THE STORY OF MY MIND
How I Became a Rationalist
By M. M. Mangasarian
CHAPTER I. In the Cradle of Christianity
CHAPTER II. Early Struggles
CHAPTER III. New Temptations
CHAPTER IV. The Critical Period
CHAPTER V. Anchored at Last
CHAPTER VI. Some Objections to Rationalism.
CHAPTER VII. Rationalism and the World's Great Religions.
To My Children
My Dear Children:—
You have often requested me to tell you how, having been brought up by my parents as a Calvinist, I came to be a Rationalist. I propose now to answer that question in a more connected and comprehensive way than I have ever done before. One reason for waiting until now was, that you were not old enough before, to appreciate fully the mental struggle which culminated in my resignation from the Spring Garden Presbyterian church of Philadelpha, in which, my dear Zabelle, you received your baptism at the time I was its pastor. Your brother, Armand, and your sister, Christine, were born after I had withdrawn from the Presbyterian church, and they have therefore not been baptised. But you are, all three of you, now sufficiently advanced in years, and in training, to be interested in, and I trust also, to be benefited by, the story of my religious evolution. I am going to put the story in writing that you may have it with you when I am gone, to remind you of the aims and interests for which I lived, as well as to acquaint you with the most earnest and intimate period in my career as a teacher of men. If you should ever become parents yourselves, and your children should feel inclined to lend their support to dogma, I hope you will prevail upon them, first to read the story of their grand-father, who fought his way out of the camp of orthodoxy by grappling with each dogma, hand to hand and breast to breast.
I have no fear that you yourselves will ever be drawn into the meshes of orthodoxy, which cost me my youth and the best years of my life to break through, or that you will permit motives of self-interest to estrange you from the Cause of Rationalism with which my life has been so closely identified. My assurance of your loyalty to freedom of thought in religion is not based, nor do I desire it to be based, on considerations of respect or affection which you may entertain for me as your father, but on your ability and willingness to verify a proposition before assenting to it. Do not believe me because I am your parent, but believe what you have yourselves, by conscientious and earnest endeavor, found to be worthy of belief. It will never be said of you, that you have inherited your opinions from me, or borrowed them from your neighbors, if you can give a reason for the faith that is in you.
I wish you also to know that during those years of storm and stress, when everything seemed so discouraging, and when my resignation from the church had left us exposed to many privations,—without money and without help, your mother's sympathy with me in my combat with the church—a lone man, and a mere youth, battling with the most powerfully intrenched institution in all the world, was more than my daily bread to me during the pain and travail of my second birth. My spirits, often depressed from sheer weariness, were nursed to new life and ardor by her patience and sympathy.
One word more: Nothing will give your parents greater satisfaction than to see in you, increasing with the increase of years, a love for those ideals which instead of dragging the world backward, or arresting its progress, urge man's search to nobler issues. Co-operate with the light. Be on the side of the dawn. It is not enough to profess Rationalism—make it your religion. Devotedly,
M. M. Mangasarian.
CHAPTER I. In the Cradle of Christianity
I was a Christian because I was born one. My parents were Christians for the same reason. It had never occurred to me, any more than it had to my parents, to ask for any other reason for professing the Christian religion. Never in the least did I entertain even the most remote suspicion that being born in a religion was not enough, either to make the religion true, or to justify my adherence to it.
My parents were members of the Congregational church, and when I was only a few weeks old, they brought me, as I have often been told by those who witnessed the ceremony, to the Rev. Mr. Richardson, to be baptized and presented to the Lord. It was the vow of my mother, if she ever had a son, to dedicate him to the service of God. As I advanced in years, the one thought constantly instilled into my mind was that I did not belong to myself but to God. Every attempt was made to wean me from the world, and to suppress in me those hopes and ambitions which might lead me to choose some other career than that of the ministry.
This constant surveillance over me, and the artificial sanctity associated with the life of one set apart for God, was injurious to me in many ways. Among other things it robbed me of my childhood. Instead of playing, I began very early to pray. God, Christ, Bible, and the dogmas of the faith monopolized my attention, and left me neither the leisure nor the desire for the things that make childhood joyous. At the age of eight years I was invited to lead the congregation in prayer, in church, and could recite many parts of the New Testament by heart. One of my favorite pastimes was "to play church." I would arrange the chairs as I had seen them arranged at church, then mounting on one of the chairs, I would improvise a sermon and follow it with an unctuous prayer. All this pleased my mother very much, and led her to believe that God had condescended to accept her offering.
My dear mother is still living, and is still a devout member of the Congregational church. I have not concealed my Rationalism from her, nor have I tried to make light of the change which has separated us radically in the matter of religion. Needless to say that my withdrawal from the Christian ministry, and the Christian religion, was a painful disappointment to her. But like all loving mothers, she hopes and prays that I may return to the faith she still holds, and in which I was baptized. It is only natural that she should do so. At her age of life, beliefs have become so crystallized that they can not yield to new impressions. When my mother had convictions I was but a child, and therefore I was like clay in her hands, but now that I can think for myself my mother is too advanced in years for me to try