by George Lincoln Rockwell
Fortunately, childhood and youth knows nothing and cares less about serious political and social affairs. I was much too immersed in the immediate deluge of human misery which surrounded me as I started to grow up and became conscious of the world to observe or care about the insane rush of Western Civilization into the abyss of chaos in the 1920's.
There was no lack of the disease which I later learned was and is killing our civilization, in my family environment.
By the time I was six, my parents had been divorced, there was a sheriff's auction of our home and I began to be forced to listen to hours-long lectures by my mother's sister, Arlene, on the rottenness and vileness of my father. Aunt Arlene, as this female tyrant was known to us, considered herself a great expert and master of everything. The fact that this opinion was not shared by anybody else only made her all the more fierce in the attempt to impress the 'fact' on my weak-willed mother and on my brother, sister and me. My little sister was too young to be bothered much by such affairs and my mother simply stepped aside while Arlene became the boss of the place. My brother, at a very tender age, revealed his genius as a diplomat; when Arlene sat him down to hear one of her 'lectures', he agreed heartily with all her statements, exclaimed at her profound wisdom, etc. and was quickly excused with happy smiles by the fat 'victor'.
I, on the other hand, revealed my own nature in just the opposite way. When Arlene would corral me for a lecture, I would try, at first, to escape with my brother's tactics by agreeing with her pronunciamentos. But then I could not help just the tiniest bit of argument when she would make a particularly heinous charge against my father, which seemed irrational to me. The slightest opposition would rouse this human dirigible to fierce determination to suppress the mutiny. And this, in turn, even though I was six or seven years old, roused in me an even fiercer determination not to be bullied out of what seemed reasonable.
I was often forced to listen to these 'lectures' until far into the night. My poor, patient, weak mother would try feebly to rescue me, by getting me to do as she and the rest did – give in and crawl out of it – but I could not do it. I can imagine the glee with which the Freudian brainwashers will dive into this material here, sure that they have learned at last the source of what they must, perforce, try to explain as my 'neurosis' or worse. But I will remind these discoverers of evidence which they themselves plant that my brother was exposed to this same kind of thing and his reaction, even at four or five years of age was the opposite of mine. No, gentlemen, my reaction to these things was not caused by this tyranny of Aunt Arlene – it was a surge of force deep within me, as my brother reacted with the native genius for diplomatic wriggling which he displays to this day.
Half of the time, my brother and I would be shuttled to penitentiary duty with Arlene and the other half, we were freed to be with my father and his common law wife, Madeline, in Maine. My sufferings, struggles and fun as a boy were, I suppose, relatively normal when we were with my mother and 'Arlene the Great', with the exception of the midnight lectures.
But the time with my father gave both my brother and me an outlook on life and an intellectual disposition which we both treasure. We have found that the nonconformist approach he showed and transmitted to us has enabled us to outdistance most others in creativeness, time after time. He was unbelievably curious about everything. We looked into the plumbing business, got tools from Sears and went about doing plumbing for people, just for fun. We investigated photographs and built an enlarger. We held autopsies on fish to see what they had been eating and found amazing things in sharks' stomachs. We argued happily and endlessly as to whether a pig, who knew nothing of his stupidity, was happier than a man. We brought home a man and a monkey in the organ-grinder business for long discussions and lunch.
Another guest was a mental doctor who claimed he could shorten or lengthen your legs, and I remember we had the whole roomful of people, including celebrities like Fred Allen and other entertainment luminaries, stretched out on the floor to see if their legs would grow. We all learned to play chess and there were a few times when the whole outfit got so deep into the game that the McNaught Syndicate, for whom my father wrote a column, sent call after call for the latest piece and finally had to send a man all the way to Maine to stir him up. While we chugged the twenty or so miles out into the Atlantic for deep sea fishing at three and four in the mornings, even when I was only eight or nine years old in sneakers and flapping shirt, we endlessly discussed fine points of politics, history, magic, art and the whole gamut of subjects usually reserved for college and adulthood. In the evenings, my brother and I would lie in our beds listening to the shrill cry of the sea-gulls on the Maine coast, smelling the clam flats and the bayberry fields, and my old man would scooch down for an enchanted hour or so during which he told original stories I will never forget. His best were about "The Old Scout", an incredibly tough and masterful Indian battler. Several times he told of his own childhood visits to the home of the MacPhersons in Nova Scotia, where he said he had actually seen battles with the Indians. I have my doubts of this, but I didn't then and freely and happily forgive the old gent for a bit of poetic license, if he did use it; it was well worth it.
