Robert Taylor

On this date in 1784, Robert Taylor ("the Devil's Chaplain") was born in England and became a member of the College of Surgeons in 1807. Undergoing a religious conversion, he was ordained an Anglican priest in 1813, and became curate at Midhurst. He lost his faith about five years later when a parishioner exposed him to rationalist writings. Resigning with a splash, he took out an advertisement seeking employment, which spelled out his loss of religion. Bowing to his mother's pleadings, he briefly returned to the ministry, but was expelled for giving deistic sermons. In 1826 Taylor opened a deistic chapel. He flouted church authority by wearing his episcopal garments when giving his deistic lectures. That year he was sentenced to a year in jail for one of his sermons. He and oft-jailed freethought publisher Richard Carlile paired up and distributed a handbill inviting Cambridge students to hear "The Rev. Robert Taylor . . . and Mr. Richard Carlile . . . present their compliments as Infidel missionaries, to . . . most respectfully and earnestly invite discussion on the merits of the Christian religion." This made a deep impression on student Charles Darwin, who, in later delaying the release of his theory of evolution, took into account their treatment at the hands of Cambridge authorities. Taylor and Carlile were thrown out of town and authorities even revoked the license of the landlord who had rented to them. After writing a pamphlet called "The Devil's Pulpit" (1831), an energetic denunciation of New Testament dogma in which Taylor complained of "this tax-burthened and priest-ridden country," he was nicknamed "The Devil's Chaplain." In 1831, he was again convicted of blasphemy, was sentenced to two years in prison and was fined £200. D. 1844.

“. . . [the profession of the Christian faith is] a system of the grossest hypocrisy, a fashionable villainy, a licensed swindle, cheat, and trick. . .

. . . go to church and chapel, you fools, -- listen to the parson, and shut your eyes, and open your mouths, and see what God will send you.

Never was the day, never, in all the tide of time, in which such mighty efforts were made to keep mankind in ignorance; never were any clergy on earth, Pagan or Papistical, so opposed to the diffusion of knowledge, so desperately afraid of it, and so bitterly hostile to it, as the Protestant clergy, both of the established church, and the dissenters of the present day, in this metropolis.”

—— Robert Taylor, "The Devil's Pulpit" (pamphlet, 1831)

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

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