Phineas Parkhurst Quimby
What is the Foundation of a Religious Man's Belief?April 1862
What is the foundation of a religious man's belief? It is in a God who has all power, all wisdom, and all strength, all love, and all goodness.
To believe in all the above is to be a Christian. What does the Christian believe that this God is doing for the benefit of the human race? That he is watching over his creatures, providing everything that shall make them happy and comfortable and is ready to give to all that shall ask him, believing in his power to answer prayer. All this - and a great deal more - is believed by the Christians. They also believe that God watches over their health and knows better what they need than they do, themselves. If they suffer, it is for their good; to convince them of the weakness of man's wisdom and his dependence on a superior power; and if they suffer for his sake, they will receive a reward in heaven that shall recompense them for all their suffering.
Now suppose you believe in all the above - what does it profit you? Can you cure yourself of one ache or pain? Can you add to your height one inch, or turn a hair white or black, or give to the sick who are wasting from disease one single word of wisdom that will correct their error and restore them to health? Can you make one blade of grass grow or do anything that shall instruct the world in regard to man's wisdom? You must answer, “No.” Then what does your religion amount to? Nothing but a belief - like a child's belief in God.
Suppose you believe that God is in heaven - or don't believe it - what will that have to do with curing your heart disease? You will say, “Nothing.” Suppose you believe in all I have stated, as the Christians believe - will it cure you? Then what is your belief good for, except as a belief? Why does not your God cure you? Is it for want of faith on your part? If that is the case, then faith is the cure; so if you have the cure - that is your faith.
Faith is not wisdom, but the substance (or cure). Like water to the thirsty soul, it is his cure; but wisdom leads him to the fount of living water, so that he will not thirst. Then his faith will be lost in sight, for his wisdom prevents his thirst. Therefore, to know God is to get wisdom; but to be separated from God is to be religious and believe that there is a fountain of water large enough to quench the thirst of everyone - if they can find it. This is religion.
But to the wise, it is to know this fountain is in yourself; a well of water, springing up into everlasting wisdom. Then you will ask of this wisdom, and just as you understand, you will receive; and your wisdom will teach you that you cannot ask of wisdom, by your belief, and have your prayers answered. God is like mathematics; for mathematics is wisdom put into practice or reduced to man's comprehension. To receive an intelligent answer in mathematics, you must ask in wisdom, not in opinion; and just according to your wisdom, the answer comes.
Here is the difference between you and me. Your God is your belief, and you attach your senses to it. My God is my wisdom, and I attach my senses to it. My God is light and truth; your God is darkness and error. My God sees through your God and knows it is a God invented by man. To destroy your God is to destroy your opinion in man's belief. So as you cease from evil (or believing in man's wisdom) and learn to love God (or wisdom), your errors (or diseases) are blotted out, and your life is saved by this wisdom (or truth). All evil is in our religious beliefs.
There could be no disease without a sensation, but a sensation is not a disease. It is simply a change from harmony. This is a chemical change in the mind (or fluids). This change shows itself by heat. The heat is under the direction of man's opinion or God's wisdom, through man. Wisdom can account for all the sensations. Error gives opinions; so disease is what follows opinion, and the misery follows the belief. The child has no wisdom, so that it has no disease to itself; but its misery is in its fear, and its fear is in its ignorance. So to quiet its fear, you relieve its misery.
Disease and a phenomenon are not the same. The same difference exists in the two as does in opinion and wisdom. The ignorant cannot see the difference between a truth based on an opinion and on a scientific fact. A scientific man and a Christian are as different as a truth based on a belief is different from a truth based on science.
I will describe a man of religion and one of science, so you can see and feel the difference. A purely religious man is all made of error, based on opinions; with not one element of wisdom in him. All his acts are governed by fear. The fear makes him believe in a God of love and hatred. If he does well, his God will reward him; and if he does wrong, his God will punish him. His God is not a part of himself, but separate and apart from him; so he prays to his God. He lives in fear and dies in the hope that God will receive him in His abode. So he lives and dies - as all error dies, when the truth comes. This belief is full of contradiction, for it is of this world's opinion; so he is a man of matter, and his God is a tyrant.
What is my God? My God is all-wise in everything. Science is his wisdom, reduced to practice. He has not eyes, like the Christian God. He is all light. He has not ears, but is all wisdom; so that not a sparrow can move, but moves in his wisdom. He hears all men's prayers that are made according to the principle of science; so when man asks for what he cannot have - without some act - God never will answer. The Christians believe that God will step out of the natural course of science to help a man, but my God cannot do such a thing.
