Freethought Archives > G.W. Foote > Flowers of Freethought Vol. II (1894)


The prolonged drought has already inflicted serious injury on the farmers. They are, as a rule, a loyal class of men, but their loyalty will probably be shaken when they realise that the Lord has spoiled their crops to provide Queen's weather for the Jubilee. An occasional shower might wet the Queen's parasol or ruffle the plumage of the princes and princelings in her train. Occasional showers, however, are just what the farmers want. The Lord was therefore in a fix. Though the Bible says that with him nothing is impossible, he was unable to please both sides; so he favored the one he loved best, gave royalty unlimited sunshine, and played the deuce with the agricultural interest.

Possibly the Lord knows better than we do, but we venture to suggest that a slight exercise of intelligence, though we admit it may have been a strain upon his slumbrous brain, would have surmounted the difficulty. The windows of heaven might have been opened from two till four in the morning. That would have been sufficient for a proper supply of rain, and the whole of the day could have been devoted to "blazing" without injuring anyone. Or, if the early morning rain would have damaged the decorations, the celestial turnkey might have kept us a week without water giving us an extra supply beforehand. On the whole, if we may hazard so profane an observation, the powers above are singularly behind the age. Their affairs are frightfully mixed, and the result is that capital and labor are both in a state of uncertainty. The celestial dynasty will have to improve, or its imperial power will be questioned, and there will be a demand for Home Rule with regard to the weather. It is a perfect nuisance, with respect to a matter which vitally affects us, not to be able to know what a day will bring forth.

Meanwhile we turn to the clergy, and inquire why they do not perform their professional duties in this emergency. There is a form of prayer for such cases in the Prayer-book. Why has it not been used? Do the clergy think the Lord is growing deaf with old age? Have they a secret suspicion that praying for a change of weather is as useful as whistling for the wind? Or has the spirit of this sceptical age invaded the clerical ranks so thoroughly as to make them ashamed of their printed doctrines? When a parish clerk was told by the parson one morning that the prayer for rain would be read, he replied, "Why, sir, what's the use of praying for rain with the wind in that quarter?" We fancy that parish clerk must have a good many sympathisers in the pulpit.

Still the clergy should do what they are paid for, or resign the business. They are our rain doctors, and they should procure us the precious fluid. If they cannot, why should we pay them a heavenly water-rate? The rain doctors of savages are kept to their contract. They are expected to bring rain when it is required, and if they do not, the consequences are unpleasant. They are sometimes disgraced, and occasionally killed. But the rain doctors in civilised countries retain all the advantages of their savage prototypes without any of their risks and dangers. Modern Christians allow the clergy to play on the principle of "heads I win, tails you lose." If the black regiments pray and there is no answer, Christians resign themselves to the will of God. If there is an answer, they put it to the credit of the priests, or the priests put it to their own credit, which is much the same thing.

We should be sorry to charge such a holy body of men with duplicity, but is there not "a sort of a smack, a smell to?" They are reluctant to pray for rain, on the alleged ground that Omnipotence should not be interfered with rashly. But the sincerity of this plea is questionable when we reflect that it obviously favors the clergy. Our climate is variable, long spells of particular weather are infrequent, and if when one occurs the clergy hold back till the very last, their supplication for a change cannot long remain unanswered. But perhaps this is only an illustration of the wisdom of the serpent which Jesus recommended to his apostles.

If the clergy are anxious to exhibit their powers they should pray for rain in the desert of Sahara. Missionaries might be sent out to establish praying stations, and in the course of time the desert might bloom as a garden, and the wilderness as a rose. We make the suggestion in all sincerity. We are anxious to be convinced, if conviction is possible. Praying for rain in a watery climate is one thing, praying for rain where none ever falls is another. If the clergy can bring down a fruitful shower on the African sands, we shall cry, "A miracle," and send them a quarter's pew-rent.

Seriously—for we can be serious—we ask the clergy to do their level best. The farmers are swearing wholesale, and by taking the name of the Lord their God in vain they incur the peril of eternal damnation. The fruit crop is injured, and children suffer unusually from the stomach-ache. Worst of all, infidel France is flooding our markets with cherries and other fruits, and we are supporting the accursed sceptical brood because the Lord has not nourished our own growths. Surely then it is time to act. If the parsons lose this fine opportunity they may rely on it that the anti-tithe agitation will develop into alarming proportions. Their livings are at stake, and we ask them to consider the interests of their wives and families. If our generous warning is unheeded the clergy may find the nation carrying out the principle of free trade in religion, and importing some rain doctors from Africa. Many of these magical blackmen would be glad to exchange their present pickings for a vicarage and five hundred a year. If they thought there was a chance of obtaining a bishopric, with a palace and six or ten thousand a year, they would start for England at once. Many of them are of excellent reputation, and would come to us with the best of testimonials. Would it not be well to give them a trial? We should find out who was best at the business. He might be constituted our national rain doctor at a liberal salary, and the rest discharged; for surely the Lord does not require thirty thousand praying to him at once, unless on the principle that he must be surrounded to prevent the prayer from going into one ear and out at the other.

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