Even now, I get goose flesh as I remember the smell of his pipe, the hushed voice and the magic of the Maine dusk as we listened to these superb flights of imagination. Usually the stories would end with all of us falling asleep, the old man only minutes after us. But sometimes he would drop off first, muttering the last few words half consciously and leaving us in impossible suspense. Then our shrill young voices would pierce his ears. "Daddy! Daddy! Wake up! How did the Old Scout get out of the Indian fire and get untied and out of the way of the buffalo stampede? Daddy! Wake up!" Then the imagination was not so hot and the Old Scout would suddenly discover some hidden friend who quickly rescued him – and the old man. We were not to be so easily swindled, however and usually demanded another version before the tired purveyor of these masterpieces was excused.
Above all, my father taught me to question everything. No fact was too sacred to be examined and judged by itself. No authority was too holy to be looked into for probity. If anything, we were taught to be downright suspicious of all that was supposed to be beyond doubt, I was already of this disposition and my father's training tremendously strengthened this quality of mind and personality.
But I also received other instruction from my male parent which was not so helpful. The policy of "anything for a laugh" was unfortunately extended to everyday life and I can remember my father bringing howls of laughter from me when I was still almost a baby, being undressed. My garments, shoes, etc. were violently removed in a sort of game where every piece was violently flung on the floor to the battle-song of "Throw it on the floor, BANG! BANG!" This, of course, delighted me no end, but fostered untidiness, which is one of the plagues of my life. Then there were the sessions when my tiny brother and I would be stood against the wall for "roaring" practice, to develop our voices. "Roar like a bear," we were ordered and we tried to oblige. Those who have heard me speak or who will hear me, will testify to the efficacy of this "bear" training – but it was not much of an advantage before I became Commander of the Nazi Party.
My father's friends were also the source of much instruction. Fred Allen, Benny Goodman, Walter Winchell, Groucho Marx and a host of others all had their turns as guests and I found each most interesting. Allen was pure joy to be near and when my Pop and Allen got to punning and tilting at each other with stories and sidesplitting anecdotes, it was one of those precious and rare times when life is 100% positive fun, unalloyed with the petty or large annoyances which so often spoil even the best times we have.
But Allen's wife, Portland, gave me the shock of my fourteen or fifteen years when she was the first woman I ever heard say a filthy word – and in our living room, at that. She used the Anglo-Saxon word for body waste to express her distaste for some idea or other – and I will never forget the experience. Never, in all those young years, had I heard a female say such a word and I thought of her immediately as an object of unbelievable disgust. In discussing the matter later, with my father, I learned that she was Jewish. I asked him if Jewishness had anything to do with it and he said they were very "sophisticated people" who meant no harm by it. But he also told me of Henry Ford's accusations against the Jews and how they forced him to apologize, and said there was no getting away from the power of the Jews, "They're too smart."
Except for the permanent memory of my shock at hearing that awful word from a lady in our family drawing room, I thought no more of it and don't even remember thinking of Portland as anything but a woman who said a horrible, vulgar word for the first time in my presence. I know the Jews and 'liberals' and Freudians will once again leap like trout to the fly here, and be sure this is the source of my 'hatred' of Jews. But it is simply not true. I assimilated this experience with millions of others and did not even notice whether the hundreds of Jews in Atlantic City High School, where I went for four years and many of whom were my best friends, were Jews or Hottentots. That may be an unfortunate choice of words, because hundreds of my school comrades in Atlantic City were Hottentots! And I didn't particularly notice or care about this either. The Jews simply cannot accept it, of course and the brainwashed will not accept it, but my hatred of organized Jewry stems directly and only from the discovery of what most – but not all – Jews are doing to the Nation and the People I love. There may have been some slight vestiges of prejudice in my upbringing, but no more than in the upbringing of millions of other American boys who are not leading Hitler movements.
