly passed away. But without disputing 
these points, it is clear that the only help available to man, 
the sole dependence upon which he can calculate^ fs that of 
Science. Nothing can be more impotent than the fate of that 
man who seeks social elevation by mere Faith. All human 
affairs are a process, and he alone who acts upon this knoy/- 
ledg^ can hope to control results. Loyola foresaw the neces- 
sity of men acting for human purposes, as though there were 
no God. " Let us pray," said he, " as if we had no help in our- 
selves ; let us labour as if there was no help for us in heaven^^ 
Society is a blunder, not a science, until it ensures good sense 
and competence for the many. Why this process is tardy, 
is that creedists get credit for hoping and meaning well. 
Creedists of good intent, who make no improvement and 
attempt none, are very much in the way of human betterance. 
The spiritualist regards the world theoretically as a gross 
element, which he is rather to struggle against than to work 
with. This makes human service a mortification instead of 
pure passion. We would not deify the world, that is, set up 
the sensualism of the body, as spiritualism is set up as the 
sensualism of the soul. Secularism seeks the material purity 
of the present life, which is at once the means and end of Secular 
endeavour. The most reliable means of progress is the im- 
provementqf material condition^ and " purity " implies " improve- 
ment," for there can be no improvement without it. The aim 
of all improvement is higher purity. All power, art, civiliza- 
tion and progress are summed up in the result — ^purer life. 
Strength, intellect, love are measured by it. Duty, study, 
temperance, patience are but ministers to this. " There is that," 
says Ruskin, " to be seen in every street and lane of every city, 
that to be found and felt in every human heart and countenance, 
that to be loved in every road-side weed and moss-grown wall, 
which, in the hands of faithful men, may convey emotions 
of glory and sublimity continual and exalted.** 


It is necessary to point out that Sincerity does not im- 
ply infallibility. " There is a truth, which could it be stamped 


on every human mind, would exterminate all bigotry and 
persecution. I mean the truth, that worth of character and true 
integrity, and, consequently, God's acceptance, are not neces- 
sarily connected with any particular set of opinions."* If you 
admit that Mark and Paul were honest, most Christians take 
that to be an admission of the truth of all related under their 
names. Yet if a man in defending his opinions, affirm his 
own sincerity. Christians quickly see that is no proof of 
their truth, and proceed to disprove them. Sincerity may 
account for a man holding his opinions, but it does not account 
for the opinions themselves. Nothing is more common than 
uninformed, misinformed, mistaken, or self-deluded honesty. 
But sincere error, though dangerous enough, has not the 
attribute of crime about it — personal intention of mischief. 
" Because human nature is frail and fallible, the ground of 
our acceptance with God, under the Gospel, is sincerity, A 
sincere desire to know and do the will of God, is the only con- 
dition of obtaining the Christian salvation. Every honest man 
will be saved."t But Sincerity, if the reader recurs to our 
definition of it, includes a short intellectual and moral 
education with respect to it. Those worthy of the high 
descriptive "sincere," are those who have thought, in- 
quired, examined, are in earnest, have a sense of duty with 
regard to their conviction, which is only satisfied by acting 
upon it. These processes may not bring a man to the truth, 
but they bring him near to it. The chances of error are 
reduced hereby as far as human care can reduce them. Secu- 
larism holds diat the Protestant right of private judgment 
includes the moral innocency of that judgment, when conscien- 
tiously formed, whether for or against received opinion ; that 
though all sincere opinion is not equally true, nor equally 
useful, it is yet equally without sin ; that it is not sameness of 
belief but sincerity of belief which justifies conduct, whether 
regard be had to the esteem of men or the approval of God. 
Sincerity, we repeat, is not infallibility. The conscientious 
are often as mischievous as the false, but he who acts lac- 
cording to the best of his belief is free from criminal 
intention. The sincerity commended by the Secularist is an 
active sentiment seeking the truth and acting upon it — not the 

• Dr. Price. 

t John Foster's Tracts on Heresy, 


fortuitous, insipid, apathetic, inherited consent, which so often 
passes for honesty, because too indolent or too cowardly to 
inquire, and too stupid to doubt. The man who holds merely 
ready- made opinions is not to be placed on the same level 
with him whose convictions are derived from experience. True 
sincerity is an educated and earnest sentiment. 


In the formation and judgment of opinions we must 
take into account the consequences to mankind involved in 
their adoption. But when an opinion seems true in itself 
and beneficial to society, the consequences in the way of in- 
convenience to ourselves is not sufficient reason for refusing- to 
act upon it. If a particular time of enforcing it seem to be 
one when it will be disregarded, or misunderstood, or put 
back, and the sacrifice of ourselves on its behalf produce no 
adequate advantage to society, it may be lawful to seek a 
better opportunity. We must, however, take care that this 
view of the matter is not made a pretext of cowardice or 
evasion of duty. And in no case is it justifiable to belie con- 
science or profess a belief the contrary of that which we 
believe to be true. There may in extreme cases be neutrality 
with regard to truth, but in no case should there be com- 
plicity in falsehood. So much with respect to this life. With 
respect to Deity or another life, we may in all cases rely upon 
this, that in truth alone is safety. With God, conscience 
can have no penal consequences. Conscience is the voice of 
honesty, and honesty, with all its errors, a God of Truth will 
regard. "We have," says Blanco White, "no revealed rule 
which will ascertain, with moral certainty, which doctrines are 
right and which are wrong — ^that is, as they are known to 
God." * * « Salvation, therefore, cannot depend on ortho- 
doxy; it cannot consist in abstract doctrines, about which 
men of equal abilities, virtue, and sincerity are, and alwa3rs 
have been, divided." * * "No error on abstract doctrines 
can be heresy, in the sense of a wrong belief which endangers 
the soul." "The Father of the Universe accommodates not 
His judgments to the wretched wranglings of pedantic theoIo« 
gians, but every one who seeks truth, whether he findeih it or not^ 
and worketh righteousness, will be accepted of Him."* Thomas 

• Bishop Watson's Theological Tracts. Introductory. 


