Front Page Titles (by Subject) Number XXVI.: The free Use of Reason the best Cure for Bigotry, and the Violence of Enthusiasm. - The Independent Whig, vol. 4 (1747)
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Number XXVI.: The free Use of Reason the best Cure for Bigotry, and the Violence of Enthusiasm. - Thomas Gordon, The Independent Whig, vol. 4 (1747) 
The Independent Whig. Being a Collection of Papers All written, some of them published During the Late Rebellion (London: J. Peele, 1747). Vol. 4.
Part of: The Independent Whig, 4 vols.
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The free Use of Reason the best Cure for Bigotry, and the Violence of Enthusiasm.
I KNOW no possible Harm that the free Exercise of Reason can do to the World. It may, it must, on the contrary, do much Good. It is the Perversion of it that only can do Hurt; but still the Cure is to be found in itself: And the Abuse of it does not condemn it. What has been more abused and perverted than Religion, chiefly by the professed Teachers of Religion? Now, whether Religion perverted, or Reason perverted, do most Mischief, let the Observation of all Men, and the Experience of all Times, declare.
By what I have said, the Thing, methinks, may be decided. The Many are never Freethinkers. The Tribe of Felons, of Robbers and Murderers, never are: They generally live in the common Profession, and die in the common Devotion. Where Reason is most stretched it can never produce the Evils which pious Craft, particularly Absolution and sacerdotal Power, have constantly produced.
It is remarkable, that all the noted Railers against Reason and Free Inquiry into Things Religious, have been undiscerning Bigots, or interested and designing Impostors, Persecutors of Conscience, and such who would monopolize the Rule of Conscience; Laud with his hot-headed Brethren and Followers; Sheldon and the other debauched Court-Clergy after the Restoration; such sour Men as Dr. South, and such crazy ones as Dr. Sacheverel, since the Revolution: Whilst all the great Men and great Divines of those Times, and of all Times, have distinguished themselves by their free Sentiments, and encouraged the same Freedom in others; Lord Verulam, Lord Herbert of Cherbury, Lord Falkland, Lord Shaftesbury, Chillingworth, Taylor, Tillotson, Cudworth, Whitchcote, Bayle, Locke, Fleetwood, Newton, Trenchard, and all others of their discerning candid Spirit, all Friends to Mankind, all hated by Bigots.
Did these great and good Men ever promote Animosity and Strife, for Speculations, Ceremonies and Trifles? The Good of Mankind was their grand Aim and Study; the Improvement of Reason, the Empire of Christian Charity, and universal Benevolence, the Motives and Objects of their Pursuit.
It would make a curious, useful, and, I think, an easy Inquiry, what little Good, and what mighty Mischief has been in all Ages done by Bigotry, compared with what little Harm, and what great Good, are necessarily done by Free Inquiry, or if you will, Freethinking. By the Witchcraft of Bigotry you see Christians set against Christians: Nation against Nation; Countries enslaved; Persecution reigning; Communities exhausted, slaughtered or starving; Learning and Liberty banished; their Champions martyred; and a few gloomy Tyrants, without Bowels, grinding and terrifying all Men, without Mercy.
Freedom of Opinion would prevent or remove all these tragical Curses, and is therefore always itself decried and cursed by those who do or would inflict them. Let Free Inquiry take place, what a surprizing glorious Change would appear all over the World, and as it were a new Creation, the Beauty of Liberty, the Force of Truth, captivating every rational Beholder, and scattering their mortal Enemies; Monks and Delusion, and every Deformity flying; all the Contradictions, all the Cheats, all the Terrors of Popery disappearing, with all the Popish Trumpery whatsoever; infallible Frailty; a Deity of Dough; stinking Relics, without any Originals; Saints without Holiness, often without Existence; Objects of Worship created by Carpenters; travelling Houses; sailing Milstones; talking Stone, and dancing Timber; the Inquisition sunk in utter Darkness, the Inquisitors trembling and seeking to hide themselves in their own late Dungeons: The Turks laughing at Mahomet; the Catholics at his Holiness, and our Protestant Papists at St. Atterbury and St. Laud.
There are no Freethinkers in Lapland or the Highlands. Savages who make no Inquiry, have no Scruples. Bigots are Savages in Religion, and the ready Authors of all Mischief and Confusion.