An example is Walter Winchell, with whom my father and I once rode to New York from Atlantic City in the drawing room of a Pennsylvania Railroad train. I was fascinated by the fast-talking, nasal twanging man and the stories they told each other. I had no hatred of him at all – only a fairly warm liking and admiration.
But the next time I saw Walter, whose real name I had since learned was Isadore Lipshitz, was two years ago in front of the White House where we were picketing against the kidnaping of Eichmann by the international bandits of Israel. Walter was standing with a group of cops, watching us. I went over to take his picture. At the top of his lungs, as he himself boasted in his column later, he hollered at me the filthiest of all epithets, not once, but several times. When I mentioned this violation of the most fundamental municipal laws, the cops said they hadn't heard it. And Walter went on in his column to display his intimate connection with the filthy pressure and terror group we are fighting by announcing that I would probably be committed to St. Elizabeth's, the project which the vicious Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith then had in the works and sprung on me a few weeks later, although I didn't know it then. But Walter knew. I hate such cowardly and sneaking tactics and the people who engage in them. I hate Walter Winchell for his lies and for trying to bully people out of their ideas and open discussion of facts, not because of his 'religion'. Who gives a damn what he does in his synagogue! It is what he and those like him do to innocent Americans in the way of smear, economic persecution and suppression of facts which I roundly hate and which I am proud to hate.
Benny Goodman is another Jew from whom I learned something. He came up to our idyllic home in the pine woods of Maine where there was a perfect balance of gracious living and wide open nature. He was supposed to stay for several days' vacation, but he lasted only an evening. Being away from the crush of people was more than he could bear and he scurried back to the soul-destroying hothouse life of New York City with his millions of fellow Jews.
Since then, I have visited "Grossingers" in the Catskills where the rich Jews go out into the beautiful country to 'get away from it all' and then crawl all over each other in a transplanted imitation New York, like a mass of swarming hornets.
But in those days, I knew none of this and probably would not have cared if I had known. As previously mentioned, I attended Atlantic City High School for four years and one of my best friends was a Jew named Lennie. I not only had no prejudice whatsoever, but liked my Jewish companions immensely for their brilliant minds and sharp conversations. There was one characteristic of them which shocked and appalled me, but I took it as simply a characteristic of a few individuals, not a characteristic typical of their whole group, as I have since sadly learned that it is. This was their nastiness of mind. I assure the reader that I am not concocting this as propaganda, but sincerely recalling things as they were.
While all the boys, of course, thought of and talked of intercourse and such subjects as rudely and as often as possible, those who I now realize were Gentiles were thoroughly sex-minded, you might say, but not weird or depraved, while the Jews – I remember particularly a hawk-nosed individual – took a delight I could not understand in perverted ideas of sex. Hawk-nose particularly dwelt on the idea of intercourse with corpses and another Jew once wrote a little playlet in which Hawk-nose and two ghoulish friends come to a graveyard to dig up Rockwell for his vile purposes and speak of the matter with incredible nastiness. I remember being appalled at the filth of the thing, but also admiring the virtuosity of the writing so much that I glossed over the nature of this creative piece. I still have this nasty thing in the files from my high school days and one has only to read it to discover a different kind of mind than will be found in even the coarsest and dirtiest-minded non-Jew.
At the same time, during my senior year in this predominantly Negro and Jewish high school, I was having my first small-scale political battle and didn't realize it. There was a course in "Problems of American Democracy" taught by an old duffer named Schwab. His method of instruction consisted largely of assigning large portions of the textbook pages on the blackboard and requiring these to be transcribed word for word into the students' notebooks, while he occupied himself with other matters privately at his desk. In any event, I hated such stupid ideas, as if one could fill one's head as one filled a bucket, by filling a notebook. This was an outrage against all reason and I rebelled as I once rebelled at my Aunt Arlene's outrages against reason.
