Psychology of a Religious Revival
From: Love Life Work
Traveling to and fro over the land and up and down in it are men who
Let it be known that a street-fair or Mardi Gras is never a spontaneous
expression of the carnival spirit on the part of the townspeople. These
festivals are a business--carefully planned, well advertised and carried
out with much astuteness.
The men who manage street-fairs send advance agents, to make
arrangements with the local merchants of the place--these secure the
legal permits that are necessary.
A week is set apart for the carnival, much advertising is done, the
newspapers, reflecting the will of the many, devote pages to the
wonderful things that will happen. The shows arrive--the touters, the
spielers, the clowns, the tumblers, the girls in tights, the singers!
The bands play--the carnival is on! The object of the fair is to boom
the business of the town. The object of the professional managers of the
fair is to make money for themselves, and this they do thru the
guaranty of the merchants, or a percentage on concessions, or both.
I am told that no town whose business is on an absolutely safe and
secure footing ever resorts to a street-fair. The street-fair comes in
when a rival town seems to be getting more than its share of the trade.
When the business of Skaneateles is drifting to Waterloo, then
Skaneateles succumbs to a street-fair.
Sanitation, sewerage, good water supply, and schoolhouses and paved
streets are not the result of throwing confetti, tooting tin horns and
waiving the curfew law.
Whether commerce is effectually helped by the street-fair, or a town
assisted to get on a firm financial basis through the ministry of the
tom-tom, is a problem. I leave the question with students of political
economy and pass on to a local condition which is not a theory. The
religious revivals that have recently been conducted in various parts of
the country were most carefully planned business schemes. One F. Wilbur
Chapman and his corps of well-trained associates may be taken as a type
of the individuals who work up local religious excitement for a
Religious revivals are managed very much as are street-fairs. If
religion is getting at a low ebb in your town, you can hire Chapman, the
revivalist, just as you can secure the services of Farley, the
strike-breaker. Chapman and his helpers go from town to town and from
city to city and work up this excitation as a business. They are paid
for their services a thousand dollars a week, or down to what they can
get from collections. Sometimes they work on a guaranty, and at other
times on a percentage or contingent fee, or both.
Towns especially in need of Mr. Chapman's assistance will please send
for circulars, terms and testimonials. No souls saved--no pay.
The basic element of the revival is hypnotism. The scheme of bringing
about the hypnosis, or the obfuscation of the intellect, has taken
generations to carefully perfect. The plan is first to depress the
spirit to a point where the subject is incapable of independent thought.
Mournful music, a monotonous voice of woe, tearful appeals to God,
dreary groans, the whole mingled with pious ejaculations, all tend to
produce a terrifying effect upon the auditor. The thought of God's
displeasure is constantly dwelt upon--the idea of guilt, death and
eternal torment. If the victims can be made to indulge in hysterical
laughter occasionally, the control is better brought about. No chance is
allowed for repose, poise or sane consideration. When the time seems
ripe a general promise of joy is made and the music takes an adagio
turn. The speaker's voice now tells of triumph--offers of forgiveness
are tendered, and then the promise of eternal life.
The final intent is to get the victim on his feet and make him come
forward and acknowledge the fetich. This once done the convert finds
himself among pleasant companions. His social station is
improved--people shake hands with him and solicitously ask after his
welfare. His approbativeness is appealed to--his position is now one of
importance. And moreover, he is given to understand in many subtile ways
that as he will be damned in another world if he does not acquiesce in
the fetich, so also will he be damned financially and socially here if
he does not join the church. The intent in every Christian community is
to boycott and make a social outcast of the independent thinker. The
fetich furnishes excuse for the hypnotic processes. Without assuming a
personal God who can be appeased, eternal damnation and the proposition
that you can win eternal life by believing a myth, there is no sane
reason for the absurd hypnotic formulas.
We are heirs to the past, its good and ill, and we all have a touch of
superstition, like a syphilitic taint. To eradicate this tyranny of fear
and get the cringe and crawl out of our natures, seems the one desirable
thing to lofty minds. But the revivalist, knowing human nature, as all
confidence men do, banks on our superstitious fears and makes his appeal
to our acquisitiveness, offering us absolution and life eternal for a
consideration--to cover expenses. As long as men are paid honors and
money, can wear good clothes, and be immune from work for preaching
superstition, they will preach it. The hope of the world lies in
withholding supplies from the pious mendicants who seek to hold our
minds in thrall.
