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Infidels, Freethinkers, Humanists, and Unbelievers
Reade, William Winwood (1838 - 1875)
"Christians believe themselves to be the aristocracy of heaven upon earth, they are admitted to the spiritual court, while millions of men in foreign lands have never been presented. They bow their knees and say they are 'miserable sinners,' and their hearts rankle with abominable pride. Poor infatuated fools! Their servility is real and their insolence is real but their king is a phantom and their palace is a dream."

-- William Winwood Reade


Born to a squire in Perthshire, Reade took to writing at an early age, composing two novels by the age of 23. At this age he also decided to depart for Africa, arriving in Gabon by steamboat in 1862. After several months of observing gorillas and traveling down through Angola, Reade returned home and published his first travel account, Savage Africa. Despite what critics have called an often juvenile tone, the book is notable for its anthropological inquiries.

In 1868, Reade secured the patronage of London-based Gold Coast trader Andrew Swanzy to journey to West Africa. After failing to get permission to enter the Ashanti Confederacy, Reade set out north from Freetown to explore the areas past the Solimana capital of Falaba. Though Reade traveled over some unexplored territory, his findings excited little interest among geographers, due mostly to his failure to take accurate measurements of his journey; his sextant and other instruments had been left behind at Port Loko. On his return, Reade published his African Sketch-Book (1873), an account of his travels that also called for far greater British involvement in West Africa.

His best-known work, however, is The Martyrdom of Man (1872), a secular history of the Western world. In it, Reade attempts to trace the development of Western civilization in terms analogous to those used in the natural sciences.

Reade returned to Africa in 1873 to serve as a correspondent in the Ashanti War, but died not long after.

Quotations

"One fact must be familiar to all those who have any experience of human nature -- a sincerely religious man is often an exceedingly bad man."

"We live between two worlds; we soar in the atmosphere; we creep upon the soil; we have the aspirations of creators and the propensities of quadrupeds. There can be but one explanation of this fact. We are passing from the animal into a higher form, and the drama of this planet is in its second act."

"Christians believe themselves to be the aristocracy of heaven upon earth, they are admitted to the spiritual court, while millions of men in foreign lands have never been presented. They bow their knees and say they are 'miserable sinners,' and their hearts rankle with abominable pride. Poor infatuated fools! Their servility is real and their insolence is real but their king is a phantom and their palace is a dream."

"Buried cities are beneath our feet; the ground on which we tread is the pavement of a tomb. See the pyramids towering to the sky, with men, like insects, crawling round their base; and the Sphinx, couched in vast repose, with a ruined temple between its paws. Since those great monuments were raised the very heavens have been changed. When the architects of Egypt began their work, there was another polar star in the northern sky, and the southern cross shone upon the Baltic shores. How glorious are the memories of those ancient men, whose names are forgotten, for they lived and labored in the distant and unwritten past. Too great to be known, they sit on the height of centuries and look down on fame.... The men are dead, and the gods are dead. Naught but their memories remain. Where now is Osiris, who came down upon earth out of love for man, who was killed by the malice of the evil one, who rose again from the grave and became the judge of the dead? Where now is Isis the mother, with the child Horus in her lap? They are dead; they are gone to the land of the shades. To-morrow, Jehovah, you and your son shall be with them."

"If we look into ourselves we discover propensities which declare that our intellects have arisen from a lower form; could our minds be made visible we should find them tailed."

 
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