I shall speak in a straightforward way, and shall say today what perhaps I should say tomorrow, or ten years from now,--but shall say it today, because I cannot keep it back, because I have nothing better to say than the truth, or what I hold to be the truth. But why seek truths that are not pleasant? We cannot help it. No man can suppress the truth. Truth finds a crack or crevice to crop out of; it bobs up to the surface and all the volume and weight of waters can not keep it down. Truth prevails! Life, death, truth--behold, these three no power can keep back. And since we are doomed to know the truth, let us cultivate a love for it. It is of no avail to cry over lost illusions, to long for vanished dreams, or to call to the departing gods to come back. It may be pleasant to play with toys and dolls all our life, but evidently we are not meant to remain children always. The time comes when we must put away childish things and obey the summons of truth, stern and high. A people who fear the truth can never he a free people. If what I will say is the truth, do you know of any good reason why I should not say it? And if for prudential reasons I should sometimes hold back the truth, how would you know _when_ I am telling what I believe to be the truth, and when I am holding it back for reasons of policy? The truth, however unwelcome, is not injurious; it is error which raises false hopes, which destroys, degrades and pollutes, and which, sooner or later, must be abandoned. Was it not Spencer, whom Darwin called "our great philosopher," who said, "Repulsive as is its aspect, the hard fact which dissipates a cherished illusion is presently found to contain the germ of a more salutary belief?" Spain is decaying today because her teachers, for policy's sake, are withholding the disagreeable truth from the people. Holy water and sainted bones can give a nation illusions and dreams, but never,--strength. A difficult subject is in the nature of a challenge to the mind. One difficult task attempted is worth a thousand commonplace efforts completed. The majority of people avoid the difficult and fear danger. But he who would progress must even court danger. Political and religious liberty were discovered through peril and struggle. The world owes its emancipation to human daring. Had Columbus feared danger, America might have slept for another thousand years. I have a difficult subject in hand. It is also a delicate one. But I am determined not only to know, if it is possible, the whole truth about Jesus, but also to communicate that truth to others. Some people can keep their minds shut. I cannot; I must share my intellectual life with the world. If I lived a thousand years ago, I might have collapsed at the sight of the burning stake, but I feel sure I would have deserved the stake. People say to me, sometimes, "Why do you not confine yourself to moral and religious exhortation, such as, 'Be kind, do good, love one another, etc.'?" But there is more of a moral tonic in the open and candid discussion of a subject like the one in hand, than in a multitude of platitudes. We feel our moral fiber stiffen into force and purpose under the inspiration of a peril dared for the advancement of truth. "Tell us what you believe," is one of the requests frequently addressed to me. I never deliver a lecture in which I do not, either directly or indirectly, give full and free expression to my faith in everything that is worthy of faith. If I do not believe in dogma, it is because I believe in freedom. If I do not believe in one inspired book, it is because I believe that all truth and only truth is inspired. If I do not ask the gods to help us, it is because I believe in human help, so much more real than supernatural help. If I do not believe in standing still, it is because I believe in progress. If I am not attracted by the vision of a distant heaven, it is because I believe in human happiness, now and here. If I do not say "Lord, Lord!" to Jesus, it is because I bow my head to a greater Power than Jesus, to a more efficient Savior than he has ever been--Science! "Oh, he tears down, but does not build up," is another criticism about my work. It is not true. No preacher or priest is more constructive. To build up their churches and maintain their creeds the priests pulled down and destroyed the magnificent civilization of Greece and Rome, plunging Europe into the dark and sterile ages which lasted over a thousand years. When Galileo waved his hands for joy because he believed he had enriched humanity with a new truth and extended the sphere of knowledge, what did the church do to him? It conspired to destroy him. It shut him up in a dungeon! Clapping truth into jail; gagging the mouth of the student--is that building up or tearing down? When Bruno lighted a new torch to increase the light of the world, what was his reward? The stake! During all the ages that the church had the power to police the world, every time a thinker raised his head he was clubbed to death. Do you think it is kind of us--does it square with our sense of justice to call the priest constructive, and the scientists and philosophers who have helped people to their feet--helped them to self-government in politics, and to self-help in life,--destructive? Count your rights--political, religious, social, intellectual--and tell me which of them was conquered for you by the priest. "He is irreverent," is still another hasty criticism I have heard advanced against the rationalist. I wish to tell you something. But first let us be impersonal. The epithets "irreverent," "blasphemer," "atheist," and "infidel," are flung at a man, not from pity, but from envy. Not having the courage or the industry of our neighbor who works like a busy bee in the world of men and books, searching with the sweat of his brow for the real bread of life, wetting the open page before him with his tears, pushing into the "wee" hours of the night his quest, animated by the fairest of all loves, "the love of truth",--we ease our own indolent conscience by calling him names. We pretend that it is not because we are too lazy or too selfish to work as hard or think as freely as he does, but because we do not want to be as irreverent as he is that we keep the windows of our minds shut. To excuse our own mediocrity we call the man who tries to get out of the rut a "blasphemer." And so we ask the world to praise our indifference as a great virtue, and to denounce the conscientious toil and thought of another, as "blasphemy."