This idea of a divine bankrupt court where you can get forgiveness by
paying ten cents on the dollar, with the guaranty of becoming a winged
pauper of the skies, is not alluring excepting to a man who has been
well scared. Advance agents pave the way for revivalists by arranging
details with the local orthodox clergy. Universalists, Unitarians,
Christian Scientists and Befaymillites are all studiously avoided. The
object is to fill depleted pews of orthodox Protestant churches--these
pay the freight, and to the victor belong the spoils. The plot and plan
is to stampede into the pen of orthodoxy the intellectual
unwary--children and neurotic grown-ups. The cap-and-bells element is
largely represented in Chapman's select company of German-American
talent: the confetti of foolishness is thrown at us--we dodge, laugh,
listen and no one has time to think, weigh, sift or analyze. There are
the boom of rhetoric, the crack of confession, the interspersed
rebel-yell of triumph, the groans of despair, the cries of victory. Then
come songs by paid singers, the pealing of the organ--rise and sing,
kneel and pray, entreaty, condemnation, misery, tears, threats, promise,
joy, happiness, heaven, eternal bliss, decide now--not a moment is to be
lost, whoop-la you'll be a long time in hell!
All this whirl is a carefully prepared plan, worked out by expert
flim-flammers to addle the reason, scramble intellect and make of men
I'll tell you--that Doctor Chapman and his professional rooters may roll
in cheap honors, be immune from all useful labor and wax fat on the pay
of those who work. Second, that the orthodox churches may not advance
into workshops and schoolhouses, but may remain forever the home of a
superstition. One would think that the promise of making a person exempt
from the results of his own misdeeds, would turn the man of brains from
these religious shell-men in disgust. But under their hypnotic spell,
the minds of many seem to suffer an obsession, and they are caught in
the swirl of foolish feeling, like a grocer's clerk in the hands of a
At Northfield, Massachusetts, is a college at which men are taught and
trained, just as men are drilled at a Tonsorial College, in every phase
of this pleasing episcopopography.
There is a good fellow by the suggestive name of Sunday who works the
religious graft. Sunday is the whirling dervish up to date. He and
Chapman and their cappers purposely avoid any trace of the ecclesiastic
in their attire. They dress like drummers--trousers carefully creased,
two watch-chains and a warm vest. Their manner is free and easy, their
attitude familiar. The way they address the Almighty reveals that their
reverence for Him springs out of the supposition that He is very much
The indelicacy of the revivalists who recently called meetings to pray
for Fay Mills, was shown in their ardent supplications to God that He
should make Mills to be like them. Fay Mills tells of the best way to
use this life here and now. He does not prophesy what will become of you
if you do not accept his belief, neither does he promise everlasting
life as a reward for thinking as he does. He realizes that he has not
the agency of everlasting life. Fay Mills is more interested in having a
soul that is worth saving than in saving a soul that isn't. Chapman
talks about lost souls as he might about collar buttons lost under a
bureau, just as if God ever misplaced anything, or that all souls were
not God's souls, and therefore forever in His keeping.
Doctor Chapman wants all men to act alike and believe alike, not
realizing that progress is the result of individuality, and so long as a
man thinks, whether he is right or wrong, he is making head. Neither
does he realize that wrong thinking is better than no thinking at all,
and that the only damnation consists in ceasing to think, and accepting
the conclusions of another. Final truths and final conclusions are
wholly unthinkable to sensible people in their sane moments, but these
revivalists wish to sum up truth for all time and put their leaden
seal upon it.
In Los Angeles is a preacher by the name of McIntyre, a type of the
blatant Bellarmine who exiled Galileo--a man who never doubts his own
infallibility, who talks like an oracle and continually tells of
perdition for all who disagree with him.
Needless to say that McIntyre lacks humor. Personally, I prefer the
McGregors, but in Los Angeles the McIntyres are popular. It was McIntyre
who called a meeting to pray for Fay Mills, and in proposing the meeting
McIntyre made the unblushing announcement that he had never met Mills
nor heard him speak, nor had he read one of his books.
