Will modern civilization consent to abandon the career of advancement which has given it so much power and happiness? Will it consent to retrace its steps to the semi-barbarian ignorance and superstition of the middle ages? Will it submit to the dictation of a power, which, claiming divine authority, can present no adequate credentials of its office; a power which kept us in a stagnant condition for many centuries, ferociously suppressing by the stake and the sword every attempt at progress; a power that is founded in a cloud of mysteries; that sets itself above reason and common-sense; that loudly proclaims the hatred it entertains against liberty of thought and freedom in civil institutions; that professes its intention of repressing the one and destroying the other whenever it can find the opportunity; that denounces as most pernicious and insane the opinion that liberty of conscience is the right of every man; that protests against that right being proclaimed and asserted by law in every well-governed state; that contemptuously repudiates the principle that the will of the people, manifested by public opinion (as it is called) or by other means, shall constitute law; that refuses to every man any title to opinion in matters of religion, but holds that it is simply his duty to believe what he is told by the religious institution, and to obey her commands; that will not permit any temporal government to define the rights and prescribe limits to the authority of the religious institution; that declares it not only may but will resort to force to discipline disobedient individuals; that invades the sanctity of private life, by making, at the confessional, the wife and daughters and servants of one suspected, spies and informers against him; that tries him without an accuser, and by torture makes him bear witness against himself; that denies the right of parents to educate their children outside of its own Church, and insists that to it alone belongs the supervision of domestic life and the control of marriages and divorces; that denounces “the impudence” of those who presume to subordinate the authority of the Church to the civil authority, or who advocate the separation of the Church from the state; that absolutely repudiates all toleration, and affirms that the Catholic religion is entitled to be held as the only religion in every country, to the exclusion of all other modes of worship; that requires all laws standing in the way of its interests to be repealed, and, if that be refused, orders all its followers to disobey them? This power, conscious that it can work no miracle to serve itself, does not hesitate to disturb society by its intrigues against governments, and seeks to accomplish its ends by alliances with despotism. Claims such as these mean a revolt against modern civilization, an intention of destroying it, no matter at what social cost. To submit to them without resistance, men must be slaves indeed!
As to the issue of the coming conflict, can anyone doubt? Whatever is resting on fiction and fraud will be overthrown. Institutions that organize impostures and spread delusions must show what right they have to exist. Faith must render an account of herself to Reason. Mysteries must give place to facts. Religion must relinquish that imperious, that domineering position which she has so long maintained against Science. There must be absolute freedom for thought. The ecclesiastic must learn to keep himself within the domain he has chosen, and cease to tyrannize over the philosopher, who, conscious of his own strength and the purity of his motives will bear such interference no longer. What was written by Esdras near the willow-fringed rivers of Babylon, more than twenty-three centuries ago, still holds good: “As for Truth it endureth and is always strong; it liveth and conquereth for evermore.”