I will show how Christians receive favors from men, and through their wisdom, give the praise to this unknown God. A pious old man and woman live in some by-lane in a small apartment with no furniture, not even a chair, and depend on the charity of the world for a living. You enter and find the woman with the Bible in her hand, feeble and careworn, and with a trembling voice she says, "Will you not be seated on this box by my side?"
You seat yourself and learn her history. She tells you that when she was young, she experienced religion and felt that she had found her saviour. At the age of twenty, she married a man who had all the means to make her happy. But it seemed to be the will of God to remove from her all the blessings of life, in order to teach her that man's happiness does not exist in the things of this world, but on laying up treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not corrupt, etc.
You ask her, "Do you feel satisfied with your situation?"
"Oh, yes," she answers. "I feel as though God knows my wants and will not let me suffer, but will watch over me."
"Don't you suffer for food?"
"Oh, no. He sends me food."
"The Lord sent Mrs. D to see me, and she gave me all this food that you see here."
Now here is where a great mistake is made, in supposing that some intelligence outside of man is watching; as man does not know himself. All wisdom is outside of man's opinion and belief, and that which does not come to his senses is, to him, a mystery. So the mystery is his God. To know the mystery is to know God, and when the mystery is understood - the religion vanishes.
One great trouble comes from teaching us to believe in an overruling providence in the shape of a God, who will answer our desires ,without our making any effort. It makes man indolent and superstitious and a burden on society. It makes man unhappy and even insane and draws out sympathy from a class of persons who know their religion is the effect of superstition.
I will show how a person in a similar state to the lady above might be benefited by some persons, without any knowledge through the senses. This would look as though it were by the divine influence of God, while God has just as much to do with every act that we take the credit of to ourselves, and it really belongs to us.
If I am hungry, and you give me a dinner because you feel that it would make me happier, and you had this in your mind - then that was God; and I give him the praise of my feelings that do not lie. But if you give me a dinner to be praised for your goodness - that is of man; and man should have the praise. Jesus said, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God, the things that are God's." This God in us is always on the lookout to render kindness to those who are in trouble, but the Caesar is on the lookout to be rewarded for his acts; so that it is hard to tell which is master.
To return to the case stated above. A poor, sickly person, confined to her room - starving, freezing and nearly exhausted - offers up a prayer, according to her belief, that would make her put forth her desire (or feelings). Her feeling excites the sympathy of some person. This, like yeast, excites him to look for a cause; and like a mesmeric person, he finds it, by following the desire to the place of her abode and then relieves her wants. As both are ignorant of the cause and effect, the whole is laid to God - so they give God the praise. The ignorance of wisdom is called religion.
You may ask me for proof. I will give it from my own acts under these impressions; and I know that God, nor spirits, nor man's wisdom has anything to do with them. They are the natural outpouring of persons' feelings and not thinking that their trouble could reach my ears. But my wisdom could account for all.
I will relate one or two instances, showing how little we know ourselves and how much we are governed by this wisdom, unknown to the world of man. I was attending, not long ago, a patient who was very sick. (P.R.H., Mrs. B&E.) All those had a desire to see me, and their desire was their prayer, and their prayers affected my wisdom (or God), that I believed in. Their wisdom (or God) was in trouble, and in their trouble, they called on this wisdom. But their senses (or natural man) knew not what they called on; for the religious man is a stranger to this wisdom, and when he is in distress, the priest teaches him to call on the Lord for help. This keeps them ignorant of this truth, which they vainly worship.
Their God is in the clouds of their belief, and I can see it; for my God is my wisdom, and theirs is in their opinion (or belief). They expect to see him - and I really see him. They are looking for his second coming, but to me he has come - and is now writing this very truth that they vainly worship.
Here is a difference between a religious man and Jesus. God, to the religious man, is separate and apart from the human family and watches over them as a parent watches over his children. They stand to God as a servant to his master, ready to obey his call; and if they are in want, he thinks it is for their good. He grants their prayers, if he thinks best - but if he chooses to do otherwise, it is all right. So they are always looking for this unknown God that is in them; and they know it not.
Now my God - that is, P.P.Q's - is his wisdom; and his senses (P.P.Q's) are attached to his God. So he lives and moves, and his life is in the wisdom (or God), and his prayer is to know more of himself; that is, this wisdom (or God).