left biblioblography: PROFILES IN ATHEISM - THE PARLIMENTARY ATHEIST

Monday, February 26, 2007

PROFILES IN ATHEISM - THE PARLIMENTARY ATHEIST

I stumbled across this accidentally on Youtube, and learned something new.

Charles Bradlaugh

"1833–91, British social reformer, a secularist. Editor of the free-thinking weekly National Reformer from 1860 and later associated with Annie Besant, he was an early advocate of woman's suffrage, birth control, free speech, national education, trade unionism, and other controversial causes. In 1880, Bradlaugh was elected to Parliament after several unsuccessful attempts. Rather than take a Bible oath to be sworn in as a member of Parliament, Bradlaugh, an atheist, demanded the right to take an affirmation. This action provoked a great deal of controversy, and it was not until 1886 that the matter was settled in his favor. His numerous works include Land for the People (1877), The True Story of My Parliamentary Struggle (1882), and Speeches (1890)."

Parliament

"In 1880 Bradlaugh was elected Member of Parliament for Northampton, and claimed the right to affirm (instead of taking the religious Oath of Allegiance), but this was denied, and he subsequently offered to take the oath "as a matter of form". This offer, too, was rejected by the House. Because a Member must take the oath before being allowed to take their seat, he effectively forfeited his seat in Parliament. He attempted to take his seat regardless, was arrested and briefly imprisoned in the Clock Tower of the Houses of Parliament. His seat fell vacant and a by-election was declared. Bradlaugh was re-elected by Northampton four times in succession as the dispute continued. Supporting Bradlaugh were William Gladstone, George Bernard Shaw, and John Stuart Mill, as well as hundreds of thousands of people who signed a public petition. Opposing his right to sit were the Conservative Party, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and other leading figures in the Church of England and Roman Catholic Church.

"On at least one occasion, Bradlaugh was escorted from the House by police officers. In 1883 he took his seat and voted three times before being fined £1,500 for voting illegally. A bill allowing him to affirm was defeated in Parliament.

"In 1886 Bradlaugh was finally allowed to take the oath, and did so at the risk of prosecution under the Parliamentary Oaths Act. Two years later, in 1888, he secured passage of a new Oaths Act, which enshrined into law the right of affirmation for members of both Houses, as well as extending and clarifying the law as it related to witnesses in civil and criminal trials (the Evidence Amendment Acts of 1869 and 1870 had proved unsatisfactory, though they had given relief to many who would otherwise have been disadvantaged)."

I learned about Mr. Bradlaugh via this:

The preacher in the video talks about Charles Bradlaugh, and how another preacher brought together 5,000 men, freethinkers, atheists, skeptics, and tells the story of the 'prodigal son' and whatnot, and managed to 'save' 2,000 men.

I looked into the matter - found this:

"Editor and Agitator

"As noted by David Berman, Bradlaugh unlike some of his predecessors, was willing to “take the war into the ‘enemies’ camp” and was quite thorough in his atheism.” From 1854 to 1859, he edited London Investigator and in 1860 he became an editor of National Reformer.

"Two years before his death, Bradlaugh introduced a bill to repeal the Blasphemy Laws in England. Just before his death, the House of Commons passed a resolution expunging from its Journals the many bitter entries of former years. However, Bradlaugh was in a coma at the time and never learned of the belated gesture. Meanwhile, his attempt to abolish the Common Law offence of blasphemy failed and “still disfigures our democracy,” editor Peter Brearer of The Freethinker has written.

"Although G. J. Holyoake was no admirer, he said of Bradlaugh that “He was the greatest agitator, within the limits of the law, who appeared in my time among the working people.” Although he attracted fierce loyalties and strong aversions, none denied his power, effectiveness, and what George Bernard Shaw described as his “passion and conviction.” Josiah Wedgwood remembered a friend telling how Bradlaugh “described to us how the shadow of the Cross lay like a black curse across all history, and as he spoke of the horrors of Christianity great tears rolled down his face.”

