Superstition Unveiled by Charles Southwell


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Page 1

At a recent meeting of the Anti-State Church Association it was remarked
that _throw what we would into the political cauldron, out it came in an
ecclesiastical shape_. If the newspaper report may be relied on, there
was much laughing among the hearers of those words, the deep meaning of
which, it may safely be affirmed, only a select few of them could

Hostility to state churches by no means implies a knowledge of the close
and important connection between ecclesiastical and political questions.
Men may appreciate the justice of voluntaryism in religion, and yet have
rather cloudy conceptions with respect to the influence of opinions and
things ecclesiastical on the condition of nations. They may clearly see
that he who needs the priest, should disdain to saddle others with the
cost of him, while blind to the fact that no people having faith in the
supernatural ever failed to mix up such faith with political affairs.
Even leading members of the 'Fourth Estate' are constantly declaring
their disinclination for religious criticism, and express particular
anxiety to keep their journals free of everything 'strictly
theological.' Their notion is, that newspaper writers should endeavour
to keep clear of so 'awful' a topic. And yet seldom does a day pass in
which this self-imposed editorial rule is not violated--a fact
significant, as any fact can be of _connection_ between religion and

It is quite possible the editors of newspapers have weighty reasons for
their repugnance to agitate the much vexed question of religion; but it
seems they cannot help doing so. In a leading article of this days'
_Post_, [Endnote 4:1] we are told--_The stain and reproach of Romanism
in Ireland is, that it is a political system, and a wicked political
system, for it regards only the exercise of power_, and neglects utterly
the duty of improvement. In journals supported by Romanists, and of
course devoted to the interests of their church, the very same charge is
made against English Protestantism. To denounce each other's 'holy
apostolic religion' may be incompatible with the taste of 'gentlemen of
the press,' but certainly they do it with a brisk and hearty vehemence
that inclines one to think it a 'labour of love.' What men do _con
amore_ they usually do well, and no one can deny the wonderful talent
for denunciation exhibited by journalists when writing down each other's
'true Christianity.' The unsparing invective quoted above from the
_Post_ is a good specimen. If just, Irish Romanism _ought_ to be
destroyed, and newspaper writers cannot be better employed than in
helping on the work of its destruction, or the destruction of any other
religion to which the same 'stain and reproach' may be fairly attached.

I have no spite or ill-will towards Roman Catholics though opposed to
their religion, and a willing subscriber to the opinion of Romanism in
Ireland expressed by the _Post_. The past and present condition of that
country is a deep disgrace to its priests, the bulk of whom, Protestant
as well as Romanist, can justly be charged with 'regarding only the
exercise of power, while neglecting utterly the duty of improvement.'

The intriguing and essentially political character of Romanism it would
be idle to deny. No one at all acquainted with its cunningly contrived
'system' will hesitate to characterise it as 'wickedly political,'
productive of nothing but mischief--a system through whose accursed
instrumentality millions are cheated of their sanity as well as
substance, and trained dog-like to lick the hand that smites them. So
perfect is their degradation that literally they 'take no thought for
to-morrow,' it being their practice to wait 'till starvation stares them
in the face,' [4:2] and _then_ make an effort against it.

The _Globe_ of Thursday, October 30th, 1845, contains an article on the
damage sustained by the potatoe crop here and in Ireland, full of matter
calculated to enlighten our first-rate reformers who seem profoundly
ignorant that superstition is the bane of intellect, and most formidable
of all the obstacles which stand between the people and their rights.
One paragraph is so peculiarly significant of the miserable condition to
which Romanism _and_ Protestantism have reduced a peasantry said to be
'the finest in the world,' that I here subjoin it.

_The best means to arrest the progress of the pestilence in the people's
food have occupied the attention of scientific men. The commission
appointed by government, consisting of three of the must celebrated
practical chemists, has published a preliminary report, in which several
suggestions, rather than ascertained results, are communicated, by which
the sound portions of the root may, it is hoped, be preserved from the
epidemic, and possibly, the tainted be rendered innoxious, and even
partially nutritious. Followed implicitly, their directions might
mitigate the calamity. But the care, the diligence, the persevering
industry which the various forms of process require, in order to
effecting the purpose which might result if they were promptly adopted
and properly carried out, are the very qualities in which the Irish
peasantry are most deficient. In the present crisis, the people are more
disposed to regard the extensive destruction of their crops in the light
of an extraordinary visitation of Heaven, with which it is vain for
human efforts to contend, than to employ counteracting, or remedial
applications. "Sure the Almighty sent the potatoe-plague and we must
bear it as wall us we can," is the remark of many; while, in other
places, the copious sprinklings of holy water on the potatoe gardens,
and on the produce, as it lies upon the surface, are more depended on
for disinfecting the potatoes than those suggestions of science which
require the application of patient industry._

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Books | Photos | Paul Mutton | Fri 5th Jun 2020, 22:57