Chapman and McIntyre represent the modern types of
Phariseeism--spielers and spouters for churchianity, and such are the
men who make superstition of so long life. Superstition is the one
Infamy--Voltaire was right. To pretend to believe a thing at which your
reason revolts--to stultify your intellect--this, if it exists at all,
is the unpardonable sin. These muftis preach "the blood of Jesus," the
dogma that man without a belief in miracles is eternally lost, that
everlasting life depends upon acknowledging this, that or the other.
Self-reliance, self-control and self-respect are the three things that
make a man a man.
But man has so recently taken on this ability to think, that he has not
yet gotten used to handling it. The tool is cumbrous in his hands. He is
afraid of it--this one characteristic that differentiates him from the
lower animals--so he abdicates and turns his divine birthright over to a
syndicate. This combination called a church agrees to take care of his
doubts and fears and do his thinking for him, and to help matters along
he is assured that he is not fit to think for himself, and to do so
would be a sin. Man, in his present crude state, holds somewhat the
same attitude toward reason that an Apache Indian holds toward a
camera--the Indian thinks that to have his picture taken means that he
will shrivel up and blow away in a month. And Stanley relates that a
watch with its constant ticking sent the bravest of Congo chiefs into a
cold sweat of agonizing fear; on discovering which, the explorer had but
to draw his Waterbury and threaten to turn the whole bunch into
crocodiles, and at once they got busy and did his bidding. Stanley
exhibited the true Northfield-revival quality in banking on the
superstition of his wavering and frightened followers.
The revival meetin' is an orgie of the soul, a spiritual debauch--a
dropping from sane and sensible control into eroticism. No person of
normal intelligence can afford to throw the reins of reason on the neck
of emotion and ride a Tam O'Shanter race to Bedlam. This hysteria of the
uncurbed feelings is the only blasphemy, and if there were a personal
God, He surely would be grieved to see that we have so absurd an idea of
Him, as to imagine He would be pleased with our deporting the divine
gift of reason into the hell-box.
Revivalism works up the voltage, then makes no use of the current--the
wire is grounded. Let any one of these revivalists write out his sermons
and print them in a book, and no sane man could read them without danger
of paresis. The book would lack synthesis, defy analysis, puzzle the
brain and paralyze the will. There would not be enough attic salt in it
to save it. It would be the supernaculum of the commonplace, and prove
the author to be the lobscouse of literature, the loblolly of letters.
The churches want to enroll members, and so desperate is the situation
that they are willing to get them at the price of self-respect. Hence
come Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Chapman, and play Svengali to our
Trilby. These gentlemen use the methods and the tricks of the
auctioneer--the blandishments of the bookmaker--the sleek, smooth ways
of the professional spieler.
With this troupe of Christian clowns is one Chaeffer, who is a
specialist with children. He has meetings for boys and girls only, where
he plays tricks, grimaces, tells stories and gets his little hearers
laughing, and thus having found an entrance into their hearts, he
suddenly reverses the lever, and has them crying. He talks to these
little innocents about sin, the wrath of God, the death of Christ, and
offers them a choice between everlasting life and eternal death. To the
person who knows and loves children--who has studied the gentle ways of
Froebel--this excitement is vicious, concrete cruelty. Weakened vitality
follows close upon overwrought nerves, and every excess has its
penalty--the pendulum swings as far this way as it does that.
These reverend gentlemen bray it into the ears of innocent little
children that they were born in iniquity, and in sin did their mothers
conceive them; that the souls of all children over nine years (why
nine?) are lost, and the only way they can hope for heaven is through a
belief in a barbaric blood bamboozle, that men of intelligence have long
since discarded. And all this in the name of the gentle Christ, who took
little children in his arms and said, "Of such is the Kingdom
This pagan proposition of being born in sin is pollution to the mind of
a child, and causes misery, unrest and heartache incomputable. A few
years ago we were congratulating ourselves that the devil at last was
dead, and that the tears of pity had put out the fires of hell, but the
serpent of superstition was only slightly scotched, not killed.
The intent of the religious revival is dual: first, the claim is that
conversion makes men lead better lives; second, it saves their souls
from endless death or everlasting hell.