Carlyle was the first English writer, having the ear of the pub- 
He, who declared in England that " sincere doubt is as much 
entitled to respect as sincere belief,^'* 


Going to a distant town to mitigate some calamity there, will 
illustrate the principle of action prescribed by Secularism. 
One man will go on this errand from pure sympathy with 
the unfortunate ; this is goodness. Another goes because his 
priest bids him ; this is obedience. Another goes because the 
twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew tells him that all such per- 
sons will pass to die right hand of the Father ; this is calcula- 
tion. Another goes because he believes God commands him ; 
this is piety. Another goes because he believes that the 
neglect of suffering will not answer; this is utilitarianism. 
But another goes on the errsmd of mercy, because it is an 
errand of mercy, because it is an immediate service to human- 
ity ; and he goes to attempt material amelioration rather than 
spiritual consolation ; tiiis is Secularism, which teaches that 
goodness is sanctity, that Nature is guidance, that reason is 
authority, that service is duty, and that Materialism is help. 


The policy of Secular controversy is to distinguish and 
assert its own affirmative propositions. It is the policy of Secu- 
larism not so much to say to error " It is false," as to say of 
truth " This is true," Thus, instead of leaving to the popular 
theology the prestige of exclusive affirmation accorded to it 
by the world, although it is solely employed in the incessant 
re-assertion of error. Secularism causes it to own and publish 
its denial of positive principle ; when the popular theology 
proves itself to be but an organized negation of the moral 
guidance of nature and its tendencies to progress. A Secu- 
larist sees clearly upon what he relies as a Secularist. To 
him the teaching of Nature is as clear as the teaching of the 
Bible : and since, if Grod exists, Nature is certainly His work, ^ 
While it is not so clear that the Bible is — the teaching of Nature 
will be preferred and followed where the teaching of the Bible 
appears to conflict with it. A Secular Society, contemplating 
intellectual and moral progress, must provide for the freest 
expression of opinion on all subjects which its members may 
deem conducive to their common objects. Christianism, Theism, 


Materialism, and Atheism will be regarded as open questions, 
subject to unreserved discussion. But these occasions will be 
the opportunity of the members, not the business of the society. 
All public proceedings accredited by the society should relate 
to topics consistent with the common principles of Secularism. 
** In necessary things, unity: in doubtful things, liberty: in all 
things, charity."* The destruction of religious servitude may 
be attempted in two ways. It may be denounced, which 
will irritate it, or it may be superseded by the servitude of 
humanity. Attacking it by denunciation, generally inflames and 
precipitates the persecution of the many upon the few ; when 
the weak are liable to be scattered, the cowardly to recant, 
and the brave to perish. 


The essential rule upon which personal association can 
be permanent, or controversy be maintained in the spirit in which 
truth can be evolved, is that of never imputing evil motives 
nor putting the worst construction on any act. Free Inquiry 
has no limits but truth, Free Speech no limits but exactness. 
Policy (here the law of speech) no limits but usefulness. Un- 
fettered and uncompromising are they who pursue free inquiry 
throughout — measured and impassable may those become, 
who hold to a generous veracity. Far both from outrage 
or servility — too proud to court and too strong to hate — ^are 
those who learn to discard all arts but that of the austere 
service of others, exacting no thanks and pausing at no 
■curse. Wise words of counsel to Theological controversialists 
have been addressed in a powerful quarter of public opinion : 
** Religious controversy has already lost much of its bitterness. 
Open abuse and exchange of foul names are exploded, and 
-even the indirect imputation of unworthy motives is falling 
into disuse. Another step will be made when theologians 
have learnt to extend their intellectual as well as their moral 
sympathies, to feel that most truths are double edged, and not 
to wage an unnecessary war against opinion which, strange, 
incongruous, and unlovely as they may at first appear, are 
built, perhaps, on as firm a foundation, and are held with 
equal sincerity and good faith, as their own."t This is advice 
which both sides should remember. « 

• Maxim (much unused) of the Roman Catholic Church. 
Times Leader of November 8, 1855. 



** No society can be in a healthy state in which eccentricity 
is a matter of reproach." Conventionality is the tyranny 
of the average man, and a despicable tyranny it is. The 
tyranny of genius is hard to be borne — that of mediocrity 
is humiliating. That idea of freedom which consists in the 
absence of all government is either mere lawlessness, or refers 
to the distant period when each man having attained perfec- 
tion will be a law unto himself. Just rule is indispensable rule, 
and none other. The fewer laws consistent with the public 
preservation the better — there is, then, as Mr. Mill has shown 
in his "Liberty," the more room for that ever-recurring 
originality which keeps intellect alive in the world. Towards 
law kept within the limits of reason, obedience is the first of 
virtues. " Order and Progress," says Comte, which we 
should express thus : — Order, without which Progress is im- 
possible ; Progress, without which Order, is Tyranny. The 
world is clogged with men of dead principles. Principles 
that cannot be acted upon are probably either obsolete or false. 
One certain way to improvement is to exact consistency between 
profession and practice ; and the way to bring this about is to 
teach that the highest merit consists in having earnest views 
and in endeavouring to realize them — and this whether the 
convictions be contained within or without accredited creeds. 
There will be no progress except within the stereotyped limits of 
creeds, unless means are found to justify independent convic- 
tions to the conscience. To the philosopher you have merely 
to show that a thing is true, to the statesman, that it is useful, 
but to a Christian, that it is safe. The grace of service lies in 
its patience. To promote the welfare of others, irrespective 
of their gratitude or claims, is to reach the nature of the 
Gods. It is a higher sentiment than is ascribed to the Deity 
of the Bible. The abiding disposition to serve others is the 
end of all philosophy. The vow of principle is always one of 
poverty and obedience, and few are they who take it — and 
fewer who keep it. If hate obscure for a period the path of 
duty, let us remember nothing should shake our attachment 
to tiiat supreme thought, which at once stills human anger and 
educates human endeavour — the perception that " the suffer- 
ings and errors of mankind arise out of want of knowledge 
rather than defect of goodness." 