"Although a considerable part of Bradlaugh’s life was devoted to political work, it is probably as the “image-breaker,” the protagonist of Freethought, that he will be longest remembered, according to Foote. In the mid-1850s, he was, in his words, “honored by the British Banner” with a leading article vigorously assailing him for his lectures against Christianity. This “assailing” never ceased during his life, and was by no means confined to his views and opinions. He wrote numerous pamphlets. The “Plea for Atheism” appeared in 1877. In the debate with the Rev. W.M. Westerby on “Has or is Man a Soul?” (1879), and elsewhere, he showed his complete rejection of belief in a future life."

(You're gonna love this next part)

Last Years

"Bradlaugh died on 30 January 1891. His daughter, Mrs. H. Bradlaugh Bonner, took minute precautions to procure “signed testimony from those who had been attending him,” that during his last illness he had never uttered a word directly or indirectly bearing upon religion. The last words she heard him speak during the night of his death “were reminiscent of his voyage to India.” Despite this testimony, Foote wrote, “The traditional Christian falsehoods on this subject are still circulated and the writer of this notice is constantly encountering them. As recently as 1932, Mrs. Bradlaugh Bonner found it necessary to refute the absurd story about her father’s holding a watch and challenging God to kill him in sixty seconds. Such mendacities no longer yield the amusement of novelty to Freethinkers; rather, they are considered a tribute to Bradlaugh’s greatness.

"In 1994, more than a century after his death, Bradlaugh was again in the news. A Church of England clergyman had urged that a statue of Jesus should replace that of “the atheist MP” which stands in Abington Square, Northampton, the town which first elected him to Parliament in 1880. The suggestion was considered “crass and offensive,” in the words of Barbara Smoker, and the town newspaper editorialized, tongue-in-cheek, that, yes, the statue might better be replaced by the Bishop of Durham. The newspaper then reported Smoker’s statement that
"No one can deny that Charles Bradlaugh—an outstanding Radical Liberal of the 19th century—really existed . . . whereas Jesus is probably no more historic than Aladdin or Peter Pan."

"Bradlaugh's funeral drew 3,000 mourners, including Mohandas Gandhi, who appreciated his sympathetic support for Indian self-government. The burial was in Brookwood Cemetery, the largest cemetery in the United Kingdom."

It is no secret that I distrust Christians, and their little homilies: the recanting of Voltaire, Paine, and Ingersoll spring to mind. They lie to suit their own needs, as most folks do.

For more reading and info on this under-remembered brother-in-arms, see here.

The famous "A Plea for Atheism" can be found here.

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7 comments:

beepbeepitsme said...

Everyone's gotta convert on their deathbeds, and a little bit of pious fraud isn't going to get in the way of some religious people making sure that that is the case.

say no to christ said...

Yet another great atheist rewritten about and eventually written out of history. What a shame! IF you research history deep enough you find a lot of atheists that had there beliefs rewritten to suit the christian writers and if their atheism is unavoidable they will just write them out all together. Look at Susan B Anthony, the history books record her as a quacker, but through research shows she was agnostic at best. And my all time favorite and hero from the womens sufferage movement Matilda Joshlyn Gage. Her strong atheism couldnt be avoided so our christianized historians just wrote her out all together. What a shame!

Krystalline Apostate said...

BBIM:
Everyone's gotta convert on their deathbeds
Yeah, I know, but it bugs me to no end when they make it up outta thin air. Go figure.

SNTC:
Susan B Anthony, the history books record her as a quacker, but through research shows she was agnostic at best.
A quacker? You mean she sold Affleck insurance? ;)
Sorry, couldn't resist.
Her strong atheism couldnt be avoided so our christianized historians just wrote her out all together.
Really? I'm going to check her out.

karen said...

Bully for the Brits who kept reelecting Bradlaugh during the controversy. That never woulda happened here in Amerikka!

Bully for Bradlaugh too!
Thanks KA...another interesting article.

Krystalline Apostate said...

karen:
Bully for the Brits who kept reelecting Bradlaugh during the controversy.
It lends hope to the heart, doesn't it?

say no to christ said...

Quaker, quacker, same thing. lol

Here is a link for you about Matilda Joslyn Gage. She was only one of the biggest leaders of the womens sufferage and slavery abolishment movements.

http://www.suppressedhistories.net/articles/gage.html

Krystalline Apostate said...

SNTC:
Thanks.