It was my last year of high school and although my marks were not good, they were not too bad, either. In four or five months, I would graduate. But, as with the lectures and arguments with Arlene, I could not bring myself to bow down to what I considered tyrannical folly. I had heard much in those days of the "New Deal" of the strike – so I 'struck'. I brought pulp Western stories to class, placed my feet on the desk and ostentatiously read these while the class bent over its mechanical task in the bulging notebooks. Mr. Schwab, of course, inquired as to just what I was doing, somewhat in the manner of Oliver Hardy asking Stanley a similar question. I replied, with all the sang-froid I could muster that I was on strike, that I absolutely refused, as a matter of principle, to copy any more of the textbook into the notebook.
At first, he was apparently amused by this monumental arrogance and would ask me every day as I came in if I were still on strike. I would then prop up my feet and bury myself in the latest gun-fighting episode of my Western magazine. The other kids were somewhat awed by all this and the girls were almost terrified at such impudence in the face of the 'almighty'. Seeing my apparent success, however, a few of the boys joined me – and that did it. Nothing spreads among boys in school like an apparently successful plan for avoiding work.
So I was informed I would not graduate, unless I immediately wrote in all the missing notebook pages and went back to the copying routine in class. I refused to negotiate and insisted I would not copy another line. I was threatened, reasoned with and begged, but I would not back down. So I did not graduate. But Mr. Schwab was called into conference and the next year, the textbook copying business was eliminated from the course.
While this was going on in class, my private life was proceeding along fairly normal lines. I played football and hockey, poorly, but enthusiastically, with the other guys – including Negroes – became a radio amateur, did cartoons for the school paper – and 'fell in love'.
In my 'homeroom' was a sweet young thing named Jean and, although I would have died before permitting her to know it, I almost literally worshiped her. But what a miserable, disgusting coward I was about it! Other young men around me were quite brassy about approaching the girls they liked, and there were plenty of rumors as to this or that couple actually sleeping together. But it took me almost a year to ask this angel for a date. Before that I would roller-skate to the end of the street where she lived, a distance of four or five miles, peek around the corner for a glimpse of her and then roller-skate the four or five miles back home, my blood pumping so hard I could feel it in my throat!
Finally, in a frenzy of embarrassment I will never forget, I asked her if I could take her to the circus. She blushingly accepted and my 'date' was an impossible combination of heavenly joy and terrifying nightmare. We went on one of the old open summer trolley cars, she in a pretty white dress and I in baggy pants and what I imagined was a dashing white sports coat. I did my best to be an attentive gallant, helping her on and off the trolley and acting like the movie lovers I'd seen, acting with great charm and ease. But I succeeded in tripping her, getting off the trolley and then catching her in a sprawling mess on the street. I could not breathe in the agony of shame and embarrassment, but I had touched her! I was bright red as we walked past the balloon sellers and lemonade stands toward the big tent.
We managed to get inside the tent and tightrope walk the bleacher boards to our seats. She sat close enough to me so I could feel her feminine warmth! The roaring surge of what was going on inside my physical being and my soul is, of course, indescribable, but the results were not! I tried to buy her a pink lemonade and spilled it all over her pretty white dress. I honestly wished to die and disappear, if possible. Somehow, I managed to survive and took her skating and to a few basketball games. I fairly burst with pride when I found our names linked in the mimeographed gossip sheets which abounded. But I never tried to kiss her, although she made remarks which I am now sure were dainty scoldings for my miserable cowardice in such matters.
This super-Victorian attitude with women followed me a long time in life and I may have missed a great many 'good things' by ordinary standards. But after seeing more of human 'love' and what happened to many of the brassy successes with women, I suspect that the sweet, storybook memories I keep of such idyllic, if not physically satisfying, love are far more pleasant in the long run than the pleasures of the more sophisticated. I don't believe I can deny that my failure to 'go farther' with girls earlier in life was largely due to plain cowardice where girls were concerned. But I also think most people today lose the savor of love and sex through over-sophistication and impatience. It is impossible to enjoy a fine wine by gulping it all down at once and even a connoisseur cannot appreciate his dainty sips the first time he tries wine.