A leading object of Secularism is the promotion of the 
material purity of the present life — ** material purity," which 
includes personal as well as external condition. The question 
of Spiritualism (without employing it and without disparaging* 
it) it regards as a distinct question, and hence the methods 
by which Secularists attempt "improvement" will be "material" 
as being the most reliable. The tacit or expressed aim ofall 
Freethinking, has ever been true thinking and pure thinking. 
It has been a continued protest against the errors Theology 
has introduced, and the vicious relations it has conserved and 
sanctified. It is necessary to mark this, and it can be done by 
insisting and keeping distinctly evident that the aim of Secular- 
ism is the purity of material influences. This precludes the 
possibility of Secularism being charged either with conscious 
grossness or intentional sin. Secularism concerns itself with 
the work of to-day. " It is always yesterday or to-morrow, 
and never to-day,"* is a fair description of life according to 
theologies. Secularism, on the contrary, concerns itself with 

the things of " to-day." 

To know ^* 
That which before us lies in daily life 
Is the prime wisdom. 

The cardinal idea of the "popular Theology" is the neces- 
sity of Revelation. It believes that the light of Nature is 
-darkness, that Reason affords no guidance, that the Scriptures 
are the true chart, the sole chart, and the sufficient chart of 
man, and it regards all attempts to delineate a chart of 
Nature as impious, as impracticable, and as a covert attack 
Mpon the Biblical chart in possession of the churches. Know- 
ing no other guidance than that of the Bible, and disbelieving 
the possibility of any other, theology denounces Doubt, which 
inspires it with a sense of insecurity — it fears Inquiry, which 
may invalidate its trust — and deprecates Criticism, wWch may 
expose it, if deficient. Having nothing to gain, it is reluctant 
to incur risk — Shaving all to lose, it dreads to be disturbed- 
having no strength but in Faith, it fears those who Reason— 
and less from ill-will than from the tenderness of its position, 
it persecutes ia self-defence. Such are the restrictions and the 
logic of Theology. 

• Story of Boots, by Dickens. 



On the other hand, Rationalism (which is the logic of Nature) 
is in attitude and spirit quite the reverse. It observes that 
numbers are unconvinced of the fact of Revelation, and feel 
the insufficiency, for their guidance, of that offered to them. 
To them the pages of Nature seem clearer than those of the 
Apostles. Reason, which existed before all Religions and 
decides upon all — else the false can never be distinguished 
from the true — seems self-dependent and capable of furnishing 
personal direction. Hence Rationalism instructed by facts, 
winning secrets by experiments, establishing principles by 
reflection, is assured of a morality founded upon the laws of 
Nature. Without the advantage of inductive science to assist 
discoveries, or the printing press to record corroborations of 
them, the Pre-Christian world created ethics, and Socrates 
and Epictetus, and Zoroaster and Confucius, delivered precepts, 
to which this age accords a high place. Modem Rationalists 
therefore sought, with their new advantages, to augment and 
systematize these conquests. They tested the claims of the 
Church by the truths of Nature. That Freethought which 
had won these truths applied them to creeds, and criticism 
became its weapon of Propagandism. Its consciousness of 
new truth stimulated its aggression on old error. The pretenr 
sions of reason being denied as false, and rationalists them* 
selves persecuted as dangerous, they had no alternative but 
to criticise in order to vindicate their own principles, and 
weaken the credit and power of their opponents. To attack 
the misleading dogmas of Theology was to the early Free- 
thinkers well understood self-defence. In some hands and 
under the provocations of vindictive bigotry, this work, no 
doubt, became wholly antagonistic, but the main aspiration 
of the majority was the determination of teaching the people 
" to be a law unto themselves." They found prevailing a 
religion of unreasoning faith. They sought to create a 
religion of intelligent conviction, whose uniformity consisted 
in sincerity. Its believers did not all hold the same tenets, 
but they all sought the same truth and pursued it with the 
same earnestness. It was this inspiration which sustained 
Vanini, Hamont, Lewes, Kett, Legate, and Wightman at the 
stake, and which armed Servetus to prefer the fires of Calvin 
to the creed of Calvin, which supported Annet in the pillory^ 
and Woolston and Carlile in their imprisonments. It was no 


capricious taste for negations which dictated these deliberate 
sacrifices, but a sentiment purer than interest and stronger 
than self-love — it was the generous passion for unfriended truth. 


The intellectual, no less than the heroic characteristics of 
Freethought have presented features of obvious unity. Tindal, 
Shaftesbury, Voltaire, Paine, and Bentham, all vindicated 
principles of Natural Morality. Shelley struggled that a pure 
and lofty ideal of life should prevail, and Byron had passionate 
words of reverence for the human character of Christ.* The 
distrust of Prayer for temporal help was accompanied by trust 
in Science, and all saw in material effort an available deliver- 
ance from countless ills which the Church can merely deplore. 
Those who held that a future life was " unproven," taught that 
attention to this life was of primary importance, at least 
highly serviceable to humanity, even if a future sphere be 
certain. All strove for Free Inquiry — Rationalism owed its 
existence to it ; all required Free Speech — Rationalism was 
diffused by it; all vindicated Free Criticism — Rationalism 
established itself with it; all demanded to act out their 
opinions — Rationalism was denuded of conscience without this 
right. In all its mutations, and aberrations, and conquests, 
Freethought has uniformly sought the truth, and shown the 
courage to trust the truth. Freethought uses no persecution, 
for it fears no opposition, for opposition is its opportunity. It 
is the cause of Enterprise and Progress, of Reason and Duty 
— and now seeking the definite and the practical, it selects for 
its guidance the principle that ** human affairs should be regu- 

• Thus we read, Canto xv. stanza xviil, of Don Juan : — 

Was it not so, great Locke ? and greater Bacon ? 

Great Socrates ? And thou Diviner still 
Whose lot it is by man to be mistaken, 

And thy pure creed made sanctions of all ill ? 
Redeeming world to be by bigots shaken, 

How was thy toil rewarded ? 

To this stanza Lord Byron adds this note i-^ 

" As it is necessary in these times to avoid ambiguity, I say that I 
mean by " Diviner still " Christ. If ever God was man — or man God- 
he was BOTH. I never arraigned his creed, but the use— or abuse — ^made 
of it." 

t L. H. Holdreth. 


lated by considerations purely human."f These — the 
characteristics which the term Secularism was desig-ned 
to express — are therefore not inventions, not assump- 
tions, but the general ag-reements of the Freethought party, 
inherent, traditional, and historic. That which is new, and of 
the nature of a development, is the perception that the positiv- 
ism of Freethought principles should be extended, should be 
clearly distinguished and made the subject of energetic 
assertion — that the Freethought party which has so loudly 
demanded toleration for itself, should be able to exercise it 
towards all earnest thinkers, and especially towards all co- 
workers — that those who have protested against the isolation 
of human effort by sectarian exclusiveness, should themselves 
set the example of offering, in good faith, practical conditions 
of unity, not for the glory of sects, or coteries, or schools, but 
for the immediate service of humanity. 


