There is but one form of human enslavement more villainous and more detestable than the chains of the tyrant or the shackles of the despot, and that is the enslavement of the human mind under ecclesiastical tyranny, whose cowering and crouching victims at the crack of the priestly lash are driven from the cultivation of their own intelligence, from the custody of their own thoughts, from the guardianship of their own souls, and who, like whipt dogs, trembling and whining in abject submission at the feet of the oppressor, lick the very hand that wields the lash. I’m well aware what a thankless task it is to attack the established order of things, theological, political or ethical, for in my long life I have often heard raised the old cry in different form: Great is Diana of the Ephesians! but I make no excuse or apology for my little book.
If it shall turn a single man or woman away from the old path of Superstition, for so many centuries beaten hard and smooth by the tread of millions of poor tired human feet pressing forward in the dust of outworn ecclesiastical “props” that line the way in search of something they never can ﬁnd, I will be satisﬁed.
I owe this dear country something for my enjoyment all these years of the priceless privilege of liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and this be my gift to my countrymen, for I set no copyright upon it; it belongs to anybody who can use it, and if the clerics, theologs, sacerdotes, et id omne genus, can’t bless it – which I should hardly expect, let them use it as a remedy for torpid liver and heartily curse it.
I have only one favor to ask of any man or woman who may pick it up, and that is: Read it through before you pass judgment upon it.
I’m entitled to that much consideration anyway. If monarchs only had the time to read the petitions tremblingly handed up to them, there would be more justice done in the world.