I believe that the more excellent and more complex an organism is and therefore the more superior it is in the scheme of nature, the longer it takes for it to mature. Negroes can best White men any day in speed of sex maturity and accomplishment, and experience seem to indicate that it is the same with mental capacity. The stupid man reaches his maximum performance when he is fifteen or sixteen. Anything he might do later, he can do then. But when mental capacity and ability are greater, it takes more and more years of practical laboratory experience of the world before such ability can be of value to its possessor and the world. When the point of genius is reached, the ability and range of possibilities are so great that only in middle age is it possible for such an inspired man to translate his ability into intelligent action. Before then, he is more likely than the stupid man to rush up intellectual cul-de-sacs and go off on foolish tangents.
Since I did not graduate from high school, I had to spend another year at it and decided to take the opportunity offered me by my paternal grandmother, Mary MacPherson Rockwell and her daughter, my Aunt Marguerite, whom we called "Margie" as kids, to go to school in Providence and live with them.
This was one of the most wonderful years of my life. My grandmother and aunt doted on me and the atmosphere at home was truly happy. I attended Central High School in Providence and excelled in almost everything. I was editor of the school paper, wrote pieces for the Providence Bulletin and journal and generally enjoyed, myself. I met Hazel Johnson, a very pretty girl who lived only a few blocks away and who attended Central High School too. Her Swedish Lutheran parents were very strict and in order to have an excuse to visit her and sit with her on the couch, she taught me knitting! I actually knitted a baggy, misshapen sweater, which I wore proudly for years!
We went to church together and I sang in the choir with this lovely Swede, holding hands under the long, black robes. I liked her folks and they liked me and it appeared I was to be eventually inducted into the family. Her father was a great old guy who kidded me roughly, but good-naturedly and one day scoffed at my statement that I could learn Swedish in a month. So I did learn Swedish, not conversationally, but well enough to say what I had in mind. At the end of the month, he scornfully gave me the 'test', with Hazel and her mother sitting around with twinkling eyes. I was supposed to say, "Give me a horse to go horseback-riding" in Swedish and the old man figured he had me with that bit about the "horseback-riding". I didn't know the word for that, to be sure, but I had learned the words for "horse", "want" and "go". The part about riding stumped me for a bit, but I remembered a word I had learned for the cut of meat I thought was from the back, but which, I discovered later, meant something else. The result was that I said in Swedish: "I want a horse to go on his ass."
The whole family fell out of their seats laughing and howling, which was a bit different from the reaction I expected, but which was a great success, nevertheless. That night, I essayed my first kiss.
I stepped into the little hallway to get my coat and Hazel helped me. Screwing up my courage, I seized her in the clumsiest fashion – in a waltz position, with my arm out and our fingers interlocked – and kissed her! It was a perfectly lousy kiss by ordinary standards. But it nearly killed me with a roaring furnace of emotions and drives. I got out of the door somehow and – this may be hard to believe, but it is true – I ran like a deer about a mile down the middle of the deserted, dark streets. I could not stop. I was exploding with fierce energy and bad to run. It is not hard to understand what nature had in mind for all that energy, but I was too excited and mixed up even to feel that. I just ran, ran as I never had before nor since. I was eighteen years old!
During the year in Providence, I had graduated successfully from Central High School and then again from Hope High School, since I had a free half year and needed an English course for college. My father wanted me to go to Harvard and I duly applied. There was a lot of correspondence back and forth, plus entrance exams, etc., but as fall approached and no admission papers arrived, we went to Cambridge to see what the trouble was and discovered my school records from Atlantic City had not been forwarded or had been lost.
So once again, I was 'available' for a whole year and my father decided the discipline of a boys' boarding school would be helpful. I was not so sure of this, but was nevertheless entered in Hebron Academy, far out in the woods in central Maine, near Lewiston.
The life was rough and rigorous, but the school good. I learned a lot about life in the raw, living for the first time with a pretty tough gang from Boston. Quite a few of the boys had been sent to Hebron by their folks as a last resort before reform school and they were my first close contacts with such characters.