The Relation of Secularism to the future demands a few 
words. To seek after the purity and perfection of the Present 
Life neither disproves another Life beyond this, nor disqualifies 
man for it. " Nor is Secularism opposed to the Future so far 
as that Future belongs to the present world — to determine 
which we have definite science susceptible of trial and verifi- 
cation. The conditions of a future life being unknown, and 
there being no imaginable means of benefiting ourselves and 
others in it except by aiming after present goodness, we shall 
confessedly g-ain less towards the happiness of a future life by 
speculation than by simply devoting ourselves to the energetic 
improvement of this life."* Men have a right to look beyond 
this world, but not to overlook it. Men, if they can, may 
connect themselves with eternity, but they cannot disconnect 
themselves from humanity without sacrificing duty. Secular 
knowledge relates to this life. Religious knowledge to 
another life. Secular instruction teaches the duties to man. 
Religious instruction the duties to God apart from man. Reli- 
gious knowledge relates to celestial creeds. Secular know- 
ledge relates to human duties to be performed. The religious, 
teacher instructs us how to please God by creeds. The Secu- 
lar teacher how to serve man by sympathy and science. 



• F. W. Newman 


Archbishop Whately tells Uie story of a lady at Bath, who, 
being" afraid to cross a tottering bridg-e lest it should give way 
under her, fortunately bethought herself of the expedient of 
calling for a sedan chair, and was carried over in that convey- 
ance. Some of our critics tiiink that we shall resemble this 
ingenious lady. But those who fear to trust themselves to the 
ancient and tottering Biblical bridge, will hardly get into the 
sedan chair of obsolete orthodoxy, and add the weight of that 
to the danger. They prefer going round by the way of 
reason and fearless private judgment. 


Secularism, we have said, concerns itself with four rights : — 

1. The right to Think for one's self, which most Christians 
now admit, at least in theory. 

2. The right to Differ, without which die right to think is 
nothing worth. 

3. The right to Assert difference of opinion, without which 
the right to differ is of no practical use. 

4. The right to Debate all vital opinion, without which 
there is no intellectual equality — no defence against the errors 
of the state or the pulpit 

It is of no use that the Protestant concedes the right to think 
unless he concedes the right to differ. We may as well be 
Catholic unless we are free to dissent. Rome will concede 
our right to think for ourselves, provided we agree with the 
Church when we have done ; and when Protestantism affects 
to award us the right of private judgment, and requires us to 
agree with the thirty-nine Articles in the end — or when Evan- 
gelical Ministers tell us we are free to think for ourselves, but 
must believe in the Bible nevertheless, both parties reason on the 
Papist principle ; both mocJc us widi a show of freedom, and 
impose the reality of mental slavery upon us. It is mere irony 
to say " Search the Scriptures," when the meaning is — ^you 
must accept the Scriptiu'es whether they seem true or not. 
Of the temper in which theological opinions ought to be 
formed, we have the instruction of one as eminent as he was 
capable. Jefferson remarks, " In considering this subject, 
divest yourself of all bias, shake off all fears and servile pre- 
judices^ under which weak minds crouch : fix reason in her 


seat firmly ; question with boldness, even the existence of God ; 
because, if there be one, he must approve the homage of 
reason more than that of blindfolded fear. Read the Bible as 
you would Tacitus or Livy. Those facts in the Bible which 
contradict the laws of Nature must be examined with care. 
The New Testament is the history of a person- called Jesus. 
Keep in your eye what is related. They say he was begotten 
by God, but born of a virgin (how reconcile this?); that he 
was crucified to death, and buried ; that he rose and ascended 
bodily into heaven : thus reversing the laws of Nature. Do 
not be frightened from this inquiry by any fear, and if it ends 
in a belief that the story is not true, oi* that there is not a God, 
you will find other incitements to virtue and goodness. In 
fine, lay aside all prejudices on both sides, neither believe nor 
reject anything because others have rejected or disbelieved it 
Your reason is the only oracle given you by heaven, and you 
are. answerable, not for the rightness, but for the uprightness 
of your opinion ; and never mind evangelists, or pseudo-evan- 
gelists, who pretend to inspiration."* It is in vain the Chris- 
tian quotes the Pauline injunction, " Prove all things ; hold 
- fast that which is good," if we are to hold fast to his good, 
which may be evil to us. For a man to prove all things need- 
ful, and hold fast to that which he considers good, is the true 
maxim of freedom and progress. Secularism, therefore, pro - 
claims and justifies the right to Differ, and the right to assert 
conscientious difference on the platform, through the press, in 
civil institutions, in Parliament, in courts of law, where it 
demands that the affirmation of those who reject Christi- 
anity shall be as valid as the oath of those who accept it. 


Yet some opponents have professed that Secular cannot be 
distinguished from Christian rights. Is this so ? The right to 
think for ourselves has been emphatically and reiteratedly 
declared to be a Christian right :f it " belongs essentially to 
Christianity." Now Christianity has no such right. It has the 
right to think the Bible true, and nothing else. The Christian 

