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The Secularists of Melbourne

By J.J. Haley

      The secularists of Melbourne are mad at Dr. Moorhouse. They have passed an indignation resolution against him for denouncing secularism as the equivalent of brutism. Said resolution, which we are told was passed "by a thousand citizens at the Hall of Science," is as follows, printed and circulated through the city in a handbill:

      "That this meeting begs to assure Dr. Moorhouse that the Secularists are perfectly aware of what they are doing, and view with indignation his unjust attack upon them. It calls upon him to show, in public debate wherein 'they are lower than the beasts, and render themselves certain of damnation,' and if he will not do so, it must look upon him as a coward and a slanderer."

      This secularistic bull was fulminated against the Bishop at the close of Mr. Joseph Syme's reply to his "barbarous attack on Secularists." Doubtless these gentlemen think they know what they are doing, but we are just as certain they do not. If materialism is true, what stuff enters into the composition of a secularist that does not enter into the composition of a beast? If we are all the descendants of apes and monkeys and nothing has been superadded to man but a different arrangement of molecules, and the adage is still accepted that a stream cannot rise above its fountain, when did man get rid of his beastliness? If there is nothing in the universe but matter and we were beasts in our ancestors, we are beasts still. When Robert Owen enunciated his twelve laws for the improvement of human nature, Alexander Campbell showed that these boasted "laws" of atheistic socialism applied to a goat as well as to a man. A secularist is a beast according to his own showing, and he is lower than a beast in fact, because a beast lives up to the highest instincts of his nature, and a secularist does not. This challenge of Mr. Joseph Syme to the Bishop reminds one of an impertinent and "cheeky" rat terrier yelping at the heels of a mastiff. The mastiff, of course, could swallow him down at a mouthful but does not care for the food and therefore walks on without so much as a backward glance at his noisy assailant. Secularists are a handful of antireligious fanatics, and consequently bigots whom the world, as in the past, will continue to regard as a nuisance, and morally non compos mentis.

      "On the Secularists of Melbourne. No Other Foundation: A Documentary History of Churches of Christ in Australia: 1846-1990, ed. Graeme Chapman. [Mulgrave, Victoria: Privately published, 1993]. P. 440. Reprinted from Australian Christian Witness, 1884, pp. 2-3.

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