But more important, in the long hours and days far out there in the woods, I began to think serious and deep thoughts for the first time. I got hold of Will Durant's Story of Philosophy and it set me on fire. The pure, hard beauty of the thoughts of great men throughout the ages was captured by Durant, distilled and set forth so clearly that they could be understood and compared and weighed, even by such a young empty-head as I. Especially, I liked the ruthless logic and unbending dedication to the truth, whatever it might be, of Schopenhauer. I began to see, for the first time, what I have come to know as the conceited, 'liberal' mind, which imagines itself capable of conquering nature and setting up Utopias because it is packed like a suitcase with 'knowledge' and 'culture', but which has no understanding of basic relationships and no humility whatsoever before the absolutely unknowable.
I read Sinclair Lewis' Arrowsmith, mostly sitting on a stump in the woods and got so absorbed in the thing, it worried me. It all seemed so real to me and had such an enormous influence on my mind that I began to wonder about the value of reading such a novel. I came to the conclusion that it is all right to read purely escapist literature, but that when one wants to delve into and weigh the facts which are life and death in human affairs, one is mad to permit himself voluntarily to be hypnotized by a novelist, transported out of his critical faculties and thereby to allow his mind to be powerfully conditioned by almost real 'experiences' which are nothing less than the invented devices of another human being. When it is one of the endless parade of 'socially significant' novels which are devoured by our people by the millions, the reader is helpless to weigh and consciously accept or reject the social conclusions of the skillful novelist whose conclusions may or may not be correct. If the novelist is not only incorrect, but is out to promote a particular idea, in spite of the facts, the powerful realism and emotional impact of the cleverly-drawn pictures he stamps indelibly in our minds while we are under his spell put us in grave danger of unconsciously and emotionally accepting what we would never in a million years accept as a naked proposition presented to our cold reasoning faculties.
I read more of these novels – Grapes of Wrath – and four or five others, and in all of them I sensed an attempt to convince me of social ideas, not by reason, but by emotional manipulations while my mind was hypnotized by my emotions. I didn't fully realize it, but I had discovered left wing and communist propaganda. I hated it, without knowing what it was!
Characteristically, in these books, patriotism was sneered at and morals were something for boobs, while the people were rotten – except Jews and Negroes who were especially worthy human beings who were usually persecuted wretchedly by brutal, stupid and repulsive White Christian Southern Protestants.
But all of this I didn't form into a clear pattern. I saw only the fact that the novel was dangerous to the man who wished to maintain an independent mind. And I was daily growing more independent of mind. Partly through my father's teaching of irreverence for any statement just because somebody else said so, and partly out of native cussedness, stubbornness and growing mental confidence, I began to examine everything and everybody in a new light: the light of the best I could do with my own reason. I began to ponder religion.
Until then, I had been highly religious. I had often put my allowance in the collection plate as a boy and felt a great surge of joy in doing so, imagining the warm smile of a personal God as I made the sacrifice. But now, I began to wonder at the mounting evil I was discovering in the world and the illogical explanations for it in my Christian religion.
I read and reread the Bible, as I had not done before, from beginning to end. I was appalled at the demand by God for human sacrifice, for the eating of human body waste by the Lord, for the horrible cruelties and atrocities demanded by the Lord, according to the Old Testament; by the doctrine that the Lord made millions of people to be slaves for the Hebrews whom he had "chosen" through no merit of their own, while he destroyed his other creatures wholesale for the Hebrews' special pleasure and promised them that they would be able to put their feet on the necks of all other peoples. I wondered that the preachers had never preached from these vicious and repulsive verses.
Were they not aware that such monstrosities were in the Bible, as I had been unaware? Or did they know and falsely skip over them just to stay in business? Could I believe that a God who gloried in such vicious and bloody revenge was a "God of Love"? Why all the explanations? It was plain to read on page after page. The Lord had created two innocent creatures out of nothing, placed them in a garden, knowing they were too imperfectly made and too weak to resist temptation and, unless his foreknowledge was wrong – which was impossible – knowing they would fall to temptation and be condemned, along with their innocent children, to eternal misery. And then this "Loving Father" had placed the most irresistible temptation, loaded with unheard of poison, before his children! I imagined what I would have thought of my feeble human father if he had placed us kids in a garden and then hung ice cream cones and lollipops and toys all around, warned us not to touch these irresistible delights and then put inconceivably deadly poison in all these temptations – knowing all the time with certainty that we would be poisoned and fiendishly tortured forever!