• "Jefferson : Memoirs." Vol IL Quoted by Sir G. Cockburn, in his 
"Confessions of Faith, by a Philosopher," pages 4 and 5, 

t " Six Chapters on Secularism," by Dr. Parker, Cavendish Pulpit, 


has no rig-ht to think Christianity untrue, however untrue it 
may appear. He dare not think it false. He dare no more 
think it false than the Catholic dare differ from the dictum of 
the Church, or the Mahomedan differ from the text of the 
Koran, or the Hindoo differ from the precepts of the 
Brahmin. Therefore, the Christian's rig-ht to think for himself 
is simply a compulsion to believe. A rig-ht implies relative 
freedom of action ; but the Christian has no freedom. He has no 
choice but to believe, or perish everlasting-ly. The Christian 
rig-ht to think for himself is, therefore, not the same as the 
Secular right. We mean by the rig-ht to think, what the 
term rig-ht always implies — freedom and independence, and 
absence of all crime, or dang-er of penalty through the honest 
exercise of thought and maintenance of honest conclusions, 
whether in favour of or against Christianity. Our assertion is 
that ** Private judgment is free and guiltless." The Christian 
is good enough to say, we have " a right to think, provided 
we think rightly." But what does he mean by " rightly ?" 
He means that we should think as he thinks. This is his 
interpretation of " rightly." Whoever does not fall in with 
his views, is generally, in his vocabulary, a dishonest perverter 
of scripture. Now, if we really have the right to differ, we 
have the right to differ from the Minister or from the Bible, if 
we see good reason to do so, without being exposed to the 
censure of our neighbours, or disapprobation of God. The 
question is not — does man give us the right to think for our- 
selves ? but, does God give it to us ? If we must come to a 
given opinion, our private judgment is unnecessary. Let us 
know at once what we are to believe, that we may believe 
it at once, and secure safety. If possible disbelief in Chris- 
tianity will lead to eternal perdition, the right of private 
judgment is a snare. We had better be without that perilous 
privilege, and we come to regard the Roman Catholic as 
penetrative when he paints private judgment as the suggestion 
of Satan, and the Roman Catholic no less merciful than con- 
sistent when he proscribes it altogether. We must feel 
astonishment at him who declares the Secular right to lie 
essentially a Christian right, when it is quite a different 
thing, is understood in an entirely different sense, and has 
an application unknown and unadmitted by Christianity. 
This is not merely loose thinking, it is reckless thinking. 



It has been asserted that the second rig-ht, " the right to 
differ," is also a Christian right. " Christianity recognizes the 
claim to difference of opinion. Christians are not careful to 
maintain uniformity at the expense of private judgment." 
This is omitting a part of the truth. Christians often permit 
difference of opinion upon details, but not upon essentials, and 
this is the suppression made. The Christian may differ on 
points of church discipline, but if he differ upon the essential 
articles of his creed, the minister at once warns him that he 
is in *' danger of the judgment." Let any minister try it him- 
self, and his congregation will soon warn him to depart, and 
also warn him of that higher Power, who will bid him depart 
" into outer darkness, where there will be wailing and gnashing 
of teeth." With respect to the third right, " the right of asserting- 
difference of opinion," this is declared to be not peculiar to 
Secularism ; that ** Christian churches, chapels, literature and 
services, are so many confirmations of the statement that 
Christians claim the right of speaking what they think, 
whether it be affirmative or negative." Yes, so long as what 
tfiey speak agrees with the Bible. This is the Christian limit ; 
yet this is the limit which Secularism expressly passes and 
discards. It is the unfettered right which makes Secularism 
to differ from Christianity, and to excel it. 


The right of private judgment, always in set terms conceded 
to us, means nothing, unless it leads to a new understanding 
as to the terms in which we are to be addressed. In the 
*' Bible and the People," it is described as " an insolence to 
ignore Christianity."* We do not understand this language. 
It would be insolence to Deity to ignore a message which we 
can recognize as coming from Him, but it may rather imply 
reverence for Grod to reject the reports of many who speak in 
His name. Were we to r^uire Christians to read our books 
or think as we think, they would resent the requirement as an 
impertinence; and we have yet to learn <hat it is less an 
impertinence when Christians make these demands of us. If 
Christians are under no obligation to hold our opinions, 
neither are we under obligation to hold theirs. By our own 

• No. I. Vol I., p. 8. Edited by the Rev. Brewin Grant. 


act, or at their solicitation, we may study " sacred " writings, 
but at dictation, never ! So long- as Secularists obey the laws 
enacted for the common security, so long as they perform the 
duties of good citizens, it is nothing to Christians what opinions 
they hold. We neither seek their counsel nor desire their 
sentiments — except they concede them on terms of equality^ 
The light by which we walk is sufficient for us ; and as at 
the last day, of which Christians speak, we shall there have, 
according to their own showing, to answer for ourselves, we 
prefer to think for ourselves ; and since they do not propose 
to take our responsibility, we decline to take their doctrines. 
Where we are to be responsible, we will be free ; and no man 
shall dictate to us the opinions we shall hold. We shall 
probably know as well as any Christian how to live with 
freedom and to die without fear. It is in vain for Christians 
to tell us that Newton and Locke differed from us. What is 
that to us unless Newton and Locke will answer for us ? The 
world may differ from a man, but what is the world to him, 
unless it will take his place at the judgment-day ? Who is 
Paul or Apollos, or Matthew or Mark, that we should venture 
our eternal salvation on his word, any more than on that of a 
Mahomedan prophet, or a Buddhist priest ? Where the dan- 
ger is our own, the faith shall be our own. Secularism is not 
an act conceived in the spirit of pride, or vanity, or self-vwU, 
or eccentricity, or singularity, or stiff-neckedness. It is simply 
well understood self-defence. If men have the right of 
private judgment, that right has set them free; and we own 
no law but reason, no limits but the truth, and have no fear 
but that of guilt. We may say we believe in honour, which 
is respecting the truth — in morality, which is acting the truth 
— in love, which is serving the trutli — and in independents, 
which is defending the truth. 


Confocius declared that the foundation of all religion was 
reverence and obedience.* The Religious sentiment is the 
intentional reverence of God. The Christian is ever persuaded 
that there is only one way of doinjg^ this, and he arrogantly 
assumes that he has that way. Whereas the ways are as 

• Sir John Bowring. 


diverse as human genius. Let those who deny that Secular 
Truth meets the emotional part of their nature, setde what is 
the nature of the emotions they desiderate. The miser wants 
money —the sensualist wants the cook — the scholar wants, 
knowledge — and the mother desires the life, growth, and 
happiness of her child. But what can man want in a rational 
sense which Nature and humanity may not supply ? Do we not 
meet the demand of the many when we show that Secularism 
is sufficient for progress ; that it is moral, and therefore suffi- 
cient for trust ; that it builds only upon the known, and is 
therefore reliable ? It is the highest and most unpresumptuous 
form of unconscious worship. It is practical reverence without 
the arrogance of theoretical homage. We at least feel con- 
fident of this, that the future, if it come, wiM not be miserable. 
There may be a future — this remains to awaken interest and 
perennial curiosity. If Nature be conscious, it will still design 
the happiness of man, which it now permits — this assurance 
remains, stilling fear and teaching trust, 


