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The American Sunday Post by :ohcooldude Category :Essays Author :Lemuel K. Washburn Date :November 2011 Read :2501

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The American Sunday

Everybody has heard of what is called the “Christian sabbath,” and nearly everybody has a tolerably clear idea of what is meant by a “continental sabbath.” A “continental sabbath” may be described as a sort of week-day Sunday, that is, as a religious holiday with more secular, than pious, features. A Christian sabbath is so near dead in this country as a religious fact that a definition of it cannot be had from real life. We find the ideal sabbath of the Christians in the history of early New England. For two centuries the people have been gradually outgrowing the austere religion which made Sunday a day to be dreaded all the week. The attempt has been frequently made by a small puritan contingent, which has survived all these years, to resuscitate this dead sabbath and inflict it upon the world again. But so far the effort has only met with deserved failure.

Resurrections have never been successful. When the inhabitants of graves have come out of their abodes it has been only to walk the streets for a brief period, and then to return again to silence and rest. The stories of ghosts, when true, are always short. These visitants never stop long or do anything that is of any worth to the world. When the grave is once made over the dead it is best to let it alone. There is nothing in cemeteries to aid progress or civilization.

We do not need the revival of old customs or of old faiths. To endeavor to rehabilitate the sabbath of our forefathers is as foolish as to try to make people go back into log houses and cook over a fire-place. Some persons can never realize that the world grows; that what was a help to one age becomes a hindrance to another; that time corrects the mistakes of men and that respect and reverence for our ancestors do not necessarily require us to adopt their clothes or their habits.

Men and women are made fossils by their religion. The people who are trying to-day to resurrect the puritan sabbath are people who have got religion, but not much of anything else. A man who allows religion to dominate all his thoughts, all his efforts, all his acts, usually is a nuisance, if nothing worse.

A day of rest once a week is a good thing in itself, but it is a bad thing when controlled by religion. We are in favor of Sunday as a day when man can lay aside his business, his care, his tools, and enjoy himself, but we want everybody to take their hands off of it. Sunday is not a day for religion alone. If certain people wish to go to church on Sunday, let them go; but when these people, who go to church on Sunday, wish to compel everyone else to do the same, they need to be informed that liberty on Sunday is just as much a human right as liberty on Monday. There are better things that man has found than religion. Liberty is better, truth is better, happiness is better. We would like to see an American Sunday on this continent, a Sunday in harmony with the principles upon which our government was founded, a Sunday which was not run by religion, a Sunday for man and not for the church. Such a day would not be a sabbath, but it would be a free day, a happy day. The notion of Sunday as a holy day is too absurd, too ridiculous to deserve respectful attention. No man can have fifty-two holy days in a year.

The minister must take his pious grasp off of the throat of Sunday.


A true man is not troubled by anything but his own acts.


The true man walks the earth as the stars walk the heavens, grandly obedient to those laws which are implanted in his nature.


A great many people are afraid of knowledge, but we have seen hundreds of people that we thought would be improved if they knew more, but we have never seen one that we thought would be better if he knew less.

(The end)
Lemuel K. Washburn's essay: American Sunday

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If there is one tree that man needs to eat of, it is the forbidden tree of the knowledge of good and evil; and if any knowledge will keep him alive and make him happy and perfect, it is just this knowledge which God forbid him to acquire. We are dying to-day from ignorance, not from knowledge,—dying because we do not know the good from the evil; and we are dooming ourselves and future generations to premature death because we do not eat more of the tree of knowledge. To know more is what we need. Let us look into things