Most of all, I wondered at the idea that if there were a few simple ideas and facts to be understood to enjoy eternal life and happiness, here and later on, and God were all-powerful, He had made it impossible for me to believe those ideas and facts because of the very mind which he gave me! And then I am to be threatened with eternal damnation for not believing that which I cannot believe! My first reaction was atheism.
I did something I deeply regret and shall never do again. I had begun to discover my own power of persuasion and, in the eternal bull sessions of a boys' school, religion is not exempt as a topic. I was genuinely sorry I had lost my belief in Christianity, for it has truly marvelous power to sustain and help one in times of tribulation. I began to discuss the matter with a devout Catholic boy who tried with all his heart and might to make me see my error. We skied five miles over to his church to see a priest he said could straighten me out and I was truly anxious to be shown my error, if error it was.
But the matter turned out differently. Coldly and scientifically I argued with the priest, refusing to let him lead me into the inevitable non sequiturs, redundancies, etc. and brutally holding to logic. He was reduced, eventually, to exclaiming, "You just must believe. You have to believe!" I told him I could not believe and asked him if he were not able to help me do what he said I must. He shook his head sadly, no doubt convinced that I was determined not to understand.
The effect on my friend was something I had not counted on. All the way back to the school we skied in silence. When we got back, he said not a word and for days avoided me. I felt a secret shame for which I could see no reason. Eventually, he told me that he had been forced to agree with me and had lost his faith. That he was no happier about it than I, with my own loss of faith, was obvious. In fact, he was even more stricken. The result was to set me thinking on what I had done and whether it was right.
I saw then what I believe all great religious teachers knew, but could not and did not say. The ordinary man is too weak and too helpless in the whirling vortex of life to sustain himself on his naked human will and his cold human reason. Only with some kind of deep belief in an all-powerful magical being of some kind can the masses of humanity maintain social and reasonably worthwhile lives. Without such a belief, they can see no reason for not immediately indulging themselves in their most animal and immediate desires and they despair in the face of death unless they can imagine something further.
As long as men are thus ignorant and weak-minded, they must have some such spiritual crutches. So religion, far from being an "opiate", is truly the sustainer of the masses of people. He who destroys religion before humanity has progressed far beyond its present primitive intellectual state is helping to destroy civilization.
Since then, I have come still further along the road of understanding and realize that atheism is as bad as the rantings of the religious fanatic. The latter says, "I was one of the luckiest human beings on earth and was born into the only true religion. All the rest of you are damned sinners." The atheist makes the equally conceited statement: "I have examined the entire universe and everything in it and am certain that there is nothing I cannot know!"
For a rational man, I think these are both impossibly conceited and stupid conclusions. In the face of our ridiculous helplessness and microscopic nothingness in a universe of billions of light years, it is madness to assert that some kind of an unknown and unknowable force does not exist, a force so foreign to all our concepts that we would be incapable of thinking in terms of "Him" or "it". It is the part of the intelligent man, I believe, to recognize both his superiority to the masses who must have the fables of religion to survive the vicissitudes of life and his unspeakable inferiority to the possibilities of total intelligence. Under these circumstances, I think we must humbly renounce the right to make grandiose and positive pronouncements concerning a yet unexplored universe whose possibilities are so infinite and enormous that it will be centuries before we can reach even the nearest star in rocket ships. To those who say, "We have no evidence of anything on earth of any immaterial thing or any power which does not appear capable, eventually, of being known," as the atheists do, I reply, "True, but how can you be sure that such forces and power do not exist elsewhere? How can you even be sure, preposterous as it probably is, that there is not some giant being which is master of the universe and which you may never discover?"
Having time and again stumbled through crises in the historical battle in which I am now engaged and having learned later that our accidentally-discovered solution or even what seemed like a misfortune at the time, was the only possible way we could have survived, I am convinced that there is scientific evidence of forces which are beyond our comprehension at work. Perhaps it is only the result of unconscious problem-solving, etc., but who can say? My answer is that we must be humble in such matters, because the best of us is horribly, fearfully ignorant of the gigantic mysteries of the Universe.