In surveying the position of Christianism in Great Britain 
there is found to exist a large outlying class, daily increasing, 
who for conscientious reasons reject its cardinal tenets. Hence 
arises the question : — Are good citizenship and virtuous life on 
Secular principles, possible to these persons? Secuiari'sm 
answers, Yes. To these, excluded by the letter of scripture, 
by the narrowness of churches, by the intrinsic error and 
moral repulsiveness of doctrine. Secularism addresses itself; 
to these it is the word of Recognition, of Concert and Morality. 
It points them to an educated conscience as a security of 
morals, to the study of Nature as a source of help, and seeks 
to win the indifferent by appeals to the inherent goodness of 
human Nature and the authority of reason, which Christianism 
cannot use and dare not trust. If, however, the Secularist 
elects to walk by the light of Nature, will he be able to see ? 
Is the light of Nature a fitful lamp, or a brief torch, which 
accident may upset, or a gust extinguish ? On the contrary, 
the light of Nature may bum steady, clear, and full, over the 
entire field of human life. On this point we have the testi- 
mony of an adversary, who was understood to address us, 
a testimony as remarkable for its quality as for its felicity of 
expression ; — " There is the ethical mind, calm, level, and clear ; 


chiefly intent on the g-ood ordering- of this life ; judging- all things 
by their tendency to this end, and impatient of every oscillation 
of our nature that swings beyond it. There is nothing low or 
unworthy in the attachment which keeps this spirit close to 
the present world, and watchful for*its aifairs. It is not a 
selfish feeling, but often one intensely social and humane, not 
any mean fascination with mere material interests, but a 
devotion to justice and right, and an assertion of the sacred 
authority of humem duties and affections. A man thus tempered 
deals chiefly with this visible life and his comrades in it, 
because, as nearest to him, they are better known. He plants 
his standard on the present, as on a vantage ground, where 
he can survey his field, and manoeuvre all his force, and com- 
pute the battle he is to fight. Whatever his bearings fervours 
towards beyond his range, he has ho insensibility to the claims 
that fall within his acknowledged province, and that appeal to 
him in the native speech of his humanity. He so reverences 
veracity, honour, and good faith, as to expect them like the 
daylight, and hears of their violation with a flush of scorn. 
His word is a rock, and he expects that yours will not be a 
quicksand. If you are lax, you cannot hope for his trust ; but 
if you are in trouble, you easily move his pity. And the sight 
of a real oppression, though the sufferer be no ornamental 
hero, but black, unsightly, and disreputable, suffices peiiiaps 
to set him to work for life, that he may expunge the disgrace 
from the records of mankind. Such men as he constitute for 
our world its moral centre of gravity; and whoever would 
compute the path of improvement that has brought it thus far 
on its way, or trace its sweep into a brighter future, must take 
account of their steady mass. The effect of this style of thought 
and taste on the religion of its possessor, is not difficult to 
trace. It may, no doubt, stop short of avowed and conscious 
religion altogether ; its basis being simply moral, and its scene 
temporal, its conditions may be imagined as complete, without 
any acknowledgment of higher relations."* 


Nature is. That which is, is the primary subject of study. 
The study of Nature reveals the laws of Nature. The laws of 

• Professor Martineau, in Octagon Chapel, Norwich, 1856. 


Nature furnish safe guidance to humanity. Safe guidance is 
to help available in daily life — to happiness, self-contakied— 
to service, which knows how ** to labour and to wait." For 
authority, Nature refers us to Experience and to Reason. For 
help, to Science, the nearest available help of man. Science 
implies disciplined powers on the part of the people, and con- 
cert in their use, to realize the security and sufficiency neces- 
sary to happiness. Happiness depends on moral, no less 
than on physical conditions. The moral condition is the full 
and fearless discharge of Duty. Duty is devotion to the 
Rig-ht. Right is that which is morally expedient. That is 
morally expedient which is conducive to the happiness of the 
greatest numbers. The service of others is the practical form 
of duty ; and endurance in the service of others, the highest 
form of happiness. It is pleasure, peace, security, and desert. 


We believe there is sufficient soundness in Secular principles 
to make way in the world. All that is wanted is that advocates 
of them shall have clear notions of the value of method in their 
work. To the novice in advocacy policy seems a crime — at 
least, many so describe it. Unable himself to see his way, the 
tyro fights at everything and everybody equally; and too 
vain to own his failure, he declares that the right way. Not 
knowing that progress is an art, and an art requiring the 
union of many qualities, he denies all art, cries down policy, 
and erects blundering into a virtue. Compare the way which 
Havelock reached Lucknow, and the way in which Sir Colin 
Campbell performed the same feat, and you see the difference 
between courage without, and courage with strategy. It 
was because magnitudes existed, which were inaccessible 
and incapable of direct measurement, that mathematics arose. 
Finding direct measurement so often impossible, men were 
compelled to find means of ascertaining magnitude and distance 
indirectly. Hence mathematics became a scientific policy. 
Mathematics is but policy of measurement — grammar but the 
policy of speech — logic but the policy of reason — arithmetic 
but the policy of calculation — temperance but the policy of 
health — trigonometry but the policy of navigation — roads but 
the policy of transit — ^music but the policy of controlling 
sound — art but the policy of beauty — law but the policy of 
protection — discipline but the policy of strength— love but the 



policy of affection. An enemy may object to our having 
policy, because it suits his purpose that we should be withoi 
one ; but that a friend should object to our having a polic 
is one of those incredible infatuations which converts partisar 
into unconscious traitors. The policy adopted may be a ba 
policy, and no policy at all is idiotcy. If a policy be ba< 
criticise and amend it; but to denounce all policy is to con 
mit your cause to the providence of Bedlam. If, therefon 
throughout all intelligent control of Nature and humanit] 
policy is the one supreme mark of wisdom, why should 
be dishonourable to study the policy of opinion ? He who coi 
sistently objects to policy, would build railway engines withoi 
safety valves, and dismiss them from stations without drivers 
he would abolish turnpike roads and streets, and leave u 
to find our way at random; he would recommend th£ 
vessels be made without helms, and sail without captain: 
that armies fight witfiout discipline, and artillery-men shoul 
fire before loading, and when pointing their guns, should aix 
at nothing. In fine, a man without policy, honestly and intelli 
gently opposed to policy, would build his house with the roc 
downwards, and plant his treei^ with their roots in the air ; h 
would kick his friend and hug his enemy ; he would pay wage 
to servants who would not work, govern without rule, speal 
without thought, think without reason, act without purpose, b 
a knave by accident, and a fool by design 