The Russians now in Arms against their King and Country, are led into Rebellion by Authority, as well as for Pay and Plunder. Common Sense and very small Reflection, would change their Hearts, make them ashamed of their Crime, reconcile them to their Duty, and arm them against their Idol, and against those who have seduced them to worship him. They would soon perceive that it is crying Wickedness and Phrensy, in needy, uninformed Mountainers, to destroy what the Representatives of the Kingdom have established, and over and over confirmed. They would know that the late King James was a perjured Tyrant, the blind Tool of France and Rome, and an Enemy to his People; that he had robbed them of their Property, and traiterously broke all the Laws that secured their Religion and Liberty, and Fortune: That as he acted like a Beast of Prey, it was as necessary and as right to expel him, as to expel a foreign Enemy. That an hereditary Right to be lawless is impious Cant, which extinguishes Religion and human Society: That every State has inherent in it a Right of Self-preservation, consequently of combating Force with Force: a Right exerted at the Revolution; and ’tis Treason to question it, Rebellion to rise against it.
But, alas! the very Redemption from Slavery, procured us by the Revolution, these wild Men, cheated by their Priests, and awed by their Chiefs, believe to be Oppression, and commence Rebels to overthrow public Liberty, the highest national Blessing, but represented to them as intolerable Slavery. Under this Blindness, they who are miserable Vassals to their Chiefs, and miserably oppressed by them, follow their Chiefs to oppress the Public and all Men, preposterously professing to rescue the Public and all Men from Oppression: A wonderful Contradiction naturally arising from a Composition of Infatuation and Impudence! The former always swallows what the latter asserts.
Were the unfortunate furious Clans guided only by the Light of Nature (ever extinguished by false Guides) they would be quiet, contented Subjects to the King, and throw off their real Tyrants, the Chiefs. Such would be their Happiness in thinking and judging for themselves; and such too would be the Happiness of their Neighbours and the whole Kingdom: Such is their present Misery, Slavery and Rebellion; such too the Misfortune of the Kingdom, in blindly following the Guidance and mischievous Tuition of others, who serve their own Ends, and gratify their Ambition and Rage, by the Blood and Blindness of their credulous and bewitched Followers.
I do not remember one unprovoked War, or Rebellion, or Sedition, raised by Men, who thought for themselves, and weighed Right and Wrong. There never have been, there never can be many such. They who think not for themselves are no Thinkers at all: They who let others think for them, are the blind Followers of others. And thus Men of Craft govern all the rest, not only Fools, but Men of good natural Sense, who not exercising their own Reason, cannot be said to have their own Religion; as I have just illustrated in the Example of the Highlanders: Quibus non Judicium non Odium, nisi indita et jussa.
The same is true of such as rebelled against the late King, who, no more than his Son, ever broke a Law, or ever oppressed a Subject. Apostate Priests belyed his Reign, blackened his Character, incensed their Dupes and the Rabble, and blowed the Trumpet of Rebellion.
The great and consuming Curse of Persecution, as wasteful a Calamity as Rebellion, and generally springing from the same bewitching Craft, and the same implicit Credulity, had never banished Humanity, thinned the World, silenced the Gospel, mocked God, overturned Religion, and affronted common Sense, but for such magical Imposture nurturing popular Infatuation. No Man would have hated, much less hurt another for a Mistake in counting his Fingers, or for a Blunder in his Fancy, no more than in his Dreams, which are the Fancies of Sleep; had not Craft told Simplicity that certain Damnation attended such heinous involuntary Errors.
Transubstantiation, and other Positions, equally impossible to be true, never to be explained, therefore never to be believed, were yet made Articles of Faith; such Articles as none but Hypocrites or Fools could subscribe; so that they who had least Religion had most Orthodoxy; and such Articles as they who had most Conscience, or any, were burned for not subscribing; so that such as had least Orthodoxy, had most Religion.
The Light of Nature never taught any Man to plague another for living under a different Roof on a Sunday, no more than any other Day, or for his different Posture at Dinner, or for eating none, or for eating Apples instead of Onions, or for praying in a Barn, and making no Bows to either End of it. But Catholic Guides, who put out the natural Sight of Man, to make Men see clearer, first intoxicated Mankind, then domineering over them, have set City against City, Neighbour against Neighbour, the Son against the Father; and in the Name of Charity made Men cut one another’s Throats.
The great Obstacle and Terror of their Catholic Impostors, is Freedom of Inquiry, which implies the Strength and Exercise of Reason: A formidable Foe, indeed! No wonder they are for ever attacking it, and for ever trying to weaken and destroy it, by all the Arts of Calumny, all the Efforts of Malice. By implicite Belief, without Examination, the Catholic Impostors reign and prosper, and Catholic Communities are kept in gross Ignorance, heavy Chains and utter Misery.