I am an agnostic, which means that to all proposals and explanations of the mysteries of life and eternity, I say, "I do not know and I don't believe you or any other human does either."
At the same time, I stand firmly for positive, ethical religions, whatever they may be and believe they must be protected and given the greatest freedom to do what they can to lessen the awesome burden of human misery on this tiny planet I know there will be many intellectuals who will reply that religion has caused untold torture and suffering to stamp out 'heresy', but in view of man's need for emotional catharsis in today's immensely frustrating world, and in view of Pavlov's experiments, I believe that religion is the poor man's 'psychiatry', his only 'escape' from intolerable pressures of society. Since that ski-trip to the priest up in Maine, I have never tried to argue anybody out of his religion and have given strict orders in the American Nazi Party that religion is simply not permitted as a subject of discussion for anybody. We have Protestants, Catholics, atheists and agnostics among our membership and all of them are equally welcome and valuable. We are battling for better things in this world and will leave discussions of religious affairs until we are in the next, if such there be, when better evidence will be at hand.
At Hebron I formed my first tiny political organization and succeeded with its purpose. There was a chemistry professor by the name of Foster who was a petty tyrant: even sneaking around the halls of the dorms in his stocking feet to catch boys breaking regulations, so he could give them huge numbers of demerits. Ed Lewis and I, and a few other top-floor men from Sturtevant Hall organized the Phi Phi's – which is Greek for F.F. – which referred to what we felt about Professor Foster. We burned the unfortunate victim in effigy, marched about the campus with torches and signs, plagued the poor man with impudent notes and generally made him and the administration miserable for keeping him on. And it worked. The next year, Mr. Foster sought employment elsewhere.
I also had fun at Hebron in the process. There was a genuine, fourteen carat, block-headed 'rube' on our floor, the epitome of stupidity, and I was no less sparing of the sensibilities of such good targets of fun than any other boy. But I was more clever in perfecting methods of making life miserable for such characters, a standard avocation of all at Hebron. We invited this hayseed to a 'supersecret' meeting to see about getting rid of Foster. The rube, whom we called "Danny Boone", was delighted at thus 'getting in with us'. We discussed what could be done about Foster with dreadful mock-seriousness and finally 'decided' he had to be done away with. We had learned in his chemistry class – poetic justice – how to make nitroglycerine and the conspirators decided thus to send Foster to his reward.
In growing tension and in hushed voices, we decided to draw straws to see who would carry the 'nitro' and throw it into Foster's suite of rooms. One of the guys announced that he had made some of the deadly stuff and had it on cushions in his room. He went and filled a little vial with hair oil and we all watched him through a crack in the door as he brought the fearful thing back on a pillow, stepping with immense caution, bulging eyes and bated breath. He set it down in the middle of the room. Covertly, we all watched our rube out of the corners of our eyes. He was transfixed, hypnotized, helplessly in the spell of the thing. The fatal drawing of straws was held with terrifying seriousness.
By a 'strange coincidence' the boob got the short straw and stood looking at it, frozen with horror. We all congratulated him on his luck as a maker of history, patted him on the back, told him of the praise he'd win from future generations of Hebron men, etc. Finally, he was handed the terrible thing – inches at a time – pushed out the door with it and aimed at Foster's room.
But he couldn't move. We cajoled and begged and pleaded, but he couldn't move. Finally, he appeared to have a thought. "Hold it a minute," he said, and handed the deadly vial to one of the boys. Then he dashed down the hall screaming, at the top of his lungs, "Mr. Foster, Mr. Foster! They're going to blow you up!" – and disappeared down the back stairway. Foster came bursting out of his room and never did find out what was wrong. The corridor was quiet as a grave and all was as it should be at Hebron. Only the suffocated groans of diabolical joy under blankets and pillows in a dozen cots were clues to what had happened. But Mr. Foster couldn't hear those.
The summer of 1936 I spent lobstering in Maine, as I did many years before, and indulging my newly-found joys of philosophy and music, combined with the appreciation of nature I had felt since babyhood. I also worked as a waiter at 'Me Green Shutters, a small summer hotel in Boothbay Harbor frequented mostly by schoolteachers, and I learned some new facts about the world. I learned more about females.