Action, Secular and Theological 33 

Affirmative Policy 33 

Association, its Maxims 16 

Atheists, angry origin of the term 9 

Atheistic maxim of Loyola 30 

Bond of Union 17 

Branch of the Secular Guild, 

defined 24 

Byron Lord, his passionate 

Christianism 3g 

Characteristics of Secularism ... 27 

Christian rights 42 

„ distinguished 

from Secular rights 43 

Comte on prevision 29 

Controversy, new tone of 8 

Conscience higher than con- 
sequence 12 

Controversy, sphere of 15 

„ personal 15 

Construction of conduct 34 

Conventionality 35 

Degrees of progress 12 

Distinction between Secular 

Instruction and Secularism 5 

Emotional nature, its variety ...45 
Ethical life, Professor Martineau*s 

view 46 

Features of the Future 45 

Fleet Street Secular Institute ... 18 

Freethinking, true-thinking 36 


Future, the, separated but not 

prejudged 39 

Guides of the Secularist 11 

Guild, Secular 18 

„ its uses in Foreign countries 20 

Heresy no sin, Blanco White, 

upon 32 

Imputation of motives 34 

Inferior natures, religious duty 

towards them 13 

Infidel, an imputative term 9 

Jefferson, on boldness of inquiry 41 
J ustification of Controversy 15 

Knowledge, a remunerative 

investment 29 

Laws of Secular Controversy ... 14 
Legitimate topics of Secular 

Societies 34 

Limits of Imputation 21 

Loose-thinking 9 

Maxims of association 16 

Martineau Harriet, on the term 

Secularism 8 

Membership, diveisilies of 23 

Method, material and spiritual... 36 

Mill, J. S. on originality 35 

Morality, its independence of 

theology 28 

Neckar's maxim 29 




Newman, Dr. J. II. on organiz- 
ation 5 

Objects of Secular Guild ......... 19 

Open questions 33 

Organization of ideas 18 

„ indicated 21 

Outlying classes 45 

Persistence in Opinion 2 

Personal duty 16 

Place of Secularism 25 

Positivism, its subjects of study 29 
Policy, its Secular necessity . . . 47-48 
Private judgment absolute ... 43-44 
Principles of Secularism defined 1 1 
Public duty 16 

Qualities of new members 21 

„ of active members 23 

Rationalism, its securities 37 

Reason, its self-dependence ..,•.. 37 
Religiousness, its moral meaning 12 
Revelation, its absolute chart ... 36 

Rights of Reason 14 

Ruskin, on the morality of 

realism 30 

* PAGE. 

Science, its social problem 12 

Secularism, its relative influence 25 
„ persons whom it 

addresses 25 

„ compared with Chris- 
tianity 26 

„ the sum of Free- 
thought agreements 38 
Secularity, its line of demarcation 27 

Sincerity defined 12 

„ distinguished from in- 
fallibility 30 

Sincerity distinguished from sin 31 
Spiritualism, the sensualism of 

the soul 30 

Standard of appeal 14 

Summary of Secularism 47 

Term Secularism, not a disguise 9 
Trustworthiness of Candidates. . 22 

Utilitarian action 33 

Various terms of Freethought ... 10 
Vow of principle, its nature 35 

Written speeches 24 

. /I y„^ 



Advocates the Free Search, Free Utterance, Free Criticism, the 

Free Action of Secular Principles* 


[The follo'wing extracts are given as the onlv iiid^)end6nt means of indicating to 
strangers and Cturistian readers (who commonly have prepossessions that the advocacy 
of Freethought must be outrage and sin) the spirit in whi<5i it has been the endeavour 
of the Editor to conduct the Hea8oner—tbe title of which does not Assume perfection in 
reasoning, but is merely a sign that principles and criticisms will, by preference, be 
urged upon grounds of reason. For as Professor Martineau observes, ** In every en- 
deavour to elevate ourselves above reeuon, we are seeking to rise beyond the atmosphere, 
with wings which cannot soar but by beating the air." Of the remarks which follow, 
the chief, it will be seen, must apply to contributors.] 

" The Bbasoneb • . . . edited by G. J. Holyoake, is written with considerable 
ability, and conducted with no small amount of tact. It addresses itself to that large 
and constantly increasii^ class in English society— tiie class of artizans ; jnen who de- 
mand to be dealt witii logically. The Beasoneb is calm, aiPectedly dispassionate, im- 
personal ; piques itself upon being scrupulously exact in its statement of facts, rigorous 
in its inductions, and charitable and tolerant in its judgment. This air, whidi seems 
partly real, is eminently calculated to prepossess its readers with the idea of its strength 
and firmness. Its conductors are by no means common-place men. There is evidentiy 
a great deal of ability in them. Such men may not be dispised, nor their doings over- 
looked. The writers of tiie other works whidi we have classed with this have no object 
beyond the miserable pittance which their labour brings them. These men have a 
creed. They apparently have principles, too, at stake."— Daily News, Nov. 2, 1818. 

" The adoption of the term Secularism is justified by its including a la;^ number 
of persons who are not Atheists, and uniting them for action whidi has Secularism for 
its object, and not Atheism. On this ground, and because, by the adoption of a new 
term, a vast amount of impediment nrom i)rejudice is ^t rid of, the use of the name 
Secularism is found advantageous ; but it in no way mterferes witii Mr. Holyoake's 
profession of his own unaltered views on the subject of a First Cause. As I am writing 
this letter, I may just say, for myself, that I constantly and e»gerly read Mr. 
Holyoake's writings, though many of them are on subjects ~or occupied with stages of 
subjects— that would not otherwise detain me, because I find m^nself morally the better 
for the influence of the noble spirit of the man; for the calm courage, the composed 
temper, tiie genuine liberality, and unremitting justice witii which he treats all manner 
of persons, incidents, and topics. I certainly consider the conspidous example of Mr. 
Holyoake's kind of heroism to be one of our popular educational advantages at this 
time."- Harriet Martineau. Letter to IJoya Gaizison, editor of th« Ijbbratob, 
Boston, U.S., Nov. 1, 1863. 