To make men lead beautiful lives is excellent, but the Reverend Doctor
Chapman, nor any of his colleagues, nor the denominations that they
represent, will for an instant admit that the fact of a man living a
beautiful life will save his soul alive In fact, Doctor Chapman, Doctor
Torrey and Doctor Sunday, backed by the Reverend Doctor McIntyre,
repeatedly warn their hearers of the danger of a morality that is not
accompanied by a belief in the "blood of Jesus."
So the beautiful life they talk of is the bait that covers the hook for
gudgeons. You have to accept the superstition, or your beautiful life to
them is a byword and a hissing.
Hence, to them, superstition, and not conduct, is the vital thing.
If such a belief is not fanaticism then have I read Webster's
Unabridged Dictionary in vain. Belief in superstition makes no man
kinder, gentler, more useful to himself or society. He can have all the
virtues without the fetich, and he may have the fetich and all the vices
beside. Morality is really not controlled at all by religion--if
statistics of reform schools and prisons are to be believed.
Fay Mills, according to Reverend Doctor McIntyre has all the virtues--he
is forgiving, kind, gentle, modest, helpful. But Fay has abandoned the
fetich--hence McIntyre and Chapman call upon the public to pray for Fay
Mills. Mills had the virtues when he believed in the fetich--and now
that he has disavowed the fetich, he still has the virtues, and in a
degree he never before had. Even those who oppose him admit this, but
still they declare that he is forever "lost."
Reverend Doctor Chaeffer says there are two kinds of habits--good and
There are also two kinds of religion, good and bad. The religion of
kindness, good cheer, helpfulness and useful effort is good. And on this
point there is no dispute--it is admitted everywhere by every grade of
intellect. But any form of religion that incorporates a belief in
miracles and other barbaric superstitions, as a necessity to salvation,
is not only bad, but very bad. And all men, if left alone long enough to
think, know that salvation depends upon redemption from a belief in
miracles. But the intent of Doctor Chapman and his theological rough
riders is to stampede the herd and set it a milling. To rope the
mavericks and place upon them the McIntyre brand is then quite easy.
As for the reaction and the cleaning up after the carnival, our
revivalists are not concerned. The confetti, collapsed balloons and
peanut shucks are the net assets of the revival--and these are left for
the local managers.
Revivals are for the revivalists, and some fine morning these revival
towns will arise, rub their sleepy eyes, and Chapman will be but a bad
taste in the mouth, and Sunday, Chaeffer, Torrey, Biederwolf and
Company, a troubled dream. To preach hagiology to civilized people is a
lapse that Nemesis will not overlook. America stands for the Twentieth
Century, and if in a moment of weakness she slips back to the exuberant
folly of the frenzied piety of the Sixteenth, she must pay the penalty.
Two things man will have to do--get free from the bondage of other men;
and second, liberate himself from the phantoms of his own mind. On
neither of these points does the revivalist help or aid in any way.
Effervescence is not character and every debauch must be paid for in
vitality and self-respect.
All formal organized religions through which the promoters and managers
thrive are bad, but some are worse than others. The more superstition a
religion has, the worse it is. Usually religions are made up of morality
and superstition. Pure superstition alone would be revolting--in our day
it would attract nobody--so the idea is introduced that morality and
religion are inseparable. I am against the men who pretend to believe
that ethics without a fetich is vain and useless.
The preachers who preach the beauty of truth, honesty and a useful,
helpful life, I am with, head, heart and hand.
The preachers who declare that there can be no such thing as a beautiful
life unless it will accept superstition, I am against, tooth, claw,
club, tongue and pen. Down with the Infamy! I prophesy a day when
business and education will be synonymous--when commerce and college
will join hands--when the preparation for life will be to go to work.
As long as trade was trickery, business barter, commerce finesse,
government exploitation, slaughter honorable, and murder a fine art;
when religion was ignorant superstition, piety the worship of a fetich
and education a clutch for honors, there was small hope for the race.
Under these conditions everything tended towards division, dissipation,
disintegration, separation--darkness, death.
But with the supremacy gained by science, the introduction of the
one-price system in business, and the gradually growing conviction that
honesty is man's most valuable asset, we behold light at the end of
It only remains now for the laity to drive conviction home upon the
clergy, and prove to them that pretence has its penalty, and to bring to
the mourners' bench that trinity of offenders, somewhat ironically
designated as the Three Learned Professions, and mankind will be well
out upon the broad highway, the towering domes of the Ideal City
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