*' You inform me that the Rbabonbb is to be enlarged into a political magazine, and 
you ask my permission to insert in it, as Political Fragments, various articles which have 
already appeared from my pen in provincial newspapers or elsewhere. In giving you 
full permission to make your own selection, and authorising you to tell the pubho that 
you have that permission, I thiiok it due to yott to put on record why I most oordialy 
accede to your request. It is because I think yon so remarkably unite the two qualities 
— uncompromising h(»tility to false or unjust systams, and a tender and ^ust aflowsmoe 
for the men who carry on those systems— that 1 rejoice in your becoming a political 
spokesman for English operatives, who are too often carried away by violent invective 
against persons— invective which always fails to effect reform. I know you to be a 
reasonable man as well as a *• reasoner," and though I do not entirely go along ^th 
your politics any more than with your anti-theolc^n^, yet I have a deep behef m your 
moral soundness ; and the want of this is, after all, our greatest national weakness.—' 
Pbofsbsob Newman, March 8, 1856. Bbasomsb, No. 469. 

" 1. I do not know any ottier man who so consistently yindioates the ri^ht of every 
opinion to its own free utterance. 2. I do not know any other man who is so un- 
swervingly firm in paying a candid, courteous, and painstaking attention to the state- 
ment of opinions opposed to his own."— Thobnton Xjuqh Hunt, Aug. 23, 1858. 

" You are welcome to any writing or fraOTient off mine, which you may wish to re- 
print f^.the Reasonsb. Thought. acoosn^^b^piBchiL.BOon as pubhcly uttered, the 
^ all, not an. individual one. "q>jJm^mfc^tf f^«^^ it is with true pleasure 
ve the the consentment you ast-Tror!^nie aeep esteem I entertain for your 

chturacter, for your sincere love of troth, perseverence, and nobly tolerant 

bits, makes me wish to do more; and time and events allowing, I shall. But, 
whilst gladly granting your kind request, I feel bound in my turn to address one to you, 
and it is to grant me the selection of the two first fragments. They will shield my own 
individuality against aU possible misinterpretations, and state at once the limits within 
which we commune ; these limits axe poutigal and mo^al, not philosophical. We pur- 
sue the same ; progressive improvepient, association, transformation of the corrupted 
medium in which we are now living, overthrow of aU idolatries, shams, lies and oon- 
ventiahties. We both want man to be, not the poor, passive, cowardly, phantasma- 
goric unreality of the actual time, thinking in one way and acting in another ; bending 
to power wluch he hates and despises ; carrying empty i)opish, or thirty-nine article 
formulas on hishrow and none vrithin ; but a fragment of the Uving truth, a real in- 
dividual bein^ linked to collective humanity, the hold seeker of things to come ; the 
gentle, mild, loVibg, yet firm, uncompromising, inexorable apostle of all that is just 
and heroic, the Priest, the Poet, and the Prophet. We widely differ as to the uow 
and WHY."— JoBBPH Mazzini, June 8, 1855. Reasonbb, No. 472. 

*' Here we have b«fore us a weekly publication, written with an ability superior to 
that displayed by the majority of English provincial jourtials, which has been regularly 
issued for the last nine years, and yet the name of which is now for the first time men- 
tioned to the Indian reader. It is an unstamped journal, oontainiog nothing that' can 
legally be taken as news, but enforcing with ail the regularity and iwwer of a well- 
conducted newspaper, a certain defined set of opinions. These opinions are, in r^ard 
to politics, democratic to the extent of being socialistic ; and in r^:ard to r^igion (for. 
religion is discussed in the columns of this journal) rationalistic to the extent of being 
atheistic. The conductors of this journal oi>enly avow their objects to be— 1. To test 
religion by reason, to which in these days the most advanced churdies appeal. 2. To 
found public action on secular principles — which, being based on eiq)erience, all men 
are enabled to judge them ; and being unsectarian, all liberal men can unite about 
them. 3. To train the working class to take part in public affairs, English and foreign; 
developing the abihtv of self-government, personal, local, and national ; cultivating 
sentiments of inflexible truth, justice, and g^ood-will; because a people in sudi respects 
self-consiBteiit may, by vi^filantiy contrasting the conduct of their riders with the pre- 
cepts they deliver to the people, force them into int^;rity, or shame them into privacy." 
•p-SiMDOO Patbiot, June 2i(, 1855. 

*' I am not fond of substituting anthoritiee for aiguments, and there is only one other 
witness I will call. There are many members of this house, and many more of the 
worMng classes, who are familjar with.the name of Mr. Holyoake. He is chiefly known 
in connection with philosophical speculations of an unpopular character, ana also a^ 
warmly and eatnestf^ sympathising with the cause of democratic institutions in Europe. 
No one is a more fittmg representative in that respect of the feelings of that section of 
the working class which interests itself most strongly in peptics. Mr. Holyoake may 
fairly be tSLken to represent the feelings of i>er8ons of extreme political opinions, and it 
is with his political opinions alone with whidi I have to do."— Speech of Lobd Stanley, 
House of Commons, March 21, 1859. Vide The Timbs, March 22. 

" Who can tell us anything about the working man f Are they the mere dupes of 
interested leaders, as men of Mr. Bright's order invariably assure us when they have 
to contend wit^ strikes and labour leagues! Are they anxious for nothing but 
relief from taxation? Are they brimful of undeveloped energies, as Bfr. Emgsley 
seems to think ; or running over with potential religious unction, as our High Church 
lady novelists insinuate in multitudinous single volumes : Do they believe in att. Ernest 
Jones as they believed in Mr. Feargus O'Connor ? Do they listen to such instructors as 
Mr. Holyoake, as Lord Stanley hinted to the House of Commons, not without some 
facts to Sack him ?— Thb Satubday Bevisw, Match 26, 1869.